We just finished a theoretical astrophysics conference here at Queen’s (Kingston in Kingston). Three days of almost nonstop talks and a tribute to Dick Henriksen, who has been here for 40 years. Personally, I’d like to know who first thought to himself, “I know! Let’s organize an event where we’ll make people sit and listen to highly technical talks for eight hours a day! Everyone will love it!” Well, it was better than CASCA, which tends to be much more observational; I stayed awake for some of the talks this time. And presented a poster, which you can find at my astro page as soon as I’ve put up the link. Interestingly, there were only about 20 or so grad students at this conference and only five people who presented posters. Some other points of note:
- Grad students named Colin inexplicably seem to use Fortran quite a lot (Gregg Wade’s Colin uses it extensively, and now I learn that McMaster’s Colin likes using Fortran as well). I was able to extract a slight concession from Larry, which is that he didn’t completely reject out of hand my suggestion that he might want to consider switching to Fortran 95 and start using IMPLICIT NONE. Progress.
- Powerpoint is almost as bad as Fortran. The problem with Powerpoint is that it forces you to think about the form as well as the content, and astronomers haven’t got the slightest clue how to arrange a slide so that it looks good yet legible. Plenty of speakers had fonts which were too small, colours that made it difficult to read, etc, etc. I’m sticking to LaTeX slides, with which I do not need to think about the form… come to think of it my hatred of Powerpoint is becoming quite pathological.
- At least two-thirds of the presenters had Macs. Draw what you will from this.
- I pity the poor first year students who have to eat at the cafeteria we ate lunch at. The only decent thing I ate was the salad of spinach, tomatoes and olives I concocted myself at the salad bar. Oh, and the desserts were passable. The pasta was, of course, catastrophic (I’m fairly certain that in Italy you can be arrested for serving something like that).
- Dick got a chainsaw as a gift.
- I had dinner with Sergiy Khan and Shantanu Basu and some of the RMC kids who weren’t registered for the conference (Sergiy is one of James’ and Gregg’s collaborators).
- I just realized i haven’t actually talked about the science discussed. Which says something about what sticks at these conferences. Vicki Kaspi from McGill gave a nice talk on pulsars, and Hugo Martel of Laval delivered a fascinating talk on artificial fragmentation and particle splitting algorithms in SPH. Peter Goldreich (IAS/Caltech) gave a good talk about something that momentarily escapes me (but had a good dose of physical reasoning involved), James Bullock’s (UC Irvine) talk on the small-scale problem of LambdaCDM was quite intersting, Pat McDonald (CITA) gave a renormalization group approach to dark matter clustering (!), a grad student named Jean-Rene Gauthier (U of T) gave an intersting talk on simulations of substrucure around M31 that’s not far off my own research, and Doug Johnstone (HIA/Victoria) gave one of his usual great talks.
The event ended with a pub crawl which attracted more faculty than grad students. I stuck around the Queen’s/McMaster kids (drinking my mineral water). We’ll probably see those guys again at CASCA next year, which is being held at RMC.