MIU in Curry

More than two years ago, my colleague Denis Firsov and I gave a series of three Theory Lunch talks about the MIU string rewriting system from Douglas Hofstadter’s MU puzzle. The first talk was about a Haskell implementation of MIU, the second talk was an introduction to the functional logic programming language Curry, and the third talk was about a Curry implementation of MIU. The blog articles MIU in Haskell and A taste of Curry are write-ups of the first two talks. However, a write-up of the third talk has never seen the light of day so far. This is changed with this article.

As usual, this article is written using literate programming. The article source is a literate Curry file, which you can load into KiCS2 to play with the code.

I want to thank all the people from the Curry mailing list who have helped me improving the code in this article.


We import the module SearchTree:

import SearchTree

Basic things

We define the type Sym of symbols and the type Str of symbol strings:

data Sym = M | I | U

showSym :: Sym -> String
showSym M = "M"
showSym I = "I"
showSym U = "U"

type Str = [Sym]

showStr :: Str -> String
showStr str = concatMap showSym str

Next, we define the type Rule of rules:

data Rule = R1 | R2 | R3 | R4

showRule :: Rule -> String
showRule R1 = "R1"
showRule R2 = "R2"
showRule R3 = "R3"
showRule R4 = "R4"

So far, the Curry code is basically the same as the Haskell code. However, this is going to change below.

Rule application

Rule application becomes a lot simpler in Curry. In fact, we can code the rewriting rules almost directly to get a rule application function:

applyRule :: Rule -> Str -> Str
applyRule R1 (init ++ [I])              = init ++ [I, U]
applyRule R2 ([M] ++ tail)              = [M] ++ tail ++ tail
applyRule R3 (pre ++ [I, I, I] ++ post) = pre ++ [U] ++ post
applyRule R4 (pre ++ [U, U] ++ post)    = pre ++ post

Note that we do not return a list of derivable strings, as we did in the Haskell solution. Instead, we use the fact that functions in Curry are nondeterministic.

Furthermore, we do not need the helper functions splits and replace that we used in the Haskell implementation. Instead, we use the ++-operator in conjunction with functional patterns to achieve the same functionality.

Now we implement a utility function applyRules for repeated rule application. Our implementation uses a similar trick as the famous Haskell implementation of the Fibonacci sequence:

applyRules :: [Rule] -> Str -> [Str]
applyRules rules str = tail strs where

    strs = str : zipWith applyRule rules strs

The Haskell implementation does not need the applyRules function, but it needs a lot of code about derivation trees instead. In the Curry solution, derivation trees are implicit, thanks to nondeterminism.


A derivation is a sequence of strings with rules between them such that each rule takes the string before it to the string after it. We define types for representing derivations:

data Deriv = Deriv [DStep] Str

data DStep = DStep Str Rule

showDeriv :: Deriv -> String
showDeriv (Deriv steps goal) = "        "                ++
                               concatMap showDStep steps ++
                               showStr goal              ++

showDerivs :: [Deriv] -> String
showDerivs derivs = concatMap ((++ "\n") . showDeriv) derivs

showDStep :: DStep -> String
showDStep (DStep origin rule) = showStr origin ++
                                "\n-> ("       ++
                                showRule rule  ++
                                ") "

Now we implement a function derivation that takes two strings and returns the derivations that turn the first string into the second:

derivation :: Str -> Str -> Deriv
derivation start end
    | start : applyRules rules start =:= init ++ [end]
        = Deriv (zipWith DStep init rules) end where

    rules :: [Rule]
    rules free

    init :: [Str]
    init free

Finally, we define a function printDerivations that explicitly invokes a breadth-first search to compute and ultimately print derivations:

printDerivations :: Str -> Str -> IO ()
printDerivations start end = do
    searchTree <- getSearchTree (derivation start end)
    putStr $ showDerivs (allValuesBFS searchTree)

You may want to enter

printDerivations [M, I] [M, I, U]

at the KiCS2 prompt to see the derivations function in action.

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