Some of the world's greatest scientists, doctors and medical researchers share their discoveries and visions onstage at the TED conference, TEDx events and partner events around the world. You can also download these and many other videos free on TED.com, with an interactive English transcript and subtitles in up to 80 languages. TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.
To detect diseases earlier, let's speak bacteria's secret language | Fatima AlZahra'a Alatraktchi
Bacteria "talk" to each other, sending chemical information to coordinate attacks. What if we could listen to what they were saying? Nanophysicist Fatima AlZahra'a Alatraktchi invented a tool to spy on bacterial chatter and translate their secret communication into human language. Her work could pave the way for early diagnosis of disease -- before we even get sick.
How you can help save the bees, one hive at a time | Noah Wilson-Rich
Bees are dying off in record numbers, but ecologist Noah Wilson-Rich is interested in something else: Where are bees healthy and thriving? To find out, he recruited citizen scientists across the US to set up beehives in their backyards, gardens and rooftops. Learn how these little data factories are changing what we know about the habitats bees need to thrive -- and keep our future food systems stable.
The secret to scientific discoveries? Making mistakes | Phil Plait
Phil Plait was on a Hubble Space Telescope team of astronomers who thought they may have captured the first direct photo of an exoplanet ever taken. But did the evidence actually support that? Follow along as Plait shows how science progresses -- through a robust amount of making and correcting errors. "The price of doing science is admitting when you're wrong, but the payoff is the best there is: knowledge and understanding," he says.
Where did the Moon come from? A new theory | Sarah T. Stewart
The Earth and Moon are like identical twins, made up of the exact same materials -- which is really strange, since no other celestial bodies we know of share this kind of chemical relationship. What's responsible for this special connection? Looking for an answer, planetary scientist and MacArthur "Genius" Sarah T. Stewart discovered a new kind of astronomical object -- a synestia -- and a new way to solve the mystery of the Moon's origin.
How a new species of ancestors is changing our theory of human evolution | Juliet Brophy
In 2013, a treasure trove of unusual fossils were uncovered in a cave in South Africa, and researchers soon realized: these were the remains of a new species of ancient humans. Paleoanthropologist Juliet Brophy takes us inside the discovery of Homo naledi, explaining how this mysterious ancestor is forcing us to rethink where we come from -- and what it means to be human.
Gene-editing tools like CRISPR enable us to program life at its most fundamental level. But this raises some pressing questions: If we can generate new species from scratch, what should we build? Should we redesign humanity as we know it? Juan Enriquez forecasts the possible futures of genetic editing, exploring the immense uncertainty and opportunity of this next frontier.
Can we solve global warming? Lessons from how we protected the ozone layer | Sean Davis
The Montreal Protocol proved that the world could come together and take action on climate change. Thirty years after the world's most successful environmental treaty was signed, atmospheric scientist Sean Davis examines the world we avoided when we banned chlorofluorocarbons -- and shares lessons we can carry forward to address the climate crisis in our time.
What sticky sea creatures can teach us about making glue | Jonathan Wilker
What if we could harness the sticking powers of sea creatures like mussels, oysters and barnacles, which refuse to budge even on wet, stormy coastlines? Dive into the wonderful world of animals that make their own glue and cement with scientist Jonathan Wilker -- and preview some of the amazing things we can learn from how they do it.
The biology of gender, from DNA to the brain | Karissa Sanbonmatsu
How exactly does gender work? It's not just about our chromosomes, says biologist Karissa Sanbonmatsu. In a visionary talk, she shares new discoveries from epigenetics, the emerging study of how DNA activity can permanently change based on social factors like trauma or diet. Learn how life experiences shape the way genes are expressed -- and what that means for our understanding of gender.
The fascinating science of bubbles, from soap to champagne | Li Wei Tan
In this whimsical talk and live demo, scientist Li Wei Tan shares the secrets of bubbles -- from their relentless pursuit of geometric perfection to their applications in medicine and shipping, where designers are creating more efficient vessels by mimicking the bubbles created by swimming penguins. Learn more about these mathematical marvels and tap into the magic hidden in the everyday world.
The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it | Katharine Hayhoe
How do you talk to someone who doesn't believe in climate change? Not by rehashing the same data and facts we've been discussing for years, says climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. In this inspiring, pragmatic talk, Hayhoe shows how the key to having a real discussion is to connect over shared values like family, community and religion -- and to prompt people to realize that they already care about a changing climate. "We can't give in to despair," she says. "We have to go out and look for the hope we need to inspire us to act -- and that hope begins with a conversation, today."
3 kinds of bias that shape your worldview | J. Marshall Shepherd
What shapes our perceptions (and misperceptions) about science? In an eye-opening talk, meteorologist J. Marshall Shepherd explains how confirmation bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect and cognitive dissonance impact what we think we know -- and shares ideas for how we can replace them with something much more powerful: knowledge.
100 solutions to reverse global warming | Chad Frischmann
What if we took out more greenhouse gases than we put into the atmosphere? This hypothetical scenario, known as "drawdown," is our only hope of averting climate disaster, says strategist Chad Frischmann. In a forward-thinking talk, he shares solutions to climate change that exist today -- conventional tactics like the use of renewable energy and better land management as well as some lesser-known approaches, like changes to food production, better family planning and the education of girls. Learn more about how we can reverse global warming and create a world where regeneration, not destruction, is the rule.
