The 2014 lecture was delivered by Professor Samson Abramsky, University of Oxford. The lecture took place on 5 June 2014 at the Clore Lecture Theatre Huxley Building, Imperial College, London.
Contextual semantics: From quantum mechanics to logic, databases, constraints, complexity and natural language semantics
Quantum Mechanics presents a disturbingly different picture of physical reality to the classical world-view. These non-classical features also offer new resources and possibilities for information processing. At the heart of quantum non-classicality are the phenomena of non-locality, contextuality and entanglement. We shall describe recent work in which tools from Computer Science are used to shed new light on these phenomena. This has led to a number of developments, including a novel approach to classifying multipartite entangled states, and a unifying principle for Bell inequalities based on logical consistency conditions. At the same time, there are also striking and unexpected connections with a number of topics in classical computer science, including relational databases, constraint satisfaction, and natural language semantics.
This reflects the pervasiveness of contextuality, in computation, language and cognition, as well as in quantum physics.
It leads to what we may call the Contextual semantics hypothesis: we can find common mathematical structure in all these diverse manifestations, and develop a widely applicable theory.
The lecture will present an introduction to contextual semantics, in a self-contained, expository fashion.
About the speaker
Samson Abramsky is Christopher Strachey Professor of Computing and a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford University. Previously he held chairs at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, and at the University of Edinburgh. He holds MA degrees from Cambridge and Oxford, and a PhD from the University of London.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and a Member of Academia Europaea. His paper Domain theory in Logical Form won the LiCS Test-of-Time award (a 20-year retrospective) for 1987. He was awarded an EPSRC Senior Research Fellowship on Foundational Structures and Methods for Quantum Informatics in 2007. He was awarded the BCS Lovelace Medal in 2013.
He has played a leading role in the development of game semantics, and its applications to the semantics of programming languages. Other notable contributions include his work on domain theory in logical form, the lazy lambda calculus, strictness analysis, concurrency theory, interaction categories, and geometry of interaction. More recently, he has been working on high-level methods for quantum computation and information.