A noontime weekly seminar where faculty, post-docs, and students gather to exchange ideas in a friendly, informal and free-wheeling, somewhat decadent, but always inspirational environment. The organizers are called Head LOONATICS. The speaker is a Loonatic.
Are there any rules?
A speaker is chosen by the Head Loonatic or Loonatics (student organizers). Speaker rules are:
whiteboard/chalkboard only (NO POWERPOINT OR ELECTRONIC PRESENTATIONS)
must talk about something you’re working on or thinking about; something unfinished or a new idea is ideal
don’t talk about your published work; this ain’t a place for you to show off
Rules for the audience
it’s okay to ask “dumb” questions
feel free to interrupt with questions
however, the loonatic has the board, so do not jump up and push the loonatic off the stage and take over her/his talk (usually only professors do this and that’s a big no-no)
Do I need artistic skills to give a chalkboard talk?
If you can draw a line, you should be fine.
Are half-baked ideas okay?
This is what we prefer because the audience can help you shape your ideas.
Do I have to know what I’m talking about?
Not really… this is a place where everyone helps each other and learns from each other. But best to leave bullshit at the door.
I’m nervous. I’ve never given a chalk talk. What should I do?
Imagine the audience is naked. But seriously, learning how to give a chalk talk helps you think on your feet. It’s a good skill to have. And giving a talk in front of a naked audience gives you a unique, perhaps aberrant perspective on life.
Can I give a talk and not go to any talks?
That would make you a self-centered, selfish, narcissistic egomaniac. But yes, that would be fine. We welcome everyone.
Can I go to all the talks and not give a talk?
We encourage everyone to give a talk, but we understand that not everyone feels comfortable giving a freewheeling talk.
Has anything useful ever come out of a Loony NoonZ?
As a matter of fact, every Loony NoonZ is successful because new ideas are generated. Several collaborative publications between students, post-docs and faculty have come out of Loony NoonZ and sometimes between two seemingly incompatible bedfellows. A 4.3 million dollar grant came out a Loony NoonZ.
What does Loony NoonZ mean? How did it get started?
Well, we’re not exactly sure. But legend has it that it started some time in 2005 and was instigated by Adrian Lenardic and Cin-Ty Lee, who were so fed up with powerpoint talks, where the presenter looks and sounds like a robot and the audience just sits passively. Frustration led to exasperation and finally to the idea for informal chalk talks. The first chalk talk series was called Loony Noons. Noons because we wanted it at lunch time. Loony… if you know Cin-Ty, you will understand, but Loony is for Loon, a spectacular aquatic bird that spends its summers in the arctic yodeling. During that first year, nobody knew who the speaker would be until they walked into the door. The speaker of course knew, but she/he only had a week’s notice (we’ve since dropped these antics). After the first year, the Head Loonatic torch was passed on to the students. The rules of the game were passed down by word of mouth. There was no written record or if there was, it was flushed down the toilet accidentally. So Loony Noons evolved into Looney Noons, then to Looney Nunes, and now Loony NoonZ with each passing of the torch.
Can I volunteer?
Yes, you can volunteer to give a talk. You can volunteer to be a Head Loonatic too.
Can I bring a prop?
Legend has it that Pranabendu Moitra brought a jar of M&Ms once and had spent the night before counting all of them to prove some point about packing efficiency. Legend has it that he spilled the M&Ms during his talk.
Can I bring a friend?
Friend or foe, all are welcome. The more the merrier. Bring your pet if you want.
Am I allowed to throw tomatoes?
Probably not a good idea because you will have to clean up the mess.
If I give a Loony talk, can I put it on my resume?
If you think being a Loonatic will impress your future employer, go for it. The Loonatic community takes no responsibility if the result is negative, but if you do get the job, we of course assume full credit.
Is there a dress code?
The Loonatic is starting to give a formal lecture, what should I do?
Ask a basic question to lighten the mood.
Do Loony NoonZ exist in other departments?
Not that we are aware of. There’s a Noon Balloon at the University of Chicago’s Geophysical Sciences department, but they’re not chalk talks. There’s a brown bag chalk talk seminar in the Physics department at Berkeley, but they’re physicists. Loony NoonZ is unique to Rice Earth Science. We are physicists, chemists, modelers, all with an interest in geology.
Has anyone ever fallen in love in a Loony NoonZ?
Not that we are aware of. However, when we successfully get two Loonatics together, we will celebrate.
Can I start a Loony NoonZ in my department?
Yes, you really should. But we were the first.
Is there a Loonatic award?
What is the future of the Loony NoonZ seminar series?
Without an organizational structure, five-year plan, or any financial resources, the future of Loony NoonZ is always in doubt. Loony NoonZ operates on the existence of a critical mass of students and faculty who are fundamentally curious. If we continue to be curious about each others work, Loony NoonZ will prevail on its own. But if we believe we’re too busy to pay attention to our colleagues, it will die.
Department of Earth Science
MS-126 Rice University
6100 Main Street
Houston, TX 77005 USA