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The Pauli exclusion principle is the quantum mechanical principle that states that two identical fermions (particles with half-integer spin) cannot occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. In the case of electrons, it can be stated as follows: it is impossible for two electrons of a poly-electron atom to have the same values of the four quantum numbers (n, , m and ms). For two electrons residing in the same orbital, n, , and m are the same, so ms must be different and the electrons have opposite spins. This principle was formulated by Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli in 1925.

A more rigorous statement is that the total wave function for two identical fermions is antisymmetric with respect to exchange of the particles. This means that the wave function changes its sign if the space and spin co-ordinates of any two particles are interchanged.

Integer spin particles, bosons, are not subject to the Pauli exclusion principle: any number of identical bosons can occupy the same quantum state, as with, for instance, photons produced by a laser and Bose–Einstein condensate.


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