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The generic name for any hadronic particle with baryon number zero. Such particles were first envisaged in 1935 by H. Yukawa, who pointed out that the main features of nuclear forces would be explained if these forces were transmitted between nucleons through an intermediate field coupled with nucleons, provided that its quanta (nuclear force mesons) were massive [200–300 electron masses (me)] and could carry electric charge between the nucleons. See Baryon, Hadron, Nuclear structure, Quantum field theory
All mesons are unstable. Those with relatively long lifetimes are referred to as semistable. Nearly 200 highly unstable mesons are established, with lifetimes shorter than 10-22 s, and more continue to be discovered. These mesons decay to lighter mesons through the strong nuclear (hadronic) interactions, whereas the hadronic decays of the semistable mesons are forbidden or strongly suppressed. Alternative decay modes involve the weak interactions or the electromagnetic interactions, which are much weaker than the strong interactions and therefore lead to much smaller decay rates and longer lifetimes. The longest-lived mesons are those that decay only through the weak interactions; these include the charged &pgr; mesons (pions) and the K mesons (kaons), with lifetimes of about 10-8 to 10-10 s. See Fundamental interactions, Weak nuclear interactions
Hadrons are now considered to be composite, consisting of spin-1/2 quarks (q), corresponding antiquarks (q), and some number of gluons (g), the last being the quanta of the intermediate field which binds the quarks and antiquarks to form hadrons. Baryon number B = + holds for a quark q, B = - for antiquark q, while B = 0 holds for a gluon. In this view, the simplest possibility is that each meson is a quark-antiquark pair bound together by the gluon field, and this model does account quite well for most of the known mesons and their properties. However, more complicated systems (for example, consisting of two quarks with two antiquarks) can be considered and may even be required by some of the present data. The quarks must be assigned fractional charge values, relative to the proton charge. See Gluons, Quarks
an unstable elementary particle that belongs to the class of strongly interacting particles (hadrons); in contrast to baryons, mesons have zero baryon charge and have zero or integral spin, that is, mesons are bosons. The term “meson”— from the Greek mesos, meaning “intermediate”—was chosen because the masses of the first mesons that were discovered—the pion (7r-meson) and kaon (π-meson)—have values intermediate between the masses of the proton and electron. (Muons, which originally were called μ-mesons, are not mesons since they have a spin of ½ and do not take part in strong interactions.) Many other mesons with very short lifetimes (called boson resonances) were discovered subsequently, and the mass of most exceeds that of the proton. Mesons are the carriers of nuclear forces. Mesons are created especially intensively during collisions of highenergy hadrons.
Mesons may be neutral or charged (with positive or negative elementary electric charge) and may have zero (for example, pions) and nonzero (for example, kaons) strangeness. Mesons with an isotopic spin of 0, Vi, or 1 form, respectively, isotopic singlets, doublets, and triplets. According to the current classification of elementary particles, mesons with properties that are similar with respect to the processes caused by the strong interaction are combined in groups (“supermultiplets”) that consist of eight, nine, and ten particles.