Perhaps I am unusual but I find poster sessions some of the most deeply frustrating sessions at conferences. I can see people have (usually) put a lot of work into their posters but I find them impossible to read given that I am usually in motion and feeling lazy. So instead I drift past with a glazed expression on my face feeling all the time like I should be getting more out of the experience.
So when my PhD student, Michelle Knights, was asked to do a poster at the recent SKA conference we were keen to break the mold. In a classic example of the nonlinearity of creative thought, I at one point suggested she put her figures on a projected 3D cube to be printed on the 2D poster. Later that night Michelle’s partner – who usefully is an engineer – suggested actually making a 3 dimensional cube and Michelle had the good sense to throw the idea out there. The result: the Cube of Inference, the first ever 3D cosmology poster, and perhaps the first 3D scientific poster ever*. (Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, they were taken on my blackberry phone.)
What I enjoy about the poster – which Michelle had especially constructed with a solid polystyrene core – is that it is engaging and bridges the gap between normal science material, sculpture and an art installation. People pick it up, interact with it and play…
Did it convey the material more effectively than a normal poster? I don’t know. But it was certainly more fun and people enjoyed it. Now if we could just make soft toys like this! Congratulations to Michelle and Emile, who spent a huge amount of time making it reality.
*Terms and conditions apply. “First” may not have its usual meaning. Other people might have done it before, I just have never seen it before!