I'm trying to obtain the Klein-Gordon equation using a specific lagrangian: $$\mathcal{L} = -\frac{1}{2} \phi(\Box+\mu^2)\phi$$ and the generalized Euler-Lagrange equation: $$\frac{\partial L}{\partial \phi} - \partial_\alpha \left(\frac{\partial L}{\partial(\partial_\alpha \phi)}\right) - \partial_\alpha \partial_\beta \left(\frac{\partial L}{\partial(\partial_\alpha \partial_\beta \phi)}\right) + ... = 0$$

I'm almost done, but there is one term that I'm having trouble calculating:

$$-\frac{1}{2} \partial_\alpha \partial_\beta \frac{\partial (\phi \Box \phi)}{\partial(\partial_\alpha \partial_\beta \phi)} = -\frac{1}{2} \partial_\alpha \partial_\beta \frac{\partial (\phi \partial_\gamma \partial^\gamma \phi)}{\partial(\partial_\alpha \partial_\beta \phi)}$$

But this is far as I have gone with this term. Any help is welcome!!!


1 Answer 1


Try changing the D'Alembertian term of your Lagrangian density


the first term is a total divergence, so it won't contribute to equations of motion and can be dropped from the Lagrangian density. Now you have a LD with only first derivatives.

In case you still want to calculate that term,


but note that your third term in Euler-Lagrange equations must be with a $+$ sign, i.e.

$$\frac{\partial L}{\partial \phi} - \partial_\alpha \left(\frac{\partial L}{\partial(\partial_\alpha \phi)}\right) + \partial_\alpha \partial_\beta \left(\frac{\partial L}{\partial(\partial_\alpha \partial_\beta \phi)}\right) = 0$$

  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm, this seems good, but I cannot see how this will lead me to a squared term in order to vanish the 1/2 $\endgroup$ Mar 14, 2021 at 19:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Note that $\partial_\mu\phi\partial^\mu\phi=g^{\mu\nu} \partial_\mu \phi \partial_\nu \phi$, so when you take the derivative of that term with respect to $\partial_\alpha\phi$, there will be two contributions. $\endgroup$
    – AFG
    Mar 14, 2021 at 19:51

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