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44
votes
3answers
4k views
31
votes
4answers
7k views

What is the physical meaning of the connection and the curvature tensor?

Regarding general relativity: What is the physical meaning of the Christoffel symbol ($\Gamma^i_{\ jk}$)? What are the (preferably physical) differences between the Riemann curvature tensor ($R^i_{\ ...
29
votes
7answers
15k views

Laplace operator's interpretation

What is your interpretation of Laplace operator? When evaluating Laplacian of some scalar field at a given point one can get a value. What does this value tell us about the field or it's behaviour in ...
27
votes
3answers
7k views

What is the difference between implicit and explicit time dependence e.g. $\frac{\partial \rho}{\partial t}$ and $\frac{d \rho} {dt}$?

What is the difference between implicit and explicit time dependence e.g. $\frac{\partial \rho}{\partial t}$ and $\frac{d \rho} {dt}$? I know one is a partial derivative and the other is a total ...
25
votes
6answers
3k views

Why are Killing fields relevant in physics?

I'm taking a course on General Relativity and the notes that I'm following define a Killing vector field $X$ as those verifying: $$\mathcal{L}_Xg~=~ 0.$$ They seem to be very important in physics ...
23
votes
2answers
1k views

Symbols of derivatives

What is the exact use of the symbols $\partial$, $\delta$ and $\mathrm{d}$ in derivatives in physics? How are they different and when are they used? It would be nice to get that settled once and for ...
18
votes
4answers
925 views

Lie derivative vs. covariant derivative in the context of Killing vectors

Let me start by saying that I understand the definitions of the Lie and covariant derivatives, and their fundamental differences (at least I think I do). However, when learning about Killing vectors I ...
16
votes
2answers
8k views

Difference between $\Delta$, $d$ and $\delta$

I have read the thread regarding 'the difference between the operators between $\delta$ and $d$', but it does not answer my question. I am confused about the notation for change in Physics. In ...
16
votes
2answers
572 views

Lagrangian Mechanics - Commutativity Rule $\frac{d}{dt}\delta q=\delta \frac{dq}{dt} $

I am reading about Lagrangian mechanics. At some point the difference between the temporal derivative of a variation and variation of the temporal derivative is discussed. The fact that the two are ...
13
votes
5answers
948 views

What does it mean for a physical quantity if its mixed second partial derivatives are not equal?

This goes for every problem (either in electromagnetism or fluid dynamics) that has to do with vector fields. Say we have a fluid flowing in a closed circular pipe (or an electromagnetic field, the ...
13
votes
1answer
935 views

Is there a “covariant derivative” for conformal transformation?

A primary field is defined by its behavior under a conformal transformation $x\rightarrow x'(x)$: $$\phi(x)\rightarrow\phi'(x')=\left|\frac{\partial x'}{\partial x}\right|^{-h}\phi(x)$$ It's fairly ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

What is the relation between (physicists) functional derivatives and Fréchet derivatives

I´m wondering how can one get to the definition of Functional Derivative found on most Quantum Field Theory books: $$\frac{\delta F[f(x)]}{\delta f(y) } = \lim_{\epsilon \rightarrow 0} \frac{F[f(x)+\...
10
votes
1answer
235 views

Time derivative of the state vector as expressed in abstract Hilbert space vs. as a wavefunction

The Schrodinger equation in Hilbert space is expressed as : $$\frac{\partial}{\partial t} \psi(t) = \frac{-i}{\hbar}H\psi(t). $$ Here $\frac{\partial}{\partial t} \psi(t) \equiv \psi'(t) \equiv\lim \...
9
votes
2answers
3k views

Derivative with respect to a vector is a gradient?

I've encountered in some books (and even completed an exercise from the Goldstein by using it), a strange notation that seems to work exactly like a gradient, I have tried to look for an explanation ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Conserved quantities and total derivatives?

I am having a bit of a crisis in understanding of the physical meanings of total derivatives. When a quantity $\rho$ (be it a vector or a scalar) is said to be conserved, then (mathematically) $$\...
8
votes
3answers
440 views

How does uncertainty/error propagate with differentiation?

I have a noisy temperature (T) vs. time (t) measurement and I want to calculate dT/dt. If I approximate $dT/dt = \Delta T/\Delta t$ then the noise in the derivative gets too high and the derivative ...
8
votes
1answer
354 views

When motion begins, do objects go through an infinite number of position derivatives?

