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I'm currently preparing for my maths exam and one of the questions is to check whether or not a relation is transitive or not. I'm unsure on how to check if there is a transitive relation given an equation.

The questions I would be getting is like this.

Let $Q$ denote the relation on set $\mathbb Z$ of integers, where integers $x$ and $y$ satisfy $xQy$ if and only if

$$x - y = x^2 + y^2 - 2xy$$

I know how to figure out if it is symmetric and reflexive but I'm unsure on how to check the transitive part. Any help is appreciated, thank you.

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  • $\begingroup$ $1Q0$,$2Q1$ but $2$ isn't related to $0$. $\endgroup$ – астон вілла олоф мэллбэрг Apr 11 '16 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ Hint: $x^2+y^2-2xy=(x-y)^2$ $\endgroup$ – Noy Soffer Apr 11 '16 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ Best way to approach problems like this is to start with some examples. In this case, the failure of transitivity becomes clear pretty fast. $\endgroup$ – lulu Apr 11 '16 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if this how it is done but this is my way of going about it 1Q2 = (1-2)^2 = 1 2Q3 = (2-3)^2 = 1 1Q3 = (1-3)^2 = 4 so therefore x is not a relation to z, so it's not transitive? $\endgroup$ – MVantastic Apr 11 '16 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ It doesn't make sense to write "$1Q2 = \ldots$". The notation $xQy$ in this context is shorthand for "$x$ is related to $y$", so you're effectively saying, "$1$ is related to $2 = (1-2)^2 \ldots$", which is ungrammatical, so to speak. A correct way to write it would be, for example, "$1Q2$ since $1-2 = 1^2+2^2-2\cdot1\cdot2$." $\endgroup$ – Théophile Apr 11 '16 at 13:45
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If the question is "Is this relationship transitive?" then you need a little bit of gut feeling to get started. If you suppose that it is transitive, then you'll need a general proof. If you think it's not transitive, then one example will suffice.

As noted by Noy Soffer, $x^2 + y^2 - 2xy = (x - y)^2$. We thus have $xQy$ if and only if $x - y = (x - y)^2$. For this, it is sufficient that $x = y$ (hence the relation is reflexive, as you probably already noticed). If $ x \neq y$, then we can divide both sides of the equation by $x - y$ and get $ 1 = x - y$. We conclude that $xQy$ means that one of the following hold $$ x - y = 1 \text{ or } x = y $$

That's just the basic analysis. Now what's your intuition? If the relationship would be transitive, then if $x - y = 1$ and $y - z = 1$, we would have to conclude that either $x - z = 1$ or that $x = z$. Can you find examples of $x, y$ and $z$ for which $x - y = 1$, $y - z = 1$, but neither $x = z$ nor $x - z = 1$? If so, then you've proven it's not transitive. If you can't seem to find counterexamples, then maybe the relationship is transitive. In that case, try proving that $x - y = 1$ and $y - z=1$ implies either $x - z =1$ or $x = z$. Let me know what you find.

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    $\begingroup$ If x = 3, y = 2 and z =1 we would have 3-2 = 1, 2-1 = 1 but 3 != 1 and 3-1 != 1 so therefore it's not transitive? $\endgroup$ – MVantastic Apr 11 '16 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ You got it! Good luck with your exam. $\endgroup$ – Bib-lost Apr 11 '16 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot for the help! $\endgroup$ – MVantastic Apr 11 '16 at 15:17

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