# Questions tagged [linear-algebra]

Questions about the properties of vector spaces and linear transformations, including linear systems in general.

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### Geometric Interpretation of Trace

This afternoon I was speaking with some graduate students in the department and we came to the following quandry;
Is there a geometric interpretation of the trace of a matrix?
This question should ...

**100**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### The number $\pi$ and summation by $SL(2,\mathbb Z)$

Let $f(a,b,c,d)=\sqrt{a^2+b^2}+\sqrt{c^2+d^2}-\sqrt{(a+c)^2+(b+d)^2}$. (it is the defect in the triangle inequality)
Then, we discovered by heuristic arguments and then verified by computer that
$$\...

**88**

votes

**19**answers

31k views

### Why were matrix determinants once such a big deal?

I have been told that the study of matrix determinants once comprised the bulk of linear algebra. Today, few textbooks spend more than a few pages to define it and use it to compute a matrix inverse. ...

**87**

votes

**9**answers

16k views

### Should the formula for the inverse of a 2x2 matrix be obvious?

As every MO user knows, and can easily prove, the inverse of the matrix $\begin{pmatrix} a & b \\\ c & d \end{pmatrix}$ is $\frac{1}{ad - bc} \begin{pmatrix} d & -b \\\ -c & a \end{...

**87**

votes

**3**answers

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### Slick proof?: A vector space has the same dimension as its dual if and only if it is finite dimensional

A very important theorem in linear algebra that is rarely taught is:
A vector space has the same dimension as its dual if and only if it is finite dimensional.
I have seen a total of one proof of ...

**78**

votes

**12**answers

8k views

### Why are matrices ubiquitous but hypermatrices rare?

I am puzzled by the amazing utility and therefore ubiquity of
two-dimensional matrices in comparison to the relative
paucity of multidimensional arrays of numbers, hypermatrices.
Of course ...

**76**

votes

**1**answer

4k views

### Are there non-scalar endomorphisms of the functor $V\mapsto V^{**}/V$?

Let $K$ be a field. Are there non-scalar endomorphisms of the endofunctor
$$
V\mapsto V^{**}/V
$$
of the category of $K$-vector spaces?
I asked a related question on Mathematics Stackexchange, but ...

**65**

votes

**17**answers

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### Injectivity implies surjectivity

In some circumstances, an injective (one-to-one) map is automatically surjective (onto). For example,
Set theory
An injective map between two finite sets with the same cardinality is surjective.
...

**62**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Does linearization of categories reflect isomorphism?

Given a category $C$ and a commutative ring $R$, denote by $RC$ the $R$-linearization: this is the category enriched over $R$-modules which has the same objects as $C$, but the morphism module between ...

**58**

votes

**4**answers

6k views

### explicit big linearly independent sets

In the following, I use the word "explicit" in the following sense: No choices of bases (of vector spaces or field extensions), non-principal ultrafilters or alike which exist only by Zorn's Lemma (or ...

**57**

votes

**11**answers

8k views

### Geometric proof of the Vandermonde determinant?

The Vandermonde matrix is the $n\times n$ matrix whose $(i,j)$-th component is $x_j^{i-1}$, where the $x_j$ are indeterminates. It is well known that the determinant of this matrix is $$\prod_{1\leq ...

**56**

votes

**7**answers

6k views

### How to prove this determinant is positive?

Given matrices
$$A_i= \biggl(\begin{matrix}
0 & B_i \\
B_i^T & 0
\end{matrix} \biggr)$$
where $B_i$ are real matrices and $i=1,2,\ldots,N$, how to prove the following?
$$\det \big( I + e^...

**56**

votes

**6**answers

6k views

### Existence of a zero-sum subset

Some time ago I heard this question and tried playing around with it. I've never succeeded to making actual progress. Here it goes:
Given a finite (nonempty) set of real numbers, $S=\{a_1,a_2,\dots, ...

**55**

votes

**22**answers

54k views

### Linear Algebra Texts?

Can anyone suggest a relatively gentle linear algebra text that integrates vector spaces and matrix algebra right from the start? I've found in the past that students react in very negative ways to ...

**55**

votes

**1**answer

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### Geometric interpretation of characteristic polynomial

The coefficients of lowest and next-highest degree of a linear operator's characteristic polynomial are its determinant and trace. These have well-known geometric interpretations. But what about its ...

**51**

votes

**4**answers

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### Eigenvalues of matrix sums

Is there a relationship between the eigenvalues of individual matrices and the eigenvalues of their sum? What about the special case when the matrices are Hermitian and positive definite?
I am ...

**49**

votes

**5**answers

4k views

### Does this formula have a rigorous meaning, or is it merely formal.

I hope this problem is not considered too "elementary" for MO. It concerns a formula that I have always found fascinating. For, at first glance, it appears completely "obvious", while on closer ...

