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# A Very Brief Introduction to Vector Spaces

Ben Wallis

The Basics.

Before we can dene vector spaces, we need to rst understand what is meant by a eld. There are a variety of ways to characterize elds. For instance, a eld is a commutative ring with identity for which every nonzero element has a multiplicative inverse. Alternatively, a eld can be understood as a set which is an additive abelian group whose nonzero elements form an abelian group under multiplication, where the distributive laws hold between addition and multiplication operations. In this introduction, though, we take a more elementary approach, as follows. Denition 1.1. A eld is a nonempty set F equipped with operations + : F F F (addition) and : F F F (multiplication) which satises the following eld axioms: (F1) F is closed1 under addition and multiplication, i.e. a + b F and a b F for all a, b F . (F2) Addition and multiplication are each commutative, i.e. a + b = b + a and a b = b a for all a, b F . (F3) Addition and multiplication are each associative, i.e. a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c and a (b c) = (a b) c for all a, b, c F . (F4) There exist distinct and unique additive and multiplicative identities in F , i.e. there are unique 0, 1 F with 0 = 1 such that 0 + a = a + 0 = a and 1 a = a 1 = a
1 Notice

that the term closed has a dierent meaning here than in the topological sense.

for all a F . (F5) F is closed under additive inverses, i.e. for every a F there exists a unique element a F such that a + (a) = 0. (F6) The set F of nonzero elements in F is closed under multiplicative inverses, i.e. for every nonzero a F there exists a unique element a1 F such that a a1 = 1. (F7) The distributive laws hold, i.e. a (b + c) = a b + a c and (a + b) c = a c + b c for all a, b, c F . Usually we dispense with the symbol and just write ab in place of a b. Some authors do not require that 1 = 0, but this fact follows the others as long as F contains more than a single element. Additionally, some of these axioms are redundant, namely the uniqueness of identities and inverses, as well as the second distributive law. Notice that we can treat F as an abelian group under addition. The set of nonzero elements in F likewise forms an abelian group under multiplication, which motivates the notation F := {a F : a = 0}. Some of the most common examples of elds include the sets C (the complex numbers), R (the reals) and Q (the rationals). In contrast, the set Z of integers is not a eld since it is not closed under multiplicative inverses, even though it satises all six of the other eld axioms. Fields need not be innite. Consider the simplest example of a eld, Z/2Z := {0, 1} with operations + and dened by

1 + 1 = 0 + 0 = 0 1 = 1 0 = 0 0 = 0 and 1 + 0 = 0 + 1 = 1 1 = 1. In fact, Z/pZ is a eld for any prime p. Some properties of elds follow immediately from the denition. We list them here 2

Proposition 1.2. Let F be a eld. Then: (i) The cancellation laws hold for F , i.e. for all a, b, c F , if a + c = b + c or a c = b c then a = b. (ii) a 0 = 0 a = 0 for all a F . (iii) The product of nonzero elements in F is again nonzero; i.e., if a, b F with ab = 0 then either a = 0 or b = 0. (iv) (a) = a for all a F . (v) a(b) = (a)b = (ab) for all a, b F ; in particular (1)a = a. (vi) (a)(b) = ab for all a, b F . (vii) (ab)1 = a1 b1 and (a + b) = (a) + (b) for all a, b F . (vii) (a)1 = (a1 ) for all a F . For the most part, one can think of a eld as being analogous to the real numbers. The only catch is that we must be careful not to forget that elds dont always have order relations or topological structure. And of course, as we have already seen, elds need not be innite. We can also dene a subeld of a eld F to be a subset G of F which is a eld in its own right under the same operations as F . To determine whether or not some subset G of a eld F is a subeld, it suces to verify that G contains 0 and 1, and is closed under addition, multiplication and both kinds of inverses. Recall that a homomorphism is a structure-preserving map, where the structure in question varies from context to context. In particular, a eld homomorphism is a map between elds which satises generally

(a + b) = (a) + (b) and (ab) = (a)(b). From this it follows that also (a) = (a), (a1 ) = (a)1 ,

## (0) = 0 and (1) = 1.

Recall that an isomorphism is a bijective homomorphism. Field isomorphisms are always invertible; that is, if : F G is a eld isomorphism, then there exists a map 1 : G F such that 1 = 1 = (the identity map (a) = a). Notice that the inverse of an isomorphism is itself an isomorphism.

