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# [Classical Mechanics]-[M.

Sc]- [Ch-2] - Classical Mechanics in Lagrangian Formulation - [By: Ijaz Talib ] - 

COMPREHENSIVE FUNDAMENTALS
FOR M.Sc. PHYSICS
Student Version
By : Ijaz Talib
M.Phil Physics, Ph.D Scholar
The National Group of Colleges, Toba Tek Singh
Affiliated with: GC-University, Faisalabad
ejaztalibejaz@yahoo.com, facebook : Ijaz Talib, skype : ejaztalibejaz

## CHAPTER NO. 

CLASSICAL MECHANICS IN LAGRANGIAN FORMULATION

## 2.0 SOME BASIC DEFINITIONS

i) Configuration/State/Configurational State: “The set of geometrical positions of all
the constituent particles of a mechanical system at a given instant of time is called as the
configuration/state/configurational state of that system at that instant”.

## ii) Generalized Coordinates: “Any convenient set of independent variables/parameters in

terms of which the configuration/state/configurational state of a dynamical system with known
degrees of freedom can be completely specified at any instant of time is called as generalized
coordinates”.
Explanation: Generalized coordinates may be either in the form of
rectangular/spherical/cylindrical/polar coordinates or a mixture of them, or even in the form of some
physical quantities like area, energy, angular momentum, electric current etc. They are designated as q i
( i  1, 2, 3, .. ... ...,n) . For a given mechanical system, neither the appropriate choice of a particular set of
generalized coordinates is unique, nor there is any specific rule to choose the most convenient set of
generalized coordinates. Contrary to Cartesian coordinates, generalized coordinates (q i) can not be
divided into groups of three to which a vector can be assigned.

Advantage: The use of generalized coordinates, which are independent of one another, i) not only
simplifies the solution of the mechanics of a given mechanical problem but also ii) incorporates the
constraints imposed on the system into calculation by eliminating the constraint forces (use of
generalized coordinates automatically satisfies the imposed constraint equations). In addition, some
times, the use of generalized coordinates is very helpful even if there are no constraints on the system
(For example, when a central force field problems, since V=f(r) so it makes sense to use spherical
coordinates).
Examples: i) For a rod lying on a plane surface, the generalized coordinates are x, y and , where
x,y represent the position of one end of the rod while  is the angle between X-axis and the rod.
ii) For a simple pendulum, the angular displacement  of the string of length L from the vertical at any
instant of time serves as the only (most suitable) generalized coordinate along with L as the constant of
motion.
iii) For a point mass constrained to move along a circular path of radius R, the constraint involved
can be written in Cartesian coordinates as x 2+y2=R2. Alternatively, we can use a single angle “ϕ” as the
generalized coordinate along with R as the constant of motion. This generalized coordinate ϕ can be
 y
related with the Cartesian coordinates by the relation ϕ   tan-1   . Conversely, x=R cos ϕ, y=R sin ϕ .
x
iv) For a particle on a sphere, a convenient choice of generalized coordinates is the longitude and
latitude angles.
[Classical Mechanics]-[M.Sc]- [Ch-2] - Classical Mechanics in Lagrangian Formulation - [ By: Ijaz Talib ] - 

## iii) Degrees of Freedom (DOF): “The number of independent physical parameters or

coordinates required to completely specify/characterize the configurational state of a
mechanical system are called as degrees of freedom (DOF) of that system”. OR “The number of
independent ways in which a system can possess and receive energy is called as degrees of
freedom (DOF)”.
Examples: i) A free particle moving in space with no constraints requires three coordinates (x, y,
z) to specify its configuration, so it has three degrees of freedom.
ii) A system of N free particles will have 3N degrees of freedom.
iii) A bead capable to slide over a wire passing through the bead
has only one degree of freedom.
iv) A simple pendulum has one degree of freedom.
V) A double pendulum has two degrees of freedom

