For questions involving the Lagrangian formulation of a dynamical system. Namely, the application of an action principle to a suitably chosen Lagrangian or Lagrangian Density in order to obtain the equations of motion of the system.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

11
votes
6answers
8k views

What is canonical momentum?

What does the canonical momentum $\textbf{p}=m\textbf{v}+e\textbf{A}$ mean? Is it just momentum accounting for electromagnetic effects?
11
votes
3answers
527 views

Motivation for Potentials

This is a hypothetical question about "pedagogy". Let's say I am trying to take someone who has just a very small amount of knowledge about Newtonian mechanics and convince them that the Lagrangian ...
11
votes
1answer
771 views

What is the historical origin of the term action

In Physics ordinary terms often acquire a strange meaning, action is one of them. Most people I talk to about the term action just respond with "its dimension is energy*time". But what is its ...
11
votes
1answer
2k views

Lagrangian of Schrodinger field

The usual Schrodinger Lagrangian is $$ \tag 1 i(\psi^{*}\partial_{t}\psi ) + \frac{1}{2m} \psi^{*}(\nabla^2)\psi, $$ which gives the correct equations of motion, with conjugate momentum for $\psi^{*}$ ...
10
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 ...
10
votes
2answers
440 views

For a particle to have physical mass, is it always necessary to have a mass term in the lagrangian?

Since the self-energy adds to the bare mass defined in the Lagrangian, is it possible to create a physical particle mass from the self-energy alone, with no mass terms occuring in the Lagrangian? On ...
10
votes
4answers
3k views

Deriving Newton's Third Law from homogeneity of Space

I am following the first volume of the course of theoretical physics by Landau. So, whatever I say below mainly talks regarding the first 2 chapters of Landau and the approach of deriving Newton's ...
10
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there a proof from the first principle that the Lagrangian L = T - V?

Is there a proof from the first principle that for the Lagrangian $L$, $$L = T\text{(kinetic energy)} - V\text{(potential energy)}$$ in classical mechanics? Assume that Cartesian coordinates are ...
10
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.
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
3answers
918 views

Equation of motion of a photon in a given metric

I have this metric: $$ds^2=-dt^2+e^tdx^2$$ and I want to find the equation of motion (of x). for that i thought I have two options: using E.L. with the Lagrangian: $L=-\dot t ^2+e^t\dot x ^2 $. ...
10
votes
3answers
873 views

Confusion regarding the principle of least action in Landau's “The Classical Theory of Fields”

Edit: The previous title didn't really ask the same thing as the question (sorry about that), so I've changed it. To clarify, I understand that the action isn't always a minimum. My questions are in ...
10
votes
3answers
853 views

Can Lagrangian mechanics be justified without referring to Newtonian mechanics?

Are there any ways of justifying Lagrangian mechanics as a foundation of classical physics, without referring to Newtonian mechanics? In other words, what is the deeper reason or intuition why ...
10
votes
2answers
4k views

Explicit Variation of Gibbons-Hawking-York Boundary Term

Are there any references that present the explicit variation of the Hilbert-Einstein action plus the Hawking-Gibbons-York boundary term, and demonstrate the cancellation of the normal derivatives of ...
10
votes
1answer
522 views

Are the Hamiltonian and Lagrangian always convex functions?

The Hamiltonian and Lagrangian are related by a Legendre transform: $$ H(\mathbf{q}, \mathbf{p}, t) = \sum_i \dot q_i p_i - \mathcal{L}(\mathbf{q}, \mathbf{\dot q}, t). $$ For this to be a Legendre ...
9
votes
3answers
3k views

Maxwells Equation from Electromagnetic Lagrangian

In Heaviside-Lorentz units the Maxwell's equations are: $$\nabla \cdot \vec{E} = \rho $$ $$ \nabla \times \vec{B} - \frac{\partial \vec{E}}{\partial t} = \vec{J}$$ $$ \nabla \times \vec{E} + ...
9
votes
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 ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

What is Quantization?

