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Noether's Theorem.

Let us first consider the case that the action


integral does not change if the coordinates are
subject to a continuous transformation. It will be
sufficient to study infinitesimal transformations of
the kind
x '=x + x

Let the corresponding change in the field

r ( )

be

'

' r ( )= r ( )+ r ( )

with the resulting change in the Lagrange density of


C'(x')=C{x) + 6C{x) . B.40)
Here for brevity's sake the functional dependance of
the Lagrange density C(x) = {(),/^()) was omitted. C'(x') is
obtained by inserting the primed quantities into the original
Lagrange densitiy C'(x') =
('('),'/'^(')). It is important to understand
that the variation defined above consists of two ingredients, namely the
transformation of the coordinates from x to x' and furthermore the change of
the "shape" of the
field function from to </>'. As an obvious
example, think of a vector field

that changes its direction if the coordinates system


is rotated. Therefore it is
useful to define a modified variation
6() = '() - () , B.41)
which keeps the value of the coordinate x fixed and
only takes into account the
change of shape of the field.3 The two types of
variations are related through
6() = '() - '(') + '(') ~ )
= 6() - {'(') - '{)) = 6{) - & 8
= 6() - ^ 6 . B.42)

In the second but last step the first term of the


Taylor expansion was inserted
and finally, in lowest order, '(), was replaced by
{). Thus this equation
2 E. Noether: Invariante Variationsprobleme, Nachr.
d. Kgl. Ges. d. Wiss. (Math,
phys. Klasse), Gottingen A918), 235.
3 The quantity 8{) is sometimes called a total
variation, whereas 8{) defined
in B.39) is the local variation since here x' and x
refer to the same point, which
is represented differently only in terms of the two
sets of coordinates.

2.4 Conservation Laws in Classical Field Theories


41
and many of the following results are only valid up
to first order in the variations. This is sufficient since the whole treatment in
any case only applies to
infinitesimal variations.
The modified variation 6 quite conveniently has the
property to commute
with differentiation
~
.
B.43)
This is immediately obvious from the definition
B.41). Variations of the 6
type do not share this property. When calculating
the gradient one finds an
additional term

,
.
^1) {)\ ] '(') '(')
dx'v '(')
+


dxlv
i
'(')
dx'v ^
() dbxv
dxv ,.
'.
B.44)
where, according to B.38), the identity dx'v jdx^ =
gVfl + d6xv'/dx^ was used
and the last step is valid only to first order.
Now we study the consequences that follow if the
transformations B.38)
and B.39) leave the action integral invariant, i.e., we
demand
6W= f d4x'?'(x')- f d4xC(x)=0,
JQ1 JQ
B.45)
where Q' denotes the same volume of integration as
B, being expressed in
terms of the new coordinates x'. We introduce the
variation of the Lagrange
density into: B.45)

6W
= f d4x'6C(x)+ [ d4x'?(x)- [ d4x?(x).
JQ1 JQ1 JQ
B.46)
Transformation of the volume of integration in B.46)
introduces a Jacobi
determinant that in first order reduces to
dSxg dSxg
dV =
d4x =
1+
dx0
xi
dx0
1+
dSx-i
1+

d4x
=A+
B.47)
All terms involving mixed derivatives of the variation
8x'^ are of higher order.

If we use the modified variation of type B.42), B.46)


is simplified in first order:
42
2. Classical Field Theory
6W =

[ d4x6C(x) + f d4x?(,
= f d4xFC{x) + ^r<^M) + f d4x?(x)

I
B.48)
Now we express the total variation 6C(x) in terms of
the variations of the
fields and their derivatives:
) 2
()
() \ ox,, J

^rv '
( {)
*) + 4^-?-(*))
()
~

6()
.
-6()
B.49)
B.43) was used, i.e., the fact that variation and
differentiation can be
interchanged. We use the summation convention
not only for the Minkowski
indices but also for the component index r. Thus for
fields with several
degrees of freedom, r = 1,..., N, a summation over r
is implied whenever the
index occurs twice in an expression.
Now we nearly have reached our goal. Since the
range of integration Q can
be chosen arbitrarily, the integrand of B.48) itself
has to vanish if the action
integral is to be invariant, as postulated in B.45).
Using B.49) the integrand
reads
1(\ (\ 1 (\ ~ 1
\j\ltfp KJ*aj it KJ l '* / I \J*aj ii I l^ 1 't* / I
B.50)
The first term is recognized as the Euler-Lagrange
equation B.14). This term

therefore vanishes, provided that the field


satisfies the equation of motion.
We are left with an expression with vanishing fourdivergence that, using
B.42), can be written as
= o.
B.51)
This is an equation of continuity for the vector field
defined by the terms in
the square bracket, i.e.,
- = 0
dxh
with the "current" density
B.52)
2.4 Conservation Laws in Classical Field Theories 43
G
'v
xv . B.53)
As is well known, an equation of continuity is just
the expression of a conservation law in terms of a differential equation. This
becomes obvious if B.52)
is integrated over three-dimensional space and the
theorem of Gauss is used:

0 = f d3x^-ffl(x)= f d3x^-f0(x)+ [ d3xV-f(x)


Jv dx Jv dxo Jv
= ^~ [ d3x/o(x) +1 do- /() . B.54)
^x0 Jv JdV
The value of the integral over the surface dV
vanishes since the fields and
their derivatives are assumed to fall off sufficiently
fast at infinity. Therefore
:= / d3xf0(x) B.55)
Jv
is a conserved quantity having a value constant in
time. This is the essential
result of Noether's theorem:
Each continuous symmetry transformation leads
to a conservation
law. The conserved quantity G can be obtained from
the Lagrange
density through the use of B.53) and B.55).
Let us now study several important applications of
Noether's theorem.