You are on page 1of 2


Lagrangian Dynamics

Terry Wyatt

Summary of Section on Hamiltonian Methods, Symmetries and Conservation Laws (Lectures 914) 1 Hamiltonian Methods

The Hamiltonian, H , of a system is dened by H (qi , pi , t) =


pi q i L (qi , q i , t) ,


where, L is the Lagrangian of the system. Whereas the Lagrangian is a function of the generalized coordinates, qi (t) and generalized velocities, q i (t), the Hamiltonian is a function of the qi (t) and the generalized momenta, pi (t), which are given by L pi = . q i The equations of motion of the system are given by Hamiltons equations H =q i, pi H = p i, qi H L = . t t

Note: when writing down H it is very important to arrive at an expression containing terms in qi (t) and pi (t) only, i.e., ensuring that no terms in q i (t) remain. Equation 1 is an example of a Legendre transformation. If f ( x, y) is a function of x and y then f x f, g= x is a function of
f x

and y.

Symmetries and Conservation Laws

In all of the following we consider an isolated system containing N particles with a conservative potential energy. The Principle of Relativity requires that the equations of motion for any such isolated system should be independent of transformations from one inertial frame of reference to another, in particular 1. displacement in time coordinate: t = t + t; 2. displacement in space coordinates: r = r + r; 3. rotation in space coordinates: r = r + r; 4. transformation between frames that are moving with a constant velocity with respect to one another: r = r vt.

The above invariances of the equations of motion require that the potential energy V be a function only of scalar combinations of the relative positions and velocities of the particles rjk = rj rk jk = r j r k, r but not their absolute positions or velocities. Here j, k label individual particles in the system. For any general functions, F (qi , pi , t) and G(qi , pi , t), of the qi and pi the Poisson bracket of F and G is dened by F G F G [F, G] = . qi pi pi qi i The rate of change of F is given by F dF = [F, H ] + . dt t Thus in a system without explicit time dependence if [F, H ] = 0 then F is a conserved quantity. For an isolated system we can associate H with the total energy of the system. The invariance of H under coordinate transformations generated by various functions leads to the following conservation laws generator H transformation/symmetry translation in time [H, H ] = 0 translation in space [H, ] = 0 rotation in space [H, ] = 0 conserved quantity total energy total linear momentum total angular momentum

Here and tively.

are the total linear momentum and angular momentum of the system, respec-

In classical mechanics, the equations of motion are also invariant under a reection or parity transformation of the spatial coordinates, although there is no specic conservation law associated with this symmetry in classical mechanics. In other areas of physics the Hamiltonian (and Lagrangian) may have other symmetries, which lead to other conservation laws. For example, in electromagnetism, gauge invariance is associated with conservation of electric charge. The full beauty of symmetries and conservation laws becomes apparent in quantum eld theories of, e.g., particle physics. The association of symmetries of H (or L) and conservation laws is sometimes referred to as Noethers theorem.

Phase Space

The state of a system with N degrees of freedom is completely specied by the values of (qi , pi ) at some time, t. We can think of these 2N values as coordinates of a point in a 2N dimensional phase space. The motion of the system in phase space is determined by Hamiltons equations. Liouvilles theorem states that an ensemble of systems that obey Hamiltons equations behave in phase space like an incompressible uid.