The British Logic Colloquium, BLC 2016, will be held at the University of Edinburgh, on 7th & 8th September, preceded by the BLC PhD day, on 6th, and followed by a symposium in celebration of Gordon Plotkin's 70th Birthday, GDP70, on 9th September.


We are grateful for support from

Titles and Abstracts

Invited Talks

Maurizio Lenzerini Metaquerying in Ontology-based Data Access
Ontology-based data access is a new paradigm allowing managing data through the lens of a conceptualization of the domain of interest, called ontology. This new paradigm provides several interesting features, many of which have been already proved effective in managing complex information systems. On the other hand, several important issues remain open, and constitute stimulating challenges for the research community. One of them is metaquerying, i.e., answering queries where variables can be used to denote classes and relations in the ontology. In this talk we first provide an introduction to ontology-based data access, illustrating the main ideas and techniques for using an ontology to access the data layer of an information system, and then we discuss recent results on metaquerying.
Orna KupfermanFrom Reachability to Temporal Specifications in Game Theory

Multi-agents games are extensively used for modelling settings in which different entities share resources. For example, the setting in which entities need to route messages in a network is modeled by network-formation games: the network is modeled by a graph, and each agent has to select a path satisfying his reachability objective. In practice, the objectives of the entities are often more involved than reachability. The need to specify and reason about rich specifications has been extensively studied in the context of verification and synthesis of reactive systems. The talk describes a lifting of ideas from formal methods to multi-agent games. For example, in network-formation games with regular objectives, the edges of the graph are labeled by alphabet letters and the objective of each player is a regular language over the alphabet of labels. Thus, beyond reachability, a player may restrict attention to paths that satisfy certain properties, referring, for example, to the providers of the traversed edges, the actions associated with them, their quality of service, security, etc.

The talk assumes no previous knowledge in game theory. We will introduce the basic concepts and problems, describe how their extension to games with more expressive specification of objectives poses new challenges, and study the resulting games.

Joint work with Guy Avni and Tami Tamir.

Sylvy AnscombeMeasure and dimension in model theory

The notion of a ‘measurable structure’ was introduced by Macpherson and Steinhorn, motivated by the work on pseudofinite fields by Chatzidakis, van den Dries, and Macintyre. In ongoing joint work between the speaker, Macpherson, Steinhorn, and Wolf we propose the broader framework of ‘generalised measurable structures’. Both the new definition and the original aim to assign a ‘measure’ and a ‘dimension’ to definable sets, nearly uniformly in parameters.

Originally, measures were positive real numbers and dimensions were natural numbers; but in the newer framework we combine measure and dimension into one element of a more general algebraic object, which we call a measuring semiring. Consequently, there is a much richer zoo of examples and we have more exotic model theory.

In this talk I will introduce these notions and discuss a range of key examples, including pseudofinite fields, the random graph, vector spaces with bilinear forms, and the generic triangle-free graph.

Diego FigueraSemantically Tractable Conjunctive Queries

Conjunctive Queries (CQ) is one of the most basic and studied query languages in database theory, and it corresponds to the primitive positive fragment of first-order logic. The evaluation problem for CQs is known to be NP-complete in combined complexity and W[1]-hard in parameterized complexity. However, some syntactic fragments such as acyclic CQs and CQs of bounded tree-width are known to be tractable: CQs from these fragments can be evaluated in polynomial time.

A natural optimisation problem is whether a CQ can be rewritten into an equivalent CQ from a tractable fragment. In this talk I will report on some of the recent advances in this area for classes of acyclic and bounded tree-width CQs and in the presence of data constraints (eg, functional dependencies, tgds, etc).

Alexandra SilvaCantor meets Scott : Domain-Theoretic Foundations for Probabilistic Network Programming

ProbNetKAT is a probabilistic extension of NetKAT with a denotational semantics based on Markov kernels. The language is expressive enough to generate continuous distributions, which raises the question of how to effectively compute in the language. In this talk, we will present an alternative characterization of ProbNetKAT’s semantics using domain theory, which provides the foundations needed to build a practical implementation. The new semantics demonstrates that it is possible to analyze ProbNetKAT programs precisely using approximations of fixpoints and distributions with finite support. We develop an implementation and show how to solve a variety of practical problems including characterizing the expected performance of traffic engineering schemes based on randomized routing and reasoning probabilistically about properties such as loop freedom.
This is joint work with Steffen Smolka, Praveen Kumar, Nate Foster, and Dexter Kozen.

