Tag Archives: conference

Math talk etiquette; also, hello from France!

20 Jan

I’m skipping a poster session right now at this incredible conference  to take some time when there aren’t 100 peoples’ faces around me (does this happen to other people?  I just need to *not* see a face right now), so figured I’d write a quick post while huddling in my room.  Also, I’m in math heaven again (MSRI was the last time I was in math heaven), only this time the rooms are in the building, and they feed us delicious French food for all our meals.  CIRM is pretty amazing and if any mathletes out there are reading this, I highly recommend finding a conference taking place here and going.

By now I’ve been to many math talks (and I hope to go to many more!) and I’ve picked up on some random math etiquette that beginning grad students/undergrads might not realize.  So here’s my list.


  • Write Thm: [Last name-last name of people who wrote it] theorem here.
  • If it’s your theorem, just use your initial.  Example: [D.-myfriend’slastname].
  • Names go alphabetically.  Because we’re math!  None of that first authorship/last authorship of other fields.
  • Speaking of underlining, underline all words that are defined too.


  • Always include history.  I didn’t realize this until I got to graduate school.  It gives your talk context and shows respect for those who came before you and made your research possible.  Plus it’s pretty awesome.  Exceptions if it’s a very short talk.
  • Always thank the organizers/inviters at the beginning and end.
  • One mathematical joke is really great.  Two is okay.  Three gets to be too many.  Zero is also great.  Even if you’re a huge goofball, it seems like mathematical audiences can only stand so many jokes (but we do love them).
  • Speaking of jokes, people love cultural in-jokes.  I heard three jokes about the number of saunas in Finland when I was at a conference in Helsinki, and it’s still funny.  If you’re American and reading this, avoid cultural jokes.  If you’re not, have at it!  I especially enjoy when, to skip a long calculation, speakers write “beurk” and explain that that’s French for “yuck”
  • Beurk!  It’s better to be too basic than too advanced.


  • If you suspect you will fall asleep (some of us are pros at this), don’t sit in the front.  Also, try to avoid that head flopping thing.  Either commit to the sleep if you’re falling asleep, or commit to not falling asleep (I don’t know how to do that).  Everyone has fallen asleep at some point during a talk.  My friend just told me that it was slightly comforting to have me fall asleep beside him just now, as it reminded him of the many classes we’ve taken together over the years.
  • Ask questions.  If the speaker doesn’t see your hand, it’s not rude to call out “excuse me” or “sorry” or “can I ask a question?”  Plus if you leave your hand up and the speaker keeps not seeing you, it makes everyone uncomfortable.
  • Don’t leave.  If you’re not sure if this talk will hold your interest for the whole time, but are still interested in coming, sit in the back and bring a paper to read or some work to do.  Be discreet.  Exceptions to the don’t leave rule: you or your partner is having a baby or a medical emergency, you really have to use the bathroom.

There’s lots and lots of other resources for this: this page from the Topology Students Workshop (which I attended two years ago) has links to all sorts of do’s and don’ts (I like Dan Margalit’s a lot).

I’ll try to do the thing I did last year when I was at this conference (it was in Haifa, Israel last time) and type up some notes.  I’m really enjoying Hee Oh’s minicourse so far, and Apollonian circle packings are a great and pretty topic for a blog post for non-mathers (and the rest of my notes might be useful for mathers).

Jet lag but here are some (very hard) math notes

31 Jul

Hi!  I just got back from a fun weeklong trip with two of my best friends from college (you can read about our Turkish bath adventure and making friends with a local on Edward’s blog).  My entire body feels like it’s made out of wet noodles and my head also feels like that delicious chocolate mousse.  You guys, I rock at jet lag.  It takes me three or four days each time to become a functional person again.

In the meantime, I’ll link you to these math notes that I typed up from a mini course that the incredible Matt Clay gave at a summer school I attended in Marseille.  Also, if you want to know why I call Matt incredible (besides his math), go to his website and click on the “running” header.  Ridiculous.  I actually know a few ultramarathoners now (I mean three) and when I read the latest Oatmeal comic, I kept thinking of them.

Anyway, here are the notes, about the Guirardel Core in Outer Space (the other notes on Catherine’s website should help with the definition of Outer Space; these notes define the core).  Someday I’ll edit my website and they’ll be up there (along with those ones from that conference I went to in Haifa).

Also, sometimes when I look at stuff I’m just in total awe of how long it must have taken.  Those notes are 14 pages long and they aren’t that great (for one thing, I just MS Paint-copied the figures from Matt’s handwritten notes), but they still took me probably 15-20 hours to write.  It took 5 hours for Matt to give his lectures.  I probably spent an hour, all told, chatting with him for clarifications.  And it probably took him 7-10 hours to put together the lectures, and countless hours to put together the material for the lectures (aka do the research).  I think as you get farther in academia the better you are at focusing for long stretches of time- I can’t do math for more than an hour at a time, really.  My brain starts turning into how it feels right now.  In college when studying for a math final (or any final) I would study for an hour, then take a break and run a lap around the courtyard or read a comic or eat a banana.  Now it’s sitting on the internet for a few minutes.  Like with you guys right now!

OK that’s my wet noodle head post for ya!  Next one will be more lucid and have more content, I promise!

Spring break 2013!

25 Mar

No baking this week or last because I’ve been traveling: I spent all of last week in Berkeley at MSRI aka math heaven, at a “hot topics” workshop.  Info here if you’re curious: http://www.msri.org.  It was incredible. Surface subgroups and cube complexes.  I understood maybe a third to a quarter of what was going on  it and will try to explain some of it in here this week.  You might remember my first math post which was a confusing terrible time for everyone involved.

Hopefully I’ve become more lucid since then, and I’ll be able to better explain cube complexes and cubulations sometime this week.  It really is a nifty tool going on at the forefront of pure mathematical research, and part of the point of this blog is sharing what the forefront Of mathematical research is, without needing to be a math major to understand.  Though you might need some help understanding my late night grammar.  Anyways, this is just a check in post.

Bonus recipe: so easy, so delicious.  Chocolate “mousse” in five minutes:

Take a big bowl.  Put a tonof ice cubes in it, like two or three trays worth, plus a little water .  Then nest a smaller bowl on the ice.  Metal is fantastic here.  Next, melt a bag of good Chocolate chips or better,breakup a 10 ounce bar, into a cup of water on the stove, stirring constantly until  the mix is completely smooth, about three minutes.

Pour your melted chocolate into the iced bowl, and whisk whisk whisk until it’s light and fluffy, about five minutes. Or use a beater.  Sprinkle liberally with some fresh ground sea salt, and pour into nice glasses.  I top with homemade vanilla whipped cream and/or fresh fruit: strawberries, raspberries, bananas, pretty much anything will work.


%d bloggers like this: