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You are on page 1of 5

Alex Nelson

August 26, 2009

Abstract

This is a set of notes introducing Hamiltonian eld theory, with focus on the scalar

eld.

Contents

1 Lagrangian Field Theory 1

2 Hamiltonian Field Theory 2

1 Lagrangian Field Theory

As with Hamiltonian mechanics, wherein one begins by taking the Legendre transform of the

Lagrangian, in Hamiltonian eld theory we transform the Lagrangian eld treatment. So

lets review the calculations in Lagrangian eld theory.

Consider the classical elds

a

(t, x). We use the index a to indicate which eld we are

talking about. We should think of x as another index, except it is continuous. We will use the

confusing short hand notation for the column vector

1

, . . . ,

n

. Consider the Lagrangian

L() =

_

all space

L(,

)d

3

x (1.1)

where L is the Lagrangian density. Hamiltons principle of stationary action is still used to

determine the equations of motion from the action

S[] =

_

L(,

)dt (1.2)

where we nd the Euler-Lagrange equations of motion for the eld

d

dx

L

(

a

)

=

L

a

(1.3)

where we note these are evil second order partial dierential equations. We also note that we

are using Einstein summation convention, so there is an implicit sum over but not over a.

So that means there are n independent second order partial dierential equations we need to

solve.

But how do we really know these are the correct equations? How do we really know

these are the Euler-Lagrange equations for classical elds? We can obtain it directly from the

action S by functional dierentiation with respect to the eld. Taking to be a single scalar

1

2 Hamiltonian Field Theory 2

eld (for simplicitys sake, it doesnt change anything if we work with n elds), functional

dierentiation can be dened by

S

(x)

def

= lim

0

1

_

S

_

(y) +

(4)

(x y)

_

S [(y)]

_

(1.4)

where

(4)

(yx) is the 4-dimensional densitized Dirac delta function. Note that we will often

use the shorthand notation

(4)

x

=

(4)

(y x). Applying this to the action yields

S

(x)

= lim

0

1

_

_

L

_

+

(4)

x

,

(4)

x

_

L(,

)

_

d

4

y (1.5a)

= lim

0

1

_ _

L(,

) +

L

(4)

x

+

L

(

(4)

x

+ O(

2

) L(,

)

_

d

4

y (1.5b)

= lim

0

_ _

L

(4)

x

+

L

(

(4)

x

+ O()

_

d

4

y (1.5c)

=

_ _

L

(4)

x

+

L

(

(4)

x

_

d

4

y (1.5d)

=

_ _

L

L

(

)

_

(4)

x

d

4

y (1.5e)

Where we justify the second line by Taylor expanding to rst order, then in the third line we

factor through by the (1/) factor, in the fourth line we take the limit, and integrate by parts

to yield the last line. Note also that we factored out the delta function to make the last line

prettier. Now the last line is zero if and only if

L

a

d

dx

L

(

a

)

= 0 (1.6)

which is precisely the Euler-Lagrange equations of motion!

Why are we working with these delta functions? Well, we are working with something a little more

than just time. We are working with points in space. Locality means, mathematically, we work

with vectors sharing the same base point. Or in the jargon of dierential geometry, we are working in the

tangent space TpM where M is our manifold, and p M is our base point. If we work with multiple base

points at a time, not only is it mathematically not well dened, but it is nonlocal which results in a loss of

causality! Needless to say this is bad, so we try to work with the evolution of the eld at a specied (but

arbitrary) tangent space. If time permits, we will revisit this notion of spatial coordinates as an index in

the appendix.

More precisely, we have the base space be the manifold M representing spacetime. We have our elds

assign to each point p M some physical information (x). The question presents itself Where does this

information live? It lives in a generalization of the tangent space, called the ber. In the Lagrangian

setting, we work with ordered pairs (x

, (x

bundle. That is, the eld is a mapping

: MMF (1.7)

where F is where the elds live, i.e. its the ber.

2 Hamiltonian Field Theory

If we want to begin the canonical treatment of elds, we need to start by nding the canoni-

cally conjugate momenta. We need to rst foliate spacetime into space and time. Why do

we do this? Well, we are concerned about the time derivatives of the eld (how it changes in

time), and we need to foliate spacetime into constant-time surfaces to have this be meaningful

in the obvious way.

2 Hamiltonian Field Theory 3

Let be a (column) vector of scalar elds. So to nd the canonically conjugate momenta

to

a

, we follow our nose to nd

a

=

L

(

0

a

)

. (2.1)

We will write for the row vector = (

1

,

2

, . . . ,

n

). If the mapping

(,

0

,

1

,

2

,

3

) (, ,

1

,

2

,

3

) (2.2)

is invertible (bijective, but when wouldnt it be?

1

), then we dene the Hamiltonian density

function by

H(, ,

1

,

2

,

3

) =

0

L (2.3)

which is a generalization of the Legendre transformation.

