4th Annual University of Toronto Physics Jamboree

Despite the silly name, this is actually a very creative introduction to the work done in our department. The concept : in alphabetical order, each professor must present an introduction to their work in exactly three minutes. In today’s case, that’s 38 three-minute talks. It’s an oppurtunity for new grad students to get a “who’s who” of the department, as well as a glimpse of all the research being done so that they can start thinking about what they may want to study.

What can you possibly talk about in three minutes? In short : nothing. For an old fart such as myself (even though I’ve never gotten around to seeing the Jamboree on any of the other three occasions), most of the entertainment is watching a succession of professors, all in vain, try to communicate minute details about their research. And get cut off by the absurdly piercing three-minute bell. It seems so obvious that the only sensible strategy is to talk about the “big picture”, i.e., outline only the problems in your field, since there is no time to explain the solutions. And yet I am amazed that people choose to show complicated graphs and attempt to explain them to an audience of non-specialists in the final fourty-five seconds of their talk. Hell, even an audience of specialists wouldn’t be able to digest it that quickly. As if, amongst a field of almost forty talks, anyone’s going to remember one particular data feature in one particular talk in a field they’re unfamiliar with.

All this was followed by the annual beginning-of-term party, whose open bar seems to close earlier and earlier each year. Yes, I am complaining.