The radical possibilities of man-made DNA | Floyd E. Romesberg
Every cell that's ever lived has been the result of the four-letter genetic alphabet: A, T, C and G -- the basic units of DNA. But now that's changed. In a visionary talk, synthetic biologist Floyd E. Romesberg introduces us to the first living organisms created with six-letter DNA -- the four natural letters plus two new man-made ones, X and Y -- and explores how this breakthrough could challenge our basic understanding of nature's design.
The pharmacy of the future? Personalized pills, 3D printed at home | Daniel Kraft
We need to change how we prescribe drugs, says physician Daniel Kraft: too often, medications are dosed incorrectly, cause toxic side effects or just don't work. In a talk and concept demo, Kraft shares his vision for a future of personalized medication, unveiling a prototype 3D printer that could design pills that adapt to our individual needs.
5 transformational policies for a prosperous and sustainable world | Johan Rockstrom
In a talk about how we can build a robust future without wrecking the planet, sustainability expert Johan Rockström debuts the Earth3 model -- a new methodology that combines the UN Sustainable Development Goals with the nine planetary boundaries, beyond which earth's vital systems could become unstable. Learn more about five transformational policies that could help us achieve inclusive and prosperous world development while keeping the earth stable and resilient.
The malaria vaccine was invented more than a century ago -- yet each year, hundreds of thousands of people still die from the disease. How can we improve this vital vaccine? In this informative talk, immunologist and TED Fellow Faith Osier shows how she's combining cutting-edge technology with century-old insights in the hopes of creating a new vaccine that eradicates malaria once and for all.
Spider venom can stop your heart within minutes, cause unimaginable pain -- and potentially save your life, says zoologist Michel Dugon. With a live tarantula on his arm, Dugon explains the medical properties of their potent toxin and how it might be used to produce the next generation of antibiotics.
As a young scientist, Catherine Mohr was on her dream scuba trip -- when she put her hand right down on a spiny sea urchin. While a school of sharks circled above. What happened next? More than you can possibly imagine. Settle in for this fabulous story with a dash of science.
Why we choke under pressure -- and how to avoid it | Sian Leah Beilock
When the pressure is on, why do we sometimes fail to live up to our potential? Cognitive scientist and Barnard College president Sian Leah Beilock reveals what happens in your brain and body when you choke in stressful situations, sharing psychological tools that can help you perform at your best when it matters most.
How data is helping us unravel the mysteries of the brain | Steve McCarroll
Geneticist Steve McCarroll wants to make an atlas of all the cells in the human body so that we can understand in precise detail how specific genes work, especially in the brain. In this fascinating talk, he shares his team's progress -- including their invention of "Drop-seq," a technology that allows scientists to analyze individual cells at a scale that was never before possible -- and describes how this research could lead to new ways of treating mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
How China is (and isn't) fighting pollution and climate change | Angel Hsu
China is the world's biggest polluter -- and now one of its largest producers of clean energy. Which way will China go in the future, and how will it affect the global environment? Data scientist Angel Hsu describes how the most populous country on earth is creating a future based on alternative energy -- and facing up to the environmental catastrophe it created as it rapidly industrialized.
A rare galaxy that's challenging our understanding of the universe | Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil
What's it like to discover a galaxy -- and have it named after you? Astrophysicist and TED Fellow Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil lets us know in this quick talk about her team's surprising discovery of a mysterious new galaxy type.
The universe is incredibly old, astoundingly vast and populated by trillions of planets -- so where are all the aliens? Astronomer Stephen Webb has an explanation: we're alone in the universe. In a mind-expanding talk, he spells out the remarkable barriers a planet would need to clear in order to host an extraterrestrial civilization -- and makes a case for the beauty of our potential cosmic loneliness. "The silence of the universe is shouting, 'We're the creatures who got lucky,'" Webb says.
A new way to monitor vital signs (that can see through walls) | Dina Katabi
At MIT, Dina Katabi and her team are working on a bold new way to monitor patients' vital signs in a hospital (or even at home), without wearables or bulky, beeping devices. Bonus: it can see through walls. In a mind-blowing talk and demo, Katabi previews a system that captures the reflections of signals like Wi-Fi as they bounce off people, creating a reliable record of vitals for healthcare workers and patients. And in a brief Q&A with TED curator Helen Walters, Katabi discusses safeguards being put in place to prevent people from using this tech to monitor somebody without their consent.
How to build synthetic DNA and send it across the internet | Dan Gibson
Biologist Dan Gibson edits and programs DNA, just like coders program a computer. But his "code" creates life, giving scientists the power to convert digital information into biological material like proteins and vaccines. Now he's on to a new project: "biological transportation," which holds the promise of beaming new medicines across the globe over the internet. Learn more about how this technology could change the way we respond to disease outbreaks and enable us to download personalized prescriptions in our homes.
How we study the microbes living in your gut | Dan Knights
There are about a hundred trillion microbes living inside your gut -- protecting you from infection, aiding digestion and regulating your immune system. As our bodies have adapted to life in modern society, we've started to lose some of our normal microbes; at the same time, diseases linked to a loss of diversity in microbiome are skyrocketing in developed nations. Computational microbiologist Dan Knights shares some intriguing discoveries about the differences in the microbiomes of people in developing countries compared to the US, and how they might affect our health. Learn more about the world of microbes living inside you -- and the work being done to create tools to restore and replenish them.
A new way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere | Jennifer Wilcox
Our planet has a carbon problem -- if we don't start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we'll grow hotter, faster. Chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox previews some amazing technology to scrub carbon from the air, using chemical reactions that capture and reuse CO2 in much the same way trees do ... but at a vast scale. This detailed talk reviews both the promise and the pitfalls.
