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50
votes
10answers
6k views

What is a field, really?

There was a reason why I constantly failed physics at school and university, and that reason was, apart from the fact I was immensely lazy, that I mentally refused to "believe" more advanced stuff ...
32
votes
8answers
2k views

Why are differential equations for fields in physics of order two?

What is the reason for the observation that across the board fields in physics are generally governed by second order (partial) differential equations? If someone on the street would flat out ask ...
24
votes
1answer
931 views

Can lightning be used to solve NP-complete problems?

I'm a MS/BS computer science guy who is wondering about why lightning can't (or can?) be used to solve NP complete problems efficiently, but I don't understand the physics behind lightning, so I'm ...
22
votes
1answer
3k views

Differentiating Propagator, Greens function, Correlation function, etc

For the following quantities respectively, could someone write down the common definitions, their meaning, the field of study in which one would typically find these under their actual name, and most ...
19
votes
1answer
592 views

Why does charge conservation due to gauge symmetry only hold on-shell?

While deriving Noether's theorem or the generator(and hence conserved current) for a continuous symmetry, we work modulo the assumption that the field equations hold. Considering the case of gauge ...
17
votes
1answer
446 views

Is there a field equation which can reduce into all three flavors of spin (zero, one, one half)?

Is there a known particle field equation of a similar form $$ \begin{equation} (\Gamma^n \pi_n)^2 \Psi = (mc)^2 \Psi \tag{1} \end{equation} $$ such that by reducing the number of degrees of freedom ...
16
votes
3answers
2k views
14
votes
4answers
2k views

History of Electromagnetic Field Tensor

I'm curious to learn how people discovered that electric and magnetic fields could be nicely put into one simple tensor. It's clear that the tensor provides many beautiful simplifications to the ...
13
votes
3answers
1k views

Why can't General Relativity be written in terms of physical variables?

I am aware that the field in General Relativity (the metric, $g_{\mu\nu}$) is not completely physical, as two metrics which are related by a diffeomorphism (~ a change in coordinates) are physically ...
12
votes
0answers
621 views

Could this model have soliton solutions?

We consider a theory described by the Lagrangian, $$\mathcal{L}=i\bar{\Psi}\gamma^\mu\partial_\mu\Psi-m\bar{\Psi}\Psi+\frac{1}{2}g(\bar{\Psi}\Psi)^2$$ The corresponding field equations are, ...
11
votes
2answers
579 views

What is the nature of electric field? is it quantized? is it a wave?

What I seek here is to understand whether the electric field in its pure form as in between the electron and the proton is uniform or does it have some kind of wave/particle nature or both, does it ...
10
votes
5answers
1k views

Quantum mechanics as classical field theory

Can we view the normal, non-relativistic quantum mechanics as a classical fields? I know, that one can derive the Schrödinger equation from the Lagrangian density $${\cal L} ~=~ \frac{i\hbar}{2} ...
10
votes
2answers
170 views

Inverting the equation for $T_{\mu\nu}$ in terms of $F_{\mu\nu}$

The Stress-Energy Tensor for electromagnetism is given by: $$ T_{\mu \nu} = F_{\mu}\,^{\alpha}F_{\nu\alpha}-\frac{1}{4}g_{\mu\nu}F_{\alpha\beta}F^{\alpha\beta} $$ How can I find $F_{\mu\nu}$ in ...
10
votes
1answer
341 views

Auxiliary fields in supersymmetry

I know that auxiliary fields can be used to close the supersymmetry algebra in case the bosonic and fermionic on-shell degrees of freedom do not match. Could somebody please elaborate on this concept ...
9
votes
1answer
3k views

The Euler-Lagrange equation in special relativity

How can I derive the Euler-Lagrange equations valid in the field of special relativity? Specifically, consider a scalar field.
9
votes
4answers
300 views

What makes an equation an 'equation of motion'?

Every now and then, I find myself reading papers/text talking about how this equation is a constraint but that equation is an equation of motion which satisfies this constraint. For example, in the ...
9
votes
4answers
435 views

Is the Lagrangian of a quantum field really a 'functional'?

Weinberg says, page 299, The quantum theory of fields, Vol 1, that The Lagrangian is, in general, a functional $L[\Psi(t),\dot{\Psi}(t)$], of a set of generic fields $\Psi[x,t]$ and their time ...
9
votes
3answers
241 views

Why is fundamental physics taught in terms of particles?