If there exists a eld isomorphism between F and G, then we say that F and G are isomorphic as elds. In that case we write F G. = Denition 1.3. Let F be a eld. A polynomial over F in x is an expression am xm + am1 xm1 + + a1 x + a0 with coecients a0 , , am F , where x is a variable ranging over elements of F . We may denote this polynomial as p(x) = am xm + am1 xm1 + + a1 x + a0 . We say that p has degree n, written deg p = n, whenever either n = m or else ak = 0 for all n < k m. In this case an is called the leading coecient of p. If an = 1 then p is said to be monic. The set of all polynomials over F in x is denoted F [x]. Please note that a polynomial is an expression, not a function. Even though each such expression denes a unique function in the obvious way, the reverse is not always true. For example, it is possible to nd p(x), q(x) (Z/2Z)[x] for which p = q as functions but p(x) = q(x) as polynomials. With these tools in hand, we can proceed to dene vector spaces. Denition 1.4. Let F be a eld. A vector space over F is a nonempty set V equipped with operations + : V V V (addition) and : F V V (scalar multiplication), which satises the following vector space axioms. (VS1) Addition is commutative and associative, i.e. u + v = v + u and (u + v) + w = u + (v + w) for all u, v, w V . (VS2) V contains a zero element, i.e. there is 0 V such that v+0=0+v =v for all v V .

(VS3) For every v V there is a unique v V such that v + (v) = (v) + v = 0, and in particular v = (1)v. (VS4) For every v V we have 1v = v and 0v = 0. (VS5) Scalar multiplication is associative, i.e. for all a, b F and v V we have (ab)v = a(bv). (VS6) All distributive laws hold, i.e. for all a, b F and u, v V we have a(u + v) = au + av and (a + b)v = av + bv. In this case the elements of V are called vectors and the elements of F are called scalars. We must take care with notation of vector spaces. Notice that the symbol + can denote either of two distinct operationsaddition of vectors or addition of scalars. Similarly, multiplication can take place either between two scalars (yielding again a scalar) or else between a scalar and a vector (yielding a vector). Furthermore, the symbol 0 can denote either of two distinct elementsthe additive identity in F or else the zero vector in V . Usually, though, these distinctions are made clear in their context. The simplest vector space is the zero space {0} (over any eld). However, one of the most common examples of a vector space is Euclidean 3-space R3 over the real numbers R, with operations (x1 , x2 , x3 ) + (y1 , y2 , y3 ) = (x1 + y1 , x2 + y2 , x3 + y3 ) and

a(x1 , x2 , x3 ) = (ax1 , ax2 , ax3 ). More generally, for any eld F the set F n = {(a1 , a2 , , an ) : a1 , a2 , , an F } is a vector space over F with coordinate-wise operations. 5

We can generalize further still on this observation. Let Mmn (F ) denote the set of all m n matrices with entries in a eld F . Then Mmn (F ) is a vector space over F under the obvious entry-wise operations. Not all vector spaces are quite so boring though. Consider the following proposition. Proposition 1.5. Let X be a nonempty set and F a eld. Then the set F(X, F ) of functions f : X F is a vector space over F , with operations dened by

(af )(x) = a(f (x)) and (f + g)(x) = f (x) + g(x). As one might expect, if V is a vector space over a eld F , it is natural to dene a vector subspace as a subset W of V which is itself a vector space over F with operations inherited from V . To determine whether a set W V is a vector subspace of V , it is sucient to check that W is nonempty and closed under addition and scalar multiplication. The spaces V and {0} are trivial subspaces of a vector space V , but one can nd more interesting examples as well. For instance the set F [x] of polynomials in x with coecients from F can be viewed as a vector subspace of the set F(F, F ) of all functions f : F F . Denition 1.6. Let V be a vector space over a eld F , and let S V be a subset (not necessarily a subspace). A linear combination of vectors in S is an expression of the form a1 v1 + a2 v2 + + an vn , where v1 , v2 , , vn S have respective coecients a1 , a2 , , an F . In other words, a linear combination in S is any nite sum of scalar multiples of elements in S. Note that even though linear combinations are always nite, there is otherwise no limit to how many terms the sum can have. Denition 1.7. Let S be a subset of a vector space V . If there is a linear combination of vectors in S whose sum is zero but whose coecients are not all zero, then we say that S is linearly dependent. Otherwise S is said to be linearly independent. For example, let V = R3 and F = R. Then the set S = {(1, 0, 0), (0, 1, 0), (1, 1, 0)} 6

is linearly dependent, because (1, 0, 0) + (0, 1, 0) (1, 1, 0) = 0. However, the set B = {(1, 0, 0), (0, 1, 0), (0, 0, 1)} is linearly independent since

