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This article is about spin in quantum mechanics. For rotation in classical mechanics, see angular momentum.

In quantum mechanics and particle physics, spin is an intrinsic form of angular momentum carried by elementary particles, composite particles (hadrons), and atomic nuclei.

Spin is one of two types of angular momentum in quantum mechanics, the other being orbital angular momentum. Orbital angular momentum is the quantum-mechanical counterpart to the classical notion of angular momentum: it arises when a particle executes a rotating or twisting trajectory (such as when an electron orbits a nucleus). The existence of spin angular momentum is inferred from experiments, such as the Stern–Gerlach experiment, in which particles are observed to possess angular momentum that cannot be accounted for by orbital angular momentum alone.

In some ways, spin is like a vector quantity; it has a definite magnitude, and it has a "direction" (but quantization makes this "direction" different from the direction of an ordinary vector). All elementary particles of a given kind have the same magnitude of spin angular momentum, which is indicated by assigning the particle a spin quantum number.

The SI unit of spin is the joule-second, just as with classical angular momentum. In practice, however, it is written as a multiple of the reduced Planck constant ħ, usually in natural units, where the ħ is omitted, resulting in a unitless number. Spin quantum numbers are unitless numbers by definition.

When combined with the spin-statistics theorem, the spin of electrons results in the Pauli exclusion principle, which in turn underlies the periodic table of chemical elements.

Wolfgang Pauli was the first to propose the concept of spin, but he did not name it. In 1925, Ralph Kronig, George Uhlenbeck and Samuel Goudsmit at Leiden University suggested a physical interpretation of particles spinning around their own axis. The mathematical theory was worked out in depth by Pauli in 1927. When Paul Dirac derived his relativistic quantum mechanics in 1928, electron spin was an essential part of it.


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