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In elementary algebra letters are used to stand for numbers. For example, in the equation

ax2+bx+c=0, the letters a, b, and c stand for various known constant numbers called coefficients

and the letter x is an unknown variable number whose value depends on the values of a, b, and c

and may be determined by solving the equation. Much of classical algebra is concerned with

finding solutions to equations or systems of equations, i.e., finding the roots, or values of the

unknowns, that upon substitution into the original equation will make it a numerical identity. For

example, x=-2 is a root of x2-2x-8=0 because (-2)2-2(-2)-8=4+4-8=0; substitution will verify that

x=4 is also a root of this equation.

The equations of elementary algebra usually involve polynomial functions of one or more

variables (see function). The equation in the preceding example involves a polynomial of second

degree in the single variable x (see quadratic). One method of finding the zeros of the polynomial

function f(x), i.e., the roots of the equation f(x)=0, is to factor the polynomial, if possible. The

polynomial x2-2x-8 has factors (x+2) and (x-4), since (x+2)(x-4)=x2-2x-8, so that setting either of

these factors equal to zero will make the polynomial zero. In general, if (x-r) is a factor of a

polynomial f(x), then r is a zero of the polynomial and a root of the equation f(x)=0. To

determine if (x-r) is a factor, divide it into f(x); according to the Factor Theorem, if the remainder

f(r)—found by substituting r for x in the original polynomial—is zero, then (x-r) is a factor of

f(x). Although a polynomial has real coefficients, its roots may not be real numbers; e.g., x2-9

separates into (x+3)(x-3), which yields two zeros, x=-3 and x=+3, but the zeros of x2+9 are

imaginary numbers.

The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra states that every polynomial f(x)=anxn+an-1xn-1+ …

+a1x+a0, with an/=0 and n>=1, has at least one complex root, from which it follows that the

equation f(x)=0 has exactly n roots, which may be real or complex and may not all be distinct.

For example, the equation x4+4x3+5x2+4x+4=0 has four roots, but two are identical and the other

two are complex; the factors of the polynomial are (x+2)(x+2)(x+i)(x-i), as can be verified by

multiplication

algebra

algebra, branch of mathematics concerned with operations on sets of numbers or other elements

that are often represented by symbols. Algebra is a generalization of arithmetic and gains much

of its power from dealing symbolically with elements and operations (such as addition and

multiplication) and relationships (such as equality) connecting the elements. Thus, a+a=2a and

a+b=b+a no matter what numbers a and b represent.

Nils Barth

Harvard University

Abstract

independent, and if so, what is the volume of the parallelepiped with these vectors as its

sides. This function, the gramian, allows one to partially apply the determinant when the

number of vectors you have is less than the dimension of the ambient space. These results

were classically known, but are not part of the standard linear algebra curriculum.

Prerequisites: familiarity with matrices and determinants.

Introduction

Given k vectors in n-dimensional space, when are they linearly independent, and what is the

k-volume of the parallelepiped that they define? When k = n, the answer is familiar:

arrange the vectors in a matrix and take the determinant. The vectors are then linearly

dependent iff the determinant is zero, and otherwise the volume of the parallelepiped,

Vol(v1,...,vk), is the absolute value of the determinant. For k < n, the widely known answers

are piecemeal: for k = 2, n = 3, one can use the cross product; to determine linear

dependence, one can use gaussian elimination, though this is an algorithm, rather than a

formula. Ideally, one would have some analog for the determinant which applies when the

number of vectors is not equal to the dimension of the ambient space. This answer is

provided in the gramian, which we introduce below; we loosely follow [1].

Notation and Review

Let us fix a vector space Kn, where K is a subfield of the complex numbers. For example, let

K = R, the real numbers, which is euclidean space; the other main example is the complex

numbers, and there is little loss of generality in only considering these. We write vectors

vertically and covectors (elements of the dual space (Kn)*) horizontally. We write W < V to

indicate that W is a subspace of V. Given a collection of vectors { v1,...,vk}, denote the

parallelepiped with sides v1,...,vk by P(v1,...,vk).

If { v1,...,vk} is linearly dependent, this definition doesn't make sense; more formally,

(1)

When { v1,...,vk} are linearly independent, P(v1,...,vk) has a well-defined k-volume (volume

as a subset of k-dimensional space); when they are linearly dependent, this volume is zero.

Note that if you have, for instance, 3 vectors in 2-space, then P(v1,...,v3) has non-zero

volume as a subset of 2-space, but it is "flat" and thus has zero volume as a subset of 3-

space.

