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# Unitary Matrices and Hermitian Matrices

conjugate of

is denoted

is

or

. The

## In this section, I'll use

for complex conjugation of numbers of matrices. I want
to use
to denote an operation on matrices, the conjugate transpose.
Thus,

(a) If

, then

(b) If

, then

(c) If

, then

## if and only if z is a real number.

The proofs are easy; just write out the complex numbers (e.g.
and
) and compute.
The conjugate of a matrix A is the matrix
element: That is,

## You can check that if A and B are matrices and

, then

You can prove these results by looking at individual elements of the matrices and
using the properties of conjugation of numbers given above.
Definition. If A is a complex matrix,

## is the conjugate transpose of A:

Note that the conjugation and transposition can be done in either order: That
is,
. To see this, consider the
element of the matrices:

Example. If

Since the complex conjugate of a real number is the real number, if B is a real
matrix, then
.

## Remark. Most people call

the adjoint of A --- though, unfortunately, the word
"adjoint" has already been used for the transpose of the matrix of cofactors in the
determinant formula for
. (Sometimes people try to get around this by using
the term "classical adjoint" to refer to the transpose of the matrix of cofactors.) In
modern mathematics, the word "adjoint" refers to a property of
that I'll prove
below. This property generalizes to other things which you might see in more
advanced courses.
The
operation is sometimes called the Hermitian --- but this has always
sounded ugly to me, so I won't use this terminology.
Since this is an introduction to linear algebra, I'll usually refer to
as
the conjugate transpose, which at least has the virtue of saying what the thing is.
Proposition. Let U and V be complex matrices, and let
(a)

(b)
(c)
(d) If

.
.
, their dot product is given by

## For (a), I use the fact noted above that

along with the facts that

and

I have

For (c), I have

## For (d), recall that the dot product of complex vectors

and
is

Notice that you take the complex conjugates of the components of v before
multiplying!
This can be expressed as the matrix multiplication

Example.

it as a
matrix "
".

## There are two points about the equation

which might be confusing.
First, why is it necessary to conjugate and transpose v? The reason for the
conjugation goes back to the need for inner products to be positive definite
(so
is a nonnegative real number).

The reason for the transpose is that I'm using the convention that vectors
are column vectors. So if u and v are n-dimensional column vectors and I want the
product to be a number --- i.e. a
matrix --- I have to multiply an ndimensional row vector (
) and an n-dimensional column vector (
). To
get the row vector, I have to transpose the column vector.
Finally, why do u and v switch places in going from the left side to the right side?
The reason you write
instead of
is because inner products are defined to
be linear in the first variable. If you use
you get a product which is linear in
the second variable.
Of course, none of this makes any difference if you're dealing with real numbers.
So if x and y are vectors in
, you can write

## Notice that if U happens to be a real matrix,

, and the equation
says
--- that is, U is orthogonal. In other words, unitary is the complex
analog of orthogonal.
By the same kind of argument I gave for orthogonal matrices,
implies
--- that is,
is
.
Proposition. Let U be a unitary matrix.
(a) U preserves inner products:
lengths:
.

## (b) An eigenvalue of U must have length 1.

(c) The columns of a unitary matrix form an orthonormal set.
Proof. (a)

Since U preserves inner products, it also preserves lengths of vectors, and the
angles between them. For example,

Then
, so

of U.

## But U preserves lengths, so

, and hence

(c) Suppose

Then

means

Here
is the complex conjugate of the
column
, transposed to make it a
row vector. If you look at the dot products of the rows of
and the columns of U,
and note that the result is I, you see that the equation above exactly expresses the
fact that the columns of U are orthonormal.
For example, take the first row
. Its product with the columns
on give the first row of the identity matrix, so

, and so

This says that has length 1 and is perpendicular to the other columns. Similar
statements hold for , ...,
.
Example. Find c and d so that the following matrix is unitary:

## I want the columns to be orthogonal, so their complex dot product should be 0.

First, I'll find a vector that is orthogonal to the first column. I may ignore the factor
of

; I need

This gives

I may take

and

. Then

## to get a unit vector. Thus,

and let

. Then

Proof.

Remark. If
is any inner product on a vector space V and
is a linear
transformation, the adjoint
of T is the linear transformation which satisfies

(This definition assumes that there is such a transformation.) This explains why, in
the special case of the complex inner product, the matrix
is called the adjoint.
It also explains the term self-adjoint in the next definition.
Corollary. ( Adjointness) let

and let

. Then

## Proof. This follows from adjointness in the complex case, because

real matrix.
Definition. An complex matrix A is Hermitian (or self-adjoint) if

for a
.

## Note that a Hermitian matrix is automatically square.

For real matrices,
symmetric matrix.

## Example. Here are examples of Hermitian matrices:

It is no accident that the diagonal entries are real numbers --- see the result that
follows.

Here's a table of the correspondences between the real and complex cases:

## Proposition. Let A be a Hermitian matrix.

(a) The diagonal elements of A are real numbers, and elements on opposite sides of
the main diagonal are conjugates.
(b) The eigenvalues of a Hermitian matrix are real numbers.
(c) Eigenvectors of A corresponding to different eigenvalues are orthogonal.
Proof. (a) Since
, I have
. This shows that elements on opposite
sides of the main diagonal are conjugates.
Taking

, I have

But a complex number is equal to its conjugate if and only if it's a real number,
so
is real.
(b) Suppose A is Hermitian and

Therefore,

## is an eigenvalue of A with eigenvector v. Then

--- but a number that equals its complex conjugate must be real.

## (c) Suppose is an eigenvalue of A with eigenvector u and

A with eigenvector v. Then

implies

is an eigenvalue of

## , so if the eigenvalues are different, then

Since real symmetric matrices are Hermitian, the previous results apply to them as
well. I'll restate the previous result for the case of a symmetric matrix.
Corollary. Let A be a symmetric matrix.
(a) The elements on opposite sides of the main diagonal are equal.
(b) The eigenvalues of a symmetric matrix are real numbers.
(c) Eigenvectors of A corresponding to different eigenvalues are orthogonal.

## Note that the eigenvalues are real numbers.

For

, an eigenvector is

For

, an eigenvector is

Since

.
.

Example. A

## is an eigenvector corresponding to the eigenvalue 1.

(a) Find an eigenvector corresponding to the eigenvalue 3.
Let

## Since eigenvectors for different eigenvalues of a symmetric matrix must be

orthogonal, I have

## So, for example,

is a solution.

(b) Find A.
From (a), a diagonalizing matrix and the corresponding diagonal matrix are

Now

, so

Example. Let

## , and consider the

Hermitian matrix

Compute the characteristic polynomial of A, and show directly that the eigenvalues
must be real numbers.

The discriminant is

Since this is a sum of squares, it can't be negative. Hence, the roots of the
characteristic polynomial --- the eigenvalues --- must be real numbers.