- On the difference between a colloquium and a seminar:
A seminar is usually a talk addressed to an audience of researchers
in a certain area. In an algebra seminar, for example, it is fair to
assume that the audience know what a separable Galois extension is,
are familiar with Hilbert's Nullstellensatz and require no motivation
to recognize that computing cohomology groups is a good thing (and
that they are not named after coho salmon).
On the other hand a colloquium is a talk addressed to mathematicians
and graduate students in diverse specialities.
The objective ought to be to give such an audience
an appreciation for and an intuitive understanding of the speaker's
area or research. Good exposition is twice as important in a colloquium
as in a seminar. Everybody should read Halmos' article on how to talk
mathematics (in Amer. Math. Monthly 1974, or Halmos' Selecta), even if
you don't want to go as far as his suggestion that the first ten minutes
should be understood by your high school chemistry teacher.
- The "But I Defined Everything" excuse: One way to give a
poor colloquium talk is to give a seminar talk prefaced by
a dozen definitions and a few "well known" facts. The speaker then
pretends that the audience can absorb
all these definitions and ideas in ten minutes so that they can follow
up the outline of the proof of the latest result on say locally nonpolarized
coherent sheaves to the same extent as those who have been playing with
these ideas for 20 years.
- A colloquium talk should be 50 minutes long or less. When a speaker
finishes after 47 or 49 minutes, shouts of protest are usually muted.
It has been suggested to institute a fine of $5 a minute for time over 50
minutes. Another possibility is that the speaker be given a
yellow card at 49 minutes and a red card at 52 minutes. There will be
no time added on for stoppages due to questions or due to injuries to
anybody's mind.
File translated from T_{E}X by T_{T}H, version 1.92.
On 1 Mar 1999, 16:14.