Questions tagged [field-theory]

For questions where the dynamical variables are fields, that is, functions of several variables (typically, one time coordinate and several space coordinates). Comprises both classical field theory and quantum field theory. Use this tag when the question applies to both classical and quantum phenomena. Otherwise, use the specific tag instead.

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73
votes
10answers
8k views

Why are differential equations for fields in physics of order two?

What is the reason for the observation that across the board fields in physics are generally governed by second order (partial) differential equations? If someone on the street would flat out ask me ...
112
votes
9answers
31k views

What is a field, really?

There was a reason why I constantly failed physics at school and university, and that reason was, apart from the fact I was immensely lazy, that I mentally refused to "believe" more advanced stuff ...
49
votes
4answers
10k views

Why treat complex scalar field and its complex conjugate as two different fields?

I am new to QFT, so I may have some of the terminology incorrect. Many QFT books provide an example of deriving equations of motion for various free theories. One example is for a complex scalar ...
14
votes
5answers
11k views

Deriving Lagrangian density for electromagnetic field

In considering the (special) relativistic EM field, I understand that assuming a Lagrangian density of the form $$\mathcal{L} =-\frac{1}{4}F_{\mu\nu}F^{\mu\nu} + \frac{1}{c}j_\mu A^\mu$$ and ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

A question on using Fourier decomposition to solve the Klein Gordon equation

Given the Klein Gordon equation $$\left(\Box +m^{2}\right)\phi(t,\mathbf{x})=0$$ it is possible to find a solution $\phi(t,\mathbf{x})$ by carrying out a Fourier decomposition of the scalar field $\...
75
votes
3answers
11k views

Differentiating Propagator, Green's function, Correlation function, etc

For the following quantities respectively, could someone write down the common definitions, their meaning, the field of study in which one would typically find these under their actual name, and most ...
23
votes
2answers
5k views

Energy-Momentum Tensor in QFT vs. GR

What is the correspondence between the conserved canonical energy-momentum tensor, which is $$ T^{\mu\nu}_{can} := \sum_{i=1}^N\frac{\delta\mathcal{L}_{Matter}}{\delta(\partial_\mu f_i)}\partial^\nu ...
19
votes
4answers
9k views

Lagrangian to Hamiltonian in Quantum Field Theory

While deriving Hamiltonian from Lagrangian density, we use the formula $$\mathcal{H} ~=~ \pi \dot{\phi} - \mathcal{L}.$$ But since we are considering space and time as parameters, why the formula $$\...
25
votes
2answers
10k views

Why on-shell vs. off-shell matters?

The definitions between on- and off-shell are given in Wikipedia. Why is it so important in QFT to distinguish these two notions?
12
votes
2answers
915 views

What canonical momenta are the “right” ones?

I'm doing some classical field theory exercises with the Lagrangian $$\mathscr{L} = -\frac{1}{4}F_{\mu \nu}F^{\mu \nu}$$ where $F_{\mu \nu} = \partial_\mu A_\nu - \partial_\nu A_\mu$. To find the ...
33
votes
5answers
6k views

Why are infinite order Lagrangians called 'non-local'?

And in what sense are they 'non-local'?
13
votes
1answer
770 views

Is there a systematic way to obtain all conserved quantities of a system?

I'd like to know whether, given a system, there's a way to obtain all the conserved quantities. For instance if the system consists of electric and magnetic fields, the fields must satisfy Maxwell's ...
22
votes
2answers
2k views

Wick rotation and spinors

I am quite familiar with use of Wick rotations in QFT, but one thing annoys me: let's say we perform it for treating more conveniently (ie. making converge) a functional integral containing spinors; ...
9
votes
4answers
1k views

Is the Lagrangian of a quantum field really a 'functional'?

Weinberg says, page 299, The quantum theory of fields, Vol 1, that The Lagrangian is, in general, a functional $L[\Psi(t),\dot{\Psi}(t)$], of a set of generic fields $\Psi[x,t]$ and their time ...
7
votes
1answer
856 views

How do I Derive the Green's Function for $-\nabla^2 + m^2$ in $d$ dimensions?

What is the solution to this equation in $d$ dimensions: $$(-\nabla_d^2 + m^2)G(\mathbf{x}, \mathbf{x}') = A \delta(\mathbf{x} - \mathbf{x}'),$$ with the boundary condition that $\lim_{|\mathbf{x} - \...
2
votes
2answers
827 views

Why don't people use Hamilton's equations for a relativistic free charged particle?

