The action is the integral of the Lagrangian over time, or the integral of the Lagrangian Density over both time and space.

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What makes a Lagrangian a Lagrangian?

I just wanted to know what the characteristic property of a Lagrangian is? How do you see without referring to Newtonian Mechanics that it has to be $L=T-V$? People constructed a Lagrangian in ...
7
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1answer
122 views

Is it possible to derive the brane action in pure supergravity?

The branes that source the RR fields of supergravity are described by the DBI action plus a CS term. I know this only from superstring considerations. Is there a way to find this result without ...
6
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3answers
468 views

Principle of Least Action via Finite-Difference Method

I am reading Gelfand's Calculus of Variations & mathematically everything makes sense to me, it makes perfect sense to me to set up the mathematics of extremization of functionals & show that ...
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212 views

Is this a valid derivation of the Legendre transformation from the Euler-Lagrange condition

E-L condition: $$\frac{d p}{dt}=\frac{\partial L}{\partial q}$$ Where $p=\frac{\partial L}{\partial \dot{q}}$ Are the following steps valid: $$\frac{\partial q}{dt} dp=\partial L$$ $$\dot{q} \: ...
2
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1answer
558 views

Retrieving Maxwell's equations from the minimum action principle

I'm currently working at the start of Alexei Tsvelik's book Quantum Field Theory in Condensed Matter Physics. I'm kinda stumped on a few essential steps. Starting with the action: $$S = \int dt \int ...
2
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1answer
527 views

Why vary the action with respect to the inverse metric?

Whenever I have read texts which employ actions that contain metric tensors, such as the Nambu-Goto, Polyakov or Einstein-Hilbert action, the equations of motion are derived by varying with respect to ...
3
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1answer
223 views

Discretization of action in path integral

I am reading Peskin and Schroeder (path integrals) and it states that discretising the classical action gives: $$S~=~\int \left(\frac{m}{2}\dot{x}^{2}-V(x)\right) dt ~\rightarrow~ \sum ...
5
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1answer
187 views

What is the action for an electromagnetic field if including magnetic charge

Recently, I try to write an action of an electromagnetic field with magnetic charge and quantize it. But it seems not as easy as it seems to be. Does anyone know anything or think of anything like ...
1
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2answers
652 views

How the boundary term in the variation of the action vanishes

In David Tong's QFT lecture notes (Quantum Field Theory: University of Cambridge Part III Mathematical Tripos, Lecture notes 2007, p.8), he states that We can determine the equations of motion by ...
6
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3answers
1k views

Noether's current expression in Peskin and Schroeder

In the second chapter of Peskin and Schroeder, An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory, it is said that the action is invariant if the Lagrangian density changes by a four-divergence. But if we ...
7
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1answer
150 views

Does anybody know of any good sources that explain (generically) how we form Lagrangians/Actions/Superpotentials for different field content?

I regularly find that I'll understand where the field content in a particular physics paper comes from, but then a Lagrangian or action or superpotential is stated and I don't know how it's derived. ...
2
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1answer
165 views

Varying an action (cosmological perturbation theory)

I am stuck varying an action, trying to get an equation of motion. (Going from eq. 91 to eq. 92 in the image.) This is the action $$S~=~\int d^{4}x \frac{a^{2}(t)}{2}(\dot{h}^{2}-(\nabla h)^2).$$ ...
3
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458 views

Polyakov action: difference induced metric and dynamical metric

The Polyakov action is given by: $$ S_p ~=~ -\frac{T}{2}\int d^2\sigma \sqrt{-g}g^{\alpha\beta}\partial_{\alpha}X^{\mu}\partial_{\beta}X^{\nu}\eta_{\mu\nu} ~=~ -\frac{T}{2}\int d^2\sigma ...
3
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2answers
316 views

Calculating the (on-shell) action of a free particle

I am having difficulty with the first problem from Feynman and Hibbs' book. For a free particle $L = (m/2)\dot{x}^2$. Show that the (on-shell) action $S_{cl}$ corresponding to the classical ...
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2answers
369 views

Why lagrangian is negative number?

In the special relativistic action for a massive point particle, $$\int_{t_i}^{t_f}\mathcal {L}dt,$$ why is the Lagrangian $$\mathcal {L}=-E_o\gamma^{-1}$$ a negative number?
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0answers
84 views

path integrals: how/why can the phase be identified with the action?

In Peskin & Schroeder, chapter 9 introduces the functional methods. The idea, to recall, is simply to sum over all the possible paths: $U(x_a,x_b;T) = \sum_{\text{all paths}} e^{i . ...
11
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1answer
777 views

Do an action and its Euler-Lagrange equations have the same symmetries?

