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Homogeneous variables in classical dynamics

  • P. A. M. Dirac (a1)

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The well-known methods of classical mechanics, based on the use of a Lagrangian or Hamiltonian function, are adequate for the treatment of nearly all dynamical systems met with in practice. There are, however, a few exceptional cases to which the ordinary methods are not immediately applicable. For example, the ordinary Hamiltonian method cannot be used when the momenta pr, defined in terms of the Lagrangian function L by the usual formulae pr = ∂L/∂qr, are not independent functions of the velocities. A practical case of this kind is provided by the electromagnetic field, considered as a dynamical system with an infinite number of degrees of freedom, since the momentum conjugate to the scalar potential at any point vanishes identically. Again, for the very simple example of the relativistic motion of a particle of zero rest-mass in field-free space, the Lagrangian function vanishes and the usual Lagrangian method is not applicable.

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* See Heisenberg, and Pauli, , Zeits. f. Physik, 56, p. 25 (1929).

* We use the summation convention that a term with a repeated suffix is to be summed for all allowed values of that suffix. The allowed values for r are 1, …, n; those for μ are 0, 1, …, n; those for α are 1, …, n, n + 1; and those for k are 0, 1, …, n, n + 1.

* Eisenhart, , Ann. of Math. 30, p. 211 (1929).

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Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
  • ISSN: 0305-0041
  • EISSN: 1469-8064
  • URL: /core/journals/mathematical-proceedings-of-the-cambridge-philosophical-society
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