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Physics LibreTexts

13.6: Inverse Variational Calculus

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  • Non-standard Lagrangians and Hamiltonians are not based on the concept of kinetic and potential energies. Therefore, development of non-standard Lagrangians and Hamiltonians require an alternative approach that ensures that they satisfy Hamilton’s Principle, Equation 132 which underlies the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations. One useful alternative approach is to derive the Lagrangian or Hamiltonian via an inverse variational process based on the assumption that the equations of motion are known. Helmholtz developed the field of inverse variational calculus which plays an important role in development of non-standard Lagrangians. An example of this approach is use of the well-known Lorentz force as the basis for deriving a corresponding Lagrangian to handle systems involving electromagnetic forces. Inverse variational calculus is a branch of mathematics that is beyond the scope of this textbook. The Douglas theorem[Dou41] states that, if the three Helmholtz conditions are satisfied, then there exists a Lagrangian that, when used with the Euler-Lagrange differential equations, leads to the given set of equations of motion. Thus, it will be assumed that the inverse variational calculus technique can be used to derive a Lagrangian from known equations of motion