53 Matrix Factorizations, generalized Cartan, and Random Matrix Theory

10 June 2021
Alan Edelman

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Joint seminar with the Random Matrix Theory group


An insightful exercise might be to ask what is the most important idea in linear algebra. Our first answer would not be eigenvalues or linearity, it would be “matrix factorizations.” We will discuss a blueprint to generate 53 inter-related matrix factorizations (times 2) most of which appear to be new. The underlying mathematics may be traced back to Cartan (1927), Harish-Chandra (1956), and Flensted-Jensen (1978) . We will discuss the interesting history. One anecdote is that Eugene Wigner (1968) discovered factorizations such as the SVD in passing in a way that was buried and only eight authors have referenced that work. Ironically Wigner referenced Sigurður Helgason (1962) but Wigner did not recognize his results in Helgason's book. This work also extends upon and completes open problems posed by Mackey² & Tisseur (2003/2005).

Classical results of Random Matrix Theory concern exact formulas from the Hermite, Laguerre, Jacobi, and Circular distributions. Following an insight from Freeman Dyson (1970), Zirnbauer (1996) and Duenez (2004/5) linked some of these classical ensembles to Cartan's theory of Symmetric Spaces. One troubling fact is that symmetric spaces alone do not cover all of the Jacobi ensembles. We present a completed theory based on the generalized Cartan distribution. Furthermore, we show how the matrix factorization obtained by the generalized Cartan decomposition G=K₁AK₂ plays a crucial role in sampling algorithms and the derivation of the joint probability density of A.

Joint work with Sungwoo Jeong



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  • Computational Mathematics and Applications Seminar