Show that given $A=\left( \begin{array}{cc}\alpha &\beta\\\beta&\delta\\\end{array}\right) \in M_2(\mathbb{R}^2)$, $\langle x,y \rangle = x^TAy, (x,y \in \mathbb{R}^2)$, defines an inner product on $\mathbb{R}^2$ if and only if $\alpha >0$ and det$(A)>0$.

I tried to prove the $\Leftarrow$ direction first:

($\Leftarrow$) Assume that $\alpha > 0, det(A) > 0 \Rightarrow \alpha \delta > \beta^2 \Rightarrow \delta > 0$.

Now I need to show that $x^TAy$ defines an inner product on $\mathbb{R}^2$, so I need to show that $\langle x,y \rangle$ is bilinear, symmetric and positive definite $\forall x,y \in \mathbb{R}^2$

Bilinearity: Let $x_1,x_2,y_1,y_2,x,y \in \mathbb{R}^2, \lambda, \mu \in \mathbb{R}$, then $$\langle \lambda_1 x_1 + \lambda_2 x_2, y \rangle = (\lambda_1 x_1 + \lambda_2 x_2)^TAy= \lambda_1 x_1^TAy + \lambda_2 x_2^TAy = \lambda_1 \langle x_1,y \rangle + \lambda_2 \langle x_2,y \rangle$$

$$ \langle x, \mu_1y_1 + \mu_2y_2 \rangle = x^TA( \mu_1y_1 + \mu_2y_2) = x^TA\mu_1y_1+xA\mu_2y_2= \mu_1 \langle x,y_1 \rangle + \mu_2\langle x, y_2 \rangle$$

Symmetry follows just as easily and is also not affected by $\alpha > 0, det(A)>0$

But I have encountered some problems when trying to prove positive definiteness.

If $ x = \left( \begin{array}{c} \xi_1 \\ \xi_2 \\ \end{array} \right)$, then $$x^TAx = \alpha \xi_1^2 + 2\beta \xi_1 \xi_2 + \delta \xi_2^2$$

Now I'm not sure why this has to be greater than 0 if $\alpha > 0, det(A)>0$, if I plug in numbers it works every time, but I can't do the math to prove this. Can anybody help me please?

I also don't really know how to prove the other direction, so would appreciate some help on that as well.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Write $xAx$ in the form $$xAx = \alpha\left(\xi_1+\frac{\beta}{\alpha}\xi_2\right)^2 + \frac{\alpha\delta-\beta^2}{\alpha}\xi_2^2.$$ $\endgroup$
    – ivanpenev
    Jun 1 '14 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ Should that be $\langle x,y\rangle:=x^TAy$? $\endgroup$ Jun 1 '14 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @CameronBuie Yes it's supposed to be $x^Ty$, I'll edit my post. $\endgroup$ Jun 1 '14 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ @ivanpenev Thanks a lot, I didn't see that at all. $\endgroup$ Jun 1 '14 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @eager2learn: You're welcome. $\endgroup$
    – ivanpenev
    Jun 1 '14 at 17:57

This is a general theorem: a real symmetric square matrix defines an inner product iff it is positive definite, which means $\;\alpha\,,\,\det A >0\;$ , as given:

$\implies:\;\;$ taking $\;x=y=\binom10\;$ , we have that


Since $\;x\neq 0\;$ the above must be positive and we have thus that $\;\alpha>0\;$

Taking $\;x=(0,1)\;$ and doing something similar as above, we get $\;\delta>0\;$ .

Finally, taking $\;x=\binom\delta{-\beta}\neq0\;$ ,we get


Again, the above must be positive, and since $\;\delta>0\;$ we get $\;\det A:=\alpha\delta-\beta^2>0\;$


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