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# Questions tagged [variational-principle]

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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### Calculus of variations -- how does it make sense to vary the position and the velocity independently?

In the calculus of variations, particularly Lagrangian mechanics, people often say we vary the position and the velocity independently. But velocity is the derivative of position, so how can you treat ...
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### 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 ...
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### How do I show that there exists variational/action principle for a given classical system?

We see variational principles coming into play in different places such as Classical Mechanics (Hamilton's principle which gives rise to the Euler-Lagrange equations), Optics (in the form of Fermat's ...
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### 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 ...
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### Why should an action integral be stationary? On what basis did Hamilton state this 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 ...
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### Example in motivation for Lagrangian formalism

I started reading Quantum Field Theory for the Gifted Amateur by Lancaster & Blundell, and I have a conceptual question regarding their motivation of the Lagrangian formalism. They start by ...
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### 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 $L = -\frac{1}{4}F_{\mu\nu}F^{\mu\nu}$...
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### Hamilton's principle with nonholonomic constraints in Goldstein

I am studying from Goldstein's Classical Mechanics, 3rd intl' edition, 2013. In section 2.4, he discussed Hamilton's principle with nonholonomic constraints. The constraints can be written in the form ...
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### 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 ...
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### Can Lagrangian be thought of as a metric?

My question is, can the (classical) Lagrangian be thought of as a metric? That is, is there a meaningful sense in which we can think of the least-action path from the initial to the final ...
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### Noether's current expression in Peskin and Schroeder

In the second chapter of Peskin and Schroeder, An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory, it is said that the action is invariant if the Lagrangian density changes by a four-divergence. But if we ...
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### Geodesics equations via variational principle

I would like to recover the (timelike) geodesics equations via the variational principle of the following action: $$\mathcal{S}[x] = -m \int d\tau = -m \int \sqrt{-g_{\mu\nu}\,dx^{\mu}\,dx^{\nu}}$$ ...
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### Lagrangian Mechanics - Commutativity Rule $\frac{d}{dt}\delta q=\delta \frac{dq}{dt}$

I am reading about Lagrangian mechanics. At some point the difference between the temporal derivative of a variation and variation of the temporal derivative is discussed. The fact that the two are ...
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### Proof that total derivative is the only function that can be added to Lagrangian without changing the EOM

So I was reading this: Invariance of Lagrange on addition of total time derivative of a function of coordiantes and time and while the answers for the first question are good, nobody gave much ...
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### 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 ...
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### Variational Derivation of Schrodinger Equation

In reading Weinstock's Calculus of Variations, on pages 261 - 262 he explains how Schrodinger apparently first derived the Schrodinger equation from variational principles. Unfortunately I don't ...
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### Why is it so coincident that Palatini variation of Einstein-Hilbert action will obtain an equation that connection is Levi-Civita connection?

There are two ways to do the variation of Einstein-Hilbert action. First one is Einstein formalism which takes only metric independent. After variation of action, we get the Einstein field equation. ...
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### 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. ...
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### 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 motion ...
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