I am a bit confused about the 2nd statement below from Thornton and Marion 7.4:

It is important to realize that the validity of Lagrange's equations requires the following two conditions:

  1. The forces acting on the system (apart from any forces of constraint) must be derivable from a potential (or several potentials).
  2. The equations of constraint must be relations that connect the coordinates of the particles and may be functions of the time—that is, we must have constraint relations of the form given by $$f_k(x_{\alpha,i},t)=0.\tag{7.9}$$

If the constraints can be expressed as in condition 2, they are termed holonomic constraints. If the equations do not explicitly contain the time, the constraints are said to be fixed or scleronomic; moving constraints are rheonomic.

Do they mean only under this condition the method of lagrange multiplier can be applied?

How can Lagrange's equations be "invalid"?

  • $\begingroup$ Might be related to the specific form assumed by Euler-Lagrange equations on a preceding paragraph. Depending on how the system is set up, you might have to introduce some generalized forces (the "source term" on the RHS is not 0). How was it written? $\endgroup$
    – Petrini
    Mar 8 at 16:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ See: physics.stackexchange.com/a/283289/271807 $\endgroup$
    – Petrini
    Mar 8 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Petrini it is the end of the section, so no equation is given afterwards $\endgroup$
    – greenidiot
    Mar 8 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ The chapter itself probably used $\frac{d}{dt} \frac{\partial L}{\partial \dot{q}_i} = \frac{\partial L}{\partial q_i}$. Do verify. $\endgroup$
    – Petrini
    Mar 8 at 17:42

1 Answer 1



$^1$ There are various issues with non-holonomic constraints, cf. e.g. this Phys.SE post.

  • $\begingroup$ So what would happen if I apply a velocity dependent constraint to the system? I can't directly "see" how it ruins the Hamilton's principle $\endgroup$
    – greenidiot
    Mar 8 at 19:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That would be the case of footnote 1. $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Mar 8 at 19:33

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