How we're saving one of Earth's last wild places | Steve Boyes
Navigating territorial hippos and active minefields, TED Fellow Steve Boyes and a team of scientists have been traveling through the Okavango Delta, Africa's largest remaining wetland wilderness, to explore and protect this near-pristine habitat against the rising threat of development. In this awe-inspiring talk packed with images, he shares his work doing detailed scientific surveys in the hopes of protecting this enormous, fragile wilderness.
The tiny creature that secretly powers the planet | Penny Chisholm
Oceanographer Penny Chisholm introduces us to an amazing little being: Prochlorococcus, the most abundant photosynthetic species on the planet. A marine microbe that has existed for millions of years, Prochlorococcus wasn't discovered until the mid-1980s -- but its ancient genetic code may hold clues to how we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
The story of 'Oumuamua, the first visitor from another star system | Karen J. Meech
In October 2017, astrobiologist Karen J. Meech got the call every astronomer waits for: NASA had spotted the very first visitor from another star system. The interstellar comet -- a half-mile-long object eventually named `Oumuamua, from the Hawaiian for "scout" or "messenger" -- raised intriguing questions: Was it a chunk of rocky debris from a new star system, shredded material from a supernova explosion, evidence of alien technology or something else altogether? In this riveting talk, Meech tells the story of how her team raced against the clock to find answers about this unexpected gift from afar.
The surprising science of alpha males | Frans de Waal
In this fascinating look at the "alpha male," primatologist Frans de Waal explores the privileges and costs of power while drawing surprising parallels between how humans and primates choose their leaders. His research reveals some of the unexpected capacities of alpha males -- generosity, empathy, even peacekeeping -- and sheds light on the power struggles of human politicians. "Someone who is big and strong and intimidates and insults everyone is not necessarily an alpha male," de Waal says.
Four billion years of evolution in six minutes | Prosanta Chakrabarty
Did humans evolve from monkeys or from fish? In this enlightening talk, ichthyologist and TED Fellow Prosanta Chakrabarty dispels some hardwired myths about evolution, encouraging us to remember that we're a small part of a complex, four-billion-year process -- and not the end of the line. "We're not the goal of evolution," Chakrabarty says. "Think of us all as young leaves on this ancient and gigantic tree of life -- connected by invisible branches not just to each other, but to our extinct relatives and our evolutionary ancestors."
What we'll learn about the brain in the next century | Sam Rodriques
In this imaginative talk, neuroengineer Sam Rodriques takes us on a thrilling tour of the next 100 years in brain science. He envisions strange (and sometimes frightening) innovations that may be the key to understanding and treating brain disease -- like lasers that drill tiny holes in our skulls and allow probes to study the electrical activity of our neurons.
The journey through loss and grief | Jason B. Rosenthal
In her brutally honest, ironically funny and widely read meditation on death, "You May Want to Marry My Husband," the late author and filmmaker Amy Krouse Rosenthal gave her husband Jason very public permission to move on and find happiness. A year after her death, Jason offers candid insights on the often excruciating process of moving through and with loss -- as well as some quiet wisdom for anyone else experiencing life-changing grief.
Let's turn the high seas into the world's largest nature reserve | Enric Sala
What if we could save the fishing industry and protect the ocean at the same time? Marine ecologist Enric Sala shares his bold plan to safeguard the high seas -- some of the last wild places on earth, which fall outside the jurisdiction of any single country -- by creating a giant marine reserve that covers two-thirds of the world's ocean. By protecting the high seas, Sala believes we will restore the ecological, economic and social benefits of the ocean. "When we can align economic needs with conservation, miracles can happen," Sala says.
How we can turn the cold of outer space into a renewable resource | Aaswath Raman
What if we could use the cold darkness of outer space to cool buildings on earth? In this mind-blowing talk, physicist Aaswath Raman details the technology he's developing to harness "night-sky cooling" -- a natural phenomenon where infrared light escapes earth and heads to space, carrying heat along with it -- which could dramatically reduce the energy used by our cooling systems (and the pollution they cause). Learn more about how this approach could lead us towards a future where we intelligently tap into the energy of the universe.
Can a bird that symbolizes death help the living catch criminals? In this informative and accessible talk, forensic anthropologist Lauren Pharr shows us how vultures impact crime scenes -- and the assistance they can provide to detectives investigating murders. (This talk contains graphic images.)
The shocking danger of mountaintop removal -- and why it must end | Michael Hendryx
Research investigator Michael Hendryx studies mountaintop removal, an explosive type of surface coal mining used in Appalachia that comes with unexpected health hazards. In this data-packed talk, Hendryx presents his research and tells the story of the pushback he's received from the coal industry, advocating for the ethical obligation scientists have to speak the truth.
Scientists must be free to learn, to speak and to challenge | Kirsty Duncan
"You do not mess with something so fundamental, so precious, as science," says Kirsty Duncan, Canada's first Minister of Science. In a heartfelt, inspiring talk about pushing boundaries, she makes the case that researchers must be free to present uncomfortable truths and challenge the thinking of the day -- and that we all have a duty to speak up when we see science being stifled or suppressed.
The doctors, nurses and aid workers rebuilding Syria | Rola Hallam
Local humanitarians are beacons of light in the darkness of war, says humanitarian aid entrepreneur and TED Fellow Rola Hallam. She's working to help responders on the ground in devastated communities like Syria, where the destruction of health care is being used as a weapon of war. One of her campaigns achieved a global first: a crowdfunded hospital. Since it opened in 2017, the aptly named Hope Hospital has treated thousands of children. "Local humanitarians have the courage to persist, to dust themselves off from the wreckage and to start again, risking their lives to save others," Hallam says. "We can match their courage by not looking away or turning our backs."
