Jack Sprat could eat no fat; his wife could eat no lean. And so, between the two of them, they licked the platter clean.
With my girlfriend and I the meals are not divided (100%,0) or (0,100%). But the same concept applies: I’ll have 25% of her beer and she’ll have 25% of mine. The nursery rhyme stands in for the general idea of a general convex combination — any such combination as (53%, 47%), (1%, 99%), or (25%, 75%).
That’s what a convex combination is.
It’s written with a λ and looks so much more mystifying that way:
But just say that A and B are two things, like in the case above, two 4-D vectors each containing (amount of Guinness I have; amount of Guinness she has; amount of Old Rasputin I have; amount of Old Rasputin she has). The quantity
mustn’t total up to more beers than we bought … which is common sense, really.
So if the definition makes sense, let me just throw out a few mind-expanding ideas you can conceive with it:
- Mixing colours is a convex combination. (R, G, B) is a linear 3-space. So is (H, S, V) — and indeed, there is a reversible transformation from one to the other. (C,M,Y,K) is a 4-space so the transformation can’t be so simple.
- Can you then say that one colour is “between” two others?
- Can you imagine a colour that’s a convex combination of three colours? Would that make sense?
- On from colours to ideas. Have you ever noticed that if people are taught two competing theories in a class, then they try to balance between them? I noticed this in political theory, anthropology, and philosophy classes.
- I have a pet theory that it’s very natural for people to want to compromise among the ideas that they’re given — i.e., occupy some convex combination rather than a “corner”.
- My pet theory goes further to say that revolutionary ideas don’t necessarily have to be “orthogonal” — don’t have to be completely radical and unintelligible according to current ideas — to permit novel thought. If the idea has even just a little bit of a unique notion (points just a wee bit into a new dimension), then that idea can be combined, linearly, with old ideas, and the entire dimension of new ideas is opened up.
- Lastly, science. You can have a convex combination of quantum states. That’s where the concept of superposition comes from.