Linear Transformations

Prerequisites
None

Learning Objectives

1. Give the formula for a linear transformation
2. Determine whether a transformation is linear
3. Describe what is linear about a linear transformation

Often it is necessary to transform data from one measurement scale to another. For example, you might want to convert height measured in feet to height measured in inches. Table 1 shows the heights of five people measured in both feet and inches. To transform feet to inches, you simply multiply by 12. Similarly, to transform inches to feet, you divide by 12.

Table 1. Converting between feet and inches
 Feet Inches 5.00 6.25 5.50 5.75 60 75 66 69

Some conversions require that you multiply by a number and then add a second number. A good example of this is the transformation between degrees Centigrade and degrees Fahrenheit. Table 2 shows the temperatures of 5 US cities in the earlier afternoon of November 16, 2002.

Table 2. Temperatures in 5 cities on 11/16/2002
 City Degrees Fahrenheit Degrees Centigrade Houston Chicago Minneapolis Miami Phoenix 54 37 31 78 70 12.22 2.78 -0.56 25.56 21.11

The formula to transform Centigrade to Fahrenheit is:

F = 1.8C + 32

The formula for converting from Fahrenheit to Centigrade is

C = 0.5556F - 17.778

The transformation consists of multiplying by a constant and then adding a second constant. For the conversion from Centigrade to Fahrenheit, the first constant is 1.8 and the second is 32.

Figure 1 shows a plot of degrees Centigrade as a function of degrees Fahrenheit. Notice that the points form a straight line. This will always be the case if the transformation from one scale to another consists of multiplying by one constant and then adding a second constant. Such transformations are therefore called linear transformations.