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Hamiltonian mechanics is a reformulation of classical mechanics that was introduced in 1833 by Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton. It arose from Lagrangian mechanics, a previous reformulation of classical mechanics introduced by Joseph Louis Lagrange in 1788, but can be formulated without recourse to Lagrangian mechanics using symplectic spaces (see Mathematical formalism, below). The Hamiltonian method differs from the Lagrangian method in that instead of expressing secondorder differential constraints on an ndimensional coordinate space (where n is the number of degrees of freedom of the system), it expresses firstorder constraints on a 2ndimensional phase space.^{[1]}
As with Lagrangian mechanics, Hamilton's equations provide a new and equivalent way of looking at classical mechanics. Generally, these equations do not provide a more convenient way of solving a particular problem. Rather, they provide deeper insights into both the general structure of classical mechanics and its connection to quantum mechanics as understood through Hamiltonian mechanics, as well as its connection to other areas of science.
The value of the Hamiltonian is the total energy of the system being described. For a closed system, it is the sum of the kinetic and potential energy in the system. There is a set of differential equations known as the Hamilton equations which give the time evolution of the system. Hamiltonians can be used to describe such simple systems as a bouncing ball, a pendulum or an oscillating spring in which energy changes from kinetic to potential and back again over time. Hamiltonians can also be employed to model the energy of other more complex dynamic systems such as planetary orbits in celestial mechanics and also in quantum mechanics.^{[2]}
The Hamilton equations are generally written as follows:
In the above equations, the dot denotes the ordinary derivative with respect to time of the functions p = p(t) (called generalized momenta) and q = q(t) (called generalized coordinates), taking values in some vector space, and = is the socalled Hamiltonian, or (scalar valued) Hamiltonian function. Thus, more explicitly, one can equivalently write
and specify the domain of values in which the parameter t ("time") varies.
For a detailed derivation of these equations from Lagrangian mechanics, see below.
The simplest interpretation of the Hamilton Equations is as follows, applying them to a onedimensional system consisting of one particle of mass m under time independent boundary conditions and exhibiting conservation of energy: The Hamiltonian represents the energy of the system, which is the sum of kinetic and potential energy, traditionally denoted T & V, respectively. Here q is the xcoordinate and p is the momentum, mv. Then
Note that T is a function of p alone, while V is a function of x (or q) alone.
Now the timederivative of the momentum p equals the Newtonian force, and so here the first Hamilton Equation means that the force on the particle equals the rate at which it loses potential energy with respect to changes in x, its location. (Force equals the negative gradient of potential energy.)
The timederivative of q here means the velocity: the second Hamilton Equation here means that the particle’s velocity equals the derivative of its kinetic energy with respect to its momentum. (For the derivative with respect to p of p^{2}/2m equals p/m = mv/m = v.)
Hamilton's equations are appealing in view of their beautiful simplicity and (slightly broken) symmetry. They have been analyzed under almost every imaginable angle of view, from basic physics up to symplectic geometry. A lot is known about solutions of these equations, yet the exact general case solution of the equations of motion cannot be given explicitly for a system of more than two massive point particles. The finding of conserved quantities plays an important role in the search for solutions or information about their nature. In models with an infinite number of degrees of freedom, this is of course even more complicated. An interesting and promising area of research is the study of integrable systems, where an infinite number of independent conserved quantities can be constructed.
We can derive Hamilton's equations by looking at how the Lagrangian changes as you change the time and the positions and velocities of particles
Now the generalized momenta were defined as and Lagrange's equations tell us that
We can rearrange this to get
and substitute the result into the variation of the Lagrangian
We can rewrite this as
and rearrange again to get
The term on the lefthand side is just the Hamiltonian that we have defined before, so we find that
where the second equality holds because of the definition of the partial derivatives. Associating terms from both sides of the equation above yields Hamilton's equations
Starting with Lagrangian mechanics, the equations of motion are based on generalized coordinates
and matching generalized velocities
We write the Lagrangian as
with the subscripted variables understood to represent all N variables of that type. Hamiltonian mechanics aims to replace the generalized velocity variables with generalized momentum variables, also known as conjugate momenta. By doing so, it is possible to handle certain systems, such as aspects of quantum mechanics, that would otherwise be even more complicated.
For each generalized velocity, there is one corresponding conjugate momentum, defined as:
In Cartesian coordinates, the generalized momenta are precisely the physical linear momenta. In circular polar coordinates, the generalized momentum corresponding to the angular velocity is the physical angular momentum. For an arbitrary choice of generalized coordinates, it may not be possible to obtain an intuitive interpretation of the conjugate momenta.