2.1 CONSTRAINTS
Definition: “The conditions which limit/restrict the freedom of motion of a mechanical system
in 1, 2 or 3 dimensions are known as constraints”. The motion of a honey bee in open air is
unconstrained, but that of the one confined within a box is constrained.
Examples: i) A bead of an abacus is constrained to move only in one dimension on the supporting
wire.
ii) A particle placed on a horizontal table surface is constrained to move only in 2-dimensional
surface. Mathematically, at all instants the z component of its position vector is constant, (z=z o). or
Particle is constrained to lie on a plane A x 1+ B x2+ Cx3+ D = 0
iii) Two balls fixed to the two ends of a rigid rod of length L are constrained to remain at a distance L
apart from one another irrespective of the type of motion of the rod. Mathematically, if r1 and r2 be the
position vectors of the two balls w.r.t a fixed origin, then at all instants r2  r1  L
iv) If a gas is enclosed in a spherical shell of radius R centered at the origin, then for each and every
gas molecule, the magnitude of the position vector ( r  x 2  y 2  z 2 ) at any instant relative to the
center of the spherical is constrained by r  R or r R 0 or x2  y2  z2  R  0 .
v) If a body is a rigid body, then the distance between any two of its constituent particles, say P i and Pj,
given as rij  rj  ri , is constrained to be constant during the motion of the rigid body (and hence its
constituent particles).
vi) If a particle is placed on the surface of a sphere, it is constrained to move only in a region exterior
to the sphere centered at origin (by the wall of the sphere) r ≥ R or x2  y2  z2  R
where the
equal sign is for the case if the particle is restricted to remain on the surface, and “>” sign is for the case
if the particle is allowed to fall off under the force of gravity.
vii) For a particle restricted to move on any curve (a straight line, a parabola, a hyperbola, a circle ,
an ellipse etc), the constraint is given by the equation of that curve ( y  mx  c y  ax 2  bx  c ,
,
2 2 2 2
x y x y
2
 2  1 , x  h2   y  k 2  r 2 , 2  2  1 respectively)
a b a b
Practical Life Application of Constraints: In robotics: A robot has a limited number (say
K) of motors in it. But the required tasks need many degrees of freedom (say n). The difference n -k is due
to the presence of constraints. The smaller this difference, the more tasks a robot can perform.

## Classification of Constraints on the Basis of Their Mathematical Nature

On the basis of their mathematical nature, constraints can be classified into two types, i) Holonomic
Constraints, and ii) Non-Holonomic constraints (initially done by Hertz in 1894).

## i) Holonomic/Geometric/Integrable Constraints: “If the conditions of a

constraint can be expressed in the form of an equation in terms of the coordinates of the
mechanical system and possibly time, such as f(q 1, q2, q3, … …,qn, t) = 0, then the
constraints are called as holonomic/geometric/integrable constraints, and a system
[Classical Mechanics]-[M.Sc]- [Ch-2] - Classical Mechanics in Lagrangian Formulation - [ By: Ijaz Talib ] - 

## subjected to such constraints is called as a holonomic system”. Literally ‘holonomic’ means

‘totally lawful’. A holonomic constraint depends only upon coordinates and possibly time and
does not depend upon velocities. The state of a holonomic system is independent of the path taken
to achieve that state. Hence the line integrals involved in the problems of holonomic systems
depend only upon the initial and final states, and are independent of the path of integration.
Holonomic constraints arise from monogenic forces (forces derivable from some scalar potential,
commonly called as conservative forces). The equations/inequalities expressing non-holonomic
constraints can not be used to eliminate dependent coordinates.
Examples: i) If a body is a rigid body, then the distance between any two of its constituent particles,
say Pi and Pj, given as Lij  rj  ri , is constrained to be constant during the motion of the rigid body (and

