I think we learned something today……..

A week ago I posted about some of the videos that had been made at .astronomy4. The video I was involved in (Sh*t Astronomers Say) has so far got over 5,000 hits. I find that a little scary and it’s been odd having colleagues asking me questions on desk head-butting techinques. While this wasn’t a video with an agenda, I think there is a lesson to be learned from the post. In other words, I think we learned something today……

You remember the end of He-Man where in an earnest tone Ram-Man would explain that it’s bad to ram things with your head or Beast-Man would tell you not to put lit fireworks in your mouth*. Anyway, this is a bit like that. During the drafting of Sh*t Astronomers Say, we basically made a big list of things that we heard a lot. In many cases we added things because they are frequently done and they are annoying. Some things are annoying and are trivial, others get in the way of astronomers doing and communicating science.

The main bugbear for me was a lot of the stuff that went in to the talk section. I hate going to talks, sitting somewhere in the middle to back of the room and then not being able to see anything. The number one problem is with plots. About the worst thing you can do with a plot is jsut take the version from the paper and then slap it up there. Normally the axes will be unreadable for half the audience and often the datapoints will be a confusing jumble. Then there’s the issue of colour schemes, many are headache-inducing but often they just confuse the audience. Remember that about 8% of men and 0.4% of women are colourblind so avoid reds and greens that may be indistinguishable (I’m biased here as I’m red-green colourblind). Finally the last point, the organisors have been very nice to give you a slot to talk in, don’t outstay your welcome. There’s nothing worse than someone bringing 30 slides to a 10 minute talk and proceeding to go over each one in great detail. OK maybe regicide is worse but it’s borderline.

Was there a particular bugbear of your’s in the video? Feel free to comment on it below.

One thing before I outstay my welcome, we are going to have a go at a crowdsourced follow-up. Below are the details,

Did we leave out your personal favorite saying? Want to contribute to a new, crowdsourced version of Sh*t Astronomers Say? Send submissions to astronomerssay@gmail.com by August 31! We’ll accept any video+audio formats compatible with iMovie – you can even record with PhotoBooth! (You have a Mac, right?!?!) Please keep videos under 30 seconds and leave enough space between sayings for editing. Include your name, institution, occupation (undergrad/grad/postdoc/faculty/etc) and filming location so we can give you proper credit and estimate the diversity of contributions. We can’t guarantee we’ll be able to use every submission, but we’ll do our best!

*OK I made up the last one, but the Ram-Man one is real



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