# 8 Square matrices continued: Determinants

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1 8 Square matrices continued: Determinants 8. Introduction Determinants give us important information about square matrices, and, as we ll soon see, are essential for the computation of eigenvalues. You have seen determinants in your precalculus courses. For a 2 2 matrix ( a b A =, c d the formula reads For a 3 3 matrix det(a = ad bc. a a 2 a 3 a 2 a 22 a 23 a 3 a 32 a 33, life is more complicated. Here the formula reads det(a = a a 22 a 33 + a 3 a 2 a 32 + a 2 a 23 a 3 a 2 a 2 a 33 a a 23 a 32 a 3 a 22 a 3. Things get worse quickly as the dimension increases. For an n n matrix A, the expression for det(a has n factorial = n! = 2... (n n terms, each of which is a product of n matrix entries. Even on a computer, calculating the determinant of a 0 0 matrix using this sort of formula would be unnecessarily time-consuming, and doing a matrix would take years! Some comments about computer arithmetic: It is often the case that the simple algorithms and definitions we use in class turn out to be cumbersone, inaccurate, and impossibly time-consuming when implemented on a computer. There are a number of reasons for this:. Floating point arithmetic, used on computers, is not at all the same thing as working with real numbers. On a computer, numbers are represented (approximately! in the form x = (d d 2 d n 2 a a 2 a m, where n and m might be of the order 50, and d... a m are binary digits (either 0 or. This is called the floating point representation (It s the decimal point that floats - you can represent the number 8 as , as 2 3, etc. As a simple example of what goes wrong, suppose that n = 5. Then 9 = , and therefore has the binary representation 00. Since it has 5 digits, it s represented correctly in our system. So is the number 9, represented by 00. But the product 9 9 = 7 has the binary representation 000, which has 8 digits. We can only keep 5 significant digits in our (admittedly primitive representation. So we have to

2 decide what to do with the trailing 0 (which is 3 in decimal. We can round up or down: If we round up we get 0000 = = 76, while rounding down gives = 68. Neither is a very good approximation to 7. Certainly a modern computer does a better job than this, and uses much better algorithms, but the problem, which is called roundoff error still remains. When we do a calculation on a computer, we almost never get the right answer. We rely on something called the IEEE standard to prevent the computer from making truly silly mistakes, but this doesn t always work. 2. Most people know that computer arithmetic is approximate, but they imagine that the representable numbers are somehow distributed evenly along the line, like the rationals. But this is not true: suppose that n = m = 5 in our little floating point system. Then there are 2 5 = 32 floating point numbers between = 2 0 and 2 = 2. They have binary representations of the form to.. (Note that changing the exponent of 2 doesn t change the number of significant digits; it just moves the decimal point. Similarly, there are precisely 32 floating point numbers between 2 and 4. And between 2 0 = 2 30 (approximately billion and 2 = 2 3 (approximately 2 billion! The floating point numbers are distributed logarithmically which is quite different from the even distribution of the rationals. Any number 2 3 or 2 3 can t be represented at all. Again, the numbers are lots bigger on modern machines, but the problem still remains. 3. A fundamental problem in many computations is that the computations don t scale the way we d like them to. If it takes 2 msec to compute a 2 2 determinant, we d like it to take 3 msec to do a 3 3 one,..., and n seconds to do an n n determinant. In fact, as you can see from the above definitions, it takes 3 operations (2 multiplications and one addition to compute the 2 2 determinant, but 7 operations (2 multiplications and 5 additions to do the 3 3 one. (Multiplying 3 numbers together, like xyz requires 2 operations: we multiply x by y, and the result by z. In the 4 4 case (whose formula is not given above, we need 95 operations (72 multiplications and 23 additions. The evaluation of a determinant according to the above rules is an excellent example of something we don t want to do. Similarly, we never solve systems of linear equations using Cramer s rule (except in some math textbooks!. 4. The study of all this (i.e., how to do mathematics correctly on a computer is an active area of current mathematical research known as numerical analysis. Fortunately, as we ll see below, computing the determinant is easy if the matrix happens to be in echelon form. You just need to do a little bookkeepping on the side as you reduce the matrix to echelon form. 2

