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Todai student who broke into pieces in Heidelberg

  • Hirokazu Fujii (1st Year Doctoral Student, Department of Astronomy)
Figure 1

Photo1: Heidelberg Castle viewed from the town below

In October of 2011, I attended an international conference on cosmology, which was held in Heidelberg, Germany, as one of the poster session presenters. Heidelberg, which is located in the southwestern part of the country, is an old city famous for Heidelberg University — the oldest university in the country — as well as Heidelberg Castle.

Not only was I surrounded by eminent scientists but it was also my first overseas business trip, so I enjoyed a harmless high and said: "I didn't know that he was so young." "It's really something special when you can drink a cup of coffee after you have heard something difficult." Besides, all of us participating in the conference, got really excited when we heard, in the middle of a workshop, that the Nobel Prize in physics for the year went to the discovery of the accelerated expansion of the universe. We should not forget that Japanese scientists were the first to point out the possibility of an accelerated expansion of the universe. Everything was fine up to that point, but an incident occurred in the afternoon of the third day.

Figure 2

Photo 2: Writer at the Heidelberg Castle trying to recover from his mistake

A session called "Flash Talk" was to be held during the workshop, which was composed of several presentations by selected speakers from the poster session presenters. I heard about this peculiar system after I had arrived at the venue and I thought the presenters must have been chosen prior to the conference. When I looked at the list of presenters, however, I saw my name on it. I thought there must have been a mistake. So I asked the person in charge to confirm the list only to hear that there was no mistake. The session was to be held the following day. "Can you do it?"asked the person. It sounded like a challenge to me. So I thought I had to do it because it could be an once-in-a-lifetime chance.

As I was attending the workshop alone, I went back to the hotel in the middle of it to prepare presentation slides and to rehearse my presentation on my own. The next day, the scary 8-minute presentation — not only without proper rehearsal but also for the first time in my whole life IN ENGISH — started and ended with catastrophic results. I shook in every limb, scrolled the slides back and forth, and became unable to understand what I was talking about. What made me feel miserable — relieved in a certain sense — in addition to the above, was that nobody asked me questions when I finished the presentation. All I could remember was that my heart was filled with embarrassment and regret.

Anybody can have a chance, but nobody knows when. In order to grab the chance, I think we must always be well-prepared. I hope my experience will be of some help for those — especially students — who are reading this story to avoid making a mistake like this.