One thing which is not too obvious in this coordinate dependent formulation is that different generalized coordinates are really nothing more than different coordinatizations of the same symplectic manifold.
The Hamiltonian is the Legendre transform of the Lagrangian:
If the transformation equations defining the generalized coordinates are independent of t, and the Lagrangian is a sum of products of functions (in the generalised coordinates) which are homogeneous of order 0, 1 or 2, then it can be shown that H is equal to the total energy E = T + V.
Each side in the definition of produces a differential:
Substituting the previous definition of the conjugate momenta into this equation and matching coefficients, we obtain the equations of motion of Hamiltonian mechanics, known as the canonical equations of Hamilton:
Hamilton's equations are firstorder differential equations, and thus easier to solve than Lagrange's equations, which are secondorder. However, the steps leading to the equations of motion are more onerous than in Lagrangian mechanics  beginning with the generalized coordinates and the Lagrangian, we must calculate the Hamiltonian, express each generalized velocity in terms of the conjugate momenta, and replace the generalized velocities in the Hamiltonian with the conjugate momenta. All in all, there is little labor saved from solving a problem with Hamiltonian mechanics rather than Lagrangian mechanics. Ultimately, it will produce the same solution as Lagrangian mechanics and Newton's laws of motion.
The principal appeal of the Hamiltonian approach is that it provides the groundwork for deeper results in the theory of classical mechanics.
A Hamiltonian system may be understood as a fiber bundle E over time R, with the fibers E_{t}, t ∈ R being the position space. The Lagrangian is thus a function on the jet bundle J over E; taking the fiberwise Legendre transform of the Lagrangian produces a function on the dual bundle over time whose fiber at t is the cotangent space T^{*}E_{t}, which comes equipped with a natural symplectic form, and this latter function is the Hamiltonian.
The Hamilton's equations above work well for classical mechanics, but not for quantum mechanics, since the differential equations discussed assume that one can specify the exact position and momentum of the particle simultaneously at any point in time. However, the equations can be further generalized to then be extended to apply to quantum mechanics as well as to classical mechanics, through the deformation of the Poisson algebra over p and q to the algebra of Moyal brackets.
Specifically, the more general form of the Hamilton's equation reads
where f is some function of p and q, and H is the Hamiltonian. To find out the rules for evaluating a Poisson bracket without resorting to differential equations, see Lie algebra; a Poisson bracket is the name for the Lie bracket in a Poisson algebra. These Poisson brackets can then be extended to Moyal brackets comporting to an inequivalent Lie algebra, as proven by H Groenewold, and thereby describe quantum mechanical diffusion in phase space (See the uncertainty principle and Weyl quantization). This more algebraic approach not only permits ultimately extending probability distributions in phase space to Wigner quasiprobability distributions, but, at the mere Poisson bracket classical setting, also provides more power in helping analyze the relevant conserved quantities in a system.
Any smooth realvalued function H on a symplectic manifold can be used to define a Hamiltonian system. The function H is known as the Hamiltonian or the energy function. The symplectic manifold is then called the phase space. The Hamiltonian induces a special vector field on the symplectic manifold, known as the symplectic vector field.
The symplectic vector field, also called the Hamiltonian vector field, induces a Hamiltonian flow on the manifold. The integral curves of the vector field are a oneparameter family of transformations of the manifold; the parameter of the curves is commonly called the time. The time evolution is given by symplectomorphisms. By Liouville's theorem, each symplectomorphism preserves the volume form on the phase space. The collection of symplectomorphisms induced by the Hamiltonian flow is commonly called the Hamiltonian mechanics of the Hamiltonian system.
The symplectic structure induces a Poisson bracket. The Poisson bracket gives the space of functions on the manifold the structure of a Lie algebra.
Given a function f
If we have a probability distribution, ρ, then (since the phase space velocity () has zero divergence, and probability is conserved) its convective derivative can be shown to be zero and so
This is called Liouville's theorem. Every smooth function G over the symplectic manifold generates a oneparameter family of symplectomorphisms and if { G, H } = 0, then G is conserved and the symplectomorphisms are symmetry transformations.
A Hamiltonian may have multiple conserved quantities G_{i}. If the symplectic manifold has dimension 2n and there are n functionally independent conserved quantities G_{i} which are in involution (i.e., { G_{i}, G_{j} } = 0), then the Hamiltonian is Liouville integrable. The Liouville–Arnol'd theorem says that locally, any Liouville integrable Hamiltonian can be transformed via a symplectomorphism in a new Hamiltonian with the conserved quantities G_{i} as coordinates; the new coordinates are called actionangle coordinates. The transformed Hamiltonian depends only on the G_{i}, and hence the equations of motion have the simple form
for some function F (Arnol'd et al., 1988). There is an entire field focusing on small deviations from integrable systems governed by the KAM theorem.
