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6.

Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

Finite Dimensional Vector Spaces and Bases


If a vector space V is spanned by a finite number of
vectors, we say that it is finite dimensional.
Most of the vector spaces we treat in this course are
finite dimensional.
Examples:
For any positive integer n, R n is a finite
dimensional vector space. Indeed, the set of
vectors

{E1 = (1, 0, 0,, 0),


E2 = (0, 1, 0,, 0 ),
L
En = (0, 0, 0,, 1)}
is a spanning set for the vector space, since every
vectorX = ( x1 , x 2 ,, x n ) R n is expressible as a
linear combination of these vectors:

X = x1
E1 + x 2 E2 + L + x n En

For any positive integer k, Pk(R) is finite


dimensional.
Every polynomial p(x ) Pk(R) is

clearly a linear combination of the k + 1


polynomials in the set {1, x, x 2 ,, x k } .

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

For any finite set S, the vector space Fun(S,R) is


finite dimensional since the set of characteristic
functions { s |s S} (one characteristic function
for each element of S) is a finite set with the
property that any function f in Fun(S,R) is a
linear combination of characteristic functions:

f (t) = f ( s) s (t)
sS

A direct corollary to the theorem we last proved is

the important
Theorem If V is a finite dimensional vector space,
then there is a finite set B of vectors in V that
(1) spans V (that is, V = L(B) ), and (2) is linearly
independent. //
Any set of linearly independent vectors in a vector
space which span the space is called a basis for V.
Thus, the examples above all describe bases for
their respective vector spaces. Note that B is not
uniquely determined; there are in general many
different bases for the same vector space.

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

However, while there may be more than one basis


for a given vector space, there is one invariant that
stays the same from basis to basis in the same
vector space: its size. To prove this, we first work
through a long but technically useful result.
Proposition Let the n vectors X1, X2,, Xn from
the vector space V determine the subspace
L(X1, X2,, Xn). If S is any set of linearly
independent vectors in U = L(X1, X2,, Xn), then S
can contain no more than n vectors.
Proof Suppose S = {S1 , S 2 ,, Sk } ; we need to show
that k n. So consider this set of vectors in U:
T1 = {Sk , X 1 , X 2 ,, X n } .
Since Sk U = L(X1, X2,, Xn), we can express Sk
as a linear
combination of the Xs:

(*)

Sk = a1 X 1 + a 2 X 2 + L + a n X n .

At least one of the as must be nonzero, for


otherwise, Sk = 0, which contradicts the

assumption that S is a linearly independent set.


By renumbering the Xs if necessary, we may

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

assume that an 0 . So we can solve for Xn in (*).


This implies that any vector in U = L(X1, X2,, Xn)
is also a vector in L( Sk , X1, X2,, Xn1); since the
opposite
is true, too, then U = L( Sk , X1, X2,, Xn1).
Next, consider
the set

T2 = {Sk 1 , Sk , X 1 , X 2 ,, X n 1 } .
Arguing as above, we know that Sk 1
L(Sk , X1, X2,, Xn1), so we can find a linear
relation of the form

(**) Sk 1 = rk Sk + a1 X 1 + a 2 X 2 + L + a n 1 X n 1
for appropriately chosen scalars. Again, at least
one of the as must be nonzero, otherwise there is a
linear relation amongst vectors of S in violation of
the assumption that S is a linearly independent set.
So by renumbering the Xs, we may assume now
that an 1 0 . We can then solve for Xn1 in (**).
This implies that any vector in U =
L( Sk , X1, X2,, Xn1) is also a vector in
L( Sk 1 , Sk , X 1 , X 2 ,, X n 2 ); since the converse is
also true, then U = L( Sk 1 , Sk , X 1 , X 2 ,, X n 2 ).

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

Each time we repeat this argument, we express U


in terms of a new set of n vectors, replacing one of
the Xs with one of the Ss. If k > n, then at the nth
stage of this argument, we would have replaced all
of the Xs with Ss, showing that
U = L( Sk n +1 , Sk n + 2 ,K, Sk ).