By direct computation we can nd Hamiltons equations to be

a

=

H

a

, and

a

=

H

a

+

d

dx

m

H

(

m

m

)

(2.4)

where the equation on the right hand side has an implicit sum over m = 1, 2, 3. These

equations naturally folow from Hamiltons principle applied to

S =

_

(

0

H)d

4

x (2.5)

the action in canonical form.

Example 1. (Working in the East coast convention + ++) Consider the Lagrangian density

L =

1

2

+

2

2

2

(2.6)

where is some mass scalar. We nd the equations of motion being

S

= 0

L

L

()

= 0. (2.7)

We nd by direct computation

L

= +

2

(2.8a)

L

()

= (

) =

2

(2.8b)

which yields the equations of motion to be

`

+

2

= 0. (2.9)

This is precisely the Klein-Gordon equation!

We nd that the canonically conjugate momenta is

=

L

(

0

)

=

0

=

0

. (2.10)

Thus we can nd the Hamiltonian density to be

H =

0

L (2.11a)

=

0

1

2

+

2

2

(2.11b)

=

1

2

0

1

2

2

2

2

(2.11c)

=

1

2

+

+

2

(2.11d)

1

The condition of this being invertible is equivalent to Henneaux and Teiteilboims criteria of regularity

it seems...

2 Hamiltonian Field Theory 4

Note our convention makes the sign of the

2

term dierent than what is conventionally used in most particle

physics texts. Because of this choice of signature convention, our energy is negative.

We can nd Hamiltons equations for the Klein Gordon scalar eld quite easily. One we already found

accidentally, it is

=

L

(

0

)

=

0

=

0

. (2.12)

The other is more interesting, it is

=

H

+

d

dx

m

H

(m)

(2.13a)

=

2

m(

m

) (2.13b)

= (

2

+

2

) (2.13c)

Note that the sign of our results diers from what we derived due to our choice of signature convention!

Now the Hamiltonian approach to elds, as previously mentioned, is slightly diferent

because we work with a one-parameter family of spatial hypersurfaces instead of spacetime.

To consider the scalar eld (x) in this setting, we let it become ( x; t) where we use the

semicolon to remind ourselves that we are working with some parameter t. We obtain the

Hamiltonian simply by integrating the density over all space

H(, ) =

_

all space

H(, ,

1

,

2

,

3

)d

3

x. (2.14)

We need to consider how the functional derivative behaves under this change from spacetime

to space plus time. The functional derivative with respect to ( x; t) is

A[( y; t)]

( x; t)

= lim

0

1

_

A[

t

+

(3)

x

] A[

t

]

_

(2.15)

where

t

( y) = ( y; t) =

t

, and

(3)

x

=

(3)

( x y).

We obtain the equations of motion from the principle of stationary action applied to

the canonical form of the action. The Euler-Lagrange equations encoded in the canonical

formalism are

a

=

H

a

, and

a

=

H

a

+

d

dx

m

H

(

m

m

)

(2.16)

as we previously mentioned.

We can directly compute that

H

( x; t)

=

_

H

( x; t)

d

4

y (2.17a)

= lim

0

1

_

_

H(,

t

+

(3)

x

,

k

t

+

k

(3)

x

) H(,

t

,

m

t

)

_

d

3

y (2.17b)

= lim

0

1

_ _

H(,

t

,

m

t

) +

H

(3)

x

+

H

(

m

)

(3)

x

(2.17c)

+ O(

2

) H(,

t

,

m

t

)

_

d

3

y

=

_ _

H

(3)

x

+

H

(

m

)

(3)

x

_

d

3

y (2.17d)

=

_ _

H

m

H

(

m

)

_

(3)

x

d

3

y (2.17e)

=

_ _

+

m

H

(

m

)

_

(3)

x

d

3

y (2.17f)

References 5

=

_

(3)

x

d

3

y (2.17g)

=

(x). (2.17h)

This is precisely one of Hamiltons equations, and by similar reasoning we nd

=

H

t

( x)

, and

t

( x) =

H

t

( x)

(2.18)

are both generalizations of Hamiltons equations to eld theoretic setting. This motivates us

to dene an analogous Poisson bracket:

{A, B}

def

=

_ _

A

t

( x)

B

t

( x)

B

t

( x)

A

t

( x)

_

d

3

x. (2.19)

This allows us to recover the equations of motion in a familiar way

{A, H} =

_ _

A

t

( x)

t

( x) +

t

( x)

A

t

( x)

_

d

3

x. (2.20)

Similarly, the canonical commutation relations hold classically as

{

a

( x; t),

b

( y; t)} =

a

b

(3)

( x y). (2.21)

Note that this only makes sense if the two variables are considered on the same time slice. If

we were to consider two dierent timeslices, wed necessarily have the commutation relations

vanish due to locality constraints.

References

[1] R. Ticciati, Quantum eld theory for mathematicians,. Cambridge, UK: Univ. Pr.

(1999) 699 p.

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