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Although the zeta function was not always given that name, there is a classical relationship between it, the characteristic polynomial, and the traces of the powers of a matrix, which are simply restatements of certain properties of polynomials. By convention, the characteristic polynomial of the matrix M is defined to be the determinant
which is equivalent to
for eigenvalues . Written as a polynomial in powers of t,
wherein the coefficients can be expressed either as homogeneous products of the roots or as sums of principal minors, both according to well known formulas.
For the transformations which we intend to make, it is more convenient to use as a variable or, to avoid confusion, to introduce the function
whose factored form is
As a polynomial it differs from only in attaching the coefficients to ascending rather than descending powers of t:
Both and are finite polynomials, whose reciprocals could be represented as power series, even treating them formally and ignoring questions of convergence. We are interested in as the reciprocal of ,
which can be represented as a single power series by representing each factor in the denominator as a geometric series, multiplying them term by term, and collecting coefficients.
In that case
where is the sum of all possible homogeneous products of ; when n=2, for instance, .
Of more interest are the coefficients of
in other words, the traces of the powers of M.
The practical situation is that the coefficients are always fairly easy to obtain, while the quantities that are really desired are either the coefficients or . Comparison of the series involved in each of the definitions yields equations of convolution type relating the coefficients, typically in the form of single determinants. Recovering the eigenvalues from the coefficients is much harder since that is just the problem of finding the roots of a polynomial; all the same, the task is hard to avoid since it is likely that some or all of the eigenvalues will be sought for.
Newton's identities relate the power sums to the coefficients of the characteristic polynomial; in the present context they are obtained by differentiating the formula to obtain . Comparing coefficients yields the convolution (with )
which can be solved for either a or m in terms of the other.
For example, the system of equations
is readily solved for the a's, to obtain
For example, , .