Michael wrote:

> John wrote:

> >\[ (X \times Y) \times Z = X \times (Y \times Z) \]
> > but in fact this equation isn't true! Do you see why not? If you don't see why, maybe someone else can explain why.

> Yes, they are not equal because the tuple is structured differently i.e. wearing different clothes. More specifically, if they are equal then \\((X \times Y) = X \text{ and } Z = (Y \times Z)\\) which not true generally (this can be true for monoidal products when \\( Y=I\\)).

Hmm. I would have said this. The cartesian product of sets is usually defined to be a set of ordered pairs:

\[ X \times Y = \lbrace (x,y) : x \in X, y \in Y \rbrace .\]

Given this definition, we can work out \\( (X \times Y) \times Z \\) and \\( X \times (Y \times Z) \\) and see that they are different sets. (Can you or someone else do it?)

However, we can also see an obvious one-to-one correspondence between these sets! We can write down a formula for this bijection and call it the associator

\[ \alpha_{X,Y,Z} \colon (X \times Y) \times Z \to X \times (Y \times Z). \]

(Can you or someone else do it?)

Of course, there will usually be other bijections. For example, suppose \\(X,Y\\) and \\(Z\\) each have 10 elements. Then \\( (X \times Y) \times Z \\) and \\( X \times (Y \times Z) \\) will each have 1000 elements, so there will be many bijections between them. To be precise, there will be


402,387,260,077,093,773,543,702,433,923,003,985,719,374,864, 210,714,632,543,799,910,429,938,512,398,629,020,592,044,208, 486,969,404,800,479,988,610,197,196,058,631,666,872,994,808, 558,901,323,829,669,944,590,997,424,504,087,073,759,918,823, 627,727,188,732,519,779,505,950,995,276,120,874,975,462,497, 043,601,418,278,094,646,496,291,056,393,887,437,886,487,337, 119,181,045,825,783,647,849,977,012,476,632,889,835,955,735, 432,513,185,323,958,463,075,557,409,114,262,417,474,349,347, 553,428,646,576,611,667,797,396,668,820,291,207,379,143,853, 719,588,249,808,126,867,838,374,559,731,746,136,085,379,534, 524,221,586,593,201,928,090,878,297,308,431,392,844,403,281, 231,558,611,036,976,801,357,304,216,168,747,609,675,871,348, 312,025,478,589,320,767,169,132,448,426,236,131,412,508,780, 208,000,261,683,151,027,341,827,977,704,784,635,868,170,164, 365,024,153,691,398,281,264,810,213,092,761,244,896,359,928, 705,114,964,975,419,909,342,221,566,832,572,080,821,333,186, 116,811,553,615,836,546,984,046,708,975,602,900,950,537,616, 475,847,728,421,889,679,646,244,945,160,765,353,408,198,901, 385,442,487,984,959,953,319,101,723,355,556,602,139,450,399, 736,280,750,137,837,615,307,127,761,926,849,034,352,625,200, 015,888,535,147,331,611,702,103,968,175,921,510,907,788,019, 393,178,114,194,545,257,223,865,541,461,062,892,187,960,223, 838,971,476,088,506,276,862,967,146,674,697,562,911,234,082, 439,208,160,153,780,889,893,964,518,263,243,671,616,762,179, 168,909,779,911,903,754,031,274,622,289,988,005,195,444,414, 282,012,187,361,745,992,642,956,581,746,628,302,955,570,299, 024,324,153,181,617,210,465,832,036,786,906,117,260,158,783, 520,751,516,284,225,540,265,170,483,304,226,143,974,286,933, 061,690,897,968,482,590,125,458,327,168,226,458,066,526,769, 958,652,682,272,807,075,781,391,858,178,889,652,208,164,348, 344,825,993,266,043,367,660,176,999,612,831,860,788,386,150, 279,465,955,131,156,552,036,093,988,180,612,138,558,600,301, 435,694,527,224,206,344,631,797,460,594,682,573,103,790,084, 024,432,438,465,657,245,014,402,821,885,252,470,935,190,620, 929,023,136,493,273,497,565,513,958,720,559,654,228,749,774, 011,413,346,962,715,422,845,862,377,387,538,230,483,865,688, 976,461,927,383,814,900,140,767,310,446,640,259,899,490,222, 221,765,904,339,901,886,018,566,526,485,061,799,702,356,193, 897,017,860,040,811,889,729,918,311,021,171,229,845,901,641, 921,068,884,387,121,855,646,124,960,798,722,908,519,296,819, 372,388,642,614,839,657,382,291,123,125,024,186,649,353,143, 970,137,428,531,926,649,875,337,218,940,694,281,434,118,520, 158,014,123,344,828,015,051,399,694,290,153,483,077,644,569, 099,073,152,433,278,288,269,864,602,789,864,321,139,083,506, 217,095,002,597,389,863,554,277,196,742,822,248,757,586,765, 752,344,220,207,573,630,569,498,825,087,968,928,162,753,848, 863,396,909,959,826,280,956,121,450,994,871,701,244,516,461, 260,379,029,309,120,889,086,942,028,510,640,182,154,399,457, 156,805,941,872,748,998,094,254,742,173,582,401,063,677,404, 595,741,785,160,829,230,135,358,081,840,096,996,372,524,230, 560,855,903,700,624,271,243,416,909,004,153,690,105,933,983, 835,777,939,410,970,027,753,472,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000


bijections between them. But there will be one "best" bijection.