**48**

votes

**2**answers

3k views

### vector balancing problem

I believe the solution posted to the arXiv on June 17 by Marcus, Spielman, and Srivastava is correct.
This problem may be hard, so I don't expect an off-the-cuff solution. But can anyone suggest ...

**47**

votes

**21**answers

11k views

### Wonderful applications of the Vandermonde determinant

This semester I am assisting my mentor teaching a first-year undergraduate course on linear algebra in Peking University, China. And now we have come to the famous Vandermonde determinant, which has ...

**47**

votes

**9**answers

12k views

### Can a vector space over an infinite field be a finite union of proper subspaces?

Can a (possibly infinite-dimensional) vector space ever be a finite union of proper subspaces?
If the ground field is finite, then any finite-dimensional vector space is finite as a set, so there are ...

**46**

votes

**0**answers

1k views

### What did Gelfand mean by suggesting to study “Heredity Principle” structures instead of categories?

Israel Gelfand wrote in his remarkable talk "Mathematics as an adequate language (a few remarks)", given at "The Unity of Mathematics" Conference in honor of his 90th birthday, the following ...

**45**

votes

**6**answers

3k views

### Is the non-triviality of the algebraic dual of an infinite-dimensional vector space equivalent to the axiom of choice?

If $V$ is given to be a vector space that is not finite-dimensional, it doesn't seem to be possible to exhibit an explicit non-zero linear functional on $V$ without further information about $V$. The ...

**44**

votes

**22**answers

15k views

### Why linear algebra is fun!(or ?)

Edit: the original poster is Menny, but the question is CW; the first-person pronoun refers to Menny, not to the most recent editor.
I'm doing an introductory talk on linear algebra with the ...

**44**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### A strengthening of the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality

Suppose $\mathbf{v},\mathbf{w} \in \mathbb{R}^n$ (and if it helps, you can assume they each have non-negative entries), and let $\mathbf{v}^2,\mathbf{w}^2$ denote the vectors whose entries are the ...

**44**

votes

**1**answer

3k views

### Determinant of a determinant

Consider an $mn \times mn$ matrix over a commutative ring $A$, divided into $n \times n$ blocks that commute pairwise. One can pretend that each of the $m^2$ blocks is a number and apply the $m \...

**43**

votes

**4**answers

1k views

### Unusual symmetries of the Cayley-Menger determinant for the volume of tetrahedra

Suppose you have a tetrahedron $T$ in Euclidean space with edge lengths $\ell_{01}$, $\ell_{02}$, $\ell_{03}$, $\ell_{12}$, $\ell_{13}$, and $\ell_{23}$. Now consider the tetrahedron $T'$ with edge ...

**41**

votes

**4**answers

6k views

### Does the fact that this vector space is not isomorphic to its double-dual require choice?

Let $V$ denote the vector space of sequences of real numbers that are eventually 0, and let $W$ denote the vector space of sequences of real numbers. Given $w \in W$ and $v \in V$, we can take their "...

**40**

votes

**14**answers

8k views

### Applications of the Cayley-Hamilton theorem

The Cayley-Hamilton theorem is usually presented in standard undergraduate courses in linear algebra as an important result. Recall that it says that any square matrix is a "root" of its own ...

**40**

votes

**6**answers

7k views

### “A gentleman never chooses a basis.”

Around these parts, the aphorism "A gentleman never chooses a basis," has become popular.
Question. Is there a gentlemanly way to prove that the natural map from $V$ to $V^{**}$ is surjective if $V$...

**39**

votes

**7**answers

7k views

### Is there a preferable convention for defining the wedge product?

There are different conventions for defininig the wedge product $\wedge$.
In Kobayashi-Nomizu, there is $\alpha\wedge\beta:=Alt(\alpha\otimes\beta)$,
in Spivak, we find $\alpha\wedge\beta:=\frac{(k+l)...

**38**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### The probability for a symmetric matrix to be positive definite

Let me give a reasonable model for the question in the title. In ${\rm Sym}_n({\mathbb R})$, the positive definite matrices form a convex cone $S_n^+$. The probability I have in mind is the ratio $p_n=...

**37**

votes

**10**answers

16k views

### real symmetric matrix has real eigenvalues - elementary proof

Every real symmetric matrix has at least one real eigenvalue. Does anyone know how to prove this elementary, that is without the notion of complex numbers?

**37**

votes

**17**answers

10k views

### Linear Algebra Proofs in Combinatorics?

Simple linear algebra methods are a surprisingly powerful tool to prove combinatorial results. Some examples of combinatorial theorems with linear algebra proofs are the (weak) perfect graph theorem, ...

**37**

votes

**4**answers

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### Using linear algebra to classify vector bundles over P^1

There is a theorem of Grothendieck stating that a vector bundle of rank $r$ over the projective line $\mathbb{P}^1$ can be decomposed into $r$ line bundles uniquely up to isomorphism. If we let $\...