But then S1 U, but S1 is not among the vectors


Sk n +1 , Sk
n + 2 ,K, Sk , implying that there is a linear
dependence amongst the vectors in S, again a
violation
of the

assumption that S is a linearly


independent set. This impossibility means that k
cannot be larger than n, so k n, completing the
proof. //
Theorem Every finite dimensional vector space V
has a basis, and any two bases for V have the same
number of vectors.
Proof The first theorem above shows why V has a
basis, so we need only prove the second statement
here. Suppose then that S = {S1 , S 2 ,, Sm } and
T = {T1 , T2 ,, Tn } are both bases for V. Since T is
a basis, V is spanned by the vectors in T. But then
S is a linearly independent
set of vectors in

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

V = L(T1, T2,, Tn), so by the previous proposition,


we conclude that m n. Then, by reversing the
roles of S and T in this argument, we conclude that
n m. So m = n, and we are done. //
An important consequence of this theorem is that
while a finite dimensional vector space can have
many bases, they must all have the same size. We
can then define the dimension of the vector space
V to be the size of any basis for it. It is denoted
dimV.
Examples:
dim R n = n since
{E1 = (1, 0, 0,, 0),
E2 = (0, 1, 0,, 0 ),
L
En = (0, 0, 0,, 1)}

is a basis, as we saw earlier; it is called the


n
canonical
or
standard
basis
for
R
.

dimPk(R) = k + 1 since {1, x, x 2 ,, x k } is a basis, the


canonical basis for Pk(R).

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

If S is a finite set with |S| elements, then


dim Fun(S,R) = |S|, for we saw above that
{ s |s S} is a basis for this vector space.
Now not all vector spaces are finite dimensional.

Proposition P(R) is infinite dimensional.

Proof The infinite set {1, x, x 2 , x 3 ,} of powers of


the variable x is a linearly independent set in P(R),
for there can be no nontrivial linear combination of
any finitely many
of these powers of x that is
identically equal to the zero polynomial. Indeed,
any finite subset of this infinite set is linearly
dependent as well. So if P(R) were finite
dimensional, it would have a basis B of finite size,
say n. Simply by taking m > n vectors from
{1, x, x 2 , x 3 ,} , we would then have more than n
linearly dependent vectors in the vector space
P(R) = L(B). This contradicts the conclusion of the
proposition we proved earlier, so this situation is
not possible. Thus, P(R) must be infinite
dimensional. //

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

Proposition If S is an infinite set, then Fun(S,R)


is infinite dimensional.
Proof { s |s S} is a linearly independent set in
Fun(S,R) having infinitely many elements. //
Henceforth, we will make a standing assumption
(unless otherwise explicitly mentioned) that all
vector spaces we study are finite dimensional.

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

The importance of finding a basis s described in the


following theorem.
Theorem Let B = { A 1 , A 2 ,, A n } be a basis for the
n-dimensional vector space V. Then every X V
is uniquely expressible as a linear combination of
the vectors
in B, that is, there exists a unique
collection of scalars x1 , x 2 ,, x n depending
only on

X, called the coordinates of X relative to the


basis B, so that X = x1 A 1 + x 2 A 2 + L + x n A n .

Proof Since B spans V, it is always possible to


express
X as a linear combination of the vectors in
B; our task then is to show that this can be done in
only one way. But if we could express X in more
than one way as a linear combination of the vectors
in B, then we could write
x1 A 1 + x 2 A 2 + L + x n A n = x1 A 1 + x 2 A 2 + L + xn A n
where x1 , x 2 ,, x n and x1 , x 2 ,, x n are two sets of
coordinates for X relative to the basis B. But then

(x1 x 1 )A 1 + (x 2 x 2 )A 2 + L + (x n xn )A n = 0

would be a nontrivial linear combination of the


vectors in B equal to the zero vector, in violation of
the fact that B is linearly independent. //

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

10

Examples:
B = {(1,1,0), (0,1,1), (1, 0,1)} is a basis for R 3
different from the canonical basis {E1, E2 ,E3 }.
Every vector in R 3 is expressible uniquely in
coordinates relative to B, as follows:
to write

X = (x
1, x2, x3 ) = a1(1,1,0) + a2 (0,1,1) + a3 (1,0,1)
we expand to the system of equations

x1 = a1

+ a3

x2 = a1 + a2
x3 =

a2 + a3

and find the unique solution for the as:


a1 = 12 (x1 + x 2 x3 ), a2 = 12 (x1 + x2 + x 3 ), and

1
a3 = 2 (x1 x 2 + x3 ).