In classical mechanics you construct an action (involving a Lagrangian in arbitrary generalized coordinates, a Hamiltonian in canonical coordinates [to make your EOM more "convenient & ...
9
votes
3answers
958 views

Derivation of the Polyakov Action

As is usually done when first presenting string theory, the Nambu-Goto Action, $$ S_{\text{NG}}:=-T\int d\tau d\sigma \sqrt{-g} $$ ($g:=\det (g_{\alpha \beta})$ is the induced metric on the ...
9
votes
4answers
324 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
2answers
2k 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 ...
9
votes
4answers
564 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
1answer
686 views

Recovering all of Maxwell's equations from the variational principle

Whether you can get the first couple of Maxwell equations from a variational principle? In the second volume of the Landau theoretical physics said that it is impossible.
9
votes
4answers
631 views

Does the action and Lagrangian have identical symmetries and conserved quantities?

From the book Introduction to Classical Mechanics With Problems and Solutions by David Morin, page 236 states: Noether's Theorem: For each symmetry of the Lagrangian, there is a conserved ...
9
votes
5answers
1k views

Noether Theorem and Energy conservation in classical mechanics

I have a problem deriving the conservation of energy from time translation invariance. The invariance of the Lagrangian under infinitesimal time displacements $t \rightarrow t' = t + \epsilon$ can be ...
9
votes
2answers
226 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
225 views

Symmetry of the Polyakov action?

Let us look at the Polyakov action for a string moving in a spacetime with metric $g_{\mu \nu}(X)$:$$S_P = -{1\over{4\pi \alpha'}} \int d^2 \sigma \sqrt{-\gamma} \gamma^{ab} \partial_a X^\mu ...
9
votes
2answers
242 views

Is there a mathematical reason for the Lagrangian to be Lorentz invariant?

The Hamiltonian is the energy, which is just one component of a four-vector and therefore not Lorentz invariant. The Lagrangian is the Legendre transform of the Hamiltonian and I was wondering if ...
9
votes
1answer
299 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
1k views

D'Alembert's Principle: Necesssity of virtual displacements

Why is the D'Alembert's Principle $$\sum_{i} ( {F}_{i} - m_i \bf{a}_i )\cdot \delta \bf r_i = 0$$ stated in terms of "virtual" displacements instead of actual displacements? Why is it so necessary ...
9
votes
0answers
96 views

Degenaracy in mass of $8$ and $27$ reps of $SU(3)$ in Coleman's Aspects of Symmetry [closed]

In Coleman's Aspect of symmetry he proposes an amusing problem in the first chapter. It asks us to consider a set of eight pseudo-scalar fields transforming in the adjoint representation of $SU(3)$. ...
8
votes
2answers
459 views

How do I read the simple, but contradictory, Lagrangian ($\mathcal{L} = x + v$)?

I understand the lagrangian formulation of classical mechanics, to a degree. I can derive the Euler-Lagrange equations from the "least" action principle, and equivalently can determine the equations ...
8
votes
5answers
361 views

Why can't we obtain a Hamiltonian by substituting?

This question may sound a bit dumb. Why can't we obtain the Hamiltonian of a system simply by finding $\dot{q}$ in terms of $p$ and then evaluating the Lagrangian with $\dot{q} = \dot{q}(p)$? Wouldn't ...
8
votes
2answers
355 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
185 views

Why the extra term $\frac{1}{2}(\partial_{\rho}A^{\rho})^2$ in the photon Lagrangian?

