any of several principles that find the physical trajectory of a system by minimizing or maximizing some value computed over the proposed path (for instance geometric optics can be reproduced by insisting on a minimum time principle).

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What justification is necessary for convolutional variational principles to be considered legitimate?

I recently asked a related question and was interested in why/or why we cannot use convolutional variational principles in practice or in theory. Summarizing the points I made in the earlier post: ...
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2answers
52 views

Examples in which the light maximizes the optical path length

I posted a similar question about geodesics on Math.SE. Many sources (Wikibooks for instance) claim that the light could maximize the optical path length in some cases. But I don't think it's actually ...
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47 views

The einbein in the action of a relativistic massive point particles [on hold]

The action of a relativistic massive point particle moving in space-time is $$S=-m\int d\tau \sqrt{g _{\nu \rho}\frac{dx^{\nu}}{d\tau}\frac{dx^{\rho}}{d\tau}}$$ [with Minkowski sign convention ...
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34 views

Why are functional representations of systems important in physics or computational physics?

This was an addendum to a previous question I asked, but I figured I should make it it's own discussion. Assuming I am able derive a functional representation for any dynamical system (dissipative, ...
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1answer
74 views

Can we derive most fundamental laws from the Action Principle? [duplicate]

It is said in the book Fearful Symmetry - The Search for Beauty in Modern Physics that we can derive all basic laws in physics from a simple principle called Least Action Principle (although it may be ...
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1answer
78 views

How to formulate variational principles (Lagrangian/Hamiltonian) for nonlinear, dissipative or initial value problems?

Although this questions is very much math related, I posted it in Physics since it is related to variational (Lagrangian/Hamiltonian) principles for dynamical systems. If I should migrate this ...
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40 views

Action principle for a faster-than-light point particle in special relativity [closed]

When we have principle of stationary action in the Newtonian physics, we can safely choose any smooth trajectory connecting the initial and the final points because any velocity $\textbf{v}$ is ...
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2answers
76 views

Variation of a term in the Lagrangian

I don't understand why $$\frac{\delta}{\delta\phi}\left(\frac12\partial^\mu\phi\partial_\mu\phi\right)~=~\partial^\mu\partial_\mu\phi.\tag{1}$$ If we use integration by parts, there should be a minus ...
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33 views

Variational principle proof (summing over $n$)

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variational_method_%28quantum_mechanics%29 $$= \sum_n \sum_m c_n^*c_mE_m \langle \psi_n|\psi_m \rangle$$ $$= \sum_n |c_n|^2E_n$$ I just want to better understand ...
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1answer
41 views

Variational Principle to find Energy Eigenfunctions

In Quantum Mechanics one can estimate an upper bound for the ground state energy with the following functional: $$\mathcal{F}[\psi(x)] \equiv \int_{-\infty}^\infty \psi^*(x)\hat{H}\psi(x) \,\, dx ...
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35 views

Help understanding electromagnetism integral from exercise in MTW? [closed]

I was skimming through Misner, Thorne and Wheeler's book Gravitation looking for exercises to challenge myself with and came across the following exercise on page 178: Verify that the variational ...
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2answers
58 views

“Find the Lagrangian of the theory”

I've heard a few of my professors throw around the term "finding the Lagrangian of a theory". What exactly is this referring to. From what I understand it seems that you determine invariances ...
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122 views

Do “typical” QFT's lack a lagrangian description?

Sometimes as a result of learning new things you realize that you are incredibly confused about something you thought you understood very well, and that perhaps your intuition needs to be revised. ...
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1answer
62 views

Lagrangian mechanics and initial conditions vs boundary conditions

It bothers me that many basic books on the classical mechanics don't discuss the following difference between "Newton's laws" and the "Principle of stationary action". Newton's laws can predict the ...
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2answers
55 views

Confusion about what the Euler-Lagrange equation says

I roughly understand the concept of the Lagrangian $L = T - V$ as well as the idea of stationary action $\delta \mathcal{S} =0$. However, I am confused what the Euler-Lagrange equation actually says. ...
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1answer
48 views

What is an “equation of motion” as used in context of geodesic equation?