3 8.2 The formal definition of det(a Let A be n n, and write r for the first row, r 2 for the second row, etc. Definition: The determinant of A is a real-valued function of the rows of A which we write as det(a = det(r, r 2,..., r n. It is completely determined by the following four properties:. Multiplying a row by the constant c multiplies the determinant by c: det(r, r 2,..., cr i,..., r n = c det(r, r 2,..., r i,..., r n 2. If row i is the sum of the two row vectors x and y, then the determinant is the sum of the two corresponding determinants: det(r, r 2,..., x + y,..., r n = det(r, r 2,..., x,..., r n + det(r, r 2,..., y,..., r n (These two properties are summarized by saying that the determinant is a linear function of each row. 3. Interchanging any two rows of the matrix changes the sign of the determinant: det(..., r i,..., r j... = det(..., r j,..., r i, The determinant of any identity matrix is. 8.3 Some consequences of the definition Proposition : If A has a row of zeros, then det(a = 0: Because if A = (..., 0,..., then A also = (..., c0,... for any c, and therefore, det(a = c det(a for any c (property. This can only happen if det(a = 0. Proposition 2: If r i = r j, i j, then det(a = 0: Because then det(a = det(..., r i,..., r j,... = det(..., r j,..., r i,..., by property 3, so det(a = det(a which means det(a = 0. Proposition 3: If B is obtained from A by replacing r i with r i +cr j, then det(b = det(a: det(b = det(..., r i + cr j,..., r j,... = det(..., r i,..., r j,... + det(..., cr j,..., r j,... = det(a + c det(..., r j,..., r j,... = det(a + 0 The second determinant vanishes because both the i th and j th rows are equal to r j. These properties, together with the definition, tell us exactly what happens to det(a when we perform row operations on A. 3

4 Theorem: The determinant of an upper or lower triangular matrix is equal to the product of the entries on the main diagonal. Proof: Suppose A is upper triangular and that none of the entries on the main diagonal is 0. This means all the entries beneath the main diagonal are zero. This means we can clean out each column above the diagonal by using a row operation of the type just considered above. The end result is a matrix with the original non zero entries on the main diagonal and zeros elsewhere. Then repeated use of property gives the result. A similar proof works for lower triangular matrices. For the case that one or more of the diagonal entries is 0, see the exercise below. Remark: This is the property we use to compute determinants, because, as we know, row reduction leads to an upper triangular matrix. Exercise (**: If A is an upper triangular matrix with one or more 0s on the main diagonal, then det(a = 0. (Hint: show that the GJ form has a row of zeros. Examples. Let A = ( Note that r = (2, = 2(,, so that, by property of the definition, 2 det(a = 2 det And by proposition 3, this = 2 det Using property again gives = (2( 2 det 2, 0 and by the theorem, this = Exercise: Evaluate det(a for Justify all your steps. A = ( We can derive the formula for a 2 2 determinant in the same way: Let ( a b A = c d 4

5 And suppose that a 0. Then b det(a = a det a c d b = det a 0 d bc a = a(d bc = ad bc a Exercises:: (*Suppose a = 0 in the matrix A. Then we can t divide by a and the above computation won t work. Show that it s still true that det(a = ad bc. Show that the three types of elementary matrices all have nonzero determinants. Using row operations, evaluate the determinant of the matrix A = (* Suppose that row k (A is a linear combination of rows i and j, where i j k: So r k = ar i + br j. Show that det(a = 0. There are two other important properties of the determinant, which we won t prove here. The determinant of A is the same as that of its transpose A t. Exercise (***: Prove this. Hint: suppose we do an elementary row operation on A, obtaining EA. Then (EA t = A t E t. What sort of column operation does E t do on A t? If A and B are square matrices of the same size, then det(ab = det(a det(b Exercise (***: Prove this. Begin by showing that for elementary matrices, det(e E 2 = det(e det(e 2. There are lots of details here. 5

6 From the second of these, it follows that if A is invertible, then det(aa = det(i = = det(a det(a, so det(a = / det(a. Definition: If the (square matrix A is invertible, then A is said to be non-singular. Otherwise, A is singular. Exercises: (**Show that A is invertible det(a 0. (Hint: use the properties of determinants together with the theorem on GJ form and existence of the inverse. (* A is singular the homogeneous equation Ax = 0 has nontrivial solutions. (Hint: If you don t want to do this directly, make an argument that this statement is logically equivalent to: A is non-singular the homogeneous equation has only the trivial solution. Compute the determinants of the following matrices using the properties of the determinant; justify your work: , , and π (* Suppose a = ( a a 2 and b = are two vectors in the plane. Let ( a b A = (a b = a 2 b 2 ( b Show that det(a equals ± the area of the parallelogram spanned by the two vectors. When is the sign plus? b 2. 6

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