# The Determinant: a Means to Calculate Volume

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1 The Determinant: a Means to Calculate Volume Bo Peng August 20, 2007 Abstract This paper gives a definition of the determinant and lists many of its well-known properties Volumes of parallelepipeds are introduced, and are shown to be related to the determinant by a simple formula The reader is assumed to have knowledge of Gaussian elimination and the Gram-Schmidt orthogonalization process Determinant Preliminaries We will define determinants inductively using minors Given an n n matrix A, the (r, s) minor is the determinant of the submatrix A rs of A obtained by crossing out row r and column s of A The determinant of an n n matrix A, written det(a), or sometimes as A, is defined to be the number ( 1) r+1 a r1 M r1 r=1 where M k1 is the (k, 1) minor of A This expression is commonly referred to as expansion along the first column Of course, for this definition to make sense, we need to give the base case: () a b det = ad bc c d We now go over some easy properties of the determinant function Theorem 1 If Ã is obtained from A by interchanging two rows, then det(a) = det(ã) Proof If we show the result for any two adjacent rows, the general result follows, since the swapping of any two rows may be written as the composition of an odd number of adjacent row swaps We proceed by induction For the 2 2 base case, let a11 a A = 12 a 21 a 22 Recall that det(a) = a 11 a 22 a 12 a 21 Hence, interchanging two rows gives a21 a Ã = 22 a 11 a 12 So det(ã) = a 21a 12 a 22 a 11 = (a 11 a 22 a 12 a 21 ) = det(a) For the inductive step, suppose the statement is true for any (n 1) (n 1) matrix Let A be any n n matrix, and let Ã be obtained from A by exchanging rows r and r + 1 We have, by the definition of the determinant: det(a) = ( 1) i+1 a i1 M i1 1

2 From the inductive hypothesis, M k1 = N k1, where N k1 is the (k, 1) minor of Ã and k r, r + 1 Therefore, setting Ã = {a ij }, n det Ã = ( 1) n a i1n i1 as desired r 1 = ( 1) i+1 a i1 M i1 + ( 1) r+1 a r1m (r+1)1 + ( 1) r+2 a (r+1)1 M r1 r 1 = ( 1) i+1 a i1 M i1 ( 1) r+1 a r1 M r1 ( 1) r+2 a (r+1)1 M (r+1)1 = det A, ( 1) i+1 a i1 M i1 i=s+1 ( 1) i+1 a i1 M i1 i=s+1 To set up the next theorem, we first define what it means for the determinant function to be multi-linear The determinant function is multi-linear if the following two properties hold First, for any scalar value q and any row s of an n n matrix A, a 11 a 1n a 11 a 1n det qa s1 qa sn = q det a s1 a sn a n1 a nn a n1 a nn Second, given two n n matrices A and B of the form a 11 a 1n a 11 a 1n A = and B = b s1 b sn a n1 a nn a n1 a nn where all corresponding rows between A and B are equal except for a row s, the sum det A+det B is equal to the determinant of C, where a 11 a 1n C = a s1 + b s1 a sn + b sn a n1 a nn Theorem 2 The determinant function is multi-linear Proof Given an n n matrix A, we prove the first condition of multi-linearity by induction on n First, for the 2 2 case, () a b qa qb a b q det = q(ad bc) = (qa)d (qb)c = det = a(qd) b(qc) = det c d c d qc qd Now it remains to show that the statement is true for the n n case, given the (n 1) (n 1) case Given an n n matrix A let Ã = {a ij } be obtained by multiplying each entry of an 2

