School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Distinguished Lecturer Seminar - Professor Samso - Contextual Semantics: At the borders of paradox

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1 April 2015

Time: 3:00 - 4:00pm
Venue: BR 3.02 Bancroft Road Teaching Rooms Peter Landin Building London E1 4NS

Contextual Semantics: At the borders of paradox Samson Abramsky is Christopher Strachey Professor of Computing and a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford University 3:00pm – 4:00pm (preceded at 2.45pm by tea and followed by a reception - both in the Informatics Hub) All welcome (especially students), no pre-booking required

Quantum Mechanics presents a disturbingly different picture of physical reality to the classical world-view. Contextuality is one of the key non-classical features of quantum mechanics. It has been argued that it provides the ``magic’’ ingredient enabling quantum computation.  We shall describe recent work in which tools from Computer Science are used to shed new light on this phenomenon.
Contextuality can be understood as arising where we have a family of data which is locally consistent, but globally inconsistent. From this point of view, it can be seen as a pervasive phenomenon, arising not only in quantum mechanics, but in many areas of computer science,  including relational databases, constraint satisfaction, and natural language semantics. There also remarkably direct connections to logical paradoxes. One can say that contextual phenomena, which we must accept as key features of our picture of physical reality, lie at the very borders of paradox, but do not cross those borders.
We will survey this fascinating terrain of contextual phenomena, in a self-contained 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, a Fellow of the ACM, 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 the 2008 Clifford Lecturer at Tulane University. 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.