Skip to the Main Content

Note:These pages make extensive use of the latest XHTML and CSS Standards. They ought to look great in any standards-compliant modern browser. Unfortunately, they will probably look horrible in older browsers, like Netscape 4.x and IE 4.x. Moreover, many posts use MathML, which is, currently only supported in Mozilla. My best suggestion (and you will thank me when surfing an ever-increasing number of sites on the web which have been crafted to use the new standards) is to upgrade to the latest version of your browser. If that's not possible, consider moving to the Standards-compliant and open-source Mozilla browser.

March 31, 2020

Structured Cospans and Double Categories

Posted by John Baez

This talk on structured cospans and double categories is the first of a two-part series; the second part is about structured cospans and Petri nets.

I gave this first talk at the ACT@UCR seminar. You can see the slides here, or download a video here, or watch the video on YouTube.

Afterwards we had discussions at the Category Theory Community Server, and you can see those here:

(To join this, click here. This link will expire in a while.)

Here’s the talk:

Structured cospans and double categories.

Abstract. One goal of applied category theory is to better understand networks appearing throughout science and engineering. Here we introduce “structured cospans” as a way to study networks with inputs and outputs. Given a functor L:ABL \colon \mathsf{A} \to \mathsf{B}, a structured cospan is a diagram in X\mathsf{X} of the form

If A\mathsf{A} and X\mathsf{X} have finite colimits and LL is a left adjoint, we obtain a symmetric monoidal category whose objects are those of A\mathsf{A} and whose morphisms are certain equivalence classes of structured cospans. However, this arises from a more fundamental structure: a symmetric monoidal double category where the horizontal 1-cells are structured cospans, not equivalence classes thereof. We explain the mathematics and illustrate it with an example from epidemiology.

This talk is based on work with Kenny Courser and Christina Vasilakopoulou, some of which appears here:

Yesterday Rongmin Lu told me something amazing: structured cospans were already invented in 2007 by José Luiz Fiadeiro and Vincent Schmit. It’s pretty common for simple ideas to be discovered several times. The amazing thing is that these other authors also called them ‘structured cospans’!

These earlier authors did not do everything we’ve done, so I’m not upset. Their work proves I chose the right name.

Posted at March 31, 2020 2:49 AM UTC

TrackBack URL for this Entry:

1 Comment & 0 Trackbacks

Re: Structured Cospans and Double Categories

The remark

Think of AA as a category of objects with ‘less structure’, and XX as a category of objects with ‘more structure’,

and talk of ‘decoration’ put me in mind of type refinement.

But then if Functors are Type Refinement Systems, refinement should be everywhere.

Posted by: David Corfield on April 3, 2020 8:08 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Post a New Comment