3 arbitrary row of A, say row s, by a scalar q Expand det Ã along the first column as per the definition: det(ã) = n r=1 ( 1) r+1 a r1n r1, where N r1 is the (r, 1) minor of Ã Let M r1 be the (r, 1) minor of A When r s, the determinant N r1 will also have a row where each term is multiplied by a scalar q Hence, by inductive hypothesis, N r1 = qm r1 When r = s, the (r, 1) minor N r1 is not multiplied by q; hence the (n 1) (n 1) determinant N r1 is equal to the determinant M r1 Instead, the (r, 1) entry of A is multiplied by q Thus, det Ã = n ( 1) r+1 qa r1 M r1 = q ( 1) r+1 a r1 M r1 = q det A The second condition of multi-linearity follows from a very similar inductive argument, so we leave it out Theorem 3 The determinant of an upper triangular matrix is the product of the diagonal entries Proof By induction The base case follows from an easy calculation Now suppose the result is true for any (n 1) (n 1) matrix Given the n n upper triangular matrix: a 11 a 21 a 13 a 1n 0 a 22 a 22 a 2n A = 0 0 a 33 a 3n a nn Simply expand along the first column, as per our definition of the determinant Then we obtain: det(a) = a i1 M i1 = a 11 M 11 + a 21 M a n1 M n1 Since a i1 = 0 for all i = 2, 3,, n, all that remains is the term a 11 M 11 But M 11 is an (n 1) (n 1) upper triangular matrix comprising the entries in the lower right of the matrix A By the inductive hypothesis, this (1,1) minor is the product of its diagonal entries: M 11 = a 22 a nn Thus, det(a) = a 11 M 11 = a 11 a 22 a nn which is the product of the diagonal entries of A The next two theorems will be important in the proof relating volumes and determinants Theorem 4 For any matrix A, we have det(a) = det(a T ) Proof In order to prove this, we will need a closed form equation for the determinant of a matrix in terms of its entries that follows easily from observation: Let A = {a i } n, then det A = σ sgn(σ)a σ1 a σ2 a σn, where the sum is taken over all possible permutations σ of (1,, n) The sign of the permutation sgn(σ) is +1 if σ is an even permutation and 1 otherwise It is obvious from this formula that det A = det A T, as needed 3

4 Theorem 4 gives us quite a bit All the theorems having to do with columns are now true for rows as well Further, in the definition of the determinant, we now see how we can expand along other rows or columns and still get the same answer up to a minus sign Recall that an elementary matrix is one that adds a multiple of one row to another Further, Gaussian elimination without pivoting is the procedure used to find elementary matrices E 1,, E n such that E 1 E n A is an upper-triangular matrix We will simply refer to this as Gaussian elimination Theorem 5 Let E be an elementary n n matrix and A an arbitrary n n matrix Then det(a) = det(ea) = det(ae) Proof Multiplication by an elementary matrix adds one row to another We will use Theorem 2 Suppose Ã is obtained from A by adding row i to row j Let B be the matrix obtained from A by replacing row i with the elements in row j By Theorem 1, det(b) = det(b), so det(b) = 0 Thus, by multi-linearity of the determinant, det(a) = det(ã) + det(b) = det(ã) Multiplying A on the right by an elementary matrix operates on A by adding a multiple of a one column to another Taking transposes and using Theorem 4 finishes the proof: det(ae) = det((ae) T ) = det(e T A T ) = det(a T ) = det(a) Theorem 6 For any n n matrices A and B, we have det(a) det(b) = det(ab) Proof If A and B are upper triangular matrices, Theorem 3 gives that det(a) det(b) = det(ab) We will use this to prove the general case By Gaussian elimination we may write A = E 1 E n U and B = LF 1 F n where E i and Fi T are elementary matrices and U and V are upper triangular matrices Then by successively applying Theorem 5, det(a) = det(u) and det(b) = det(v ), and so det(ab) = det(uv ) = det(u) det(v ) = det(a) det(b), as needed Remark: Any elementary matrix E has det(e) = 1 Indeed, det(ea) = det(a) = det(e) det(a) Volumes of Parallelepipeds We will define the n-dimensional parallelepiped P in vector space R n, from which we take any vectors x 1,, x k Take the span of these vectors with the coefficients t i, as follows: Let P = {t 1 x t k x k 0 t i 1, i = 1,, k} Then P is a k-dimensional parallelepiped in vector space R n, where the vectors x 1,, x k are edges of P In order to define volume, we need the following Lemma 1 For any vectors v, w 1,, w m in R k, we may find vectors B and C so that v = B+C, where B is perpendicular to all w i, i = 1,, m and C is in the span of w i, i = 1,, m Proof Apply the Gram-Schmidt process to w 1,, w m to retrieve vectors a 1,, a m that are orthonormal and span the same space as w i, i = 1,, m Let B = v m v a ia i Then B is perpendicular to all the a i and hence to the w i, and similarly v B is in the span of the w i We can now define the volume of P by induction on k The volume is the product of a certain base and altitude of P The base of P is the area of the (k 1)-dimensional parallelepiped with edges x 2,, x k The Lemma gives x 1 = B + C so that B is orthogonal to all of the x i, i 2 and C is in the span of the x i, i 2 The altitude is the length of B Notice that we have made specific choices for the base and height of a given parallelepiped that depend on the ordering of the vertices As intuition suggests, this ordering does not matter, and we will see this as a result of the following theorem that relates volume to the determinant function 4