a1 (1, 0, 0) + a2 (0, 1, 0) + a3 (0, 0, 1) = (a1 , a2 , a3 ) is zero i a1 = a2 = a3 = 0. As it turns out, the set B has a very important property: If we add any vector to this set, then the result is a linearly dependent set. In this sense, B is maximally linearly independent. Such sets are very special, but to see why we must rst develop some additional machinery. Denition 1.8. Let S be a nonempty subset of a vector space V . Dene the span of S, written span S, as the set of all linear combinations of vectors in S. By convention we let span = {0}. Its easy to see that span S is a vector subspace of V . In case span S = V , we say that S generates V . If furthermore S is linearly independent, we call it a basis for V . Now we can see what was so special about B. Notice that any vector (x1 , x2 , x3 ) R3 can be written as x1 (1, 0, 0) + x2 (0, 1, 0) + x3 (0, 0, 1), a linear combination of vectors in B. Since B is linearly independent, that means it is a basis for the vector space R3 . Proposition 1.9. Every vector space has a basis. Proof: Let S be the collection of all linearly independent subsets of a vector set V . Notice that S, so that S is a nonempty set partially-ordered by inclusion. Let C be a chain in S. We claim that C = {v : v C for some C C} is linearly independent. For let v1 , , vn C. Then there are 7

C1 , , Cn C containing v1 , , vn , respectively. Since C is a chain then there is k {1, , n} such that C1 , , Cn Ck and hence v1 , , vn Ck . Since Ck is linearly independent, that means no nonzero linear combination of v1 , , vn sums to zero. Since v1 , , vn is arbitrary for nite collections of vectors in C, it follows that C is linearly independent. Thus every chain in S has an upper bound in S, which by Zorns lemma means S has a maximal element. Its easy to see that this maximal element is a basis for V . Proposition 1.10. Let B1 and B2 be bases for a vector space V . If B1 is nite, then so is B2 , and furthermore B1 and B2 both contain the same number of vectors. Otherwise B1 and B2 are both innite. These propositions together permit us to dene the dimension of a vector space V with a nite basis as the number, say n, of vectors in that basis; in that case we write dim V = n. If instead the bases of V are innite, then we say that V has innite dimension, and write dim V = . Proposition 1.11. Let F be a eld and let n Z+ be a positive integer. We dene ek as the vector in F n whose jth coordinates are all zero for j = k, but whose kth coordinate is 1. Then the set {e1 , e2 , , en } is a basis for F n , called the canonical basis. In particular, dim F n = n. Of course, not all vector spaces have nite dimension. For instance Q[x] is innite-dimensional with countable basis. As with so many other algebraic structures, we may carry over the notion of homomorphisms to vector spaces. Let : V W be a map between vector spaces over the same eld F . If for all u, v V and scalars a F we have

(u + v) = (u) + (v) and (av) = a(v), then we say that is a homomorphism, or, more commonly, a linear map. If furthermore is bijective, then it is a vector space isomorphism. In that case we say that V and W are isomorphic, and write V W. = Also, if : V W is a vector space isomorphism then its inverse map 1 : W V exists and is itself a vector space isomorphism.

Similar to quotient groups in group theory, we can also dene quotient vector spaces. Let W be a subspace of a vector space V over a eld F . Dene the cosets of W as [v] := v + W := {v + w : w W }. Then the operations

[u] + [v] = [u + v] and a[v] = [av] are well dened so that V /W := {[v] : v V } is a vector space over F . This vector space is called the quotient vector space of V and W .

Exercises: 1. Let F and G be elds with two elements each. Show that F and G are isomorphic. [Hint: Every eld contains distinct elements 0 and 1.] 2. Find a pair p(x), q(x) (Z/2Z)[x] of polynomials in x with coecients from Z/2Z = {0, 1} for which p = q as functions but p(x) = q(x) as polynomials. 3. Show that a b : a, b R . 0 0

V =

is a vector space over R, and nd a basis for V . What is its dimension? [Hint: You may use the fact that M22 (R) is a vector space over R.] 4. Let S = {(1, 1, 0), (2, 1, 0)}. Then span S is a subspace of R3 . Show that V = {(a, 0, 0) : a R} is a subspace of span S, and that dim V = 1. 5. Let W be a subspace of a vector space V , and dene : V V /W by (v) = [v]. (a) Show that is a linear map. (b) Show that the quotient space V /{0} is isomorphic to V . (c) If BV is a basis for V , show that BV /W := {[u] : u BV } spans V /W , i.e. show that span BV /W = V /W . (d) Show that dim V = dim(V /W ) + dim W . [Hint: For part (d), consider separately the cases where V is nite- and innitedimensional.] 10

6. Recall that the set Q[x] of polynomials in x with rational coecients forms a vector space over Q. (a) Describe the subspace span{1, x, x2 }. (b) Describe the subspace span{x, x2 }. (c) Prove that Q[x] has innite dimension by nding an innite linearly independent subset. 7. Let W1 and W2 be subspaces of a vector space V . (a) Show that W1 W2 is a subspace of V . (b) Show that dim(W1 W2 ) dim W1 . 8. Let W1 and W2 be subspaces of a vector space V , and dene the sum of W1 and W2 to be W1 + W2 := {w1 + w2 : w1 W1 , w2 W2 }. Show that W1 + W2 = span(W1 W2 ). 9. Prove proposition 1.10.

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