The Sassy Scientist – Mic Muting

The Sassy Scientist – Mic Muting

After asking many times whether or not I can hear him and just generally struggling to communicate, Noel finally manages to ask:

On average, how many times is ‘Can you hear me now?’ uttered during a conference call?

Dear Noel,

Unlike the ritual of – the almost spiritual – sharing of screens, the accidental muting of the microphone and the associated questions varying on the theme of ‘Can you hear me now?’; ‘How about now?’, etc., are only too real a struggle for the ‘professional’ working from home. Luckily, many people have asked the same question as you have, so we can draw our conclusions from several studies.

First of all, Adams et al. (1978) showed that, if you assume an average number of n people in the call, n+5 will accidentally have muted their microphone at the start of the call. Following on from this, Adams (1979) showed that on average n/3 people in a conference call will mute their microphone accidentally during the conference call. As shown by Douglas and Adams (1980), you have to take into account the number of people in a call who mute their mics on purpose, but then forget to turn them on when they want to speak. If you also add the number of people p whose children change the settings of the conference call software for a laugh, and subtract the people with helpful partners f who actually nail the videocall, you can get an accurate estimate of the number of times ‘Can you hear me now?’ is uttered during a conference call for a given n. Various numbers have been suggested for n, but – and I won’t bore you with all the maths involved, because quite frankly, a lot of computer power is needed to solve this – if you do the calculations according to the studies described above, you will find that the answer to your question is 42.

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: Can you hear me now?
PS2: How about now?
PS3: Forgive me for not providing full references this time. I am simply too busy with conference calls.
PS4: I’m taking a couple of weeks off, because I don’t take pleasure in pain. So, good luck at the digital EGU trainwreck.

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I am currently employed at a first tier research institute where I am continuously working with the greatest minds to further our understanding of the solid Earth system. Whether it is mantle or lithosphere structure and dynamics, solid Earth rheology parameters, earthquake processes, integrating observations with model predictions or inversions: you have read a paper of mine. Even if you are working on a topic I haven’t mentioned here, I still know everything about it. Do you have any problems in your research career? I have already experienced them. Do you struggle with your work-life balance? Been there, done that. Nowadays, I have only one hobby: helping you out by answering the most poignant questions in geodynamics, research and life. I am waiting for you right here. Get inspired.

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