It probably isn’t surprising that an exact solution can be found for eigenvalues of a real 3×3 symmetric matrix. This conclusion follows from noting that the characteristic equation is cubic, for which an exact solution procedure can be found in any good algebra reference. One thing that you won’t find in many such resources, however, is an algorithm for the solution that will avoid complex numbers in the intermediate steps of the calculation whenever the components of the source symmetric 3×3 matrix are all real.
Have you ever noticed that textbooks often involve so-called 3-4-5 triangles? They do that to make the algebraic manipulations easier for students. If the two legs of a right triangle are of length 3 and 4, then the hypotenuse (found from the Pythagorean theorem) has a length of 5, which is “nice” in the sense that it is an integer rather than an irrational square root that more typically comes from solving the Pythagorean theorem. As discussed in many elementary math sites (such as MakingMathematics.org), another example of a “nice” triangle is the 5-12-13 triangle, since .
The external links in this posting contain a list of more of these so-called perfect triples of integers for which . Perfect triples are also used to create “nice” 2D unit vectors whose components are each rational numbers (instead of involving irrational square roots from the normalization process). For example, the classic unit vector based on the 3-4-5 perfect triple is simply . Continue reading
A step-by-step introduction to tensor analysis that assumes you know nothing but basic calculus. Considerable emphasis is placed on a notation style that works well for applications in materials modeling, but other notation styles are also reviewed to help you better decipher the literature. Topics include: matrix and vector analysis, properties of tensors (such as “orthogonal”, “diagonalizable”, etc.), dyads and outer products, axial vectors, axial tensors, scalar invariants and spectral analysis (eigenvalues/eigenvectors), geometry (e.g., the equations for planes, ellipsoids, etc.), material symmetry such as transverse isotropy, polar decomposition, and vector/tensor calculus theorems such as the divergence theorem and Stokes theorem. (A draft of this document was last released publically on Aug. 3, 2003. The non-public version is significantly expanded in anticipation of formal publication.)
You may download the rest of the document here.