Degeneracy (mathematics)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about degeneracy in mathematics. For the degeneracy of a graph, see degeneracy (graph theory). For other uses, see Degeneracy (disambiguation).

In mathematics, a degenerate case is a limiting case in which an element of a class of objects is qualitatively different from the rest of the class and hence belongs to another, usually simpler, class. Degeneracy is the condition of being a degenerate case.

A degenerate case thus has special features, which depart from the properties that are generic in the wider class, and which would be lost under an appropriate small perturbation.

In geometry[edit]

Conic section[edit]

Main article: Degenerate conic

A degenerate conic is a conic section (a second-degree plane curve, the points of which satisfy an equation that is quadratic in one or the other or both variables) that fails to be an irreducible curve.


  • A degenerate triangle has collinear vertices and zero area, and thus coincides with a segment covered twice.


  • A segment is a degenerate case of a rectangle, if this has a side of length 0.
  • For any non-empty subset S \subseteq \{1, 2, \ldots, n\}, there is a bounded, axis-aligned degenerate rectangle
R \triangleq \left\{\mathbf{x} \in \mathbb{R}^n: x_i = c_i \ (\text{for } i\in S) \text{ and } a_i \leq x_i \leq b_i \ (\text{for } i \notin S)\right\}

where \mathbf{x} \triangleq [x_1, x_2, \ldots, x_n] and a_i, b_i, c_i are constant (with a_i \leq b_i for all i). The number of degenerate sides of R is the number of elements of the subset S. Thus, there may be as few as one degenerate "side" or as many as n (in which case R reduces to a singleton point).


Standard torus[edit]

  • A sphere is a degenerate standard torus where the axis of revolution passes through the center of the generating circle, rather than outside it.


  • When the radius of a sphere goes to zero, the resulting degenerate sphere of zero volume is a point.



  • A set containing a single point is a degenerate continuum.
  • Similarly, roots of a polynomial are said to be degenerate if they coincide, since generically the n roots of an nth degree polynomial are all distinct. This usage carries over to eigenproblems: a degenerate eigenvalue (i.e. a multiple coinciding root of the characteristic polynomial) is one that has more than one linearly independent eigenvector.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Weisstein, Eric W., "Degenerate", MathWorld.