I am studying following theorem from Numerical linear Algebra book by Trefethen and Bau.

Theorem : If $A = A^{*}$, then the singular values of A are the absolute values of the eigenvalues of A.

Proof: A Hermitian matrix has a complete set of eigenvectors, and all the eigenvalues are real.

$$(1)\quad A = X \Lambda X^{-1}$$

An equivalent statement that (1) holds with $X$ equal to some unitary matrix $Q$ and $\Lambda$ a real diagonal matrix. But we can write

$$ (2) \quad A = Q \Lambda Q^{*}= Q|\Lambda|sign(\Lambda)Q^{*}$$

where $|\Lambda|$ and $sign(\Lambda)$ denote the diagonal matrix whose entries are the number $|\lambda_{j}|$ and $sign(\lambda_{j})$, respectively. (We could equally well have put the factor $sign(\Lambda)$ on the left of $|\Lambda|$ instead of right). Since sign($\Lambda)Q^{*}$ is unitary whenever Q is unitary, (2) is an SVD of A, with the singular values equal to the diagonal entries of $|\Lambda|$, $|\lambda_{j}|$. If desired, these numbers can be put into non-increasing order by inserting suitable permutation matrices as factors in the left hand unitary matrix of (2), Q , and the right-hand unitary matrix sign$(\Lambda)Q^{*}$.

I cannot follow the logic in this proof after equation (2). Can any one give an insight on this? Thanks in advance.

  • $\begingroup$ What is the first statement in the proof that you can't follow? Do you understand the notations $| \Lambda |$, $\mbox{sign}(\Lambda)$, the term "unitary", and the acronym SVD? $\endgroup$ – Brian Borchers Aug 9 '16 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ @ Brian Borchers I understood that part, but I do not understand why it is necessary for the proof. $\endgroup$ – Crimson Aug 9 '16 at 2:31
  • $\begingroup$ "I understood that part" Which part did you understand? Which part did you not understand? Is there a sentence that you think could be removed from the proof and still leave a valid proof? If so, are you asking why that sentence was included? $\endgroup$ – Brian Borchers Aug 9 '16 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ I understood what are the the notation $ | \Lambda |$ and $sign( \Lambda )$ standing for. More specifically, I don't understand this part " Since sign($\Lambda)Q^{*}$ is unitary whenever Q is unitary, (2) is an SVD of A, with the singular values equal to the diagonal entries of $|\Lambda|$, $|\lambda_{j}|$. " $\endgroup$ – Crimson Aug 9 '16 at 2:40

The OP has clarified that he doesn't understand the statement "Since sign(Λ)Q∗ is unitary whenever Q is unitary, (2) is an SVD of A, with the singular values equal to the diagonal entries of |Λ|, |λj|. "

To clarify a small technical point, use the convention that $\mbox{sign}(0)=1$ for this proof. If you instead use $\mbox{sign}(0)=0$, then the resulting matrices don't turn out to be orthogonal if there are some $0$ eigenvalues of $A$.

Starting from (2), let


So, $W$ is a copy of $Q$, possibly with the signs of some columns multiplied by -1. $Q$ is a unitary matrix, that is each pair of columns in $Q$ are orthogonal. Furthermore, each column of $Q$ has length one. Multiplying some subset of the columns of $Q$ by -1 won't change the orthogonality of the columns. Furthermore, each column of $W$ has length one. Thus $W$ is also a unitary matrix.

The Hermitian of any unitary matrix is also unitary, so $W^{*}$ is a unitary matrix too.


$(3)\; A=Q | \Lambda | W^{*}$

where $Q$ and $W$ are unitary matrices and $| \Lambda |$ is a diagonal matrix with nonnegative entries. This is an SVD of the matrix $A$, with $|\Lambda|$ taking the familiar place of $\Sigma$, $Q$ taking the familiar place of $U$ and $W^{*}$ taking the familiar place of $V^{*}$.

The diagonal elements of $| \Lambda |$ are the singular values in this SVD of $A$.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your detail explanation. Sorry if my questions sounded stupid but I don't really understand why we need to separate the sign from the value. why couldn't we consider $Q^{*}$ as $V^{*}$? $\endgroup$ – Crimson Aug 9 '16 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ Is that because Singular values are needed to be positive? $\endgroup$ – Crimson Aug 9 '16 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ Yes- the singular value decomposition is defined to have nonnegative singular values. $\endgroup$ – Brian Borchers Aug 9 '16 at 3:16
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    $\begingroup$ There was nothing stupid about your question, but the way in which you initially phrased it was unclear. You'll find that being more precise about exactly what step in a proof you don't understand will make it easier for people to answer your question. $\endgroup$ – Brian Borchers Aug 9 '16 at 3:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. Is the proof same if A were normal instead of hermitian? $\endgroup$ – milez Nov 21 '18 at 11:58

Here is a much more complicated proof:

The singular values can be defined as follows:

$\sigma_1(A) = \max_{ \|x\| = 1} \|Ax\|$. Choose $v_1 \in \operatorname{argmax}_{ \|x\| = 1} \|Ax\|$. ($v_1 $ is a singular vector corresponding to $\sigma_1(A)$.)

Suppose we have $\sigma_1(A),...,\sigma_k(A)$ and an orthogonal set of corresponding singular vectors $v_1,...,v_k$, then define $\sigma_{k+1}(A) = \max_{ \|x\| = 1, x \bot v_1,...,x \bot v_k} \|Ax\|$ and choose $v_{k+1} = \operatorname{argmax}_{ \|x\| = 1, x \bot v_1,...,x \bot v_k} \|Ax\|$.

Now let $A=Q \Lambda Q^*$, where $Q$ is orthogonal and $\Lambda$ is ordered by absolute value. Note that $\|Ax\| = \|\Lambda Q^* x\|$. Note that if $v_1,...,v_k$ are an orthonormal collection, then so are $Q^*v_1,...,Q^*v_k$.

Then we see that $\sigma_1(A) = |\lambda_1|$ and we can choose $v_1 = Q e_1$. Now suppose we have $\sigma_1(A) = |\lambda_1|,...,\sigma_k(A) = |\lambda_k|$ and corresponding singular vectors $Qe_1,...,Qe_k$, then $\sigma_{k+1}(A) = \max_{ \|x\| = 1, x \bot Q e_1,...,x \bot Q e_k} \|\Lambda Q^* x\|$. Since $\{x | \|x\| = 1, x \bot Q e_1,...,x \bot Q e_k \} = \{ x \in \operatorname{sp} \{ Q e_{k+1},...,Q e_n\} | \|x\| =1 \}$, we see that the value is $|\lambda_{k+1}|$ and that this is attained with $v_{k+1} = Q e_{k+1}$.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for sharing this proof. It sounds interesting but not easy to understand. Last night I was working on a problem that needs the definition $\sigma_{1}(A) = max_{||x||=1} ||Ax||$ , .. $ \sigma_{n}(A) = inf_{||x|=1}||Ax||$. It seems in the proof that you posted similar definitions are used. I searched the internet and I have found a blog's post[1] on this topic : I wonder if there is a book or source that explains these definitions more in details.[1]terrytao.wordpress.com/tag/least-singular-value $\endgroup$ – Crimson Aug 9 '16 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Zereshki: I am away from my library, but I think Golub & Van Loan's "Matrix Computations" shows equivalence with the above. $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Aug 9 '16 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. You are right chapter 2 has mentioned it. $\endgroup$ – Crimson Aug 9 '16 at 15:16

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