I am studying general relativity and using the book Gravity by James Hartle. On page 170, he provides the following table: I don't understand what he means by "equation of motion" nor do I ...
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1answer
98 views

Using Lagrangian mechanics instead of Newtonian mechanics

When studying advanced classical mechanics, we all study about Lagrangians and the Euler-Lagrange equations and their importance. Of course, the Lagrangian is calculated based on the potential and ...
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1answer
59 views

Geodesic equation from the proper time integral

This is something that has been bothering me for a little while. The usual procedure that I've seen is to write the proper time as the line integral $$\tau=\int_\gamma d\tau$$ along some curve ...
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38 views

Ritz Variational Method

I want to use the Ritz Variational method to find a good approximation ground state and ground state energy for the hydrogen atom. For that purpose I take two different ansatzes, do the machinery of ...
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189 views

Is the principle of least action fully equivalent to the Euler-Lagrange equations?

I am citing from Landau and Lifschitz, this statement that will seem to you well-known, trivial, etc: "Between these positions, (i.e. $q_1$ and $q_2$) the system moves then in such a way that the ...
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0answers
29 views

Lagrangians with higher derivatives than Klein-Gordon [duplicate]

Has anyone ever tried to work with Lagrangians involving higher derivatives? The Klein-Gordon Lagrangian only involves $(\frac{\partial}{\partial t})^2$ and $\nabla^2$ terms, what about third and ...
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1answer
60 views

Deriving the Canonical Energy Momentum Tensor

In the Mathematics for Physics of Stone and Goldbart the canonical energy momentum tensor is derived by the action principle as follows. To the action of the form $$ S=\int ...
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1answer
91 views

Functional derivatives as distributions

I have asked this on math stack exchange, due to its mostly mathemtical content, but aside from one upvote and minimal views it has not garnered any attention, so I am trying here as well. This isn't ...
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1answer
46 views

Lagrangian for second-order system

Given an $n$-dimensional second-order system $$\ddot q^i-\sum_{j=1}^n A^i_j\dot q^j=0,$$ where $A$ is a constant matrix, is it possible to find a Lagrangian such that the above equation is the ...
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4answers
257 views

Why drops form spheres?

Consider a drop of water floating in an inertial frame in STP air (e.g., the ISS). Intuitively, the equilibrium shape of the drop is a sphere. How would one prove that? Is it equivalent to showing ...
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78 views

Euler-Lagrange equation (equation of motion) solution with hairy Lagrangian [closed]

I'm going through Zwiebach Chapter 6 on relativistic strings to try to solve a similar problem. I got all the way to my equation of motion \begin{eqnarray*} \delta S & = & [ p' \delta ...
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1answer
67 views

Kohn-Sham equations from variational principle

I'm trying to understand how the Kohn-Sham equations arise from the variational principle, failing. I think my problem is the inability to apply the variational principle. Or, I lack some crucial ...
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1answer
74 views

Intuition behind Hamilton's Variational Principle

Background: I am an upper level undergraduate physics student who just completed a course in classical mechanics, concluding with Lagrangian Mechanics and Hamilton's Variational Principle. My ...
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1answer
104 views

Is there an error in Susskinds' derivation of Euler-Lagrange equations?

http://imgur.com/kZO5C0V First, I believe there is a trivial error. The second equation should have another $\Delta t$ multiplying everything on the right. It is divided out later when the equation ...
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2answers
38 views

What are the end points in the action integral of field theory?

In the mechanics of particles when we apply the principle of the least action the two end points are two spatial coordinates. Therefore, if we consider the variation of the action with respect to the ...
2
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1answer
130 views

Least Action Principle (Classical and Quantum Theory)

I) My first question would be "why should classical systems obey the principle of least action ?" When we find out the propagator in quantum physics, we find the amplitude to be equal to the sum over ...
4
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3answers
124 views

Geodesic Equation from variation: Is the squared lagrangian equivalent?

It is well known that geodesics on some manifold $M$, covered by some coordinates ${x_\mu}$, say with a Riemannian metric can be obtained by an action principle . Let $C$ be curve $\mathbb{R} \to M$, ...
2
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1answer
85 views

Variation of the metric with respect to the metric

For a variation of the metric $g^{\mu\nu}$ with respect to $g^{\alpha\beta}$ you might expect the result (at least I did): \begin{equation} \frac{\delta g^{\mu\nu}}{\delta g^{\alpha\beta}}= ...
4
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1answer
91 views

Total derivative in action of the field theory

Consider a classical field theory. When applying the least action I see that a term is considered total derivative. We say that $$\int \partial_\mu (\frac {\partial L}{\partial(\partial_\mu ...
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1answer
98 views

Can action be unbounded from below?

