Analytical Conference Dynamics

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently had the pleasure of attending the Lake Louise Winter Institute, Which is a conference in Banff, organized by University of Alberta. Billed as a conference on “Fundamental Interactions,” about 75 people were in attendance ranging from Theory to CLEO to ILC, and a fair representation from neutrino, cosmic ray and dark-matter scientists. I learned a ton about neutrino mass studies and hadron spectroscopy. Mornings were principally reserved for three one-hour-long lectures, afternoons were free for skiing etc, and evenings from 19:30-22:15 were reserved for several short 15 minute talks. All talks were given in the same hall. My talk was eighth from last in the whole conference, and I wagered with a colleague that his talk would be better attended. There was ensuing debate about the effects and causes of conference truancy. Thereafter, I sat in the back corner of the hall and counted those present during the opening remarks of each talk.

Was I missing anything? Not really. During 90% of my counting the speakers just wasted time by restating their names, affiliations, and titles of their talks, which are normally announced by the convener anyways. I was always done in time to read the overview slide. I’ll spare you the data from the morning sessions, which were inhomogeneous, and were subject to edge effects of attending scientists travel arrangements. These kinds of effects are not amicable to study.

Average Attendance 3

On the plot above you see three curves, representing the average attendance vs. day in yellow, and two averages for those talks before and after the coffee breaks. Two trends should be highlighted, specifically that average attendance decreases as a function of time, and that the attendance after coffee is significantly lower than before. After making these observation, I then compiled the following plot:

Truancy 2

Here one can observe an increase of all kinds of truancy as a function of time. Measured observables include

  • “Coffee Break Dropouts”-the difference of the pre and post coffee average attendance
  • “Late Arrivers”-The difference between first and second talks
  • “Coffee Straglers”[sic]-the difference between the first and second talks after the coffee break
  • “Early Leavers”-the difference between the last two talks.

While no theoretical predictions have been made in this work, it is hoped that this study will motivate future advances in this field, and Vava owes me 5CAD.


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