Assume a certain action $S$ with certain symmetries, from which according to the Lagrangian formalism, the equations of motion (EOM) of the system are the corresponding Euler-Lagrange equations. Can ...
2
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3answers
310 views

Is the path of stationary action unique? What are the physical implications of $L_{\dot{x}}=L_x$

Below, for any function $Q$ the notation $Q_x$ means $\frac{\partial Q}{\partial x}$, and $Q_{xx}$ means $\frac{\partial^2 Q}{\partial x^2}$. In physics, the trajectory of a particle is given by the ...
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3answers
1k views

Entropy and the principle of least action

Is there any link between the law of maximum entropy and the principle of least action. Is it possible to derive one from the other ?
4
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3answers
627 views

Action for a point particle in a curved spacetime

Is this action for a point particle in a curved spacetime correct? $$\mathcal S =-Mc \int ds = -Mc \int_{\xi_0}^{\xi_1}\sqrt{g_{\mu\nu}(x)\frac{dx^\mu(\xi)}{d\xi} \frac{dx^\nu(\xi)}{d\xi}} \ \ d\xi$$
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0answers
59 views

Help identifying an expression for the action

I found the following expression for the action of a (free, I think) relativistic particle in my notes but I can't remember from what it came from: $$ S = \int_{0}^{N} \left [ ...
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1answer
316 views

What's the motivation behind the action principle? [closed]

What's the motivation behind the action principle? Why does the action principle lead to Newtonian law? If Newton's law of motion is more fundamental so why doesn't one derive Lagrangians and ...
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2answers
355 views

What is the relativistic action of a massive particle?

all Lorentz observers watching a particle move will compute the same value for the quantity $$ds^2 = -(c \, dt)^2 + dx^2 + dy^2 + dz^2,$$ $$ds^2 = g_{\mu\nu}dx^{\mu}dx^{\nu},$$ and ''ds/c'' is then ...
4
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3answers
2k views

What is the meaning of the word “Principle” in Physics?

What is the meaning of the word principle in Physics? For example in the "action principle". Is it an action law, an action equation, or an unproved assumption? (I have an idea what an action is). ...
3
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2answers
167 views

Could we get rid of explicit fields derivatives in Quantum Field Theories?

For instance, if we choose the following scalar field Lagrangian, which is (I hope) Lorentz-invariant, where $l$ is a a length scale, and with a $(-1,1,1,1)$ metric: $$ \mathfrak{L}(x) \sim ...
3
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1answer
294 views

Find the action from given equations of motion

Is there a systematic procedure to generally obtain an appropriate action that corresponds to any given equations of motion (if I know that it exists)?
4
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0answers
291 views

Dirac action and conventions

I have a (possibly) fundamental question, which is driving me crazy. Notation When considering the Dirac action (say reading Peskin's book), one have $\int ...
4
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2answers
614 views

How to apply Noether's theorem

Say I have a point transformation: $$x' ~=~ (1 +\epsilon)x,$$ $$t' ~=~ (1 +\epsilon)^2t,$$ and Lagrangian $$ L ~=~ \frac{1}{2}m\dot{x}^2 - \frac{\alpha}{x^2}.$$ How do I go out about showing ...
14
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6answers
3k views

What is the physical meaning of the action in Lagrangian mechanics?

The action is defined as $S = \int_{t_1}^{t_2}L \, dt$ where $L$ is Lagrangian. I know that using Euler-Lagrange equation, all sorts of formula can be derived, but I remain unsure of the physical ...
5
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2answers
525 views

Gauge fixing and equations of motion

Consider an action that is gauge invariant. Do we obtain the same information from the following: Find the equations of motion, and then fix the gauge? Fix the gauge in the action, and then find the ...
3
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2answers
304 views

Is the Lagrangian “math” or “science”?

I've seen in class that we can get from Lagrangian to derive equations of motion (I know its used elsewhere in physics, but I haven't seen it yet). It's not clear to me whether the Lagrangian itself ...
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4answers
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Is the principle of least action a boundary value or initial condition problem?

Here is a question that's been bothering me since I was a sophomore in university, and should have probably asked before graduating: In analytic (Lagrangian) mechanics, the derivation of the ...
9
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2answers
1k views

Deriving the action and the Lagrangian for a free point particle in Special Relativity

My question relates to Landau & Lifshitz, Classical Theory of Field, Chapter 2: Relativistic Mechanics, Paragraph 8: The principle of least action. As stated there, to determine the action ...
1
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1answer
269 views

What do I call the inverse of a propagator?

