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Characterization (mathematics)

From Academic Kids

In the jargon of mathematics, the statement that "Property P characterizes object X" means, not simply that X has property P, but that X is the only thing that has property P. It is also common to find statements such as "Property Q characterises Y up to isomorphism". The first type of statement says in different words that the extension of P is a singleton set. The second says that the extension of Q is a single equivalence class (for isomorphism, in the given example — depending on how up to is being used, some other equivalence relation might be involved).

Examples

  • "According to Bohr-Mollerup theorem, among all functions f such that f(1) = 1 and x f(x) = f(x + 1) for x > 0, log-convexity characterizes the gamma function." This means that among all such functions, the gamma function is the only one that is log-convex. (A function f is log-convex iff log(f) is a convex. The base of the logarithm does not matter as long as it is more than 1, but conventionally mathematicians take "log" with no subscript to mean the natural logarithm, whose base is e.)
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