Alex WilkieDiophantine properties of definable sets: applications of model theory to number theory

Contributed Talks

Marcelo FioreAn Algebraic Combinatorial Approach to the Abstract Syntax of Opetopic Structures

The starting point of the talk will be the identification of structure common to tree-like combinatorial objects, exemplifying the situation with abstract syntax trees (as used in formal languages) and with opetopes (as used in higher-dimensional algebra). The emerging mathematical structure will be then formalized in a categorical setting, unifying the algebraic aspects of the theory of abstract syntax of [2,3] and the theory of opetopes of [5]. This realization conceptually allows one to transport viewpoints between these, now bridged, mathematical theories and I will explore it here in the direction of higher-dimensional algebra, giving an algebraic combinatorial framework for a generalisation of the slice construction of [1] for generating opetopes. The technical work will involve setting up a microcosm principle for near-semirings and subsequently exploiting it in the cartesian closed bicategory of generalised species of structures [4]. Connections to (cartesian and symmetric monoidal)~equational theories, lambda calculus, and algebraic combinatorics will be mentioned in passing.


  1. J.Baez and J.Dolan. Higher-Dimensional Algebra III. n-Categories and the Algebra of Opetopes. Advances in Mathematics 135, pages 145–206, 1998.
  2. M.Fiore, G.Plotkin and D.Turi. Abstract syntax and variable binding. In 14th Logic in Computer Science Conf. (LICS’99), pages 193–202. IEEE, Computer Society Press, 1999.
  3. M.Fiore. Second-order and dependently-sorted abstract syntax. In Logic in Computer Science Conf. (LICS’08), pages 57–68. IEEE, Computer Society Press, 2008.
  4. M.Fiore, N.Gambino, M.Hyland, and G.Winskel. The cartesian closed bicategory of generalised species of structures. In J. London Math. Soc., 77:203-220, 2008.
  5. S.Szawiel and M.Zawadowski. The web monoid and opetopic sets. In arXiv:1011.2374 [math.CT], 2010.
Antonin Delpeuch & Alex Simpson Relating point-free and algorithmic randomness

We relate two contrasting approaches to randomness. Algorithmic randomness classifies infinite sequences as random if they pass a collection of randomness tests specified in computability-theoretic terms. An alternative point-free approach considers instead a generalised space (a locale) of random sequences, which is non-trivial even though, in this approach, individual random sequences do not exist (the locale has no points). To connect the two, we give a constructive presentation of the point-free approach, and interpret it in Hyland's effective topos Eff. In Eff, generalised spaces of random sequences characterise, via their classical points, notions of algorithmically random sequence.

Johannes Marti Models, Duality for Non-monotonic Consequence Relations and Antimatroids

Jules Hedges & Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh Quantification and Scope in Categorical Compositional Distributional Semantics

Categorical compositional distributional semantics is a model of natural language, which combines the statistical vector space models of words with the compositional models of grammar. We formalise in this model the generalised quantifier theory of natural language, due to Barwise and Cooper. The underlying setting is a compact closed category with bialgebras. We start from a generative grammar formalisation and develop an abstract categorical compositional semantics for it, then instantiate the abstract setting to sets and relations and to finite dimensional vector spaces and linear maps. We prove the equivalence of the relational instantiation to the truth theoretic semantics of generalized quantifiers. The vector space instantiation formalises the statistical usages of words and enables us to, for the first time, reason about quantified phrases, sentences compositionally, and quantifier scope in distributional semantics.


Leslie LamportIt Isn't So Hard to Prophesize

Even about the future.

Philip Scott Some Recent Directions in MV and Effect Algebras

MV-algebras are algebraic structures that arose from Lukasiewicz many-valued logics in the 1950s. They form a rich branch of mathematics, from work of D. Mundici, with--amongst others--deep categorical connections to AF C*-algebras and their classification (K-theory). The related area of Effect Algebras arose independently in the 1990s, in quantum measurement and quantum probability theory. Both subjects have come under increasing investigation by categorists using duality theory and monadic methods. In a different direction, recently M. Lawson and P. Scott developed a "Coordinatization Program" for MV algebras, inspired by von Neumann's Continuous Geometry and non-Commutative Stone Duality in inverse semigroup theory. We characterized countable MV-algebras as lattices of ideals of certain Boolean Inverse Semigroups (AF Inverse Monoids). We survey some of the above recent results arising from concrete AF C*-algebras, as well as some recent results in Effect Algebras of interest in mixed probabilistic/nondeterministic algebraic theories.