The "dead zone" of the Gulf of Mexico | Nancy Rabalais
Ocean expert Nancy Rabalais tracks the ominously named "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico -- where there isn't enough oxygen in the water to support life. The Gulf has the second largest dead zone in the world; on top of killing fish and crustaceans, it's also killing fisheries in these waters. Rabalais tells us about what's causing it -- and how we can reverse its harmful effects and restore one of America's natural treasures.
Should we create a solar shade to cool the earth? | Danny Hillis
In this perspective-shifting talk, Danny Hillis prompts us to approach global issues like climate change with creative scientific solutions. Taking a stand for solar geoengineering, he looks at controversial solutions with open-minded curiosity.
How fungi recognize (and infect) plants | Mennat El Ghalid
Each year, the world loses enough food to feed half a billion people to fungi, the most destructive pathogens of plants. Mycologist and TED Fellow Mennat El Ghalid explains how a breakthrough in our understanding of the molecular signals fungi use to attack plants could disrupt this interaction -- and save our crops.
The wonderful world of life in a drop of water | Tom Zimmerman
"Hold your breath," says inventor Tom Zimmerman. "This is the world without plankton." These tiny organisms produce two-thirds of our planet's oxygen -- without them, life as we know it wouldn't exist. In this talk and tech demo, Zimmerman and cell engineer Simone Bianco hook up a 3D microscope to a drop of water and take you scuba diving with plankton. Learn more about these mesmerizing creatures and get inspired to protect them against ongoing threats from climate change.
How we look kilometers below the Antarctic ice sheet | Dustin Schroeder
Antarctica is a vast and dynamic place, but radar technologies -- from World War II-era film to state-of-the-art miniaturized sensors -- are enabling scientists to observe and understand changes beneath the continent's ice in unprecedented detail. Join radio glaciologist Dustin Schroeder on a flight high above Antarctica and see how ice-penetrating radar is helping us learn about future sea level rise -- and what the melting ice will mean for us all.
The role of human emotions in science and research | Ilona Stengel
Do human emotions have a role to play in science and research? Material researcher Ilona Stengel suggests that instead of opposing each other, emotions and logic complement and reinforce each other. She shares a case study on how properly using emotions (like the empowering feeling of being dedicated to something meaningful) can boost teamwork and personal development -- and catalyze scientific breakthroughs and innovation.
This deep-sea mystery is changing our understanding of life | Karen Lloyd
How deep into the Earth can we go and still find life? Marine microbiologist Karen Lloyd introduces us to deep-subsurface microbes: tiny organisms that live buried meters deep in ocean mud and have been on Earth since way before animals. Learn more about these mysterious microbes, which refuse to grow in the lab and seem to have a fundamentally different relationship with time and energy than we do.
Could fish social networks help us save coral reefs? | Mike Gil
Mike Gil spies on fish: using novel multi-camera systems and computer vision technology, the TED Fellow and his colleagues explore how coral reef fish behave, socialize and affect their ecosystems. Learn more about how fish of different species communicate via social networks -- and what disrupting these networks might mean to the delicate ecology of reefs, which help feed millions of us and support the global economy.
Why I study the most dangerous animal on earth -- mosquitoes | Fredros Okumu
What do we really know about mosquitoes? Fredros Okumu catches and studies these disease-carrying insects for a living -- with the hope of crashing their populations. Join Okumu for a tour of the frontlines of mosquito research, as he details some of the unconventional methods his team at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania have developed to target what has been described as the most dangerous animal on earth.
The thrilling potential for off-grid solar energy | Amar Inamdar
There's an energy revolution happening in villages and towns across Africa -- off-grid solar energy is becoming a viable alternative to traditional electricity systems. In a bold talk about a true leapfrog moment, Amar Inamdar introduces us to proud owners of off-grid solar kits -- and explains how this technology has the opportunity to meet two extraordinary goals: energy access for all and a low-carbon future. "Every household a proud producer as well as consumer of energy," Inamdar says. "That's the democracy of energy." (Followed by a brief Q&A with TED Curator Chris Anderson)
The surprising solution to ocean plastic | David Katz
Can we solve the problem of ocean plastic pollution and end extreme poverty at the same time? That's the ambitious goal of The Plastic Bank: a worldwide chain of stores where everything from school tuition to cooking fuel and more is available for purchase in exchange for plastic garbage -- which is then sorted, shredded and sold to brands who reuse "social plastic" in their products. Join David Katz to learn more about this step towards closing the loop in the circular economy. "Preventing ocean plastic could be humanity's richest opportunity," Katz says.
How we can stop Africa's scientific brain drain | Kevin Njabo
How can Africans find solutions to Africa's problems? Conservation biologist Kevin Njabo tells his personal story of how he nearly became part of the group of African scientists who seek an education abroad and never return -- and why he's now building a permanent base on the continent to nurture and support local talent. "I'm not coming back alone. I'm bringing with me Western scientists, entrepreneurs and students," Njabo says. "When that happens, Africa will be on the way to solving Africa's problems."
You aren't at the mercy of your emotions -- your brain creates them | Lisa Feldman Barrett
Can you look at someone's face and know what they're feeling? Does everyone experience happiness, sadness and anxiety the same way? What are emotions anyway? For the past 25 years, psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett has mapped facial expressions, scanned brains and analyzed hundreds of physiology studies to understand what emotions really are. She shares the results of her exhaustive research -- and explains how we may have more control over our emotions than we think.
