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).

learn more… | top users | synonyms

1
vote
0answers
53 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
82 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 ...
5
votes
0answers
189 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. ...
0
votes
1answer
93 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
98 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
votes
1answer
69 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
votes
1answer
137 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
91 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 ...
0
votes
0answers
61 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 ...
0
votes
0answers
203 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 ...
0
votes
0answers
36 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
91 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
votes
1answer
159 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
51 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 ...
1
vote
4answers
277 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
votes
0answers
145 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
103 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
88 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
131 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
58 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
votes
1answer
256 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
votes
4answers
291 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
votes
1answer
152 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
votes
1answer
124 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
103 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
405 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
108 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
101 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 ...
1
vote
3answers
218 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} ...
0
votes
0answers
47 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
109 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 ...
7
votes
1answer
272 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. ...
1
vote
1answer
107 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 ...
0
votes
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 = ...
6
votes
2answers
491 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} ...
1
vote
1answer
87 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
207 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
136 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
votes
1answer
156 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
votes
1answer
90 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
100 views

Use of the term first order dependency

In a question I am doing it says: Show explicitly that the function $$y(t)=\frac{-gt^2}{2}+\epsilon t(t-1)$$ yields an action that has no first order dependency on $\epsilon$. Also my textbook ...
1
vote
1answer
108 views

The principle of stationary action?

In proving that the action $$S\equiv \int^{t_2}_{t_1}L(x, x',t)dt$$ has a has a stationary point $x_0$ that satisfies the following: $$\frac{d}{dt}(\frac{\partial L}{\partial x'_0})=\frac{\partial ...
4
votes
1answer
146 views

Is the zero acceleration path also the shortest path between two points?

In flat, free, Euclidean space, the shortest path and the zero acceleration path are the same path, which is a straight line. However, in general relativity, is the zero acceleration path also the ...
2
votes
1answer
190 views

How to calculate the refracted light path when refraction index continuously increasing?

Suppose an incident light from vacuum ($n_1=1.0$) into some media ($n_2=n_1+\mu\; x^2$) as in the figure below. How to calculate the refracted light path curve in closed form? Update: Try to set ...
2
votes
3answers
168 views

Virtual Work: How is the applied force related to the coordinates chosen?

I have a question after reading a section from Goldstein's Classical Mechanics. The question deals with equation 1.43 in the text (given below): $$ \tag{1.43} \sum\limits_{i} {\bf F}_i^{(a)}\cdot ...
2
votes
1answer
438 views

Proof that total derivative is the only function that can be added to Lagrangian without changing the eom

So I was reading this: Invariance of Lagrange on addition of total time derivative of a function of coordiantes and time and while the answers for the first question are good, nobody gave much ...
5
votes
1answer
383 views

Why are D'Alembert's Principle and the Principle of Least Action Related?

Why do we get the same differential equations from both principles? Surely there is a fundamental connection between them? When written out, the two seem to have nothing in common. $$\sum _i ( ...
4
votes
0answers
76 views

General relativity from helicity 2 massless field theory by using Deser's arguments

Recently I have discovered the method of constructing of GR from massless field with helicity 2 theory. It is considered here, in an article "Self-Interaction and Gauge Invariance" written by Deser S. ...
3
votes
0answers
114 views

Variations of S-matrix functional and Feynman diagrams in Weinberg QFT

Weinberg on p. 287 of his QFT vol. 1 introduces the extended interaction operator: $$ \tag 1 \hat{V}(t) \to \hat{V}(t) + \sum_{a}\int d^{3}\mathbf x \hat{o}_{a}(\mathbf x ,t)\varepsilon_{a}(x). $$ ...
5
votes
0answers
88 views

BTZ Black Hole Central Charge and Conformal Weight

I have been trying to reproduce a calculation (equation 4.12) in this paper http://arxiv.org/pdf/1107.2678v1.pdf by Carlip reviewing the derivation of the effective central charge of the BTZ Black ...