# Equation 1.51 in Goldstein's 3rd edition of Classical Mechanics

## Main Question or Discussion Point

I am trying to self-study some physics, and have gotten a little stuck in one of Goldstein's derivations. The dot-notation is still confusing to me. Equation 1.51 in Goldstein states that

$$\frac{\partial \vec{v_i}}{\partial \dot{q_j}} = \frac{\partial \vec{r_i}}{q_j}$$

I do not understand how he arrives at this equation. He states that this comes from equation 1.46, which is

$$v_i = \frac{dr_i}{dt} = \frac{\partial r_i}{\partial q_k}\dot{q_k} + \frac{\partial r_i}{\partial t}$$

where the summation convention is implied, but I do not see how he goes from here to 1.51. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

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Never mind. I've got it. Now that I see it it is pretty damned obvious. You literally just take the derivative. I feel stupid for asking.

vanhees71
Gold Member
2019 Award
It's not so stupid! It's even a somwhat sloppy physicists' notation, which is however very convenient. The argument goes as follows:

On the one hand your second equation, which is given by taking the time derivative via the chain rule
$$r_i=r_i[q_k(t),t] \; \Rightarrow \; \dot{r}_i=\frac{\partial r_i}{\partial q_k} \dot{q}_k+\frac{\partial r_i}{\partial t}.$$

On the other hand within the Lagrange or d'Alembert formalism you forget that $\dot{x}$ is the time derivative of a quantity $x$ but treat $x$ and $\dot{x}$ simply as names for independent variables. In this sense you take the partial derivatives of an expression wrt. $\dot{q}_k$ as if these "generalized velocities" were independent variables.

However, if you again take a total time derivative, you read $\dot{q}_k$ again as time derivative of $q_k$, i.e., you write
$$\frac{\mathrm{d} \dot{q}_k}{\mathrm{d} t}=\ddot{q}_k$$
but the partial derivative wrt. time only refers to the explicit time dependence of a variable which by definition is not contained in the time dependence of the $q_k$ or $\dot{q}_k$,i.e., you have
$$\frac{\partial q_k}{\partial t}=\frac{\dot{\partial q}_k}{\partial t}=0.$$

When I started to learn analytical mechanics, this was a big mystery for me too, but the book by Goldstein at the end helped a lot. Another of my alltime favorites for classical physics are Sommerfeld's Lectures on Theoretical Physics (for point mechanics it's vol. 1), which I hightly recommend to read in parallel with Goldstein.

Hello, and thanks for your reply! This is exactly some of my difficulty with this subject: when we only explicit dependence counts, or when implicit dependence counts as well -- specifically with things such as time-dependent constraints. I suppose I need to go back and look over some of my multivariable calculus notes.

I have never tried (or even heard of) the Sommerfeld lectures, and I will certainly look into them. I have an old book by Robert Becker called Introduction to Theoretical Mechanics that I have found particularly useful.