Invariant (mathematics)

An example derivation (with superscripts indicating the applied rules) is

In light of this, one might wonder whether it is possible to convert MI into MU, using only these four transformation rules. One could spend many hours applying these transformation rules to strings. However, it might be quicker to find a property that is invariant to all rules (i.e. that isn't changed by any of them), and demonstrates that getting to MU is impossible. By looking at the puzzle from a logical standpoint, one might realize that the only way to get rid of any I's is to have three consecutive I's in the string. This makes the following invariant interesting to consider:

This is an invariant to the problem, if for each of the transformation rules the following holds: if the invariant held before applying the rule, it will also hold after applying it. Looking at the net effect of applying the rules on the number of I's and U's, one can see this actually is the case for all rules:

The table above shows clearly that the invariant holds for each of the possible transformation rules, which means that whichever rule one picks, at whatever state, if the number of I's was not a multiple of three before applying the rule, then it won't be afterwards either.

Given that there is a single I in the starting string MI, and one that is not a multiple of three, one can then conclude that it is impossible to go from MI to MU (as the number of I's will never be a multiple of three).

The notion of invariance is formalized in three different ways in mathematics: via group actions, presentations, and deformation.

More importantly, one may define a function on a set, such as "radius of a circle in the plane", and then ask if this function is invariant under a group action, such as rigid motions.