This might be a very vague and unclear question, but let me explain. When an object at rest moves, or moves from point $A$ to point $B$, we know the object must have had some velocity (1st derivative ...
7
votes
4answers
413 views

Name this Mulltivariable Calculus Theorem

In Robert Wald's book General Relativity a multivariable calculus theorem is cited on page 16, which states: If $F:\mathbb{R}^n\mapsto \mathbb{R}$ is $C^{\infty}$ then for each $a=(a^1,...,a^n) \in ...
7
votes
2answers
4k views

Derivatives of operators

How do derivatives of operators work? Do they act on the terms in the derivative or do they just get "added to the tail"? Is there a conceptual way to understand this? For example: say you had the ...
6
votes
3answers
1k views

Physics & derivatives written in a weird way

I was always taught that $\frac d {dx} (\ln x) = \frac 1 x$. No derivative had as a result any $dx$ words. In a physics book I encountered something like this (error discussion) [there might be a ...
6
votes
6answers
4k views

How is gradient the maximum rate of change of a function?

Recently I read a book which described about gradient. It says $${\rm d}T~=~ \nabla T \cdot {\rm d}{\bf r},$$ and suddenly they concluded that $\nabla T$ is the maximum rate of change of $f(T)$ ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

What is the meaning of following expression $C=\frac{\delta Q}{dT}$ mathematically?

Our professor raised the following question during our lecture in Statistical Physics (even so it's related to Thermodynamics): Many text books (even Wikipedia) writes wrong expressions (from ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

What is the current of a capacitor when the derivative of voltage is undefined?

This is from the textbook I am reading: I know this equation for capacitors: $$i=C\cdot \frac { dv }{ dt }$$ Here is my question: how can diagram (a) be allowed if the derivative of the voltage ...
6
votes
7answers
1k views

Physical intuition for higher order derivatives

Could somebody give me an intuitive physical interpretation of higher order derivatives (from 2 and so on), that is not related to position - velocity - acceleration - jerk - etc?
6
votes
1answer
317 views

Physical intuition/interpretation of fractional derivatives/integrals?

Oftentimes, when the derivative and integral operations are introduced within the realm of physics, we are taught some physical interpretation of them: Velocity is the derivative of position ...
6
votes
3answers
89 views

Vlasov equation, Maxwell distribution

I have the Maxwellian distribution: $f(v)=n(\frac{m}{2\pi kT})^{\frac{3}{2}}\exp\left(-\frac{mv^2}{2kT}\right)$ I have to show that it is a solution to the Vlasov equation: $\frac{\partial f}{\...
5
votes
3answers
166 views

Is there a way to see that $ \nabla_\mu g_{\nu \rho} = 0 $ without explicit computation, where $\nabla_\mu$ refers to the covariant derivative?

In books, it is usually said that this is a consequence of the fact that parallel transport preserves dot product. How ?
5
votes
2answers
449 views

A confusion about notation in Goldstein

On treating systems of particles, Goldstein starts with the consideration that whenever there are $k$ particles on a system, the $i$-th one obeys the relation $$\dfrac{d}{dt}{\bf p}_i = {\bf F}_i^{(e)...
5
votes
1answer
425 views

Do partial derivatives commute on tensors?

Do partial derivatives commute on tensors? For example, is $$\partial_{\rho}\partial_{\sigma}h_{\mu\nu} - \partial_{\sigma}\partial_{\rho}h_{\mu\nu}=0$$ correct?
5
votes
3answers
387 views

Geometric meaning of parallel transport

The definition of parallel transport of a vector $v^b$ along a curve $C$ with tangent field $\it{t}^a$ is given by Wald's GR as $$t^a \nabla_a v^b = 0$$ Is it correct to think of $\nabla_a v^b$ as ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Derivative of the product of operators and Derivative of exponential

I'm asked to show that $$\frac{d(\hat{A}\hat{B})}{d\lambda} ~=~ \frac{d\hat{A}}{d\lambda}\hat{B} + \hat{A}\frac{d\hat{b}}{d\lambda}$$ With $\lambda$ a continuous parameter. Should I use the ...
4
votes
4answers
210 views

Do $\vec r$ and $d \vec r$ have the same direction?

One question is bugging me for a long time but I couldn't make out anything nor could my friends. Here it goes: We know, $\vec r$ is regarded as the position vector. So we can say, $$\vec r \cdot\vec ...
4
votes
2answers
599 views

Physical meaning of harmonic function?

In complex numbers, we define a harmonic function as a twice continuously differentiable function such that the Laplace operator acting on it gives zero. Can anybody explain me the physical ...
4
votes
2answers
146 views

Why is the covariant derivative of the determinant of the metric zero?