Glynn WinskelStrategies with Parallel Causes

In a distributed game we imagine a team Player engaging a team Opponent in a distributed fashion. Such games and their strategies have been formalised within event structures. However there are limitations in founding strategies on traditional event structures. Sometimes a probabilistic distributed strategy relies on certain benign races where, intuitively, several members of team Player may race each other to make a common move. Although there are event structures which support such parallel causes, in which an event is enabled in several compatible ways, they do not support an operation of hiding central to the composition of strategies; nor do they support probability adequately. An extension of traditional event structures is devised which supports parallel causes and hiding, as well as the mix of probability and nondeterminism needed to account for probabilistic distributed strategies. The extension is tested in the construction of a bicategory of probabilistic distributed strategies with parallel causes. [This is based on joint work with Marc de Visme, ENS Paris]

Peter D. MossesModular SOS for Control Operators

This talk presents a modular technique for specifying call/cc and delimited control operators in small-step SOS.

Paul Blain LevyTrace semantics of well-founded processes via commutativity

Gordon Plotkin showed that the set of well-founded processes that perform I/O and finite nondeterminism, taken modulo trace equivalence, is initial among semilattice algebras whose algebra operations commute with binary join. We see that similar phenomena arise for finite probabilistic choice and for unbounded nondeterminism.

Joint work with Nathan Bowler (Hamburg).

Philippa GardnerReasoning about Concurrent Programs

Consider increment program inc(x) || inc(x), where inc(x) increments x atomically. It is difficult to show that, with pre-condition stating that the value of the counter is 0, the post-condition states that the value of the counter is 2. The Owicki-Gries method (1970s) can prove this strong specification by adding auxillary variables y, z and invariant x = y+z. However, this work is not compositional since more threads require more auxilary variables. Rely-guarantee reasoning (1980s) provides a form of compositional reasoning, but the specification can only talk about a counter with some value, rather than a precise value. Concurrent separation logic (2000s) is more compositional, providing local reasoning about the machine state with invariants constraining the use of shared state. For the increment program, the invariant is again too weak. Since this work, RGSep combined separation logic with rely-guarantee to reason about more fine-grained concurrent algorithms and CAP reasoning (2010) added abstraction. This talk describes recent developments in concurrent separation logic since CAP, giving an overview of the strengths of current approaches and highlighting places where there is room for improvement. We can now give a compositional proof of the strong specification of the increment program.

Eugenio MoggiModels, Over-approximations and Robustness

Hybrid systems, and related formalisms, have been successfully used to model Cyber-Physical Systems. However, mathematical models are always a simplification of the system they are meant to describe, and one must be aware of this mismatch, when using these models for system analyses. In safety analysis it is acceptable to use over-approximations of the system behavior, indeed they are the bread and butter of counterexample guided abstraction refinement (CEGAR). We propose a notion of system behavior robust wrt arbitrary small over-approximations, and argue that it is particularly appropriate for safety analysis.

Robert HarperComputational Higher Type Theory

Formal constructive type theory has proved to be an effective language for mechanized proof. By avoiding non-constructive principles, such as the law of the excluded middle, type theory admits sharper proofs and broader interpretations of results. From a computer science perspective, interest in type theory arises from its applications to programming languages. Standard constructive type theories used in mechanization admit computational interpretations based on meta-mathematical normalization theorems. These proofs are notoriously brittle; any change to the theory potentially invalidates its computational meaning. As a case in point, Voevodsky's univalence axiom raises questions about the computational meaning of proofs.

We consider the question: Can higher-dimensional type theory be construed as a programming language? We answer this question affirmatively by providing a direct, deterministic operational interpretation for a representative higher-dimensional dependent type theory with higher inductive types and an instance of univalence. Rather than being a formal type theory defined by rules, it is instead a computational type theory in the sense of Martin-Löf's meaning explanations and of the NuPRL semantics. The definition of the type theory starts with programs, and defines types as specifications of program behavior. The main result is a canonicity theorem, the first of its kind, stating that closed programs of boolean type evaluate to true or false.

Joint work with Carlo Angiuli and Todd Wilson.

Last modified: Wed Aug 31 15:48:02 BST 2016