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Complex Numbers as Matrices – Euler’s Identity

Euler’s Identity below is regarded as one of the most beautiful equations in mathematics as it combines five of the most important constants in mathematics:

I’m going to explore whether we can still see this relationship hold when we represent complex numbers as matrices.

Complex Numbers as Matrices

First I’m I’m going to define the following equivalences between the imaginary unit and the real unit and matrices:

The equivalence for 1 as the identity matrix should make sense insofar as in real numbers, 1 is the multiplicative identity.  This means that 1 multiplied by any real number gives that number.  In matrices, a matrix multiplied by the identity matrix also remains unchanged.  The equivalence for the imaginary unit is not as intuitive, but let’s just check that operations with complex numbers still work with this new representation.

In complex numbers we have the following fundamental definition:

Does this still work with our new matrix equivalences?

Yes, we can see that the square of the imaginary unit gives us the negative of the multiplicative identity as required.

More generally we can note that as an extension of our definitions above we have:

Complex number multiplication

Let’s now test whether complex multiplication still works with matrices.  I’ll choose to multiply the following 2 complex numbers:

Now let’s see what happens when we do the equivalent matrix multiplication:

We can see we get the same result.  We can obviously prove this equivalence more generally (and check that other properties still hold) but for the purposes of this post I want to check whether the equivalence to Euler’s Identity still holds with matrices.

Euler’s Identity with matrices

If we define the imaginary unit and the real unit as the matrices above then the question is whether Euler’s Identity still holds, i.e:


First I can note that:

Next I can note that the Maclaurin expansion for e^(x) is:

Putting these ideas together I get:

This means that:


Next I can use the matrix multiplication to give the following:

Next, I look for a pattern in each of the matrix entries and see that:

Now, to begin with here I simply checked these on Wolfram Alpha – (these sums are closely related to the Macluarin series for cosine and sine).

Therefore we have:

So, this means I can write:

And so this finally gives:

Which is the result I wanted!  Therefore we can see that Euler’s Identity still holds when we define complex numbers in terms of matrices.  Complex numbers are an incredibly rich area to explore – and some of the most interesting aspects of complex numbers is there ability to “bridge” between different areas of mathematics.

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All content on this site has been written by Andrew Chambers (MSc. Mathematics, IB Mathematics Examiner).

New website for International teachers

I’ve just launched a brand new maths site for international schools – over 2000 pdf pages of resources to support IB teachers.  If you are an IB teacher this could save you 200+ hours of preparation time.

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IB Maths Super Exploration Guide

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