According to this paper, there can be no relativistic quantum theory of localizeable particles ("relativity plus quantum mechanics exclusively requires a field ontology"). Sean Caroll has also argued ...
9
votes
1answer
268 views

Lagrangian for Goldstone mode + topological excitation

The XY-model Hamiltonian is the following, $${\cal H}~=~-J\sum_{\langle i,j\rangle} \cos (\theta_i -\theta_j).$$ The Goldstone mode corresponds to term $(\nabla \theta)^2$ in the effective ...
9
votes
4answers
480 views

Why must the field equations be differential?

In Landau–Lifshitz's Course of Theoretical Physics, Vol. 2 (‘Classical Fields Theory’), Ch. IV, § 27, there is an explanation why the field equations should be linear differential equations. It goes ...
9
votes
1answer
186 views

Energy-Momentum Tensor in QFT vs. GR

What is the correspondence between the conserved canonical energy-momentum tensor, which is $$ T^{\mu\nu}_{can} := \sum_{i=1}^N\frac{\delta\mathcal{L}_{Matter}}{\delta(\partial_\mu f_i)}\partial^\nu ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

Lagrangian to Hamiltonian in Quantum Field Theory

While deriving Hamiltonian from Lagrangian density, we use the formula $$\mathcal{H} ~=~ \pi \dot{\phi} - \mathcal{L}.$$ But since we are considering space and time as parameters, why the formula ...
8
votes
3answers
607 views

Why is the Yang-Mills gauge group assumed compact and semi-simple?

What is the motivation for including the compactness and semi-simplicity assumptions on the groups that one gauges to obtain Yang-Mills theories? I'd think that these hypotheses lead to physically ...
8
votes
2answers
383 views

Quantizing EM field

Why when we quantize EM field, whe quantize the vector potential $A^\mu$ obtaining vectorial particles (photons) like the elastic field (phonons) and we can't quantize directly the EM-field tensor ...
8
votes
1answer
194 views

Boundary currents for Asymptotic Symmetry Group (ASG)

In the context of asymptotic symmetry groups, what is a boundary current? Why is it called a "current"? Context: I'm reading Strominger's recent paper on Asymptotic symmetry group of Yang-Mills ...
8
votes
1answer
267 views

What are the details of the renormalization of Chern-Simons theory?

What is a good, simple argument as to why Chern-Simons theory' is renormalisable? Any good books/references dealing with this effectively? Why does the $\beta$-function vanish? Thanks!
7
votes
3answers
233 views

If particles are excitations what are their fields?

After reading these : http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/july-2013/real-talk-everything-is-made-of-fields http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=682522 It was clear to me that all ...
7
votes
1answer
1k views

Trick for deriving the stress tensor in any theory

In D. Tong's notes on string theory (pdf) section 4.1.1 he explains a trick for deriving the stress-energy tensor which arises from translations in the base manifold of the field theory (in this case ...
7
votes
1answer
425 views

What corresponds to this Lagrangian density?

Is there a physical example of a field that would have the following Lagrangian density $$ L= \sqrt{1+\phi_x^2 +\phi_y^2+\phi_z^2} $$ where the subscripts denote partial derivatives and $\phi$ is a ...
7
votes
1answer
176 views

Why does Einstein say contradictions arise from treating the EM field as lines of force?

EDIT - I have included the context of the quote I am interested in, as people seem to be as baffled by Einstein's quote as I am: In a 1920 address Einstein says this: Think of waves on the ...
7
votes
1answer
173 views

Symmetries in physics

Can you explain me some of the mathematical details of such concept as symmetries? In physics, we have some manifold, and fields are functions on this manifold. On the one hand, we have symmetries of ...
7
votes
1answer
230 views

Generator of local symmetries

Let us only consider classical field theories in this discussion. Noether's theorem states that for every global symmetry, there exists a conserved current and a conserved charge. The charge is the ...
7
votes
1answer
543 views

Is Bose-Einstein condensate a good example of a classical massive boson field?

