Why (not) vote? – A mathematical approach to the theory of Elections, grassroots democracy & the challenges of decision making in big groups

The next meeting will be on the 11th of April at 20:00, as always in Café Tunnel.
This times topic is Why (not) vote? – A mathematical approach to the theory of Elections, grassroots democracy & the challenges of decision making in big groups” and will be presented by Claude.

According to the current democratic Ideal elections ought to reflect the “will of the people”. We will examine current election methods and discuss alternative societal designs. Both will prove  to be challenging.

Basic considerations:

  • What is an election?
  • How do formal rules influence elections?
  • Can there be fair elections and how should they look like?

All of this will be analyzed using established mathematical methods of the field of economics (so called Public Choice Theory). Apart from classical philosophical-idealistic democracy theories we will see that fair elections constitute a complex as well as a hardly reachable ideal.
At the end of the discussion probably more new questions will have appeared, than we answered. On that account we will have established an exceptional and differentiated point of view on, up to this point accepted, fundamental assumptions of our society.

Suggested literature (in German):
Mathematik der Wahl: Das Arrow-Theorem – Karl Geller

  • Basic: Chapter 5.1 will probably be covered by the Talk.
  • Bonus: Chapter 5.2 bonus material.

Since the literature is neither published nor otherwise available please contact Manu (e.schwarzhans@gmx.at) in order to get it.


Bohmian Mechanics

The topic of our next meeting will be Bohmian Mechanics  and will be presented by Gerd. This is especially fortunate, since the next guest at our lecture series will be Antony Valentini (see https://physik.univie.ac.at/veranstaltungen/events-detailansicht/news/antony-valentini-us-the-de-broglie-bohm-pilot-wave-theory/ ), who will talk about the The De Broglie-Bohm Pilot-Wave Theory.
As always, the meeting will take place at the Tunnel. This time we will meet on Tuesday 13.3. at 20:00.


How to charge a quantum Battery

The new semester is going to start soon and with it our Naturwissenschaftscafè is going to continue. Hopefully all of you had relaxing holidays and were able to recharge your energy.

The topic of the next meeting is going to be “How to charge a quantum Battery” and will be prepared by Ben. It will take place on the 28th of February at 19:00 in Cafè Tunnel.

To get some insight on the topic please consider reading the provided literature:

  • To get the idea of why it is even important to think about the problem of charging a battery please read Enhancing the charging power of quantum batteries:
  • To read into the protocol Ben is using, you can read Page 12-14 of Precision and Work Fluctuations in Gaussian Battery Charging:

Since this is a rather specialized topic and we are a very interdisciplinary community Ben will keep it rather basic. So please don’t hesitate to come if the topic makes you interested.

Besides that there will be an organizational discussion about the day and time of our meetings in the new semester and some other stuff.

Second anniversary of NWC

We are very glad to announce the second anniversary of the founding of Naturwissenschaftscafé!
Two years ago we had the idea to drink beer (or other beverages) and discuss science that we were not able to discuss in university. Well, this escalated quickly (not only the ethanol consumption) and next semester we have the first official NWC Lecture Series! (which you can btw apply at ufind: scientific realism)
To celebrate this and the fact that we actually managed to keep this regular over such a long time, we invite you to join the 2nd Birthday NWC meeting on Wednesday 14.2. 19:00h at the Tunnel.
We will discuss open questions from the last two years, the lecture series and will just sit around and drink. So please join us IMPORTANT! Even though this is a celebration for the most part, there is also important literature to prepare. Please read following paper carefully:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19375883 The results will be discussed next wednesday. See you there!

Explainable AI

With ever more powerful and ubiquitous artificial intelligence (AI) questions arise about how these inscrutable black-box systems arrive at their decisions, which can have serious legal or health-related consequences, such as in autonomous cars or tumor recognition.

In 2016 the US Department of Defense (DARPA) started an initiative on explainable AI (XAI) to investigate how to answer these questions. In May 2018 the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect, with especially article 21 “Right to object” and article 22 “Automated individual decision-making, including profiling” giving subjects the right to object against ‘any decision based solely on automated processing[, meaning AI], […] which produces legal effects concerning [the subject] or similarly significantly affects him or her.’ (cited from article 22)

In the light of these initiatives to investigate and to regulate the usage and misuse of AI, we will have a look at and discuss both the technical concepts and solutions at play, and the regulatory law and how to devise it such that it works to the greatest benefit of all.

Therefore, please read at least the material of level 1 to prepare for our next meeting on Wednesday 31st January 7:30pm 2018 in Tunnel Vienna, Florianigasse 39, 1080 Vienna.


Level 1

Read this very accessible article on the topic by the the New York Times.

Level 2

Also read these articles critical towards the GDPR and the DARPA viewpoint, and have a look at the Wikipedia articles on XAI and the Right to Explanation as attempted to be installed in the GDPR.

Level 3

Dig deep into the legal framework of the EU’s GDPR (especially Recital 71) and see for yourself how this affects future AI development.


Picture credit: https://tctechcrunch2011.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/humanrobotoverlap.jpg?w=738

Lecture series on foundations of science: Scientific Realism

Whether there exists something ‘real’ to be described by science is one of the oldest question in philosophy of science, and it is one of the fundamental pillars on which scientific disciplines are built. In particular, are theoretical entities introduced by scientific theories merely useful predictive tools, or rather do they offer a faithful description of an outside ‘real’ world? Do we have scientific (i.e. non-metaphysical) methods to discriminate between these world views?

In this regard, foundations of natural sciences were shaken by the advent of quantum mechanics. Indeed, this theory demolished most of the a priori ideas, upon which classical theories were built, including the conception of reality. Crucial fundamental issues in quantum theory, such as the ontological status of the wave function and of the properties of particles are still heatedly debated. As D. Mermin pointed out, “today, nearly 90 years after its formulation, disagreement about the meaning of the [quantum] theory is stronger than ever. New interpretations appear every day. None ever disappear”.

Despite the importance of the concept of realism for science, fundamental issues of such a kind are rarely treated in as much detail as they would deserve in university courses. Therefore, a group of students of the University of Vienna from different scientific fields (see https://naturwissenschaftscafe.wordpress.com/) have organised a lecture series devoted to the subject of scientific realism. The lecture series will consist of nine lectures (in SS 2018), held by some of the most prominent (both international and local) professors in the field of foundations of quantum mechanics and philosophy of science. Moreover, the lecture series will be an official course of the University of Vienna, for which students could get ECTS upon passing an exam.

Further information can be found on Ufind under the following link:

This initiative has been stimulated also by a very successful (over 200 attendees) symposium on foundations of science, entitled “Shut Up and Contemplate!”, which was organised in March 2017 (https://shutupandcontemplatesymposium.wordpress.com/).


What is Fundamental?

In our next meeting Flavio will discuss the question “What is Fundamental?” and expound his and Chiara’s viewpoint on the topic. The meeting will take place on the 17th of January at 8pm in Tunnel Vienna.

The Topic was inspired by the Community Essay Contest of  Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi), in which Flavio and Chiara participate. Their essay “Demolishing prejudices to get to the foundations” can be found and commented under the following link:


To have some structure, the suggested way of reading the essay is:

  • Level 1-general idea:
    Until page 6, second paragraph (the one ending with “for every future scientifically significant theory.”)
  • Level 2-examples from physics:
    the whole text