I was somewhat disappointed when I first started attending non-class seminars for my projects in the lab and my interests to find that there wasn't much rambunctious cheering or passionate cheering. Sure, everyone is very polite and asks Very Intelligent Questions and I understand that much of this is due to an inherent respect for the speaker's effort in gathering and interpreting their data and an abstract need for civility. However, if we're doing science because we love the intellectual challenge, why don't we get more worked up about it and express that excitement? I know that science is not the same thing as sports, but why can we not get up the same passionate lather as sports fans in our arenas of data and theoretical abstraction?
Part of this is due to my dream of one day delivering a data talk in the form of a power ballad, but it's also due to confusion as to when I may break down the barrier of formality and ask a douchey question within the cloak of excited admiration? I recently saw a speaker present some really awesome new biotechnology she had developed in the course of her project and its applications. The tangibility of the data (real-time fluorescent tracking of cells in a living matrice by 2-photon microscopy; which basically meant actually seeing immunotyped immune cells crawling around and interacting with each other) was surreal and exhilarating, but when she talked about her methodologies I was left wanting. I don't want to out the speaker, so I cannot say exactly what my beef was, but it had to do with the algorithms by which she chose to quantify her data. I refrained from asking this question in the Q&A session because of the very civility I mention above, it just seemed like too rude a question to ask in such a polite intellectual subculture as an academic presentation. Of course, on the other hand, there was also the possibility that my question would have revealed my ignorant n00bity, and to be honest that also played a part in me not asking.
Nonetheless, when can we whup it up and get excited about the science all around us? Can I ever high-five or fist-bump a speaker when they've shown me something awesome or would doing so break down this fifth wall academic politeness has surrounded us with?
Consider the moth
4 days ago