Physically, we know that a BEC has formed if a macroscopic number of bosons occupy a single quantum state. The wave-function $\Psi(x)$ of the latter, normalized to the total number of condensed atoms ...
7
votes
0answers
88 views

Electric charges on compact four-manifolds

Textbook wisdom in electromagnetism tells you that there is no total electric charge on a compact manifold. For example, consider space-time of the form $\mathbb{R} \times M_3$ where the first factor ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

What does a Field Theory mean?

What exactly is a field theory? How do we classify theories as field theories and non field theories? EDIT: After reading the answers I am under the impression that almost every theory is a ...
6
votes
2answers
189 views

How does a SCFT avoid the Haag-Lopuszanski-Sohnius theorem?

According to the Haag-Lopuszanski-Sohnius theorem the most general symmetry that a consistent 4 dimensional field theory can enjoy is supersymmery, seen as an extension of Poincarè symmetry, in direct ...
6
votes
3answers
865 views

Gauge fixing choice for the gauge field $A_0$

In many situations, I have seen that the the author makes a gauge choice $A_0=0$, e.g. Manton in his paper on the force between the 't Hooft Polyakov monopole. Please can you provide me a ...
6
votes
2answers
301 views

(Un)countability in QFT

I am a mathematician self-studying physics, and a currently working on QFT with Srednicki's book. One thing that bothers me is that for a scalar field (in the Hamiltonian version) there is a ...
6
votes
1answer
269 views

Quantum Field Theory: why fields are equal to zero on the boundary?

One of the first assumptions, when introducing the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian in an undergraduate course on QFT is $$ \phi(x)=0\,\text{on the boundary} $$ and this is widely used in many situations ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

What is a non linear $\sigma$ model?

What exactly is a non linear $\sigma$ model? In many books one can view many different types of non linear $\sigma$ models but I don't understand what is the link between all of them and why it is ...
6
votes
1answer
759 views

The equipartition theorem in momentum space

Motivated by the answers to this question on turbulence, I'm interested in an explanation and/or derivation/reference of the equipartition theorem in momentum space. To formulate it as a question: ...
6
votes
1answer
171 views

Mathematical interpretation of Poisson Brackets

Lets say we are working in a classical scalar field theory and we have two functional $ F[\phi, \pi](x)$ and $G[\phi, \pi](x)$. In most of the references, starting with two functional the Poisson ...
6
votes
3answers
518 views

What are fields?

I'm following my first course in field theory and the professor began, like many books do, by introducing the scalar field. However, I am a bit hesitant about the physical idea of fields. My question ...
6
votes
1answer
123 views

Intuition for actions written as integrals over spacetime

Right now I'm simply looking for an intuitive explaination of actions that integrate over a 4-volume element, $d^4x$ rather than a parameter say $\lambda$. More specifically I'm well versed in action ...
6
votes
2answers
312 views

From Lagrangian to Hamiltonian in Fermionic Model

While going from a given Lagrangian to Hamiltonian for a fermionic field, we use the following formula. $$ H = \Sigma_{i} \pi_i \dot{\phi_i} - L$$ where $\pi_i = \dfrac{\partial L}{\partial ...
6
votes
1answer
105 views

In which field theories with fermions do string- and fivebrane structures not come up?

A year ago, username @Greg Graviton asked in a thread here about the Spin group as covering of the spatial rotations. A subquestion was: What other groups, even larger than SU(2) are there that ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

What is the essence of BCFW recursion techniques?

I have recently briefly read about new methods as the Britto-Cachazo-Feng-Witten (BCFW) on-shell recursion method. Can anybody please tell me about the essence of it? What does it mean for the ...
6
votes
1answer
489 views

U(1) Charged Fields

I don't quite understand what is actually meant by a field charged under a $U(1)$ symmetry. Does it mean that when a transformation is applied the field transforms with an additional phase? More ...
6
votes
2answers
206 views

Mass generation by Chern-Simons theory

Why the mass generation via a Higgs mechanism is different from that of Chern-Simons theory? I haven't done any formal course in Quantum field theory,so how do I understand this just having some basic ...
6
votes
1answer
187 views

Proof that we can always find a gauge transformation such that $A_0=0$?

I'm trying to follow Coleman's proof from his lectures "Aspects of Symmetry" on page 200-201. He proofs it is always possible to work in the temporal gauge for a general Yang-Mills-Higgs theory. I ...