Friday, February 26, 2010

Dead Bulbs go PIP!

The previous few posts reminded me of a time when everyone in grad school had to give presentations. This was in the day of overhead projectors (instead of DLP projectors and powerpoint slides). The talks were a mix of sticky, wacky, tacky, and sleepy. The talks however carried a great deal of weight. It was like the football combines for grad school - you impress here you get a sweet research fellowship, internship, job - basically you are not a starving grad student anymore.

The one talk that impressed many in the room was a guy who was giving an abstruse talk on gallium arsenide for better transistors. He was not totally unsticky, but he did suffer from the curse of knowledge. He assumed everyone knew everything he knew about the subject, even though he had been researching this for about four years. I was lost at slide 3, as bored grad students we took and average and found that most people (at least in the back three rows) were lost at about slide 2.7.

However the most impressive part of this talk was that in the middle of the talk the bulb in the overhead projector pops with a pretty loud BIP (that is technically the sound an overhead bulb makes when it stops working). This made the talk extremely interesting for the back three rows because:
  1. We commiserated with the guy, this was really bad luck, and it could've happen to any one of us.
  2. We could follow his talk know because it was not about gallium arsenide but about bulbs.
  3. That BIP noise really woke us up and we noticed that people were looking around - especially at the back three rows.
The guy giving the talk did not miss a beat. He never stopped talking about his topic (time limits were enforced). He opened his back pack and pulled out an extra bulb. He opened up the overhead (you could tell by the ease in which he did this it was not his first time) replaced the bulb and kept right on going - skipping two slides which he mentioned he covered while replacing the bulb. He got several sweet job offers.

Not to be outdone I have seen karyakars at shibirs, meetings, and conventions come with their own portable speakers, laptops, and even big pads to stick on wall just as a backup. If things do not work out, they simply go to plan B. They probably have sweet jobs as well.

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