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I want to express that I constrained something too much such that it is contradictory now. At first sight, over-constrained seems to fit, but I am not sure whether it is fine to use in a scientific publication. Can you help me?

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It's fine to use in a scientific publication, though if you're using it with respect to something mathematical (like a system of differential equations), be sure to use it correctly. Mathematics tends to have definitions. – Jefromi Nov 10 '10 at 3:00
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I've seen over-constrained used several times in scientific publications, referring to a system constrained to such a point that a solution does not exist. So I think you're fine.

(As an example, there's a paper entitled "A brief overview of over-constrained systems" by Michael Jampel published in Springer's Lecture Notes in Computer Science. See it here)

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I have never used this word, but I think that “overconstrained” (for a system of equations) is used in two slightly different meanings:

  1. There are more constraints than the degree of freedom.
  2. There are more constraints than the degree of freedom and there are no solutions because of that.

For example, we can call a system of linear equations with 10 variables and 11 equations “overconstrained” in the sense 1, but it may have a solution if some of the equations are redundant. If you need a precise meaning, I think that you should define the meaning which you intend.

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This is an interesting fact I haven't thought about yet. Thanks! – Rupert Jones Nov 9 '10 at 16:44

I quite like 'shackled' in this context. The implication is that the constraints are like chains/handcuffs.

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