The integrability of Hamiltonian vector fields is an open question. In general, Hamiltonian systems are chaotic; concepts of measure, completeness, integrability and stability are poorly defined. At this time, the study of dynamical systems is primarily qualitative, and not a quantitative science.
An important special case consists of those Hamiltonians that are quadratic forms, that is, Hamiltonians that can be written as
where is a smoothly varying inner product on the fibers , the cotangent space to the point q in the configuration space, sometimes called a cometric. This Hamiltonian consists entirely of the kinetic term.
If one considers a Riemannian manifold or a pseudoRiemannian manifold, the Riemannian metric induces a linear isomorphism between the tangent and cotangent bundles. (See Musical isomorphism). Using this isomorphism, one can define a cometric. (In coordinates, the matrix defining the cometric is the inverse of the matrix defining the metric.) The solutions to the Hamilton–Jacobi equations for this Hamiltonian are then the same as the geodesics on the manifold. In particular, the Hamiltonian flow in this case is the same thing as the geodesic flow. The existence of such solutions, and the completeness of the set of solutions, are discussed in detail in the article on geodesics. See also Geodesics as Hamiltonian flows.
When the cometric is degenerate, then it is not invertible. In this case, one does not have a Riemannian manifold, as one does not have a metric. However, the Hamiltonian still exists. In the case where the cometric is degenerate at every point q of the configuration space manifold Q, so that the rank of the cometric is less than the dimension of the manifold Q, one has a subRiemannian manifold.
The Hamiltonian in this case is known as a subRiemannian Hamiltonian. Every such Hamiltonian uniquely determines the cometric, and viceversa. This implies that every subRiemannian manifold is uniquely determined by its subRiemannian Hamiltonian, and that the converse is true: every subRiemannian manifold has a unique subRiemannian Hamiltonian. The existence of subRiemannian geodesics is given by the ChowRashevskii theorem.
The continuous, realvalued Heisenberg group provides a simple example of a subRiemannian manifold. For the Heisenberg group, the Hamiltonian is given by
p_{z} is not involved in the Hamiltonian.
Hamiltonian systems can be generalized in various ways. Instead of simply looking at the algebra of smooth functions over a symplectic manifold, Hamiltonian mechanics can be formulated on general commutative unital real Poisson algebras. A state is a continuous linear functional on the Poisson algebra (equipped with some suitable topology) such that for any element A of the algebra, A² maps to a nonnegative real number.
A further generalization is given by Nambu dynamics.
A good illustration of Hamiltonian mechanics is given by the Hamiltonian of a charged particle in an electromagnetic field. In Cartesian coordinates (i.e. q_{i} = x_{i}), the Lagrangian of a nonrelativistic classical particle in an electromagnetic field is (in SI Units):
where e is the electric charge of the particle (not necessarily the electron charge), φ is the electric scalar potential, and the A_{i} are the components of the magnetic vector potential (these may be modified through a gauge transformation).
The generalized momenta may be derived by:
Rearranging, we may express the velocities in terms of the momenta, as:
If we substitute the definition of the momenta, and the definitions of the velocities in terms of the momenta, into the definition of the Hamiltonian given above, and then simplify and rearrange, we get:
This equation is used frequently in quantum mechanics.
The Lagrangian for a relativistic charged particle is given by:
Thus the particle's canonical (total) momentum is
that is, the sum of the kinetic momentum and the potential momentum.
Solving for the velocity, we get
So the Hamiltonian is
From this we get the force equation (equivalent to the Euler–Lagrange equation)
from which one can derive
An equivalent expression for the Hamiltonian as function of the relativistic (kinetic) momentum, is
This has the advantage that can be measured experimentally whereas cannot. Notice that the Hamiltonian (total energy) can be viewed as the sum of the relativistic energy (kinetic+rest) , plus the potential energy,
Hamilton's principle is an important variational principle in elastodynamics. As opposed to a system composed of rigid bodies, deformable bodies have an infinite number of degrees of freedom and occupy continuous regions of space; consequently, the state of the system is described by using continuous functions of space and time. The extended Hamilton Principle for such bodies is given by
where T is the kinetic energy, U is the elastic energy, W_{e} is the work done by external loads on the body, and t_{1},t_{2} the initial and final times. If the system is conservative, the work done by external forces may be derived from a scalar potential V. In this case,
This is called Hamilton's Principle and it is invariant under coordinate transformations.