5 Theorem 7 Given an m-dimensional parallelepiped P in n-dimensional space, the square of the volume of P is the determinant of the matrix obtained from multiplying A by its transpose A T, where α 1 α 2 A = α m and the rows of A are the edges of P More precisely, vol(p ) 2 = det(aa T ) Proof First note that A may be a rectangular matrix (nowhere is it specified that m must equal n) Since we may only take determinants of square matrices, we need to make sure that AA T is a square matrix Indeed, as P is an m-dimensional parallelepiped in n-dimensional space, A is an m n matrix, and hence, A T is an n m matrix so (AA T ) is an m m square matrix We will prove the theorem by induction on m The base case m = 1 has AA T equal to the square of the length of the vector A, and hence is trivially vol(p ) 2 Suppose, for the inductive step, that det(dd T ) = vol(p ) 2 for any (m 1) n matrix D For the m n case, let α 1 α 2 A = α m By Lemma 1, we may write α 1 = B+C such that B is orthogonal to all of the vectors α 2,, α m and C is in the span of α 2,, α m Let B α 2 Ã = α m As C is in the span of α 2,, α m and α 1 = B + C we see that there exist elementary matrices E i, i = 1,, m 1 so that A = E 1 E m 1 Ã Thus, by the product formula, det(a T A) = det(e 1 E m 1 ÃÃT E T m 1 E T 1 ) = det(ããt ) To use the inductive hypothesis, let D = ( α2 T αm) T T, the matrix obtained by removing the first row from A By the definition of matrix multiplication, B (B ÃÃT = D T D ) BB T T BD = T DB T DD T Since B is orthogonal to the rows of D, we have BD T and DB T are both filled by zeros Hence expanding along the first row of ÃÃT gives det(ããt ) = BB T det(dd T ) By inductive hypothesis, det(dd T ) is the square of the volume of the base of P And by choice of B, BB T is the square of the length of the altitude of P Hence det(ããt ) = (vol(p )) 2, as desired 5

6 Remarks It is not necessarily true that vol(p ) 2 = det(a T A) if A is not square In fact, in the case when A is not square, one of det(a T A) and det(aa T ) is always zero! Furthermore, since vol 2 (P ) 0, Theorem 7 shows that the determinant of any matrix multiplied by its transpose is nonnegative Lastly, as swapping rows only changes the sign of the determinant, we see that in the definition of the volume of a parallelepiped, a different choice of base would result in the same value for volume Corollary 1 Given an m-dimensional parallelepiped P in m-dimensional space, we have vol(p ) = det(a) Proof If A is a square matrix, applying the product formula gives det(aa T ) = det(a) 2 As an application of this relation between volume and the determinant we have the following: Corollary 2 Let T be a triangle with vertices (x 1, y 1 ), (x 1, y 2 ) and (x 3, y 3 ) Then Area(T ) = 1 2 det x 1 y 1 1 x 2 y 2 1 x 3 y 3 1 Proof Subtracting the last row from each of the others gives x 1 y 1 1 x 1 x 3 y 1 x 3 0 det x 2 y 2 1 = det x 2 x 3 y 2 x 3 0 x 3 y 3 1 x 3 y 3 1 Now expanding the determinant along the last row gives det x 1 x 3 y 1 x 3 0 x 2 x 3 y 2 x 3 0 x1 x = det 3 y 1 x 3 x x 3 y x 3 y 2 x 3 x1 y = det 1 x 2 y 2 The absolute value of this last quantity is, by Corollary 1, exactly 2 Area(T ) References [1] Tom M Apostol Calculus, volume 2 Wiley, New York, 2nd edition, 1969 [2] Garrett Birkhoff and Saunders Mac Lane A Survey of Modern Algebra AK Peters, Wellesley, Massachusetts, 1997 [3] Gilbert Strang Linear Algebra and its Applications Harcourt, Fort Worth Philadelphia,

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