B = {1, 1 + x, 1 + x + x 2 } is a basis for P2(R) different

from the canonical


basis {1, x, x 2 }. Every vector in
P2(R) is expressible uniquely in coordinates
relative to B, as follows: to write
2
p(x) = p 0 + p1x + p2 x = a1 1 + a2 (1 + x) + a3 (1 + x + x 2 )

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

11

we expand and collect terms to obtain the system


of equations
p0 = a1 + a2 + a3
p1 =

a2 + a 3

p2 =

a3

and find the unique solution for the as:


a1 = p0 p1, a2 = p1 p 2 , and a3 = p2 .

At the end of the previous section, we proved a


that showed that
if S is a set of vectors that
theorem
spans a finite dimensional vector space V, then there
is a subset B of S that forms a basis for V, that is,
for which V = L(B). In other words, every spanning
set of vectors in a vector space can be trimmed to
form a basis. The following theorem is a
companion result. It says that any linearly
independent set of vectors can be extended to form
a basis.

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

12

Theorem If S is a set of linearly independent


vectors in a finite dimensional vector space V, then
S is a subset of a basis B for V; that is, V = L(B).

Proof Let S = {S1 , S 2 ,, Sm } . If V = L(S), we can


take B = S and there is nothing to prove.
Otherwise, S does not span V, so there is some
vector
X1 V which is not in L(S). Then
T1 = {S1 , S 2 ,, Sm , X 1 } is a linearly independent
set, for if there are scalars for which

r1S1 + r2S 2 + L + rm Sm + a1 X 1 = 0,
then we must have a1 = 0 (else we can solve for X1
and
show that X1 L(S), a contradiction), which
then gives a linear relation amongst the linearly
independent
vectors in S, another contradiction. If
V = L( T1
), then B = T1 is a basis for V. If not,
there is some vector X2 V which is not in L( T1 ).
So T2 = {S1 , S 2 ,, Sm , X 1 , X 2 } is a linearly
independentset (why?). If V = L( T2 ), then B = T2
is a basis for V. Otherwise, we can continue

expanding our set. Eventually, this process must

end, for when the size of the


set reaches dimV, it
must span V. //

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

13

Proposition Suppose V is a vector space of


dimension n. Then
(1) any set of n linearly independent vectors in V
spans the space, so is a basis for V, and
(2) any set of n vectors in V that span the space is
linearly independent, so is a basis for V. //

Proof (1) Since dimV = n, no set S of linearly


independent vectors can have size greater than n.
Thus, expanding S by including any other vector
X V must produce a linearly dependent set. That
is, where S = {S1 , S 2 ,, Sn } , there are scalars that
satisfy r1S1 + r2S 2 + L + rn Sn + aX = 0. But a 0
(else S is not linearly independent), so we can solve
the
equation for X and show that X L(S). This
argument shows that V = L(S). So S spans the
space and is therefore a basis for V.

(2) If S is a spanning set for V , then by the


previous theorem, it can be expanded to form a
basis; but it already has size n, and no basis for V
can have more than n vectors. Thus S must
already be a basis and it is linearly independent. //

6. Finite Dimesnional Vector Spaces and Bases

14

These ideas can now be used to describe the


relationship between a vector space and its
subspaces with respect to dimension.
Theorem If V is a finite dimensional vector space
and U is a subspace, then U is finite dimensional
and dimU dimV .
Proof If U were not finite dimensional, then it
would contain a set of m linearly independent
vectors for aribitrarily large values of m, in
particular, for m > dimV . But since U is a
subspace of V, this would give a set of more than
dimV linearly independent vectors in V, which is
not possible. Thus, not only is U finite
dimensional, but any set of linearly independent
vectors in U has size dimV . Thus any basis for
U has size dimU dimV . //
Corollary If V is a (finite dimensional) vector
space and U is a subspace of the same dimension,
then U = V . //