Recall that an inner product is a choice of distance (and also volume) in a vector space; the

main example is the dot product, defined as

v·w = v*w,

(2)

which is a scalar, and where v* = conj(v)T is the complex conjugate of the transpose. We

take complex conjugates so that complex vectors have real length; if K = R, this reduces to

v·w = vTw. We define the norm (length) of v as

||v|| = v·v = v*v.

(3)

Matrices that preserve distances and angles, i.e., Ov·Ow = v·w, are of particular interest,

and are called orthogonal;2 these correspond to rigid motions. For instance, orthogonal

transforms of R2 are rotations and reflections.

The Gramian and Its Basic Properties

Definition 4 [gramian] The gramian of v1,...,vk is G(v1,...,vk) = detM*M, where

M = (v1...vk)

(5)

Note the similarity to the norm (3); in fact, G(v) = ||v||, so the gramian of a single vector

is the length, i.e., the 1-dimensional volume, of that vector.

If we calculate the entries of M*M, we obtain the following characterization of the gramian:

Definition 6 [gramian-alternate] G(v1,...,vk) = detA, where aij = vi·vj.

This presentation shows that the matrix M*M captures all the geometric information about

the vectors { v1,...,vk}: the length of the vectors and the angles between them. Further,

this is the only information that it contains; we've lost the particular orientations of the

vectors and their embedding in n-space. We claim that this is enough information to easily

determine the volume.

Consider the case where k = n; then det M*M = [conj(det M)](det M) = |det M|2. In

particular, G(v1,...,vk) >= 0. Since Vol(v1,...,vk) = |det M|, we obtain:

= G(v1,...,vk)^1/2 (7)

The (i,j)-th entry of A = M*M is vi·vj; the above shows that the volume depends only on

these inner products.

For any collection of k vectors, the above holds by simply restricting to a k-dimensional

subspace containing them; that is, Vol(v1,...,vk) = detA. By using (6), we obtain the

following geometric characterization of the gramian:

Proposition 8 Vol(v1,...,vk) = G(v1,...,vk)^1/2.

Note that in case k =< n, we still have G(v1,...,vk) >= 0, so this is well-defined.

Proof. The proof was sketched above; we fill in the details here.

Given v1,...,vk, where k =< n, assume that they are linearly independent3 and pick an

orthonormal basis w1,...,wk for their span, W. Extend to an orthonormal basis w1,...,wn for

Kn; the matrix O sending wi --> ei is an orthogonal change of coordinates, so it does not

change inner products: O(v)·O(w) = v·w. Let v'i = O(vi); then

m1i

[

]

[

m2i ]

[

]

[

: ]

[

]

[

(v'i) = mki ]

[ ,

]

[

0 ]

[

]

[

: ]

[

]

[

0 ]

since vi is in the span of w1,...,wk. The set { v'1,...,v'k} visibly lies in the k-dimensional

subspace of vectors with last n-k coordinates zero, so the k-volume of P(v'1,...,v'k) is |det

M|, where mij is defined as above. Effectively, we are restricting to the subspace W. By the

discussion before this proposition, Vol(v'1,...,v'k) = {det M*M}^1/2 (we're just dropping the

trailing zeros). Since O is orthogonal,

Vol(v'1,...,v'k) = Vol(v1,...,vk)

(9)

G(v1,...,vk)^1/2 = Vol(v'1,...,v'k) = Vol(v1,...,vk),

(10)

as desired.

When k > n, the vectors are linearly dependent, so the k-volume of P(v1,...,vk) is zero. In

this case the gramian is zero, by the argument in the proof of (11), below. [X]

In particular, the k-volume of P(v1,...,vk) is zero iff { v1,...,vk} don't form the sides of a k-

parallelepiped; that is, if P(v1,...,vk) has dimension less than k. This yields:

Corollary 11 [Gram's criterion for linear dependence of vectors] The set of vectors

{ v1,...,vk } is linearly dependent iff G(v1,...,vk) = 0.

Proof. We just dealt with the case k =< n; it remains to show that if k > n, the gramian is

zero. Consider A = M*M; each row of the k×k matrix A is a linear combination of rows of M,

of which there are n. Thus, the row-rank of A is at most n < k, so its determinant is zero.

