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78
votes
9answers
15k 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 ...
44
votes
9answers
4k 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 ...
40
votes
1answer
5k 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 ...
38
votes
4answers
14k views

Why correlation functions?

While this concept is widely used in physics, it is really puzzling (at least for beginners) that you just have to multiply two functions (or the function by itself) at different values of the ...
35
votes
3answers
3k views

Why treat complex scalar field and its complex conjugate as two different fields?

I am new to QFT, so I may have some of the terminology incorrect. Many QFT books provide an example of deriving equations of motion for various free theories. One example is for a complex scalar ...
31
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
21
votes
1answer
393 views

What, to a physicist, are instantons and the Donaldson invariants?

I study gauge theory from a mathematical perspective. To me, one of the most fundamental ideas is the notion of an instanton on a 4-manifold. To be precise, I have a Riemannian 4-manifold and a ...
20
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
18
votes
3answers
3k views
18
votes
1answer
488 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
433 views

Can one write down a Hamiltonian in the absence of a Lagrangian?

How can I define the Hamiltonian independent of the Lagrangian? For instance, let's assume that i have a set of field equations that cannot be integrated to an action. Is there any prescription to ...
15
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
15
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 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 "...
13
votes
2answers
847 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 ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

Active versus passive transformations

I am a bit confused by the concepts of active and passive transformations. In all the courses I am doing at the moment we do transformations of the form: $$ \phi(x) \rightarrow\phi'(x') = \phi(x) $$ ...
12
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
791 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, $$(i\...
11
votes
4answers
4k 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 $$\...
11
votes
1answer
4k 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.
11
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
11
votes
1answer
566 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 ...
10
votes
5answers
2k 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
252 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
3answers
342 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
391 views

What is the quantum state of a static electric field?

This is something that I've been curious about for some time. A coherent, monochromatic electromagnetic wave is well described by a coherent state $|\alpha\rangle$. The quantum treatment of the ...
9
votes
4answers
331 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
598 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
4answers
522 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
305 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
0answers
90 views

Is it known what the necessary and sufficient conditions are for the existence of a “3+1 split” (by means of a foliation) of a (Lorentzian) manifold?

When trying to do physics on a more general pseudo-Riemannian manifold we want to require that there is a foliation of this manifold into three-dimensional subspaces. By this I mean we would like to ...
8
votes
2answers
361 views

Does Noether's theorem also give rise to quantities conserved over space?

Noether's theorem gives rise to quantities that are conserved over time. But does it also give rise to quantities that are conserved over space?
8
votes
2answers
412 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 $F^{...
8
votes
1answer
621 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
851 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
141 views

When is numerical value of Lagrangian evaluated on-shell a full differential?

I noticed recently that for many field equations, Lagrangian evaluated on-shell (i.e. using equations of motions) is a full derivative- a divergence or something, or in other words a boundary term. ...
8
votes
1answer
213 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
104 views

Why is a theory Lorentz invariant if the Lagrangian is Lorentz invariant?

For if I started by trying to make the Hamiltonian Lorentz invariant, I would have failed. Indeed, the Hamiltonian is part of a covariant tensor. But how do I know that the Lagrangian is not a part of ...
8
votes
1answer
127 views

Why is $V=(1/2) m^2 \phi^2$ for a free relativistic scalar field of mass $m$?

Bit of a basic question here but how come for a free relativistic scalar field of mass $m$ such as Klein Gordon theory, we take the potential to be $$V=\frac{1}{2} m^2 \phi^2$$ Is the mass term ...
8
votes
1answer
147 views

Why does Landau theory not fail when dealing with a first order phase transition?

Here is a problem where I can do the calculation, but I am not understanding the philosophy behind it. It is about Landau theory: The Landau theory of phase transitions is based on the idea that the ...
8
votes
1answer
559 views

Noether currents in QFT

I am trying to organize my knowledge of Noether's theorem in QFT. There are several questions I would like to have an answer to. In classical field theory, Noether's theorem states that for each ...
8
votes
1answer
318 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
2answers
3k 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
340 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
234 views

What canonical momenta are the “right” ones?

I'm doing some classical field theory exercises with the Lagrangian $$\mathscr{L} = -\frac{1}{4}F_{\mu \nu}F^{\mu \nu}$$ where $F_{\mu \nu} = \partial_\mu A_\nu - \partial_\nu A_\mu$. To find the ...
7
votes
3answers
689 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
449 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
2answers
119 views

When is stress-energy tensor defined as variation of action with respect to metric conserved?

In General Relativity Einstein's equation implies that stress-energy tensor on its RHS is conserved (has vanishing divergence), due to the Bianchi identity. Considering variational principles leading ...
7
votes
1answer
207 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
462 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 ...