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Reconstructing quantum theory from diagrammatic postulates

John Selby‚ Carlo Maria Scandolo and Bob Coecke


We present a reconstruction of finite-dimensional quantum theory where all of the postulates are stated entirely in diagrammatic terms, making them intuitive. Equivalently, they are stated in category-theoretic terms, making them mathematically appealing. Again equivalently, they are stated in process-theoretic terms, establishing the fact that the conceptual bare-bones of quantum theory concerns the manner in which systems and processes compose. Aside from the diagrammatic form, the key novel aspect of this reconstruction is the introduction of a new postulate, symmetric purification. Unlike the ordinary purification postulate, symmetric purification applies equally well to classical theory as well as quantum theory. We therefore first reconstruct the full process theoretic description of quantum theory, consisting of composite classical-quantum systems and their interactions, before restricting ourselves to just the `fully quantum' systems in a final step. We propose two novel alternative manners of doing so, 'no-leaking' (roughly that information gain causes disturbance) and `purity of cups' (roughly the existence of entangled states). Interestingly, these turn out to be equivalent in any process theory with cups and caps. Additionally, we show how the standard purification postulate can then be seen as an immediate consequence of the symmetric purification postulate and purity of cups. Other tangential results concern the specific frameworks of generalised probabilistic theories (GPTs) and process theories (a.k.a. CQM). Firstly, we provide a diagrammatic presentation of GPTs, which, henceforth, can now be subsumed under process theories. Secondly, we have now characterised necessary additional axioms for a process theory to correspond to the Hilbert space model, and in particular, that a 'sharp dagger' is indeed the right choice of a dagger structure.

arXiv:1802.00367 [quant−ph]