In my quantum field theory class we have been told to use this Lagrangian for the photon field $$\mathcal{L}=-\frac{1}{4}F_{\alpha\beta}F^{\alpha\beta} -\frac{1}{2}(\partial_{\rho}A^{\rho})^2.$$ but ...
8
votes
2answers
364 views

Several stationary points of the action functional

In QFT the principle of stationary action states that we choose fields that will make the action stationary but what if the action has many stationary points (for a fixed choice of boundary ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Functional derivative in Lagrangian field theory

The following functional derivative holds: \begin{align} \frac{\delta q(t)}{\delta q(t')} ~=~ \delta(t-t') \end{align} and \begin{align} \frac{\delta \dot{q}(t)}{\delta q(t')} ~=~ \delta'(t-t') ...
8
votes
1answer
384 views

Why should it be allowed to set the einbein to unity?

The Polyakov action for a massive free point particle with worldline $\gamma$ is given by $$ S[\gamma] = \frac{1}{2}\int_\gamma e \biggl(\frac{1}{e^2}\dot{x}^2 - m^2\biggr)\mathrm{d}\tau $$ where ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

Do we need inertial frames in Lagrangian mechanics?

Do Euler-Lagrange equations hold only for inertial systems? If yes, where is the point in the variational derivation from Hamilton's principle where we made that restriction? My question arose ...
8
votes
1answer
885 views

In Path Integrals, lagrangian or hamiltonian are fundamental?

When studying path-integrals one question arose to my mind... Which presentation is more fundamental to calculate the propagator? The one based on the Hamiltonian (phase space)? $$K(B|A) = \int ...
8
votes
2answers
166 views

Why are these two definitions for symmetries in the Lagrangian equivalent?

I have heard the following two definitions for a symmetry of the Lagrangian: If under a coordinate transformation the form of the Lagrangian remains unchanged then there is a symmetry. If $\delta ...
8
votes
2answers
631 views

Any good resources for Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Dynamics?

I'm taking a course on Lagrangian and Hamiltonian Dynamics, and I would like to find a good book/resource with lots of practice questions and answers on either or both topics. So far at my university ...
8
votes
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 ...
8
votes
1answer
356 views

Invariance of action $\Rightarrow$ covariance of field equations?

Invariance of action $\Rightarrow$ covariance of field equations? Is this statement true? I have only seen examples of this, like the invariance of Electromagnetic action under Lorentz ...
8
votes
1answer
138 views

How to use Euler-Lagrange when Lagrangian is $L=\sqrt{t}\sqrt{1+(dy/dt)^2}$

In this Lagrangian problem, action is $$S = \int_{t_1}^{t_2} \sqrt{t}\sqrt{1+\dot{y}^2} \,\,dt$$ where $\dot{y} = dy/dt$ and $t_1$ and $t_2$ are some fixed points. I tried to solve this problem using ...
8
votes
2answers
732 views

Semiclassical limit of Quantum Mechanics

I find myself often puzzled with the different definitions one gives to "semiclassical limits" in the context of quantum mechanics, in other words limits that eventually turn quantum mechanics into ...
8
votes
1answer
451 views

Is this field redefinition for free scalar field theory non-local?

The action of free scalar field theory is as follows: $$ S=\int d^4 x \frac{\dot{\phi}^2}{2}-\frac{\phi(m^2-\nabla^2)\phi}{2}. $$ I have been thinking to redefine field as ...
8
votes
2answers
158 views

Quantum Anomalies and Quantum Symmetries

In Quantum Field Theories (QFT) there is a well known phenomenon of anomalies, where a classical symmetry is broken in the quantum theory due to a so called anomaly. This symmetry breaking can be ...
8
votes
2answers
273 views

Does the lagrangian contain all the information about the representations of the fields in QFT?

Given the Lagrangian density of a theory, are the representations on which the various fields transform uniquely determined? For example, given the Lagrangian for a real scalar field $$ \mathscr{L} = ...
8
votes
1answer
145 views

How do you build a Lagrangian in particle/nuclear physics? (A specific example)

I know that the terms in the Lagrangian needs to be scalars (with respect to Lorentz symmetry etc.). Also I know that [see C. G. Tully (EPP) p. 85] in general, for $\psi$ in the fundamental ...