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Eigenvectors somewhat explained

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Nate

October 4, 2018

ues?

Eigenvectors are relationships between the variables of a system of linear

equations that are invariant under transformation. Basically, no matter what

matrix operations you perform the eigenvectors will stay the same.

Eigenvalues are the adjustments made to the matrix to find the eigenvectors.

thing about their relationships (they’re independent for general values). So,

we have to introduce something (the eigenvalues) to find the conditions under

which they are related. A matrix has linearly dependent rows/columns if its

determinant is zero, so we make that happen by applying the same constant

to each variable:

once to each variable as required.

Random Example

1 2

is linearly independent (det = -3)

2 1

1

1 2 λ 0 1−λ 2

− =

2 1 0 λ 2 1−λ

1−λ 2

det = (1 − λ)2 − 4 = 0

2 1−λ

λ = 3, −1

−2 2 x1

For λ = 3 we have =0

2 −2 x2

Pick a row, any row

−2x1 + 2x2 = 0 → x1 = x2

1

This gives us the eigenvector associated with λ = 3, which is

1

1

Similarly λ = −1 gives

−1

No matter how you adjust the original matrix (row algebra, constant multi-

plication, what have you) these relationships remain the same. Of course this

isn’t particularly exciting without the physics, so let’s throw in that spring

problem.

All the F = ma boils down to the following:

2

−4kx1 + 3kx2 = mx¨1

3kx1 − 4kx2 = mx¨2

q

k

For simple harmonic motion we define ω0 = m , x = aeiωt which makes

ẍ = −ω 2 aeiωt and λ = ( ωω0 )2 . Yes, that’s the eigenvalue lambda, and you’ll

see why in just a second. If you’re curious about the rest just look up a

refresher on SHM.

−4a1 + a2 = −λa1

Yep, now we can solve for λ and find our eigenvalues. Before we do, what

the heck do all these things mean?

frequency of the system. Our eigenvalues will be the values for λ where

λ = ( ωω0 )2 gives us the maximum amplitude a. Remember resonant frequen-

cies? That’s what these are.

−4 + λ 3

det =0

3 −4 + λ

λ = 1, 7

This √

tells us first that the resonant frequencies of the system are ω = ω0 and

ω = 7ω0

We can then use the eigenvectors to find what kind of motion is happening

when each of these occurs.

3

Let’s just plug our eigenvalues into the first row.

x¨1 = x¨2

1

Our eigenvector implies that the masses are moving the same amount

1

in the same direction for res. frequency ω0 .

x¨1 = −x¨2

1

Our eigenvector implies that the masses are moving the same amount

−1

√

in opposite directions for res. frequency 7ω0 .

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