Major revision:

I want to prove/disprove the following claim:

If $e = (e_{1},\dots, e_{n})$ is a vector of independent random variables, (each $e_{i}$ is normally distributed), and $v_{1}, \dots v_{n} \in N^{n}$ are n orthogonal vectors, then $\langle v_{1}, e \rangle, \dots, \langle v_{n}, e \rangle$ are independent.

And I'm a but puzzled. On one hand, it seems like this question supports a positive answer to this claim. The covariance matrix $C$ of $e$ is scalar, and the vectors $v_{1},\dots, v_{n}$ define a matrix A such that $A\cdot A^{T}$ is diagonal, so according to the explanation there $ACA^{T}$ is diagonal, and independency should follow.

On the other hand, this claim fails hard on toy example, when $e$'s values are drawn from discrete uniform distribution. For example, take $e = (e_{1},e_{2})$ to be vector of two uniform variables between 0 and p, and $v_{1} = (1, 1), v_{2} = (1, -1)$. Clearly if $\langle v_{1}, e \rangle = 2p$ then $\langle v_{2}, e \rangle = 0$.

What am I missing? I can't see the problem with the proof regarding normal distribution, nor find a reason that the same proof wouldn't work on the uniform distribution (where its obviously a false claim due to my counterexample)


  • $\begingroup$ Normal distributions are fairly special and behave well where other simple distributions may not. As a simple example: any linear combination of independent normal variables is normally distributed, but this result fails catastrophically for uniform variables. So: trust your reading of the proof, and don't fret about the purported counterexample. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Montgomery Sep 24 '19 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ But where the "the covariance matrix is diagonal, so the variables are independent" even use the fact that this is normal distribution? I don't see why this argument can't be applied as is to uniform distribution... $\endgroup$ – Bartolinio Sep 24 '19 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ Although it wasn't explicit about it, the quoted statement does not apply in general and is particular to normal variables. If $X_1, X_2$ are independent and uniform on $[0,1]$, then $X_1 + X_2$ and $X_1 - X_2$ are uncorrelated (which is easy to show) but dependent (which you correctly argued). The fact that it does work for normal variables is a theorem that requires a proof. See, for instance, section 3 of cs229.stanford.edu/section/gaussians.pdf $\endgroup$ – Aaron Montgomery Sep 24 '19 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much! $\endgroup$ – Bartolinio Sep 24 '19 at 14:11

In general: if ${\bf x}=(x_1,\cdots x_n)'$ is uncorrelated (meaning that the elements $x_i$ are pairwise uncorrelated), and if $A$ is a $n \times n$ orthogonal matrix, then it's easy to prove that the variable

$${\bf y} = A {\bf x}$$

is also uncorrelated. That is, if $C_{\bf x}$ (covariance matrix of ${\bf x}$) is diagonal, so is $C_{\bf y}$.

Now, if additionally $x_i$ are gaussian variables, then the components of ${\bf x}$ are not only uncorrelated but independent. The result above implies that the variable ${\bf y} = A {\bf x}$ is uncorrelated; but, because it's also joinly gaussian, then it's also independent.

Hence your claim is correct.

Now if instead $x_i$ are just independent (hence uncorrelated) but not gaussian, then all we can say about ${\bf y} = A {\bf x}$ is that $y_i$ are uncorrelated. They are not, in general, independent. As your example illustrates.


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