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January 23, 2012
Strangest Presentation You've Seen?
Friday's mention of the Brindley lecture prompts me to throw this question out: what's the most weirdly memorable scientific presentation you've ever seen?
I'll put one out there that still sticks in my mind. Back in 1998, I was attending the Gordon Conference on Heterocycles. One of the speakers was a young faculty member from Montana, who was supposed to be speaking on metal-catalyzed reactions of indoles. Instead, he came in with a completely different slide deck on origins-of-life chemistry, which made it clear, rather quickly, that he not only did not buy into the "RNA world" hypothesis, but considered it (and much other origins-of-life work) to be the next thing to a conspiracy.
The audience took this in with some visible discomfort, as the talk itself became more passionate and agitated. The whole topic was something that clearly upset and offended the speaker, but I can't say that he made many converts. There were a couple of questions from the floor at the end, but I think that many people were just hoping to get this one over with and move on. The speaker himself moved on shortly to a small Adventist school, in a department that says that it hopes to provide a "scriptural perspective" on scientific issues, but he doesn't seem to be listed on the faculty there now, and I've been unable to trace him after that. . .
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