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Current Program

2017-18 Agency in the Physical World
Submit RFP by February 1, 2018
Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Dr. John Baez
University of California at Riverside

Project Title

Categorifying Fundamental Physics

Project Summary

In ordinary mathematics, and physics as well, equations are fundamental. However, every equation is a half-truth: after all, if the two sides of the equation look different, why are we saying they're the same? 'Categorification' is a fancy name for coming clean on this issue: instead of merely saying that two things are the same, we specify a way of regarding them as the same.

This has surprising consequences. For example, we usually think of quantities like energy as continuously variable, or 'analog'. Quantum mechanics shows there is a certain discreteness built into the world, but it still uses analog ideas. Using categorification, we can phrase large portions of quantum mechanics in a purely discrete way. We want to know how far we can push this.

In addition to thinking about physics in new ways, we shall explore new methods of carrying out research. We intend to share not just our results, but the process by which we find them. We will do this by incorporating a wide range of multi-media into our research, including videos of lectures and seminars made publicly available online.

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