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Electrically charged subatomic particle that transmits the weak force, which governs radioactive decay (seeradioactivity) in some atomic nuclei. The discovery of the W particle in 1983 by teams led by Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer confirmed the electroweak theory, which explains that the electromagnetic force and the weak force are manifestations of the same interaction. The weak force is exchanged via three types of particles, two charged and one neutral. The charged particles are designated W+ and W according to the sign of their charge, and the neutral particle is the Z particle. The W particle has a mass about 80 times that of the proton, which gives the weak force a very short range.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on W particle, visit Britannica.com.