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IDRC Traditions

The International Diffuse Reflectance Conference had its beginnings in 1982 as organized by Gerry Birth. Gerry's original idea was to hold the conference as a Gordon Conference, but the Gordon Conference people didn't consider the content to be of sufficient scientific merit. So Gerry organized it on the same theme as a Gordon Conference, with morning and evening sessions and free afternoons. The afternoons originally were the time when informal meetings were held, often by people who had gotten into a good discussion over lunch. Other people went for walks, or simply did nothing! Peter Griffiths used to organize Volleyball, and Fred MacClure came up with the PYOT, which became very popular. Bob Taylor used to organize golf, and Art Springsteen used to win the tournament every year! The afternoons have become progressively utilized with workshops and meetings, but we always try to provide some free time during the week. Some of the unique traditions are described below.

The Whip

Some organizations have a gavel that they pass from one chairperson to the next; the International Diffuse Reflectance Conference has a whip. Lest you think that sounds a bit harsh, you need to know that this is a very special whip—a gift from a dear friend and long-time attendee of IDRC, the late Professor Karoly Kafka. At the last IDRC conference that he was able to attend, Professor Kafka gave a very ornate Hungarian bullwhip to that year’s chair, Gary Ritchie. At the 2014 IDRC conference, as part of the tribute to Professor Kafka, Gary Ritchie offered up the whip as a tradition to be passed down from IDRC chairperson to chairperson.  You can find some photos of the whip here.


Predict your own time (PYOT) is a unique challenge where the participants predict their time to traverse a fixed route through Wilson College. Participants can walk, run, or ride a bike. Everyone has the opportunity to "calibrate" in the days leading up the the event. The winner is the participant who predicts closest to the actual time for their walk/run/bike on Thursday. Participants can't wear a watch. It can be a bit warm, so the calibration days help you acclimate to the environment.

Evening Social Sessions

The evening technical sessions are always followed by a social mixer in the exhibit hall / poster area. We have refreshments available and everyone is free to visit with the exhibitors, view the posters, or just socialize. Phil Williams is our magnificent refreshment organizer - we couldn't do it without him!

Software Shootout

The software shootout is another popular tradition. The format has varied over the years, but the overall objective is a contest where the participants analyze a set of data according to a set of rules and objectives. In the traditional shootout each participant gives a short presentation. Recently an onsite shootout was added to the event. A winner is selected by a panel of judges for both the traditional and onsite shootout. Check out the shootout page(s) for all of the details. Everyone is encouraged to participate. We are always looking for data sets for future shootouts, so be sure to contact one of the organizers if you have something suitable.

Dining Hall

Everyone has fond memories of their dining experiences in college. You can refresh those memories in the dining hall at Wilson College. If you have elected to have meals at the conference then the dining hall is where breakfast, lunch, and dinner all happen. The food has improved over the years and they do try to offer healthy options.

Newcomer's Guide

This year we have a newcomer's guide to try to answer some questions that you might have. This was created by Art Springsteen and Suzana Cruz. You can download a copy of the guide here.