- The property of remaining unchanged regardless of changes in the conditions of measurement. For example, the area of a surface remains unchanged if the surface is rotated in space; thus the area exhibits rotational invariance. In physics, invariance is related to conservation laws. For example, conservation of angular momentum is directly related to rotational invariance (the laws of physics don't depend on the angle of the reference point), conservation of energy is related to invariance over time (the laws of physics remain the same over time), and conservation of momentum is related to invariance over translations through space (the laws of physics don't depend on the position of the reference point). A form of invariance called Lorenz invariance is fundamental to the theory of Special Relativity. Invariance is also called symmetry. See also Noether's theorem.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.