This question, metric determinant and its partial and covariant derivative, seems to indicate $$\nabla_a \sqrt{g}=0.$$ Why is this the case? I've always learned that $$\nabla_a f= \partial_a f,$$ ...
4
votes
2answers
103 views

Exact differentials and state functions

I was reading a Wiki article on the relationships between heat capacities And during the derivation I came across this formula (and others like it): This equation was used as a tool in a ...
4
votes
3answers
215 views

Is $\dfrac{dx}{dt}$ a fraction or not?

I am new to calculus and during my mathematics class my sir defined $\dfrac{dx}{dt}$ as $$dx/dt=\lim_{t\to t_1}\dfrac{f(t)-f(t_1)}{t-t_1}$$ and my sir made a clear statement that $\dfrac{dx}{dt}$ ...
4
votes
2answers
91 views

Intuitive analysis of gradient, divergence, curl

I have read the most basic and important parts of vector calculus are gradient, divergence and curl. These three things are too important to analyse a vector field and I have gone through the physical ...
4
votes
1answer
104 views

Computation of $T^{\mu\nu}$ from Lagrangian density $\mathscr{L} $

I am trying to understand how upper and lower indices are connected when computing the energy-momentum tensor. In particular, I found the simple problem where the Lagrangian density is given as $$\...
4
votes
1answer
168 views

Gradient one-form [duplicate]

I am trying to understand what gradient one-form means actually. In the book that I'm following (A first course on General Relativity by Schutz) it's told that gradient is a one-form and it's ...
4
votes
2answers
161 views

Conventions regarding partial derivatives

Look at this expression: $$\frac{\partial}{\partial t} (V-\mathbf{v}\cdot\mathbf{A}).$$ This expression occurs in Griffiths EM book (4th ed, p.444). $V=V(\mathbf{r},t)$is the scalar potential, $\...
4
votes
1answer
143 views

Higgs mechanism in QED

I'm trying to understand the Higgs mechanics. For that matter, I'm exploring the possibility of giving mass to the photon in a gauge-invariant way. So, if we introduce a complex scalar field: $$ \phi=...
4
votes
1answer
112 views

Covariant derivative of a covariant derivative

I'm trying to find the covariant derivative of a covariant derivative, i.e. $\nabla_a (\nabla_b V_c)$. This is something I've taken for granted a lot in calculations, namely I though that by the ...
3
votes
9answers
938 views

Can velocity be an undefined quantity?

We have the image below displaying the uniform velocity by time-distance graph. At every point velocity is constant but what if distance and time both become zero as at origin in the graph is? The ...
3
votes
1answer
867 views

Can one raise indices on covariant derivative and products thereof?

Can the following be true? $g^{\sigma\rho}\nabla_{\rho}\nabla_{\mu} = \nabla^{\sigma}\nabla_{\mu}$ $g^{\sigma\rho}\nabla_{\nu}\nabla_{\sigma} = \nabla_{\nu}\nabla^{\rho}$ $g^{\sigma\rho}\nabla_{\nu}\...
3
votes
1answer
143 views

How is $ \frac{dv}{ dt} = a $?

I know how , in the physical sense - $$\frac {dv}{dt} = a$$ But, even after thinking a lot, I am not able to see the fault in this - $$\frac {dv}{dt} = \frac {d(st^{-1})}{dt} = \frac {sd(t^{-1})}...
3
votes
1answer
111 views

Contradiction of a scalar product

Can anyone resolve this contradiction: $$\vec{r}\cdot\dot{\vec{r}}=\frac{1}{2}\frac{d}{dt}\left(\vec{r}^2\right)=\frac{1}{2}\frac{d}{dt}\left(\left|\vec{r}\right|^2\right)\equiv\frac{1}{2}\frac{d}{dt}...
3
votes
2answers
238 views

Why doesn't this multiplication of Grassmann variables give the expected result?

Would anyone be able to tell me how srednicki goes from step $(44.29)$ to $(44.30)$? Here is the paragraph: Now let us introduce the notion of complex Grassmann variables via $$\begin{align} \...
3
votes
2answers
413 views

Trouble with Landau & Lifshitz

Hello I have a quick question on what I have been reading in Landau & Lifshitz's book on classical mechanics. I am in the very beginning of the book and I am having trouble with his derivation on ...
3
votes
2answers
259 views

Covariant derivative of a covariant tensor wrt superscript

Is it true that when you take the covariant derivative of a covariant tensor, do you always have to do with a subscript? What if you do it wrt a superscript?Does the first term (with the partial ...
3
votes
1answer
143 views

What is the difference between $\nabla _{\sigma} $ and $ \nabla^{\sigma}$?

What is the difference between: $\nabla _{\sigma} $ and $ \nabla^{\sigma}$? I've been told that the first is the covariant derivative, however I'm just starting a course on spacetime geometry and ...