*Clifford algebra or Lie algebra: what are the Dirac matrices?*

The Dirac equation reconciles quantum mechanics with special relativity, by describing the wave functions of particles like the electron travelling at relativistic speeds. It is a PDE with coefficients which are 4 x 4 complex matrices called the Dirac gamma matrices. Conventional wisdom states that these matrices generate the Clifford algebra Cl(3,1) for the quadratic form with signature (3,1). However, their use in physics requires multiplying some of the Clifford algebra by i, thereby destroying the Clifford algebra structure. I argue that it makes more sense to say the gamma matrices generate the Lie algebra so(5,1). This viewpoint potentially throws light on the nature of the weak force, and thereby on the nature of mass and charge.