**36**

votes

**6**answers

36k views

### Determinant of sum of positive definite matrices

Say $A$ and $B$ are symmetric, positive definite matrices. I've proved that
$$\det(A+B) \ge \det(A) + \det(B)$$
in the case that $A$ and $B$ are two dimensional. Is this true in general for $n$-...

**36**

votes

**1**answer

2k views

### Is this lemma in elementary linear algebra new?

Is anyone familiar with the following, or anything close to it?
Lemma. Suppose $A$, $B$ are nonzero finite-dimensional vector spaces
over an infinite field $k$, and $V$ a subspace of $A\otimes_k B$
...

**35**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### A curious determinantal inequality

In my study, I come across the following curious inequality, which I do not know a proof yet (so I am asking it here).
Let $A, B$ be $n\times n$ (Hermitian) positive definite matrices. It is very ...

**33**

votes

**4**answers

1k views

### Why there is a relation among the second-order minors of a symmetric $4\times 4$ matrix?

A $4\times 4$ symmetric matrix
$$
\left(
\begin{array}{cccc}
a_{11} & a_{12} & a_{13} & a_{14} \\
a_{12} & a_{22} & a_{23} & a_{24} \\
a_{13} & a_{23} & a_{33} & ...

**33**

votes

**4**answers

936 views

### If $A,B$ are upper triangular matrices such that $AX=XA\implies BX=XB$ for upper triangular $X$, is $B$ a polynomial in $A$?

A professor of mine told me that this is true, but he doesn't remember what the proof was or where to find it, and I haven't been able to find a source for it yet. As such I am looking for one here.
...

**32**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### Linear algebra in terms of abstract nonsense?

The categories of vector spaces and finite dimensional vector spaces are pretty much as nice as can be, I think.
I was wondering what portions of basic linear algebra (first couple of courses) fall ...

**32**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### Symmetric powers and duals of vector bundles in char p

Suppose that $X$ is a smooth projective variety (eg $P^n$) and $E$ is a vector bundle (eg the tangent bundle). If the characteristic is zero, then taking symmetric powers "commutes" with taking duals:
...

**32**

votes

**2**answers

2k views

### When exactly and why did matrix multiplication become a part of the undergraduate curriculum?

The story about Heisenberg inventing matrices and matrix multiplication in 1925 is very well known and well documented. A few weeks later, Born and Jordan read this work and recognized matrix ...

**32**

votes

**0**answers

2k views

### Correspondence between eigenvalue distributions of random unitary and random orthogonal matrices

In the course of a physics problem (arXiv:1206.6687), I stumbled on a curious correspondence between the eigenvalue distributions of the matrix product $U\bar{U}$, with $U$ a random unitary matrix and ...

**31**

votes

**2**answers

818 views

### Is it consistent with ZF that $V \to V^{\ast \ast}$ is always an isomorphism?

Let $k$ be a field and $V$ a $k$-vector space. Then there is a map $V \to V^{\ast \ast}$, where $V^{\ast}$ is the dual vector space. If we are in ZFC and $\dim V$ is infinite, then this map is not ...

**31**

votes

**3**answers

3k views

### How much linear algebra can be done with graphs?

Let G be a finite directed acyclic graph, with sources $A=\{a_1,\ldots,a_n\}$ and sinks $B=\{b_1,\ldots,b_n\}$, with edge weights $w_{ij}$. The weight of a directed path P is the product of weights of ...

**31**

votes

**4**answers

2k views

### Probability of zero in a random matrix

Let $M(n,k)$ be the set of $n\times n$ matrices of nonnegative integers such that every row and every column sums to $k$. Let $P(n,k)$ be the fraction of such matrices which have no zero entries, ...

**31**

votes

**1**answer

1k views

### solving linear equations made difficult

(Note: This is a what's-in-the-literature question, not a what's-mathematically-true question, but I believe both are considered valid kinds of MathOverflow question.)
I saw this amusing derivation ...

**30**

votes

**9**answers

14k views

### Fast Matrix Multiplication

Suppose we have two $n$ by $n$ matrices over particular ring. We want to multiply them as fast as possible. According to wikipedia there is an algorithm of Coppersmith and Winograd that can do it in $...

**29**

votes

**13**answers

4k views

### Elementary applications of linear algebra over finite fields

I'm teaching axiomatic linear algebra again this semester. Although the textbooks I'm using do everything over the real or complex numbers, for various reasons I prefer to work over an arbitrary ...

**29**

votes

**3**answers

2k views

### Perron-Frobenius “inverse eigenvalue problem”

The Perron-Frobenius theorem says that the largest eigenvalue of a positive real matrix (all entries positive) is real. Moreover, that eigenvalue has a positive eigenvector, and it is the only ...