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2016 Physics of the Observer
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Dr. Bob Coecke
Oxford University

Project Title

The Road to a New Quantum Formalism: Categories as a Canvas for Quantum Foundations

Project Summary

When watching television, we don't observe the `low-level' matrices of tiny pixels the screen is made up from, but rather `high-level' Gestalts of each of the figuring entities making up the story that the images convey. These entities and their story is the essence of the images; the matrix of pixels is just a technologically convenient representation. Similarly, in modern computer programming, one does not `speak' in terms of 0s and 1s, but rather relies on high-level concepts about information flow. The way we reason nowadays about quantum theory is still very `low-level', in terms of matices of so-called complex numbers. Recent work identified a high-level formal framework for quantum theory, resulting in purely diagrammatic languages for reason and compution, and also corresponding logics, that is, languages which a computer `understands'. By not making explicit the underlying `low-level pixels' there is still plenty of freedom to articulate the ideas behind other important foundational work on quantum theory. Therefore our approach can act as a canvas on which we can paint a variety of theories of physical reality. This would provide us with a true image of nature, rather than its pixels.

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