A charged relativistic free particle has the Hamiltonian in general: $$ \mathcal{H} = \sqrt{{\bf p}^2c^2+m^2c^4}.$$ I read somewhere that says, it is possible to go further and say that the EoM are ...
5
votes
5answers
1k views

Euclidean geometry in non-inertial frame

Refer, "The classical theory of Fields" by Landau&Lifshitz (Chap 3). Consider a disk of radius R, then circumference is $2 \pi R$. Now, make this disk rotate at velocity of the order of c(speed of ...
15
votes
2answers
5k views

Active versus passive transformations

I am a bit confused by the concepts of active and passive transformations. In all the courses I am doing at the moment we do transformations of the form: $$ \phi(x) \rightarrow\phi'(x') = \phi(x) $$ ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

Classical EM : clear link between gauge symmetry and charge conservation

In the case of classical field theory, Noether's theorem ensures that for a given action $$S=\int \mathrm{d}^dx\,\mathcal{L}(\phi_\mu,\partial_\nu\phi_\mu,x^i)$$ that stays invariant under the ...
5
votes
1answer
2k views

What is meant by a local Lagrangian density?

What is meant by a local Lagrangian density? How will a non-local Lagrangian look like? What is the problem that we do not consider such Lagrangian densities?
6
votes
2answers
1k views

From Lagrangian to Hamiltonian in Fermionic Model

While going from a given Lagrangian to Hamiltonian for a fermionic field, we use the following formula. $$ H = \Sigma_{i} \pi_i \dot{\phi_i} - L$$ where $\pi_i = \dfrac{\partial L}{\partial \dot{\...
9
votes
3answers
640 views

Beyond Hamiltonian and Lagrangian mechanics

Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations are the bedrock of particle and field theories, produce the same equations of motion, and are related through a Legendre transform. Are there more such ...
3
votes
1answer
794 views

Energy-momentum tensor transformation [closed]

I've been trying to find how the energy-momentum tensor changes if we add a total derivative to the lagrangian: $$L\to L+\mathrm d_\mu X^\mu.\tag{1}$$ From the answer key: $$T^{\mu\nu}\to T^{\mu\nu}+...
5
votes
1answer
789 views

Definition of Local Function

Now a days I am studying Srednicki's QFT book. In its third chapter it is written that Any local function of φ(x) is a Lorentz scalar, [...] . Now my question is: What is a local function?
17
votes
3answers
3k views

Why can't General Relativity be written in terms of physical variables?

I am aware that the field in General Relativity (the metric, $g_{\mu\nu}$) is not completely physical, as two metrics which are related by a diffeomorphism (~ a change in coordinates) are physically ...
21
votes
1answer
2k views

Why does charge conservation due to gauge symmetry only hold on-shell?

While deriving Noether's theorem or the generator(and hence conserved current) for a continuous symmetry, we work modulo the assumption that the field equations hold. Considering the case of gauge ...
12
votes
2answers
499 views

Gauge-fixing of an arbitrary field: off-shell & on-shell degrees of freedom

How to count the number of degrees of freedom of an arbitrary field (vector or tensor)? In other words, what is the mathematical procedure of gauge fixing?
8
votes
3answers
871 views

Covariance in gauge theories: why should the Lagrangian be gauge invariant

I am following a course about gauge theories in QFT and I have some questions about the physical meaning of what we are doing. This is what I understood: When we write a Lagrangian $\mathcal{L}(\phi)...
12
votes
3answers
5k views

If particles are excitations what are their fields?

After reading these : http://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/july-2013/real-talk-everything-is-made-of-fields http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=682522 It was clear to me that all ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

Showing that Coulomb and Lorenz Gauges are indeed valid Gauge Transformations?

I'm working my way through Griffith's Introduction to Electrodynamics. In Ch. 10, gauge transformations are introduced. The author shows that, given any magnetic potential $\textbf{A}_0$ and electric ...
20
votes
5answers
5k views

What is the difference between a complex scalar field and two real scalar fields?

Consider a complex scalar field $\phi$ with the Lagrangian: $$L = \partial_\mu\phi^\dagger\partial^\mu\phi - m^2 \phi^\dagger\phi.$$ Consider also two real scalar fields $\phi_1$ and $\phi_2$ with ...
11
votes
1answer
5k views

Local and Global Symmetries

Could somebody point me in the direction of a mathematically rigorous definition local symmetries and global symmetries for a given (classical) field theory? Heuristically I know that global ...
7
votes
1answer
1k views

Can we find the boundary conditions of fields from the stationary action principle?

