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

3
votes
1answer
226 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 ...
3
votes
2answers
90 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
49 views

Proving independence of the lagrangian on position of a free particle using the euler-lagrange equation

I asked a similar question some time back but am trying to work this from another angle. In deriving the lagrangian of a free particle, we use the homogeneity of space to conclude that the lagrangian ...
1
vote
1answer
47 views

Equation of motion of an auxiliary field

I'm a newbie in the field of QFT and SUSY, so I'm warning you: this might be a stupid question. I'm working with auxiliary fields to describe supersymmetric models and I understand that upon ...
0
votes
1answer
86 views

Carroll's derivation of the geodesic equations [duplicate]

In Carroll's derivation of the geodesic equations (page 69, http://preposterousuniverse.com/grnotes/grnotes-three.pdf), he starts with ...
5
votes
1answer
144 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
359 views

How does light know which path is fastest?

We know from Fermat's principle of least time that light follows the fastest path. But how does light know which path is the fastest?
2
votes
1answer
108 views
4
votes
1answer
235 views

Equations of motion of displacement field

We have an action: $$S[\boldsymbol{u}] = \frac{1}{2} \int dt \int d^3x \left\{ \mu (\frac{\partial u_{i}}{\partial t})^{2} - \nu (u_{ii})^{2} - \rho(u_{ij})^{2}\right\} $$ Where $u_{ij} = ...
0
votes
1answer
48 views

Deriving lagrangian of a free particle - How do you arrive at Lagrangian independency conclusions

I guess this question has been asked before, but I'm looking at a slightly different aspect. I'm reading Landau's book on classical mechanics. In deriving the lagrangian for a free particle, I ...
3
votes
0answers
52 views

Fastest path of light [duplicate]

Fermat's principle of least time says that light always takes the fastest path to any point. So how can light know which is the fastest path without taking all the paths first?
2
votes
0answers
53 views

Decoupling of generalized coordinates in lagrangian

Say you have a lagrangian $L$ for a system of 2 degrees of freedom. The action, S is: $S[y,z] = \int_{t_1}^{t_2} L(t,y,y',z,z')\,dt \tag{1}$ If $y$ and $z$ are associated with two parts of the ...
0
votes
1answer
47 views

Calculating Christoffel symbols from Lagrangian

I was given the following metric for a sphere $$g_{\mu\nu} = diag(1, r^2, r^2\sin^2\theta)$$ and tasked to calculate the Christoffel symbols. There are 2 ways that I know of to calculate them. One ...
2
votes
1answer
70 views

Null geodesic equation

For a null geodesic curve $X^i$, $$0=g_{ij}V^iV^j.$$ When we derive the geodesic equation from E-L equations, will this affine parametrization cause it to blow up? How is it justified to use the ...
1
vote
1answer
123 views

Why a timelike geodesic maximizes path length?

I'm studying some GR and my book says that in Pseudo-Riemannian manifolds geodesics may even maximize the path locally. That's what happen to the timelike geodesics, for example. My first question: Is ...
1
vote
1answer
89 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
200 views

Time-dependent Schrodinger equation from variational principle

In the paper, "Density-functional theory for time-dependent systems" Physical Review Letters 52 (12): 997 the authors mentioned that the action $$ A= \int_{t_0}^{t_1} dt \langle \Phi(t) | i ...
3
votes
1answer
49 views

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 ...
0
votes
0answers
25 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
128 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
122 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
64 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) = ...
12
votes
2answers
196 views

Is it possible to prove that planets should be approximately spherical using the calculus of variations?

Is it possible to use the Lagrangian formalism involving physical terms to answer the question of why all planets are approximately spherical? Lets assume that a planet is 'born' when lots of ...
1
vote
0answers
39 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" ...
6
votes
1answer
271 views

How do you determine the Lagrangian? [duplicate]

I have always been puzzled by how do you arrive at Lagrangians? That is, how do you know that the functional you need to get Newton's equations is $$L = T-V(x)~?$$ Do you derive the Lagrangian ...
0
votes
0answers
59 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 ...
0
votes
1answer
105 views

Maximum aging and path of rock

When a rock falls from a ledge, why does it head to the surface and not up to where time runs faster? If a rock, free from forces, follows a worldline of maximum aging, why would that rock approach ...
8
votes
3answers
2k 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} + ...
1
vote
1answer
66 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
231 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 $\mathbb{R} \to M$, ...
0
votes
0answers
44 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
37 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): ...
0
votes
1answer
54 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. ...
0
votes
1answer
61 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 ...
1
vote
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
votes
1answer
56 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 ...
2
votes
3answers
89 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
172 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
125 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 ...
0
votes
0answers
34 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: ...
0
votes
1answer
70 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 ...
0
votes
0answers
39 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, ...
1
vote
2answers
89 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
51 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
122 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
528 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.
1
vote
0answers
46 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
74 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
132 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 ...
5
votes
0answers
174 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. ...