Science Showoff – my talk!

Here (at the bottom of this post) is the full talk I gave at Science Showoff on December 7.

Notice how I neatly kept it within the allotted 9 minutes! I did cut out about three words where I was bumbling a bit, but otherwise this is the full thing. For quality purposes, I edited the original audio files in rather than the recording of them being played over the PA system.

To understand the groans at the mention of chemistry, and my toast comment, you need to know that at the start of the evening compere Steve Cross did an extensive joke about how all the Royal Society of Chemistry’s press releases are about toast rather than about chemistry. (Case in point: the toast sandwich.)

Here’s the talk:

I was also a prop/”volunteer” in Rob Wells’ set that night, playing the part of the Hubble Telescope, and I appear to have also won the exam that was passed around during Tom Whyntie’s set (assignment: make art using Feynman diagrams) so it was a busy (and fun!) evening.

Science Showoff!

Next week, on December 7, I’ll be speaking in London as part of Science Showoff. I’ll have tiny fragments from some of the interviews on here, as well as anecdotes about slightly more famous scientist-musicians. 

Some of the other performers that night are actually making music about science, but there’s also comedy and sports – all related to science!

Do come if you’re in or near London!

Soporific seminars

I have a confession to make: I sometimes fall asleep during seminars. I can feel it happening, and try very hard to concentrate, but when the room is dark, and the speaker is mumbling softly, facing the screen instead of the audience, and all the slides are graphs or longwinded bullet points, and the topic is slightly outside my regular field of expertise, I can’t help but nod off. I always wake up when my head falls forward, and we’re always still on the same slide, but really, that can’t be good.
This often happens during only one talk of a two-talk seminar hour, and not necessarily the second talk, so it’s not just my lack of sleep. It’s also not entirely attributable to the topic, because I’ve been fully awake and interested during talks about things I know nothing about. Someone in my department gave a talk about the 4th dimension last year. I still don’t quite understand the science/maths behind it, but it was a great talk and I listened all the way through.
This slideshow about how to give good slide show presentations is not specifically aimed at scientists (no, really, we need those data slides once in a while) but it does have some good advice.
I’d just like to add: please, please, please address the audience and not the screen! Honestly, I’ve attended talks where the speaker was with her back to the audience for 20 minutes. I don’t even know what she looked like!
I used to also advocate not memorizing everything word for word, but some people with terrible presentation-stage-fright told me that they sometimes black out during the talk and can only get through it if they have everything memorized literally. That allows them to keep talking on autopilot when they’re having a moment of panic. I guess that’s okay. But then don’t memorize your jokes, because they’re not funny if you’re on autopilot, and you’ll just get even more nervous if nobody laughs. Only sparingly add jokes if you’re confident about your presentation skills and your (and the audience’s) sense of humour.

LIVE from the Gairdner Lectures: Peto talk

Every year Toronto is host to the Gairdner Awards
Many of the award winners are past or future Nobel prize winners (in Medicine).
The last two days of the program consist of free public lectures by past winners. The speakers and talks are in such high regard that my supervisor even cancels our regular Friday labmeeting to allow us to attend the Gairdners. Really, that’s saying something. This year’s theme is Cancer. Unfortunately, the Gairdners hit Toronto at the same time as a nasty cold virus, and I only just recovered enough to allow myself into a full lecture hall in time for the last talk, by Dr. Richard Peto of the Clinical Trial Service Unit & Epidemiological Studies Unit at the University of Oxford. He won the Gairdner Award in 1992.
A live-blogged summary of his talk on cancer mortality in relation to smoking is below. They’re notes, so the grammar is…non-existent.