First principle of stationary action Consider a real Klein-Gordon scalar field $\phi$ living in a $D$ dimensional flat spacetime. The field is considered off shell (the on shell condition is defined ...
7
votes
3answers
489 views

Noether's theorem: meaning of transformation of coordinates

I have a question regarding Noether's theorem. In our introductory QFT class (which is based on the book by Michele Maggiore) we have derived the Noether currents in the same form as displayed in this ...
4
votes
2answers
495 views

Simple conceptual question conformal field theory

I come up with this conclusion after reading some books and review articles on conformal field theory (CFT). CFT is a subset of FT such that the action is invariant under conformal transformation ...
3
votes
2answers
6k views

Proving the Lorentz invariance of the Lorentz invariant phase space element

I have been looking around for a satisfactory answer to prove that $$\frac{d^3\vec{p}}{2E_{\vec{p}}}$$ where $E_{\vec{p}}=+\sqrt{(|\vec{p}|c)^2+(mc^2)^2}$, is Lorentz invariant. The standard answer ...
8
votes
1answer
1k views

Use partial or covariant derivatives when deriving equations of a field theory?

I feel like this question has been asked before but I can't find it. would the Euler Lagrange equation for, say, the standard model Lagrangian be $$\frac{\partial L}{\partial \phi}=\partial_\mu \frac{\...
5
votes
3answers
859 views

Conserved charges and generators

For the Klein Gordon field, the conserved charge for translation in space is given by: $$\vec{P}=\frac{1}{2}\int d^{3}k \, \vec{k}\{a^{\dagger}_{k}a_{k}+a_{k}a^{\dagger}_{k}\}$$ If we were to find ...
4
votes
1answer
312 views

How do we know what type of gauge field to add to a theory?

I've been watching Leonard Susskind's particle physics lectures and in one lecture, he discusses a very simple gauge theory. We have a complex scalar field $\phi(x)$ with Lagrangian $$\mathscr{L} = \...
5
votes
2answers
218 views

What happens when a field turns on or off?

Short Setup I am curious about the the mechanics of fields, whether electromagnetic, gravitational, etc. So as a specific example in order to simplify (hopefully) how to ask this question, consider ...
3
votes
3answers
736 views

Is the shorthand $ \partial_{\mu} $ strictly a partial derivative in field theory?

The Euler-Lagrange equation for particles is given by $$ \frac{d}{dt}\frac{\partial L}{\partial \dot{q}} = \frac{\partial L}{\partial q},\tag{1}$$ and for fields it is $$ \partial_{\mu} \frac{\...
8
votes
1answer
300 views

When is numerical value of Lagrangian evaluated on-shell a full differential?

I noticed recently that for many field equations, Lagrangian evaluated on-shell (i.e. using equations of motions) is a full derivative- a divergence or something, or in other words a boundary term. ...
5
votes
1answer
410 views

Is the long range neutron-antineutron interaction repulsive or attractive?

I can model this interaction as Zee does in "Quantum field theory in a nutshell". In chapter I.4 section "from particle to force" he uses two delta functions for the source. The integral gives $E=-\...
1
vote
2answers
198 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 ...
56
votes
4answers
21k views

Why correlation functions?

While this concept is widely used in physics, it is really puzzling (at least for beginners) that you just have to multiply two functions (or the function by itself) at different values of the ...
33
votes
3answers
6k views

What are quantum fields mathematically?

I'm confused as to how quantum fields are defined mathematically, and I've seen from questions on this site and Wikipedia articles that classical fields are just functions that output a field value ...
16
votes
3answers
2k views

Global vs. local gauge group in mathematical sense - physics examples?

Upon reading about the principal bundle picture of (quantum) field theory I encountered two different definitions of the gauge group: Local gauge group $G$. Corresponds to the fibers of the $G$-...
17
votes
2answers
4k views

Physical difference between gauge symmetries and global symmetries

There are plenty of well-answered questions on Physics SE about the mathematical differences between gauge symmetries and global symmetries, such as this question. However I would like to understand ...
37
votes
1answer
2k views

Can lightning be used to solve NP-complete problems?

I'm a MS/BS computer science guy who is wondering about why lightning can't (or can?) be used to solve NP complete problems efficiently, but I don't understand the physics behind lightning, so I'm ...
21
votes
1answer
4k views

Noether's Theorem and scale invariance

Noether's theorem usually considers coordinate/field transformations which leave the Lagrangian invariant up to a divergence term, i.e. $$\mathcal{L} \rightarrow \mathcal{L} + \partial_{\mu}f^{\mu}$$ ...