[X]

Note that the gramian is always nonnegative,4 and equals zero iff the vectors are linearly

dependent. As a consequence, we obtain the familiar:

Corollary 12 [Bunyakovskii-Cauchy-Schwarz inequality] (v·w)2 =< ||v|| ||w||, with

equality iff v,w are linearly dependent (one is a multiple of the other).

Proof. G(v,w) => 0, with equality iff v,w are linearly dependent. Now

( v·v v·w

) ( ||v|| v·w )

G(v,w) = det (

) = det ( ) = ||v|| ||w||-(v·w)2;(13)

( w·v w·w

) ( v·w ||w|| )

Important in your Life

Mathematics is one of the first things you learn in life. Even as a baby you learn to count. Starting

from that tiny age you will start to learn how to use building blocks how to count and then move on

to drawing objects and figures. All of these things are important preparation to doing algebra.

The key to opportunity

These are the years of small beginnings until the day comes that you have to be able to do

something as intricate as algebra. Algebra is the key that will unlock the door before you. Having

the ability to do algebra will help you excel into the field that you want to specialize in. We live in

a world where only the best succeed.

Taking a detour on not

Having the ability and knowledge to do algebra will determine whether you will take the short cut

or the detour in the road of life. In other words, ample opportunities or career choices to decide

from or limited positions with a low annual income.

Prerequisite for advanced training

Most employers expect their employees to be able to do the fundamentals of algebra. If you want to

do any advanced training you will have to be able to be fluent in the concept of letters and symbols

used to represent quantities.

Science

When doing any form of science, whether just a project or a lifetime career choice, you will have to

be able to do and understand how to use and apply algebra.

Every day life

Formulas are a part of our lives. Whether we drive a car and need to calculate the distance, or need

to work out the volume in a milk container, algebraic formulas are used everyday without you even

realizing it.

Analysis

When it comes to analyzing anything, whether the cost, price or profit of a business you will need

to be able to do algebra. Margins need to be set and calculations need to be made to do strategic

planning and analyzing is the way to do it.

Data entry

What about the entering of any data. Your use of algebraic expressions and the use of equations

will be like a corner stone when working with data entry. When working on the computer with

spreadsheets you will need algebraic skills to enter, design and plan.

Decision making

Decisions like which cell phone provider gives the best contracts to deciding what type of vehicle

to buy, you will use algebra to decide which one is the best one. By drawing up a graph and

weighing the best option you will get the best value for your money.

Interest Rates

How much can you earn on an annual basis with the correct interest rate. How will you know

which company gives the best if you can't work out the graphs and understand the percentages. In

today's life a good investment is imperative.

Writing of assignments

When writing any assignments the use of graphs, data and math will validate your statements and

make it appear more professional. Professionalism is of the essence if you want to move ahead and

be taken seriously.

Can you see the importance of algebra? Your day can be made a lot easier with planning. In

financial decisions this can save you a lot of finances or maybe get you the best price available. It

all comes down to planning and using the knowledge and algebraic skills you have to benefit your

own life.

We use algebra when comparing the prices of phone networks or cars and

working out how long it could take to get to a certain location. Also for how

much paint you would need to decorate a certain area and how many

plants can be planted onto a certain area. Below is an example of how algebra

can be used when seeing the amount of items you could buy for a certain

amount of money:

If you go to the grocery store and have ten dollars to spend on two dollar candy

bars. This gives us the equation 2x = 10 where x is the number of candy bars you

can buy. Many people don't realize that this sort of calculation is Algebra, they just

sub-contiously do it!

(if you did it during your school years) you maybe need to pass your course.

complex concepts found in our daily jobs. Algebra is a reasoning science, so I guess

that studying it lets your brain awake up to its abstract side, to exercise it, to grow

it.

Algebra is used a lot in the Business world. Walmart for instance became one of the

largest US corporations because the founder realized that he could reduce his costs

by about 5% doing his own shipping and distribution. 5% may not sound like a lot,

but when you're looking at billions of dollars, it adds up quick. Percentages are

ratios, which are algebraic. A lot of the algebra used is done by machines such as

cash registers, however the application is much more in depth when you start

looking at more technical fields such as engineering, medicine, food science, etc. A

doctor for example may need to figure out how long he needs to keep a patient off

of one medication, using logarithmic decay of concentration in the body over time,

before it is safe to start a new medication. Bankers also use logarithmic functions as

compound interest is can be looked at as a logarithmic function, so the banker has

to be able to calculate the net value of an account. In the food service industry,

cleanliness standards, and food handling standards are determined by exponential

growth of pathogens in prepared food with known conditions.

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