Space physicist Miho Janvier studies solar storms: giant clouds of particles that escape from the Sun and can disrupt life on Earth (while also producing amazing auroras). How do you study the atmosphere on the Sun, which burns at temperatures of up to around 10 million degrees Kelvin? With math! Join the TED Fellow as she shares her work trying to better understand how the Sun affects us here on Earth.
Adventures of an interplanetary architect | Xavier De Kestelier
How will we live elsewhere in the galaxy? On Earth, natural resources for creating structures are abundant, but sending these materials up with us to the Moon or Mars is clunky and cost-prohibitive. Enter architect Xavier De Kestelier, who has a radical plan to use robots and space dust to 3D print our interplanetary homes. Learn more about the emerging field of space architecture with this fascinating talk about the (potentially) not-too-distant future.
How augmented reality could change the future of surgery | Nadine Hachach-Haram
If you're undergoing surgery, you want the best surgical team to collaborate on your case, no matter where they are. Surgeon and entrepreneur Nadine Hachach-Haram is developing a new system that helps surgeons operate together and train one another on new techniques -- from remote locations using low-cost augmented reality tools. Watch the system in action as she joins a surgeon in Minnesota performing a knee surgery, live on her laptop from the TED stage in New Orleans. As Hachach-Haram says: "Through simple, everyday devices that we take for granted, we can really do miraculous things." (This talk contains graphic images of surgery.)
Fashion has a pollution problem -- can biology fix it? | Natsai Audrey Chieza
Natsai Audrey Chieza is a designer on a mission -- to reduce pollution in the fashion industry while creating amazing new things to wear. In her lab, she noticed that the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor makes a striking red-purple pigment, and now she's using it to develop bold, color-fast fabric dye that cuts down on water waste and chemical runoff, compared with traditional dyes. And she isn't alone in using synthetic biology to redefine our material future; think -- "leather" made from mushrooms and superstrong yarn made from spider-silk protein. We're not going to build the future with fossil fuels, Chieza says. We're going to build it with biology.
Fresh food free of chemicals and pesticides is hard to come by in China: in 2016, the Chinese government revealed half a million food safety violations in just nine months. In the absence of safe, sustainable food sources, TED Fellow Matilda Ho launched China's first online farmers market, instituting a zero-tolerance test towards pesticides, antibiotics and hormones in food. She shares how she's growing her platform from the ground up and bringing local, organically grown food to the families that need it.
Why wildfires have gotten worse -- and what we can do about it | Paul Hessburg
Megafires, individual fires that burn more than 100,000 acres, are on the rise in the western United States -- the direct result of unintentional yet massive changes we've brought to the forests through a century of misguided management. What steps can we take to avoid further destruction? Forest ecologist Paul Hessburg confronts some tough truths about wildfires and details how we can help restore the natural balance of the landscape.
How to win at evolution and survive a mass extinction | Lauren Sallan
Congratulations! By being here, alive, you are one of history's winners -- the culmination of a success story four billion years in the making. The other 99 percent of species who have ever lived on earth are dead -- killed by fire, flood, asteroids, ice, heat and the cold math of natural selection. How did we get so lucky, and will we continue to win? In this short, funny talk, paleobiologist and TED Fellow Lauren Sallan shares insights on how your ancestors' survival through mass extinction made you who you are today.
Can we stop climate change by removing CO2 from the air? | Tim Kruger
Could we cure climate change? Geoengineering researcher Tim Kruger wants to try. He shares one promising possibility: using natural gas to generate electricity in a way that takes carbon dioxide out of the air. Learn more -- both the potential and the risks -- about this controversial field that seeks creative, deliberate and large-scale intervention to stop the already catastrophic consequences of our warming planet.
What's hidden under the Greenland ice sheet? | Kristin Poinar
The Greenland ice sheet is massive, mysterious -- and melting. Using advanced technology, scientists are revealing its secrets for the first time, and what they've found is amazing: hidden under the ice sheet is a vast aquifer that holds a Lake Tahoe-sized volume of water from the summer melt. Does this water stay there, or does it find its way out to the ocean and contribute to global sea level rise? Join glaciologist Kristin Poinar for a trip to this frozen, forgotten land to find out.
A global food crisis may be less than a decade away | Sara Menker
Sara Menker quit a career in commodities trading to figure out how the global value chain of agriculture works. Her discoveries have led to some startling predictions: "We could have a tipping point in global food and agriculture if surging demand surpasses the agricultural system's structural capacity to produce food," she says. "People could starve and governments may fall." Menker's models predict that this scenario could happen in a decade -- that the world could be short 214 trillion calories per year by 2027. She offers a vision of this impossible world as well as some steps we can take today to avoid it.
Mind-blowing, magnified portraits of insects | Levon Biss
Photographer Levon Biss was looking for a new, extraordinary subject when one afternoon he and his young son popped a ground beetle under a microscope and discovered the wondrous world of insects. Applying his knowledge of photography to subjects just five millimeters long, Biss created a process for shooting insects in unbelievable microscopic detail. He shares the resulting portraits -- each comprised of 8- to 10,000 individual shots -- and a story about how inspiration can come from the most unlikely places.
