Newswise — February 7, 2018 (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) – If science is like puzzle-solving, then making sense of quantum theory is a particularly thorny kind of brain-twister.

But what if we are asking the wrong kinds of questions?

In a live webcast event on Wednesday February 7 at 7PM ETRobert Spekkens will explain why some quantum puzzles may be the result of “category mistakes” – misjudgments about the type of things you’re seeking to explain.

To illustrate this idea, Spekkens will use historical examples of category mistakes, ranging from Platonic philosophy and Egyptian hieroglyphs to recent instances of poorly implemented drug trials.

Spekkens’ talk, titled “The riddle of the quantum sphinx: Quantum states and category mistakes,” is part of the Perimeter Institute Public Lecture Series. The talk will be webcast live on and via partner organizations.

Spekkens is a Faculty member at Perimeter Institute whose research examines the foundations of quantum theory. He co-edited the book Quantum Theory: Informational Foundations and Foils, and he is a Project Leader of the international research collaboration “Quantum Causal Structures.” In 2012, he won first prize in the Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) essay contest “Questioning the Foundations: Which of Our Assumptions Are Wrong?” He lives in Waterloo with his wife and three-year-old son.

Following the talk, Spekkens will answer questions from the online and in-house audience – including questions submitted prior to and during the talk via Facebook and Twitter (using the hashtag #piLIVE). Questions are welcomed from everyone – aspiring scientific explorers, school classes, physics buffs, and general math and science enthusiasts.

View past PI Public Lectures and events, and read more about PI’s research, training, and outreach activities at


Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement.


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