Concept

# Overdetermined system

Résumé
In mathematics, a system of equations is considered overdetermined if there are more equations than unknowns. An overdetermined system is almost always inconsistent (it has no solution) when constructed with random coefficients. However, an overdetermined system will have solutions in some cases, for example if some equation occurs several times in the system, or if some equations are linear combinations of the others. The terminology can be described in terms of the concept of constraint counting. Each unknown can be seen as an available degree of freedom. Each equation introduced into the system can be viewed as a constraint that restricts one degree of freedom. Therefore, the critical case occurs when the number of equations and the number of free variables are equal. For every variable giving a degree of freedom, there exists a corresponding constraint. The overdetermined case occurs when the system has been overconstrained — that is, when the equations outnumber the unknowns. In contrast, the underdetermined case occurs when the system has been underconstrained — that is, when the number of equations is fewer than the number of unknowns. Such systems usually have an infinite number of solutions. Consider the system of 3 equations and 2 unknowns (X and Y), which is overdetermined because 3 > 2, and which corresponds to Diagram #1: There is one solution for each pair of linear equations: for the first and second equations (0.2, −1.4), for the first and third (−2/3, 1/3), and for the second and third (1.5, 2.5). However, there is no solution that satisfies all three simultaneously. Diagrams #2 and 3 show other configurations that are inconsistent because no point is on all of the lines. Systems of this variety are deemed inconsistent. The only cases where the overdetermined system does in fact have a solution are demonstrated in Diagrams #4, 5, and 6. These exceptions can occur only when the overdetermined system contains enough linearly dependent equations that the number of independent equations does not exceed the number of unknowns.
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