hence its constituent particles) . Thus rj  ri 2
 L2ij  0

ii) Two balls fixed to the two ends of a rigid rod of length L are constrained to remain at a distance L
apart from one another irrespective of the type of motion of the rod. Mathematically, if r1 and r2 be the
position vectors of the two balls w.r.t a fixed origin, then at all instants
r2  r1  L OR x2  x1 2   y2  y1 2  z2  z2 2  L in terms of rectangular components
iii) The restriction on the motion of a particle to lie on the surface of a sphere is holonomic constraint.
iv) If the string of a simple pendulum is in-extensible, then the configuration of the bob at all instants
obeys the following holonomic constraint, x 2  y 2  L2 where (x, y) is the instantaneous position of bob
and L is the length of the string.
ii) Non-Holonomic/Kinematic/Non-Integrable Constraints: “If the conditions of a
constraint can not be expressed in the form of an equation but only in the form of an inequality in
terms of the coordinates of the mechanical system, such as f(q 1, q2, q3, … …, qn , t) ≥ 0, OR if the
differential form of the constraint equation is not integrable, Or if the constraints depend upon
the velocities, then the constraints are called as non-holonomic/Kinematic/non-integrable
constraints”. Literally ‘non-holonomic’ means totally “un-lawful”. The state of a nonholonomic system
does depend upon the path taken to achieve that state. The line integrals involved in the problems
involving non-holonomic systems depend not only upon the initial and final states but also upon the path
of integration. Non-Holonomic constraints arise from polygenic forces (forces which are not derivable
from some scalar potential, commonly called as non-conservative forces). Non-Holonomic systems can
not be analyzed by any of the Newtonian, Lagrangian and hamisltonian formulation of mechanics. They
can be solved only by D’Alembert Principle.
Note: If a constraint like f(q1, q2, q3, … …,qn, q’1, q’2, q’3, … …,q’n , t) = 0 depends upon velocity such that it
can be reduced to f(q1, q2, q3, … …,qn, t) = 0, then it is a holonomic constraint in disguise of a non-
holonomic constraint. However, if it is not reducible to f(q1, q2, q3, … …,qn, t) = 0, then it is indeed a non-
holonomic constraint. The equations/inequalities expressing non-holonomic constraints can not be used
to eliminate dependent coordinates.
Examples: i) The restriction on the motion of a particle to lie on the surface of a sphere is holonomic
constraint. But if the particle is allowed to fall off the sphere under the action of gravity, the constraint
becomes non-holonomic. In this case, if r be the distance of the particle at any instant from the center of
the sphere of radius R, then at all instants r 2  R 2
ii) If a gas is enclosed in a spherical shell of radius R with its center at the origin, then for each and every
gas molecule, at all instants, x2  y2  z2  R .

## Classification of Holonomic Constraints on the Basis of Time Dependence

On the basis of their time dependence, holonomic constraints can be classified into two types, i)
Scleronomous Constraints, and ii) Rheonomous Constraints. Note that as non-holonomic
constraints implicitly involve the time dependence (in terms of temporal derivatives), so such
classification is not relevant for them.
[Classical Mechanics]-[M.Sc]- [Ch-2] - Classical Mechanics in Lagrangian Formulation - [ By: Ijaz Talib ] - 

## i) Scleronomous/Stationary Constraints: “The constraints which are explicitly

independent of time are called as scleronomous/stationary constraints”. They are of the form
f(q1, q2, q3, … …,qn) = 0 .
Examples: i) If a bead is restricted to slide on a rigid curved wire fixed in space is subjected a
scleronomous constraint.
ii) If a gas is enclosed in a spherical shell of radius R and with its center at the origin, then for each and
every gas molecule, at all instants, x 2  y 2  z 2  R , which represents a scleronomous constraint.
ii) Rheonomous (Non-Scleronomous) Constraints: “The constraints which explicitly
depend upon time are called as rheonomous/non-scleronomous constraints”. They are of the form
f(q1, q2, q3, … …,qn , t) = 0 .

Examples: i) If a bead is restricted to slide on a rigid curved wire which is itself moving in a
known prescribed fashion, the constraint is rheonomous.

ii) If a gas is enclosed in such a spherical shell which is periodically expanding and contracting so that at
any instant its radius is R  R  a sin 2ft (where a<Ro ,f is the frequency of oscillation) and with its
center at the origin, then for each and every gas molecule, at all instants, x 2  y 2  z 2  R  a sin 2ft ,
which represents a rheonomous/non-scleronomous constraint.

