To understand tensors well, it’s good to have some working knowledge of linear algebra and vector calculus. You already read in the introduction that tensors are implemented in TensorFlow as multidimensional data arrays, but some more introduction is maybe needed in order to completely grasp tensors and their use in machine learning. Learn how to build a neural network and how to train, evaluate and optimize it with TensorFlow.

Deep learning is a subfield of machine learning that is a set of algorithms that is inspired by the structure and function of the brain. TensorFlow is the second machine learning framework that Google created and used to design, build, and train deep learning models.

You can use the TensorFlow library do to numerical computations, which in itself doesn’t seem all too special, but these computations are done with data flow graphs. In these graphs, nodes represent mathematical operations, while the edges represent the data, which usually are multidimensional data arrays or tensors, that are communicated between these edges.

Plane Vectors

Before you go into plane vectors, it’s a good idea to shortly revise the concept of “vectors”; Vectors are special types of matrices, which are rectangular arrays of numbers. Because vectors are ordered collections of numbers, they are often seen as column matrices: they have just one column and a certain number of rows. In other terms, you could also consider vectors as scalar magnitudes that have been given a direction. an example of a scalar is “5 meters” or “60 m/sec”, while a vector is, for example, “5 meters north” or “60 m/sec East”. The difference between these two is obviously that the vector has a direction.

Nevertheless, these examples that you have seen up until now might seem far off from the vectors that you might encounter when you’re working with machine learning problems. This is normal; The length of a mathematical vector is a pure number: it is absolute. The direction, on the other hand, is relative: it is measured relative to some reference direction and has units of radians or degrees. You usually assume that the direction is positive and in counterclockwise rotation from the reference direction.

Unit Vectors

Unit vectors are vectors with a magnitude of one. You’ll often recognize the unit vector by a lowercase letter with a circumflex, or “hat”. Unit vectors will come in convenient if you want to express a 2-D or 3-D vector as a sum of two or three orthogonal components, such as the x− and y−axes, or the z−axis. And when you are talking about expressing one vector, for example, as sums of components, you’ll see that you’re talking about component vectors, which are two or more vectors whose sum is that given vector.

Tensors

And, just like you represent a scalar with a single number and a vector with a sequence of three numbers in a 3-dimensional space, for example, a tensor can be represented by an array of 3R numbers in a 3-dimensional space. The “R” in this notation represents the rank of the tensor: this means that in a 3-dimensional space, a second-rank tensor can be represented by 3 to the power of 2 or 9 numbers. In an N-dimensional space, scalars will still require only one number, while vectors will require N numbers, and tensors will require N^R numbers. This explains why you often hear that scalars are tensors of rank 0: since they have no direction, you can represent them with one number.

Next to plane vectors, also covectors and linear operators are two other cases that all three together have one thing in common: they are specific cases of tensors. You still remember how a vector was characterized in the previous section as scalar magnitudes that have been given a direction. A tensor, then, is the mathematical representation of a physical entity that may be characterized by magnitude and multiple directions.

With this in mind, it’s relatively easy to recognize scalars, vectors, and tensors and to set them apart: scalars can be represented by a single number, vectors by an ordered set of numbers, and tensors by an array of numbers.

What makes tensors so unique is the combination of components and basis vectors: basis vectors transform one way between reference frames and the components transform in just such a way as to keep the combination between components and basis vectors the same.

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