**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. |