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Experimental Error: Lies, Damned Lies, and Seminars
February 2, 2011 2:29 PM   Subscribe


 
Good link. Me laugh. Me go read literature on migration habits of mammoth hunters.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 2:46 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good link. Me laugh.

You am go too far!
posted by jquinby at 2:52 PM on February 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


In a number theory seminar I remember the prof saying something like:
I'll leave the proof of this as a trivial excercise...

Given that every seminar he did was a chalk talk, what he meant was:
I've only got this nub of chalk left and I'll run out if we do it, and then I'll have to whipe down at least two additional blackboards... Plus, I only vaguely remember this proof and don't want to get lost in it, potentially embarrassing myself.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:57 PM on February 2, 2011


90% of seminars are given by someone whose main intent is to show you how smart they are, which they believe happens when they can lose most of the audience (except that one scientist who is studying almost exactly the same thing) about 5 minutes in. I hate them, hate them, hate them, because they are not smart, they are dim little people without a shred of awareness. Plus they've tormented me for years because I can't always get out of listening.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


3QD permalink, for posterity.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2011


The best seminars in my undergrad program were during summer research - they were scheduled at 11am, so you could go straight to lunch afterwards; the speakers were all internal professors doing campus research, so they had a specific topic to speak about; and the seminar size was limited to on-campus research students, so it wasn't all impersonal and stuff.

The worst was my junior year, when they didn't plan the seminar till the last minute (long funding story), and they mostly lured crackpot entrepeneurs and vaguely-relevant motivational speakers with animations in their Powerpoint presentations.
posted by muddgirl at 3:05 PM on February 2, 2011


The sad thing is this is true for almost any kind of meeting. Slide shows, acronyms and vague explanations of how latest theory/marketing project/customer trend is going to leads us to an important scientific discovery/market dominance. The next time it's the same dog and pony show but with a different theory/marketing project and very little discussion of the previous one because "we need to move forward" or some other way of discretely saying lets not dwell on past failures when we can pretend for the moment that we're really quite intelligent. The unfortunate reality is that humans are much smarter as individuals then they are as a group and meetings seem to be the nadir of group behavior.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:24 PM on February 2, 2011


Saying that was a takedown is a bit hyperbolic, no?
posted by oddman at 3:25 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nifty article.

(Also, anyone on MetaFilter who is not already reading 3QD regularly should really correct this error in their bookmarks.)
posted by rokusan at 3:37 PM on February 2, 2011


We have departmental "Science Talks" for everyone (not just grad students) at my institution and almost all of this still applies. Pretty sure if we didn't serve lunch no one would attend.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:58 PM on February 2, 2011


"When the speaker says: This led us to ask a different question.
The speaker really means: Our grant ran out."

OK, this got a hearty LOL from me.
posted by LMGM at 6:38 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


What a load of hooey! We have tons of seminars in our department -- really smart people who know stuff we don't know come to our building and tell us about said stuff, and then we get to ask them lots of questions. It's often the highlight of the week.
posted by escabeche at 7:43 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


When the speaker says: I've even put together a little movie for you to watch.

The speaker really means: I'm about to click a button in PowerPoint, at which time nothing will happen. A room full of people who think they're smart -- including you -- will try to help, but no one will succeed. I will assure you that the movie was interesting and important and move on to the next slide.

posted by telstar at 3:23 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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