In particle physics, the lepton number is used to denote which particles are leptons and which particles are not. Each lepton has a lepton number of 1 and each antilepton has a lepton number of -1. Other non-leptonic particles have a lepton number of 0. The lepton number is a conserved quantum number in all particle reactions. A slight asymmetry in the laws of physics allowed leptons to be created in the Big Bang.
The conservation of lepton number means that whenever a lepton of a certain generation is created or destroyed in a reaction, a corresponding antilepton from the same generation must be created or destroyed. It must be added, there is a separate requirement for each of the three generations of leptons, the electron, muon and tau and their associated neutrinos.
Example: Neutron Decay
Since the lepton number must be equal to zero on both sides and it was found that the reaction is a three-particle decay (the electrons emitted in beta decay have a continuous rather than a discrete spectrum), the third particle must be an electron antineutrino.
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