# Generating function (physics)

Generating functions which arise in Hamiltonian mechanics are quite different from generating functions in mathematics. In physics, a generating function is, loosely, a function whose partial derivatives generate the differential equations that determine a system's dynamics. Common examples are the partition function of statistical mechanics, the Hamiltonian, and the function which acts as a bridge between two sets of canonical variables when performing a canonical transformation.

## In Canonical Transformations

There are four basic generating functions, summarized by the following table:

## Example

Sometimes a given Hamiltonian can be turned into one that looks like the harmonic oscillator Hamiltonian, which is

$H=aP^{2}+bQ^{2}.$ For example, with the Hamiltonian

$H={\frac {1}{2q^{2}}}+{\frac {p^{2}q^{4}}{2}},$ where p is the generalized momentum and q is the generalized coordinate, a good canonical transformation to choose would be

This turns the Hamiltonian into

$H={\frac {Q^{2}}{2}}+{\frac {P^{2}}{2}},$ which is in the form of the harmonic oscillator Hamiltonian.

The generating function F for this transformation is of the third kind,

$F=F_{3}(p,Q).$ To find F explicitly, use the equation for its derivative from the table above,

$P=-{\frac {\partial F_{3}}{\partial Q}},$ and substitute the expression for P from equation (Template:EquationNote), expressed in terms of p and Q:

${\frac {p}{Q^{2}}}=-{\frac {\partial F_{3}}{\partial Q}}$ Integrating this with respect to Q results in an equation for the generating function of the transformation given by equation (Template:EquationNote):

To confirm that this is the correct generating function, verify that it matches (Template:EquationNote):

$q=-{\frac {\partial F_{3}}{\partial p}}={\frac {-1}{Q}}$ 