Today I Learned

Some of the things I've learned every day since Oct 10, 2016

Monthly Archives: October 2016

21: Computation of Determinants

Because the computation of matrix determinants by cofactor expansion (Laplace expansion) is computationally very expensive — for example, computing the determinant of an n \times n matrix by this method requires over n! multiplications — other methods are usually used.

For instance, the simple method of using Gaussian elimination to reduce the matrix to its upper-triangular form, then taking the product of the diagonal to obtain the determinant, is just O(n^3) in multiplications. Other, even less expensive algorithms exist as well, such as the Bareiss algorithm.

20: Generalized Eigenspaces

If T is a linear operator on a finite-dimensional vector space V, and the characteristic polynomial of T splits, then for a given eigenvalue \lambda of T with multiplicity m, the generalized eigenspace corresponding to \lambda is

K_{\lambda} = \textrm{ker} ((T - \lambda I)^m)

19: Poisson Distribution

The distribution of a discrete random variable X is considered a Poisson Distribution if, given an event x an given interval N (which can be thought of a number of chances x is given to occur), the probability of x occurring exactly k times on that size interval is given by

P(k \textrm{ occurrences}) = \frac{\lambda ^k e^{- \lambda}}{k!},

where \lambda is the known average of occurrences given an identical interval.

[Restrictions: events must occur independently, and no more than one instance of an event can happen at a single point in the interval.]

A couple nice properties of Poisson-distributed random variables are that the expected value and variance are both equal to \lambda.

18: Kleene’s Theorem

Kleene’s Theorem states that a set is regular if and only if it is recognized by a finite-state automaton.

17: Linearity of Expectation

The expectation of a discrete random variable X, denoted \textrm{E}(X), is linear. That is, for random variables X, Y and a constant c,

\textrm{E}(cX + Y) = c \textrm{E}(X) + \textrm{E}(Y) .

16: S-Expressions

In the Lisp language, all code is written in the form of S-Expressions, which are essentially expressions in the form of parenthesized lists. For example, the expression of a function f being called on arguments a, b would be (f a b). The fact that code in Lisp is expressed in the form of the list data structure allows code to be manipulated as data, facilitating easy metaprogramming.

15: Context-Free Grammars

context-free grammar is a formal grammar in which the rewrite rules (or ‘productions’) of the grammar are all from single variables. That is, as implied in the name, the rewrite rules of a given variable in a context-free grammar are dependent only on that variable and not on any other ‘context’.


This is a valid subset of rewrite rules in a context-free grammar

X \rightarrow a

Y \rightarrow ab

while this is not

X \rightarrow a

Y \rightarrow ab

XY \rightarrow c

The violation of freedom-from-context in the latter example is due to the last rule, where the thing being rewritten is not a single variable.

14: Kolmogorov Complexity

The Kolmogorov Complexity of something is, naively speaking, the minimum length of a program which produces that thing as output. Even more naively, it can be thought of as the amount of information necessary in a ‘description’ of an object.

13: Schläfli Symbols of Self-Dual Polytopes

The Schläfli symbol of the dual of a polytope with dimension \geq 2 will simply be the reverse of that polytope’s symbol. Thus, such a polytope is self-dual if and only if its Schläfli symbol is palindromic.

12: The Cayley-Hamilton Theorem

The Cayley-Hamilton Theorem states that a linear operator T satisfies (is annihilated by) its own characteristic polynomial.

That is, if T: V \rightarrow V is a linear operator and

f(t) = a_0 + a_1t + a_2t^2 + \dots + a_nt^n

is its characteristic polynomial, then

f(T) = a_0I + a_1T + a_2T^2 + \dots + a_nT^n = T_0,

where T_0 is the zero transformation.