How LIGO discovered gravitational waves -- and what might be next | Gabriela González
More than 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted gravitational waves -- ripples in space-time caused by violent cosmic collisions -- LIGO scientists confirmed their existence using large, extremely precise detectors in Louisiana and Washington. Astrophysicist Gabriela González of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration tells us how this incredible, Nobel-winning discovery happened -- and what it might mean for our understanding of the universe. (In Spanish with English subtitles)
The fascinating secret lives of giant clams | Mei Lin Neo
When you think about the deep blue sea, you might instantly think of whales or coral reefs. But spare a thought for giant clams, the world's largest living shellfish. These incredible creatures can live to 100, grow up to four and a half feet long and weigh as much as three baby elephants. In this charming talk, marine biologist Mei Lin Neo shares why she's obsessively trying to turn these legendary sea creatures into heroes of the oceans.
The most Martian place on Earth | Armando Azua-Bustos
How can you study Mars without a spaceship? Head to the most Martian place on Earth -- the Atacama Desert in Chile. Astrobiologist Armando Azua-Bustos grew up in this vast, arid landscape and now studies the rare life forms that have adapted to survive there, some in areas with no reported rainfall for the past 400 years. Explore the possibility of finding life elsewhere in the universe without leaving the planet with this quick, funny talk.
What it feels like to see Earth from space | Benjamin Grant
What the astronauts felt when they saw Earth from space changed them forever. Author and artist Benjamin Grant aims to provoke this same feeling of overwhelming scale and beauty in each of us through a series of stunning satellite images that show the effects human beings are having on the planet. "If we can adopt a more expansive perspective, embrace the truth of what is going on and contemplate the long-term health of our planet, we will create a better, safer and smarter future for our one and only home," Grant says.
What the sugar coating on your cells is trying to tell you | Carolyn Bertozzi
Your cells are coated with sugars that store information and speak a secret language. What are they trying to tell us? Your blood type, for one -- and, potentially, that you have cancer. Chemical biologist Carolyn Bertozzi researches how sugars on cancerous cells interact with (and sometimes trick) your immune system. Learn more about how your body detects cancer and how the latest cancer-fighting medicines could help your immune system beat the disease.
Meet the microscopic life in your home -- and on your face | Anne Madden
Behold the microscopic jungle in and around you: tiny organisms living on your cheeks, under your sofa and in the soil in your backyard. We have an adversarial relationship with these microbes -- we sanitize, exterminate and disinfect them -- but according to microbiologist Anne Madden, they're sources of new technologies and medicines waiting to be discovered. These microscopic alchemists aren't gross, Madden says -- they're the future.
Why I still have hope for coral reefs | Kristen Marhaver
Corals in the Pacific Ocean have been dying at an alarming rate, particularly from bleaching brought on by increased water temperatures. But it's not too late to act, says TED Fellow Kristen Marhaver. She points to the Caribbean -- given time, stable temperatures and strong protection, corals there have shown the ability to survive and recover from trauma. Marhaver reminds us why we need to keep working to protect the precious corals we have left. "Corals have always been playing the long game," she says, "and now so are we."
You smell with your body, not just your nose | Jennifer Pluznick
Do your kidneys have a sense of smell? Turns out, the same tiny scent detectors found in your nose are also found in some pretty unexpected places -- like your muscles, kidneys and even your lungs. In this quick talk (filled with weird facts), physiologist Jennifer Pluznick explains why they're there and what they do.
Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality | Anil Seth
Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience -- and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we're all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it "reality." Join Seth for a delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence.
Can clouds buy us more time to solve climate change? | Kate Marvel
Climate change is real, case closed. But there's still a lot we don't understand about it, and the more we know the better chance we have to slow it down. One still-unknown factor: How might clouds play a part? There's a small hope that they could buy us some time to fix things ... or they could make global warming worse. Climate scientist Kate Marvel takes us through the science of clouds and what it might take for Earth to break its own fever.
What rivers can tell us about the earth's history | Liz Hajek
Rivers are one of nature's most powerful forces -- they bulldoze mountains and carve up the earth, and their courses are constantly moving. Understanding how they form and how they'll change is important for those that call their banks and deltas home. In this visual-packed talk, geoscientist Liz Hajek shows us how rocks deposited by ancient rivers can be used as a time machine to study the history of the earth, so we can figure out how to more sustainably live on it today.
What happens in your brain when you pay attention? | Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar
Attention isn't just about what we focus on -- it's also about what our brains filter out. By investigating patterns in the brain as people try to focus, computational neuroscientist Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar hopes to build computer models that can be used to treat ADHD and help those who have lost the ability to communicate. Hear more about this exciting science in this brief, fascinating talk.
How pollution is changing the ocean's chemistry | Triona McGrath
As we keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, more of it is dissolving in the oceans, leading to drastic changes in the water's chemistry. Triona McGrath researches this process, known as ocean acidification, and in this talk she takes us for a dive into an oceanographer's world. Learn more about how the "evil twin of climate change" is impacting the ocean -- and the life that depends on it.
A secret weapon against Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases | Nina Fedoroff
Where did Zika come from, and what can we do about it? Molecular biologist Nina Fedoroff takes us around the world to understand Zika's origins and how it spread, proposing a controversial way to stop the virus -- and other deadly diseases -- by preventing infected mosquitoes from multiplying.
A climate solution where all sides can win | Ted Halstead
Why are we so deadlocked on climate, and what would it take to overcome the seemingly insurmountable barriers to progress? Policy entrepreneur Ted Halstead proposes a transformative solution based on the conservative principles of free markets and limited government. Learn more about how this carbon dividends plan could trigger an international domino effect towards a more popular, cost-effective and equitable climate solution.