Let's suppose I have a theory described by a Lagrangian as follows: $ \mathcal{L} = A_\mu \underbrace{\left( \partial^2 g^{\mu\nu} - \partial^\mu \partial^\nu + m^2 g^{\mu \nu} \right)}_{K^{\mu \nu}} ...
2
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2answers
610 views

What is the significance of action?

What is the physical interpretation of $$ \int_{t_1}^{t_2} (T -V) dt $$ where, $T$ is Kinetic Energy and $V$ is potential energy. How does it give trajectory?
12
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1answer
324 views

Is there some connection between the Virial theorem and a least action principle?

Both involve some 'averaging' over energies (kinetic and potential) and make some prediction about their mean values. As far as the least action principles, one could think of them as saying that the ...
9
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2answers
2k views

Hamilton-Jacobi Equation

In the Hamilton-Jacobi equation, we take the partial time derivative of the action. But the action comes from integrating the Lagrangian over time, so time seems to just be a dummy variable here and ...
4
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3answers
937 views

$\hbar$, the angular momentum and the action

Is there anything interesting to say about the fact that $\hbar$, the angular momentum and the action have the same units or is it a pure coincidence?
2
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1answer
254 views

Derivation of the supergravity action in 11D

The Einstein-Hilbert action of general relativity is uniquely determined by general covariance and the requirement that only second derivatives in the metric appear. Yang-Mills theory can be motivated ...
5
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2answers
539 views

Is it circular reasoning to derive Newton's laws from action minimization?

Usually, a typical example of the use of the action principle that I've read a lot is the derivation of Newton's equation (generalized to coordinate $q(t)$). However, in the classical mechanics ...
14
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2answers
3k views

Deriving the Lagrangian for a free particle

I'm a newbie in physics. Sorry, if the following questions are dumb. I began reading "Mechanics" by Landau and Lifshitz recently and hit a few roadblocks right away. Proving that a free particle ...
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4answers
2k views

Why can't any term which is added to the Lagrangian be written as a total derivative (or divergence)?

All right, I know there must be an elementary proof of this, but I am not sure why I never came across it before. Adding a total time derivative to the Lagrangian (or a 4D divergence of some 4 ...
4
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3answers
438 views

Calculating lagrangian density from first principle

In most of the field theory text they will start with lagrangian density for spin 1 and spin 1/2 particles. But i could find any text where this lagrangian density is derived from first principle.
5
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2answers
468 views

How do I show that there exists variational/action principle for a given classical system?

We see variational principles coming into play in different places such as Classical Mechanics (Hamilton's principle which gives rise to the Euler-Lagrange equations), Optics (in the form of Fermat's ...
3
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1answer
277 views

Differentiation of the action functional

In the QFT book by Itzykson and Zuber, the variation of the action functional $I=\int_{t_1}^{t_2}dtL$ is written as: $$\delta I=\int_{t_1}^{t_2}dt\frac{\delta I}{\delta q(t)}\delta q(t)$$ How is ...
13
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1answer
508 views

Lagrangian for Euler Equations in general relativity

The stress energy tensor for relativistic dust $$ T_{\mu\nu} = \rho v_\mu v_\nu $$ follows from the action $$ S_M = -\int \rho c \sqrt{v_\mu v^\mu} \sqrt{ -g } d^4 x = -\int c \sqrt{p_\mu ...
8
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2answers
193 views

More general invariance of the action functional

I will formulate my question in the classical case, where things are simplest. Usually when one discusses a continuous symmetry of a theory, one means a one-parameter group of diffeomorphisms of the ...
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1answer
87 views

A simple action inequality

How do I prove that $$\int \dot{x}^2 dt\geq \int \langle \dot{x}\rangle^2 dt $$ (i.e a free particle not in any external potential field movies with uniform veloctiy)
3
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3answers
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Action principle for the Electromagnetism and Gravity

Here is the formula for the stress energy tensor: $$ T_{\mu\nu} = - {2\over\sqrt{ |\det g| }}{\delta S_{EM}\over \delta g^{\mu\nu}} $$ (This follows from varying the total action $S ...
4
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2answers
608 views

Conversion of the Nambo-Goto action into the Polyakov action?

I`ve read that the Nambo-Goto action containing the induced metric $\gamma_{\alpha\beta}$ $$\tag{1} S_{NG} ~=~ -T\int_{\tau_i}^{\tau_f} d\tau \int_0^{\ell} d\sigma \sqrt{-\gamma}$$ can be converted ...