Seminar time, you say…?

I stumbled across a link the other day, posted to Facebook by a friend of mine, entitled “the 9 kinds of physics seminar“. And my gosh. It strikes the nail perfectly on the head. I feel compelled to re-post 4 of them here. Specifically the 4 which strike most of a chord with me. However, you really should go to read the original article for explanations and the other 5. If you go to a sufficient number of talks in any kind of physical science (trust me, chemistry talks are just the same), you’ll probably find these eerily familiar.

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About invaderxan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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8 Responses to Seminar time, you say…?

  1. jwebster1369 says:

    This is pretty funny. I definitely agree. Seminars are usually either over explained causing people to tune out, or under explained causing people to be completely lost. I recently attended a physics colloquium given by a fairly prestigious professor from another university. Half of it was not understandable, the other half was way over the “non-specialist’s” heads. I’ll say I understood maybe 30-40%, and that was at 100% focus. =/

    • invaderxan says:

      It’s almost always the way, and in fairness it’s a difficult balance to strike. As a speaker, I figure it’s your job to make yourself understood — though this is sometimes particularly difficult for people like me who work in interdisciplinary areas!

      • jwebster1369 says:

        I think it’s probably also very hard to explain something at a fundamental level that is necessary to keep audiences captivated when the talk is based on mathematical models and data. Most people tend to tune out when things get too technical. People usually don’t care about all the intricate details to get from point A to point B. They can only pay attention to the main bullet points. I think what keeps people in tune is when a talk has a definite beginning, middle, and end, with the middle being as brief and concise as possible, ha ha.

        • invaderxan says:

          That’s definitely true. I always like to include signposts for the audience in my talks. An outline at the beginning, section subheadings, and some indication of where in the talk you are. This is from the number of talks I’ve sat through which seem to end abruptly, change topics unexpectedly, or just ramble needlessly.

          I guess I like to see it as telling a story. A little cohesion is good, as is good structure.

  2. Prof. Bleen says:

    Amazing—the parallels between physics and biostatistics are nearly perfect. Just substitute “applied” for “experimental(ist)”.

  3. Rings so true. I’ve been to a number of “unprepared theorists” each time telling myself to be more careful next time. Even been to an unprepared theorist colloquium – boring multiple departments at the same time, yet given by someone who should know better.
    It is worth wading through the treacle to reach the occasional gems of seminars though, that educate, entertain and inform.

    I’m left wondering where I am on the spectrum though!

    • invaderxan says:

      Oh gosh, I know what you mean. They’re instantly recognisable by the plain white slides containing black text equations and very little else. I mean, I like to think I’m not stupid, but if someone launches straight into hardcore equation hell with little or no introduction it’s going to make my head hurt!

      And I don’t know about you, but I have no idea of what kind of talks I give. It’s like the Milky Way galaxy, it’s difficult to get a proper picture of it from the inside…

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