Principle of Least Action

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The Principle of Least Action is an assumption of efficient motion in physics whereby a particle of fixed overall potential and kinetic energy follows the path that minimizes its action.

Variations on this principle include the insights that:

  • a multi-body system will come to rest at a position that minimizes overall potential energy.
  • light takes the shortest path to travel between two points

This principle is a physical extension of the Euclidean theorem that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

The doctoral thesis of physicist Richard Feynmann applied the Principle of Least Action to quantum mechanics, and later built on that work to generate "Feynman diagrams," for which he won a shared Nobel Prize.