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Cosmologists argue March 26, 2007

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, news, science.

Seconds after Niayesh Afshordi (Harvard University) spelt the last word of his talk, titled “Missing Thermal Energy of the Universe”, Richard Lieu started the plastics projector on the side of the main table, and placed on it a slide to make a point against the conclusions that Afshordi had drawn.

There ensued a lively discussion between the two, the contents of which I could not completely grasp. Nevertheless I was quite entertained by the composed fervor of the two, to which others from the audience soon started to contribute. And I do think their open discussion helped the general understanding of the issue.

Alas, we see too little of that at conferences these days. Scientists prefer to package their dissent in preprints rather than speaking their minds against one another in front of large audiences. Is that because we are naturally shy human beings, or is it the formality of the venues ?



1. delio - March 26, 2007

my two cents:
if dissenting people are already aware of each other, then dissenting in public is mostly an extension of private dislike, which is possibly not quite interesting to strangers;
if instead people do not agree with a statement they did not previously know, well, then it’s maybe safer (and more polite?) to check a speaker’s article before openly criticizing?

2. dorigo - March 26, 2007

Hi Delio,

hmmm, you are too politically correct for my taste 🙂
I agree that personal issues should not arrive on the scene, but sometimes discussing in public things that are known by the parties to not be agreed upon adds to the interest for listeners who are unaware of the controversy. That is the reason why it could be useful…


3. Andrea Giammanco - March 26, 2007

the REAL trouble with modern conferences is the excessive use of the font “Comic Sans” in powerpoint slides.
I believe that any use of this irritating font should lead to a ban from the community.

4. superweak - March 26, 2007

A lot of conferences are so tightly scheduled that any spontaneous debates would be shut down quickly by the session chair in the interests of staying on time …

5. dorigo - March 27, 2007

Andrea, tsk tsk be serious!

Hi Superweak, that is true and it is such a pity. Organizers are usually concerned with having enough talks to fit in the schedule until the last moment, and from then on they are concerned with being able to keep on schedule. It is an idiosyncratic behavior which causes sub-optimal conditions for a debate.


6. anonymous - March 27, 2007

i have to post this anonymously for compelling reasons but wanted to let you know that you should be careful who you choose to support you might not want to say a person is a victim of sexism if you haven’t met them. riofrio claims to be a victim of sexism, but is only a victim of her wrong theories. it is also bothersome that she claims to be a woman when she is not. she is using her appearance as a smokescreen to detract from the fact that there is no substance behind her so called theories. see this link for a picture of louis riofrio before changing to louise.

7. anonymous - March 27, 2007
8. Bee - March 27, 2007

I can’t speak for others but I personally don’t like to argue in front of audiences. For one, because I generally feel uneasy speaking in front of people. But more importantly, it’s either something I have already said (and repeatedly), or I will have to think about it. I guess I’m just slow, but in most cases I need time a) to understand a question and b) to come up with a useful answer.

Its a different issue with an argument that has already been lead repeatedly. In this case it’s more like a ping pong match being played – and the fasted and honest way to learn the main points.

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