Does technological progress mean less respect?

Still reporting from Nürnberg (where the EuCheMS meeting takes place this week), I had the opportunity this morning to observe and think on how people behave at a conference.

In my imagination, conferences in the past involved a passionate speaker (usually wearing a hat) who was disclosing his/her latest discoveries, vehemently speaking or writing on a blackboard (sometimes performing live experiments) while the audience was listening in a profound, respectful silence.

Today, what I saw was somewhat different – and I’m not talking of speakers not wearing hats. Actually, I was at a presentation seating next to a professor, who was preparing the powerpoint he was going to present in the afternoon. To do this, he had to ask his collaborator, seated next to him, about the meaning of some graphs he intended to include in the presentation. This took approximately one hour, and was quite disturbing to all the people around, since the discussion included mumblings and laughters.

So, without even considering half of the members of the audience who checked their e-mails or the news on CNN every 5 minutes on their iPhone, I was wondering whether the speaker was noticing this lack of attention. The answer I guessed is probably no (because speakers are generally too busy and stressed to notice what happens behind the front row) but still, I’m wondering why people go to talks to prepare their own slides??

Besides, I wanted to mention today’s plenary session, where Prof. Michael Grätzel from EPFL (it’s always funny to go abroad to attend talks from our own faculty) presented the latest advances in dye sensitized solar cells (DSCs). I still hope to write a full post about Prof. Grätzel’s work sometimes (like next October 6th), and here I just want to mention that there is now a Michael Grätzel Center in Wuhan (China) which, I think, is quite something. The optimism and enthusiasm of Prof. Grätzel are always extraordinarily communicative (especially when it comes to recent applications), and I’m deeply convinced that the future is bright for dye-sensitized solar cells

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