## Classification of Non-Holonomic Constraints:

i) Non-Integrable/History-Dependent Constraints: These are constraints which
involve velocities, and are not fully defined until the full solution of the equations of motion is
known.
ii) Inequality constraints: These are the constraints which have mathematical expressions in
the form of inequalities.
iii) Frictional-Force Based Constraints: these constraints are imposed by frictional/drag
forces (which are non-conservative forces).

## Classification of constraints on the Basis of Their Implementation

If a constraint involves just one state variable, it is called as single freedom constraint (SFC). If it links
more than one, it is called as multiple freedom constraint (MFC).

## Complications/Difficulties Introduced by Constraints in the Formulation of

Mechanics, and Their Circumvention
The presence of constraints in a mechanical problem gives rise to two difficulties in its solution.
i) First Difficulty: Constraints make the coordinates, and the equations of
motion, implicitly dependent: In the presence of constraints, since the coordinates (qi) of a
dynamical system are connected by the equations/inequalities of constraints (for holonomic/non-
holonomic constraints respectively) so neither the coordinates nor the equations of motion (
 j N
pi  Fi ext   Fij ) remain independent of one another.
j 1

## Circumvention in case of holonomic constraints: Use generalized coordinates OR

include the constraints in the Lagrangian with multipliers (if you want to solve for constraint
forces): If the constraint forces are of no interest, then this difficulty is circumvented/removed by using
general/generalized coordinates which are independent of constraints and thus eliminate the
dependent coordinates (The formalisms/formulations based on generalized coordinates are Lagrangian
formulation and Hamiltonian formulation). However, if the constraint forces are to be determined, then
the constraints are included in the Lagrangian with multipliers.
Example: A system of N free particles has 3N degrees of freedom (DOF) and thus requires total 3N
independent coordinates (r 1, r 2, r 3, … … …, r 3N) to completely specify its configurational state. Now if k
holonomic constraints expressed in terms of equations of constraints, fm (r1,r2,r3,…rN,t) = 0 (m = 1, 2, …
[Classical Mechanics]-[M.Sc]- [Ch-2] - Classical Mechanics in Lagrangian Formulation - [ By: Ijaz Talib ] - 

k) are imposed on the system, the number of degrees of freedom is reduced to 3N-K, and thus only 3N-K
independent coordinates are needed to completely specify its configurational state. The k equations of k
holonomic constraints can be used to eliminate k out of 3N coordinates to get 3N-K independent
coordinates. Alternately, the elimination of k dependent coordinates can be expressed by introducing 3N -
K new but independent coordinates (q1, q2, q3, … … …, q3N-K ) called as general/generalized
coordinates. The old coordinates r i (r 1, r 2, r 3, … … …, r 3N) and the new generalized coordinates qi (q1, q2,
q3, … … …, q3N-K) are parametrically linked by transformation equations. Conversely, qi can be obtained
by combining the constraint equations with r i.
r 1= r 1 (q1, q2, q3, … … …, q3N-K, t)
r 2= r 2 (q1, q2, q3, … … …, q3N-K, t)

r N= r N (q1, q2, q3, … … …, q3N-K, t)

## Circumvention in case of non-holonomic constraints: In this case, no generalized

principle works (neither Lagrangian nor Hamiltonion). The equations of motion can only be determined
by using the basic D’Alembert’s principle.)

## ii) Second Difficulty: Unknown forces of constraints makes it highly difficult or

impractical to write the equations of motion: The forces of constraints may be so
complex, or even unknown that it may become impractical to write the equations of motion (hence,
Newton’s laws cannot be directly applied because net force is not known on each and every constituent
particle). This means the constraint forces themselves are included among the unknowns of the problem.
For example, the force exerted by the walls of a container on the gas molecules enclosed in the
container, or the force exerted by the wire on the bead, are unknowns of the problem. These constraint
forces cannot be specified directly, but are known only in terms of their overall effect on the motion of
the system (gas molecules or beads respectively).
Circumvention: To remove this difficulty, the mechanics of the problem is formulated in such a way
that the forces of constraints disappear and ultimately we are left with only known applied forces
(D’Alembert Principle and Lagrangian Mechanics). For Example, the forces of constraints present in
a rigid body are eliminated when the work done by these constraint forces is put equal to zero.