While solving the problem in this question, I found cases where the numerical optimization failed, suspecting unboundedness of the function being minimized. The function approximates the action of the ...
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2answers
201 views

When is the principle of stationary action not the principle of least action?

I've only had a very brief introduction to Lagrangian mechanics. In a physics course I took last year, we briefly covered the principle of stationary action --- we looked at it, derived some equations ...
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1answer
75 views

Determine path of point mass using the Hamilton's principle

I am very new in this field but I try to solve a problem by using the Hamilton's principle and afterwards I want to compare the solution by solving the same problem using conservation laws. What I ...
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1answer
75 views

Least action principle — numerical simulation strangeness

I'm trying to get some experience with the least action principle, and for this I chose a simple 1-dimensional problem of a particle moving in some field. The least action principle would then look ...
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3answers
137 views

Variational Theorem proof

I have been trying to prove variational theorem in quantum mechanics for a couple of days but I can't understand the logic behind certain steps. Here is what I have so far: \begin{equation} ...
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0answers
44 views

Action principles and covariant equations [duplicate]

Can every physically sound differential equation, that is covariant, deterministic etc. be derived by extremising a suitable action using a suitable lagrangian, that may be arbitary. Is this a ...
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1answer
75 views

One step in deriving the Einstein-Hilbert action

In this amazing first principles derivation of the Einstein-Hilbert action there is one small manipulation needed to show $$c g_{ab,cd}\left(\eta^{ac}\eta^{bd} - \eta^{ab}\eta^{cd}\right)$$ is ...
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1answer
160 views

Why is it so coincident that Palatini variation of Einstein-Hilbert action will obtain an equation that connection is Levi-Civita connection?

There are two ways to do the variation of Einstein-Hilbert action. First one is Einstein formalism which takes only metric independent. After variation of action, we get the Einstein field equation. ...
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1answer
80 views

Is it possible to have the principle of least action and multiple solutions?

This is possibly a silly question but when we derive the equations of motion of a particle using the principle of least action. We must assume that there is a single minimum (for a fixed choice of ...
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1answer
39 views

Relevance of this equation

The book 'The variational princples of mechanics' by Lanczos was recommended to me and I am reading it now. So far it is an enjoyable journey, but I don't see the significance of this equation: $t = ...
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368 views

Finding 3-Sphere Christoffel connection coefficients using variational calculus, Sean Carrol problem

I have A 3-Sphere with coordinates $x^{\mu} = (\psi,\theta,\phi)$ and the following metric: \begin{equation} ds^2 = d\psi^2 + \text{sin}^2\psi(d\theta^2 + \text{sin}^2\theta d\phi^2) \end{equation} ...
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1answer
67 views

Hamilton's equations from the action with boundary conditions involving position and momentum

Generally, when you are given the action $$ S=\int_{t_1}^{t_2}\mathrm dt (p\dot q - \mathcal H )$$ the boundary conditions are $q(t_1)=q_1$ and $q(t_2)=q_2$. This is useful because to calculate ...
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1answer
140 views

Variational form of Euler's incompressible fluid equations?

I am trying to derive Euler's incompressible fluid equations in terms of a variational stationary principle. Given Euler's flow equations: $$\frac{\partial v}{\partial t} = -\nabla p$$ $$\nabla\cdot ...
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1answer
114 views

Variational principle for a point particle (massive or massless) in curved space

We know that for a point particle, the action is $$ S[x,e] ~=~ \frac{1}{2}\int_{\lambda_A}^{\lambda_B} d\lambda\left[e^{-1}(\lambda)~g_{\mu\nu}(x(\lambda))~\dot{x}^\mu(\lambda)~\dot{x}^\nu(\lambda) ...
4
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1answer
100 views

Boundary term in Einstein-Hilbert action

Why is the boundary term in the Einstein-Hilbert action, the Gibbons-Hawking-York term, generally "missing" in General Relativity courses, IMPORTANT from the variational viewpoint, geometrical setting ...
2
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1answer
71 views

First variation of the action in relativistic notation - Landau & Lifshitz “Classical theory of fields”

In Landau & Lifshitz's book, Classical theory of fields, the action for a free particle is defined as: $$\tag{8.1} S= \int ^b _a {-mc \ \text d s}=0,$$ where $$\text d s=c\,\text d ...