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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3
votes
2answers
226 views

Using the area element in derivation of geodesic

In the derivation of the geodesic, one starts with the integral of the line element (arclength): $$L(C)=\int_{\tau_1}^{\tau_2}d\tau\sqrt{g_{\mu \nu}\dot{x}^{\mu} \dot{x}^{\nu}}$$ The integrand is ...
4
votes
1answer
837 views

Lagrangian for Relativistic Dust derivation questions

In most GR textbooks, one derives the stress energy tensor for relativistic dust: $$ T_{\mu\nu} = \rho v_\mu v_\nu $$ And then one puts this on the right hand side of the Einstein's equations. I ...
3
votes
2answers
418 views

What are some interesting calculus of variation problems? [closed]

That I could create as a classical mechanics class project? Other than the classical examples that we see in textbooks (catenary, brachistochrone, Fermat, etc..)
27
votes
7answers
5k views

Why the Principle of Least Action?

I'll be generous and say it might be reasonable to assume that nature would tend to minimize, or maybe even maximize, the integral over time of $T-V$. Okay, fine. You write down the action ...
2
votes
1answer
533 views

Snell's Law of Refraction

I was told that "Snell's law of refraction implies that a light ray in an isotropic medium travels from point a to point b in stationary time." Why is this true? Thanks.
3
votes
1answer
341 views

What variables does the action $S$ depend on?

Action is defined as, $$S ~=~ \int L(q, q', t) dt,$$ but my question is what variables does $S$ depend on? Is $S = S(q, t)$ or $S = S(q, q', t)$ where $q' := \frac{dq}{dt}$? In ...
4
votes
1answer
467 views

Fluid Mechanics from a variational principle

It is possible to define a good variational principle to describe Fluid Mechanics? if so, what is the correct treatment of the issue. I guess something like: $$I=\int d^4x \left(\frac{1}{2}\rho ...
6
votes
2answers
1k views

Hydrostatic friction: why do water droplets stay at rest on an inclined glass surface?

Tjis is a non-expert question on a (seemingly simple) text-book topic. The question is about "hydrostatic friction", defined as follows. Consider a drop of water resting on a flat surface. If the ...
4
votes
2answers
378 views

Must the action be a Lorentz scalar?

Page 580, Chapter 12 in Jackson's 3rd edition text carries the statement: From the first postulate of special relativity the action integral must be a Lorentz scalar because the equations of ...
1
vote
1answer
751 views

2nd order variation of Hilbert-Einstein action + Gibbons-Hawking-York boundary term

While the first order metric variation of Hilbert-Einstein action plus Gibbons-Hawking-York boundary term is well-known and takes the form: $\delta S_{HE}+\delta S_{GHY}=-\frac{1}{16\pi G}\int d^3x ...
9
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
4
votes
3answers
784 views

Hanging chain in a planet's gravitational field

The curve for a chain hanging between two poles in a uniform gravitational field is known as the catenary. Is there known an expression for the curve of a hanging chain on a planet of mass $M$ which ...
2
votes
1answer
173 views

Vanishing of field strength in gauged WZW model

Consider gWZW action $S_{gWZW}(g,A)=S_{WZW}(g)+S_{gauge}(g,A)$, where $S_{WZW}$ is usual WZW action being sum of sigma model and WZ terms for field $g$ taking values in group $G$ and $S_{gauge}=\int ...
6
votes
2answers
658 views

How does one formulate boundary conditions in a variational approach?

Many equations of motion can be derived from a variational principle. To take a simple example, the wave equation $h^{ij} \partial_i \partial_j u = 0$ (where $h^{ij}$ is the Minkowski metric ...
11
votes
2answers
751 views

Treatment of boundary terms when applying the variational principle

One of the main sources of subtlety in the AdS/CFT correspondence is the role played by boundary terms in the action. For example, for a scalar field in AdS there is range of masses just above the ...
22
votes
6answers
4k views

Why are there only derivatives to the first order in the Lagrangian?

Why is the Lagrangian a function of the position and velocity (possibly also of time) and why are dependences on higher order derivatives (acceleration, jerk,...) excluded? Is there a good reason for ...
2
votes
1answer
654 views

Does Action in Classical Mechanics have a Interpretation? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Hamilton's Principle The Lagrangian formulation of Classical Mechanics seem to suggest strongly that "action" is more than a mathematical trick. I suspect strongly ...
4
votes
3answers
547 views

Understanding boundary conditions on slices of AdS5

This is a thing Iïve seen on many papers dealing with Warped Extra Dimensions, specifically on slices of AdS5. But the one where it appears more clearly is a lecture by Tony Gherghetta: ...
9
votes
4answers
4k views

Derivation of Maxwell's equations from field tensor lagrangian

I've started reading Peskin and Schroeder on my own time, and I'm a bit confused about how to obtain Maxwell's equations from the (source-free) lagrangian density $L = ...
8
votes
1answer
3k 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.
3
votes
3answers
477 views

Type of stationary point in Hamilton's principle

In this question it is discussed why by Hamilton's principle the action integral must be stationary. Most examples deal with the case that the action integral is minimal: this makes sense - we all ...
25
votes
6answers
3k views

Why does calculus of variations work?

How does it make sense to vary the position and the velocity independently? Edit: Velocity is the derivative of position, so how can you treat them as independent variables? Doesn't every physics ...
25
votes
5answers
3k views

Hamilton's Principle

Hamilton's principle states that a dynamic system always follows a path such that its action integral is stationary (that is, maximum or minimum). Why should the action integral be stationary? On ...