hi, we have just got to the point in my physics course where Newtons laws are now longer that easy to work with anymore and we are now begining to reformulate those using variational methods, and im a little confused on one of the problems.(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The shortest path between two points on a curved surface, such as the surface of a sphere is called a geodesic. To find a geodestic, one has first to set up an integral that gives the length of a path on the surface in question. Use sperical polar coordinates (r,theat,phi) to show that the length of a path joining two points on a shere of radius R is L=R*integral(from theta_1 to theta_2)sqrt(1+sin^2(theta)*(phi_prime(theta))^2)*d(theta)

if (theta_1,phi_1) and (theta_2,phi_2) specify two points and we assume that the path is expressed as phi=phi(theta).

I know how to do this problem if it were just (x,y) it would be L=integral(from x_1 to x_2) ds, where ds= sqrt(dx^2+dy^2)= sqrt(1+y_prime(x)^2) dx

but im getting confused on how to impliment the spherical polar cords. For example x=r*sin(phi)*cos(theta), but then i dont know what dx would be because im not sure what to differantiat?

thanks for the help.

**Physics Forums | Science Articles, Homework Help, Discussion**

Dismiss Notice

Join Physics Forums Today!

The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

# Calculus of variation help

**Physics Forums | Science Articles, Homework Help, Discussion**