Eigenvectors and eigenvalues
 Matrix multiplication
Summary
Let $\bc{\A}$ be a square matrix. Multiplying a vector $\rc{\v}$ by $\bc{\A}$ results in another vector. If this vector points in the same direction as $\rc{\v}$, then we call $\rc{\v}$ an eigenvector of $\bc{\A}$.
As a simple visualization of eigenvectors, imagine yourself standing up, and turning about your vertical axis. While you do so point your right arm straight up, and your left arm forward. The rotation can be described by a $3 \times 3$ matrix. Your right arm doesn’t change direction as you rotate, so that’s an eigenvector of the rotation. Your left arm does change direction, so that’s not an eigenvector.
Definition
We require that $\rc{\v}$ be a nonzero vector. For $\rc{\v}$ to be an eigenvector of $\bc{\A}$, its length can change when we mulitply it by $\bc{\A}$, but its direction can’t. Another way of saying this is that multiplying $\bc{\A}$ by $\rc{\v}$ is the same as scaling the vector $\rc{\v}$ by some scalar, say $\bc{\lambda}$. This means we can define eigenvectors as follows. The vector $\rc{\v}$ is an eigenvector of $\bc{\A}$ if (and only if):
\[\bc{\A}\rc{\v} = \bc{\lambda}\rc{\v}\]where $\bc{\lambda}$ is some scalar. If $\rc{\v}$ is an eigenvector, then the corresponding scalar $\bc{\lambda}$ is called its eigenvalue. We can also say that $\bc{\lambda}$ is an eigenvalue of $\bc{\A}$.
Note the following details about this definition:
 The vector containing all zeros always satisfies the definition, but is not considered an eigenvector. However, the scalar $0$ can be an eigenvalue. Consider, for instance, an identity matrix with a zeroedout column.
 The eigenvalue can be negative.
 Not all matrices have eigenvectors. Consider for instance, a rotation matrix.
 If $\rc{\v}$ is an eigenvector, then $\rc{\v}$ multiplied by any number except 0 is also an eigenvector.
 For some matrices, all vectors are eigenvalues. Consider, for instance, the identity matrices. For other matrices, all vectors in a particular subspace are vectors. We’ll learn how to characterize these situations later.
Geometric intuition
From the definition, it’s not easy to see why eigenvectors and eigenvalues are such an important concept. To understand that properly, we’ll need to explore some places where the concept pops up.
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Maximizing the quadratic
Eigenvalues of the covariance
Moving quantities around
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In abstract linear algebra

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