How human noise affects ocean habitats | Kate Stafford
Oceanographer Kate Stafford lowers us into the sonically rich depths of the Arctic Ocean, where ice groans, whales sing to communicate over vast distances -- and climate change and human noise threaten to alter the environment in ways we don't understand. Learn more about why this underwater soundscape matters and what we might do to protect it.
Carolyn Jones spent five years interviewing, photographing and filming nurses across America, traveling to places dealing with some of the nation's biggest public health issues. She shares personal stories of unwavering dedication in this celebration of the everyday heroes who work at the front lines of health care.
What you can do to prevent Alzheimer's | Lisa Genova
Alzheimer's doesn't have to be your brain's destiny, says neuroscientist and author of "Still Alice," Lisa Genova. She shares the latest science investigating the disease -- and some promising research on what each of us can do to build an Alzheimer's-resistant brain.
Science in service to the public good | Siddhartha Roy
We give scientists and engineers great technical training, but we're not as good at teaching ethical decision-making or building character. Take, for example, the environmental crisis that recently unfolded in Flint, Michigan -- and the professionals there who did nothing to fix it. Siddhartha Roy helped prove that Flint's water was contaminated, and he tells a story of science in service to the public good, calling on the next generation of scientists and engineers to dedicate their work to protecting people and the planet.
How radio telescopes show us unseen galaxies | Natasha Hurley-Walker
Our universe is strange, wonderful and vast, says astronomer Natasha Hurley-Walker. A spaceship can't carry you into its depths (yet) -- but a radio telescope can. In this mesmerizing talk, Hurley-Walker shows how she probes the mysteries of the universe using special technology that reveals light spectrums we can't see.
Giorgia Lupi uses data to tell human stories, adding nuance to numbers. In this charming talk, she shares how we can bring personality to data, visualizing even the mundane details of our daily lives and transforming the abstract and uncountable into something that can be seen, felt and directly reconnected to our lives.
How to take a picture of a black hole | Katie Bouman
At the heart of the Milky Way, there's a supermassive black hole that feeds off a spinning disk of hot gas, sucking up anything that ventures too close -- even light. We can't see it, but its event horizon casts a shadow, and an image of that shadow could help answer some important questions about the universe. Scientists used to think that making such an image would require a telescope the size of Earth -- until Katie Bouman and a team of astronomers came up with a clever alternative. Bouman explains how we can take a picture of the ultimate dark using the Event Horizon Telescope.
How early life experience is written into DNA | Moshe Szyf
Moshe Szyf is a pioneer in the field of epigenetics, the study of how living things reprogram their genome in response to social factors like stress and lack of food. His research suggests that biochemical signals passed from mothers to offspring tell the child what kind of world they're going to live in, changing the expression of genes. "DNA isn't just a sequence of letters; it's not just a script." Szyf says. "DNA is a dynamic movie in which our experiences are being written."
Sometimes it's hard to know what statistics are worthy of trust. But we shouldn't count out stats altogether ... instead, we should learn to look behind them. In this delightful, hilarious talk, data journalist Mona Chalabi shares handy tips to help question, interpret and truly understand what the numbers are saying.
Lifelike simulations that make real-life surgery safer | Peter Weinstock
Critical care doctor Peter Weinstock shows how surgical teams are using a blend of Hollywood special effects and 3D printing to create amazingly lifelike reproductions of real patients -- so they can practice risky surgeries ahead of time. Think: "Operate twice, cut once." Glimpse the future of surgery in this forward-thinking talk.
TED Fellow Carrie Nugent is an asteroid hunter -- part of a group of scientists working to discover and catalog our oldest and most numerous cosmic neighbors. Why keep an eye out for asteroids? In this short, fact-filled talk, Nugent explains how their awesome impacts have shaped our planet, and how finding them at the right time could mean nothing less than saving life on Earth.
A scientific approach to the paranormal | Carrie Poppy
What's haunting Carrie Poppy? Is it ghosts or something worse? In this talk, the investigative journalist narrates her encounter with a spooky feeling you'll want to warn your friends about and explains why we need science to deal with paranormal activity.
Smelfies, and other experiments in synthetic biology | Ani Liu
What if you could take a smell selfie, a smelfie? What if you had a lipstick that caused plants to grow where you kiss? Ani Liu explores the intersection of technology and sensory perception, and her work is wedged somewhere between science, design and art. In this swift, smart talk, she shares dreams, wonderings and experiments, asking: What happens when science fiction becomes science fact?
Meet the "Row-bot," a robot that cleans up pollution and generates the electricity needed to power itself by swallowing dirty water. Roboticist Jonathan Rossiter explains how this special swimming machine, which uses a microbial fuel cell to neutralize algal blooms and oil slicks, could be a precursor to biodegradable, autonomous pollution-fighting robots.
Nagin Cox is a first-generation Martian. As a spacecraft engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Cox works on the team that manages the United States' rovers on Mars. But working a 9-to-5 on another planet -- whose day is 40 minutes longer than Earth's -- has particular, often comical challenges.
Think you're good at guessing stats? Guess again. Whether we consider ourselves math people or not, our ability to understand and work with numbers is terribly limited, says data visualization expert Alan Smith. In this delightful talk, Smith explores the mismatch between what we know and what we think we know.
The ethical dilemma of designer babies | Paul Knoepfler
Creating genetically modified people is no longer a science fiction fantasy; it's a likely future scenario. Biologist Paul Knoepfler estimates that within fifteen years, scientists could use the gene editing technology CRISPR to make certain "upgrades" to human embryos -- from altering physical appearances to eliminating the risk of auto-immune diseases. In this thought-provoking talk, Knoepfler readies us for the coming designer baby revolution and its very personal, and unforeseeable, consequences.
