Sunday, November 21, 2010

What is wrong with these colloquia?

Are you preparing a talk? There was a provocative article What's Wrong with Those Talks by David Mermin, published by Physics Today back in 1992. It is worth digesting, even if you do not agree with it. He does practice what he preaches. I once remember him reading a referee report from PRL once in a talk on quasi-crystals. (He claimed the referee was Linus Pauling). One of his main points is we need to be very modest about what we hope we can achieve in a talk, particularly a colloquium. People will rarely complain if the talk is too basic and they understand most of it. The primary purpose is to help people understand why you thought the project was so interesting that you embarked on it.

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