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 is incorrect about the original statement of Fermat's principle?

Here are some statements about Fermat's Principle taken from Eugene Hecht's Optics book. The original statement of Fermat's Principle : "The actual path between two points taken by a ray of light is ...
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23 views

second variation of the action for 1-d lagrangian

i know that the first variation of the action integral yields to the euler lagrange equation by setting $ \delta S [y(x)]=0 $ however given a Lagrangian in the form $$ \frac{1}{2}mv^ {2}-V(x)$$ how ...
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2answers
120 views

An inconsistency in Hamiltonian formulation for non-local Lagrangian: what am I doing wrong?

This question is based on a previous question I asked, Q. [1] In this question, I proposed an example of a non-local Lagrangian (functional), I'm revisiting it here: $$\mathbb{L}=\frac{1}{2}\int^t_0 ...
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1answer
126 views

Legendre transform for non-local Lagrangians, or Hamiltonian of non-local Lagrangian and their properties

This is sort of a multi-part question, mostly dealing with how to treat non-local Hamiltonians and how the corresponding properties of Hamiltonians work in a non-local framework. I proposed an example ...
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1answer
61 views

Geometry of Hamilton-Jacobi Equation

I'm trying to understand the geometry of the Hamilton-Jacobi equation (working from Gelfand + Fomin), but I'm stuck. I know that: If we define the function $S(t,y;t_0, y_0)$ as: $$S(t,y;t_0,y_0) = ...
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0answers
37 views

Explaining why planets are round [duplicate]

is it possible to prove that planets (and/or stars) are always round (elliptical if you consider the spin)? Is there a set of equation that demonstrate that fluids (after all, molten rocks "floating" ...
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56 views

The principle of least action [duplicate]

I have read about the principle of least action. This principle suggests that nature would allow a particle to travel in a path along which the integral of the difference between kinetic energy and ...
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0answers
42 views

Terminal conditions and boundary terms in Lagrangian formulations: what do different choices mean?

For the sake of having compact expressions: $$ \left\langle f,g\right\rangle=\int^T_0 f(t)g(t)\,\text{d}t $$ Given some functional: $$ F=\frac{1}{2}m\!\left\langle ...
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1answer
54 views

Hamilton-Jacobi theory and initial value problem?

Having read through some recent posts regarding the Lagrangian formulation being interpreted into an initial value problem rather than the familiar boundary condition problem we are familiar with, I ...
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1answer
47 views

Euler-Lagrange equation with torsion, question on derivatives

Consider a mechanical system, the Lagrangian of which is: $$-L(u,\dot u)=\int\left(\dfrac{\partial^2 u}{\partial x^2}\right)^2\mathrm{d}x$$ This would correspond to a system in torsion, for example. ...
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1answer
59 views

Definition of the Lagrangian for a relativistic point particle in curved space

I have read that the Lagrangian in GR is defined as $L=\frac{\mathrm{d}s}{\mathrm{d}u}$, where $\mathrm{d}s = g_{ab}\mathrm{d}x^a\mathrm{d}x^b$ is the line element with the metric tensor $g_ab$ and ...
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1answer
34 views

Is there a sensible fully-discretized Hamilton's principle?

In computational physics it is common to formulate Hamilton's principle in a semi-discrete way, where space is continuous but time is discrete: in other words the Lagrangian $$L(q, \dot q, t): ...
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0answers
122 views

Non-conservative Derivation of Lagrangian [closed]

I was previously led to a recent paper by a SE member that did an alternative derivation of the Lagrangian as an initial value problem with two paths rather than the traditional boundary value method. ...
0
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1answer
50 views

Independence of position and velocity in Lagrangian from the point of view of physics?

I would like to continue discussion from my previous post on time dependence of lagrangian Time dependence of the Lagrangian of a free particle?. I have also read this old post Why does calculus of ...
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3answers
78 views

Time dependence of the Lagrangian of a free particle?

I am working through Landau's book on Classical Mechanics. I understand the logic and physics of isotropy and homogeneity of space-time behind the derivation of the Lagrangian for a free particle, but ...
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0answers
32 views

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
74 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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1answer
61 views

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

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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38 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, ...
4
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1answer
100 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 ...
3
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1answer
160 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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2answers
86 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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35 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
47 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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43 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
72 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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163 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
78 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
66 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. ...
2
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1answer
57 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 ...
3
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1answer
109 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
78 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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0answers
52 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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0answers
198 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
32 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
68 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 ...
5
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1answer
129 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
49 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
269 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 ...
3
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0answers
118 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
83 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
83 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
112 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
45 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 ...
3
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1answer
201 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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4answers
164 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 $\mathbb{R} \to M$, ...
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1answer
117 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
101 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
100 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
300 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 ...