I’m sitting here, on the last day of ICHEP, listening to some excellent summary talks. One of the experimental neutrino talks just went by – excellent (sorry, no link because I don’t have internet as I write this). But there were no questions. I’ve noticed this for many of the talks at the plenary. Or if there is a question, it is the “if you doubled your dataset what would happen to that 2 sigma excess?”
How can this be? There are almost 1000 people watching these talks, many of them experts in the topics being discussed. And no questions? Physics is built on questions! This is how we learn – almost never is something so clear that we don’t need questions! Heck, the whole field is structured around this. We invite experts to our University to give a seminar so we can have their undivided attention for a whole day to ask them questions. We go to workshops so we can ask each other questions and learn. We write papers and then respond to the papers with letters and more papers which are basically a slow version of Q&A. So what is going on here?
I don’t know, of course, however I’m going to take a stab:
- Exhaustion. It is the end of a full week of conference. We’ve all be talking, discussing, and thinking about these topics for a solid week and we need a break for our brains to process everything.
- Embarrassment. There are 1000 people here. Many of them very important people in the field (i.e. they think you are stupid and your chances of funding go down). So you’d better make sure you have a good question before you ask it.
- These are summary talks. The speaker is often presenting a huge amount of information in a very short amount of time. It is likely they are an expert in the topic they are presenting, but given the volume of information discussed in such a short amount of time, it is not likely they know all the details. The people who are experts on each topic gave talks in the plenary sessions. Indeed, there were lots more questions there than there are in the plenary sessions.
I’m sure there are other possibilities as well.