What happens when you have a disease doctors can't diagnose | Jennifer Brea
Five years ago, TED Fellow Jennifer Brea became progressively ill with myalgic encephalomyelitis, commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome, a debilitating illness that severely impairs normal activities and on bad days makes even the rustling of bed sheets unbearable. In this poignant talk, Brea describes the obstacles she's encountered in seeking treatment for her condition, whose root causes and physical effects we don't fully understand, as well as her mission to document through film the lives of patients that medicine struggles to treat.
Nearly every other year the transistors that power silicon computer chip shrink in size by half and double in performance, enabling our devices to become more mobile and accessible. But what happens when these components can't get any smaller? George Tulevski researches the unseen and untapped world of nanomaterials. His current work: developing chemical processes to compel billions of carbon nanotubes to assemble themselves into the patterns needed to build circuits, much the same way natural organisms build intricate, diverse and elegant structures. Could they hold the secret to the next generation of computing?
How we explore unanswered questions in physics | James Beacham
James Beacham looks for answers to the most important open questions of physics using the biggest science experiment ever mounted, CERN's Large Hadron Collider. In this fun and accessible talk about how science happens, Beacham takes us on a journey through extra-spatial dimensions in search of undiscovered fundamental particles (and an explanation for the mysteries of gravity) and details the drive to keep exploring.
Why curiosity is the key to science and medicine | Kevin B. Jones
Science is a learning process that involves experimentation, failure and revision -- and the science of medicine is no exception. Cancer researcher Kevin B. Jones faces the deep unknowns about surgery and medical care with a simple answer: honesty. In a thoughtful talk about the nature of knowledge, Jones shows how science is at its best when scientists humbly admit what they do not yet understand.
Let's clean up the space junk orbiting Earth | Natalie Panek
Our lives depend on a world we can't see: the satellite infrastructure we use every day for information, entertainment, communication and so much more. But Earth orbit isn't a limitless resource, and the problem of space debris will get worse without a significant change to our behavior. Natalie Panek challenges us to consider the environmental impact of the satellites we rely on. Our orbital environment is breathtakingly beautiful and our gateway to exploration, she says. It's up to us to keep it that way.
We need nuclear power to solve climate change | Joe Lassiter
Joe Lassiter is a deep thinker and straight talker focused on developing clean, secure and carbon-neutral supplies of reliable, low-cost energy. His analysis of the world's energy realities puts a powerful lens on the stubbornly touchy issue of nuclear power, including new designs for plants that can compete economically with fossil fuels. We have the potential to make nuclear safer and cheaper than it's been in the past, Lassiter says. Now we have to make the choice to pursue it.
What will humans look like in 100 years? | Juan Enriquez
We can evolve bacteria, plants and animals -- futurist Juan Enriquez asks: Is it ethical to evolve the human body? In a visionary talk that ranges from medieval prosthetics to present day neuroengineering and genetics, Enriquez sorts out the ethics associated with evolving humans and imagines the ways we'll have to transform our own bodies if we hope to explore and live in places other than Earth.
A temporary tattoo that brings hospital care to the home | Todd Coleman
What if doctors could monitor patients at home with the same degree of accuracy they'd get during a stay at the hospital? Bioelectronics innovator Todd Coleman shares his quest to develop wearable, flexible electronic health monitoring patches that promise to revolutionize healthcare and make medicine less invasive.
What you need to know about CRISPR | Ellen Jorgensen
Should we bring back the wooly mammoth? Or edit a human embryo? Or wipe out an entire species that we consider harmful? The genome-editing technology CRISPR has made extraordinary questions like these legitimate -- but how does it work? Scientist and community lab advocate Ellen Jorgensen is on a mission to explain the myths and realities of CRISPR, hype-free, to the non-scientists among us.
How we're harnessing nature's hidden superpowers | Oded Shoseyov
What do you get when you combine the strongest materials from the plant world with the most elastic ones from the insect kingdom? Super-performing materials that might transform ... everything. Nanobiotechnologist Oded Shoseyov walks us through examples of amazing materials found throughout nature, in everything from cat fleas to sequoia trees, and shows the creative ways his team is harnessing them in everything from sports shoes to medical implants.
The era of personal DNA testing is here | Sebastian Kraves
From improving vaccines to modifying crops to solving crimes, DNA technology has transformed our world. Now, for the first time in history, anyone can experiment with DNA at home, in their kitchen, using a device smaller than a shoebox. We are living in a personal DNA revolution, says biotech entrepreneur Sebastian Kraves, where the secrets buried in DNA are yours to find.
How fear of nuclear power is hurting the environment | Michael Shellenberger
"We're not in a clean energy revolution; we're in a clean energy crisis," says climate policy expert Michael Shellenberger. His surprising solution: nuclear. In this passionate talk, he explains why it's time to overcome longstanding fears of the technology, and why he and other environmentalists believe it's past time to embrace nuclear as a viable and desirable source of clean power.
Why helmets don't prevent concussions -- and what might | David Camarillo
What is a concussion? Probably not what you think it is. In this talk from the cutting edge of research, bioengineer (and former football player) David Camarillo shows what really happens during a concussion -- and why standard sports helmets don't prevent it. Here's what the future of concussion prevention looks like.
"Venus is too hot, Mars is too cold, and Earth is just right," says planetary scientist Dave Brain. But why? In this pleasantly humorous talk, Brain explores the fascinating science behind what it takes for a planet to host life -- and why humanity may just be in the right place at the right time when it comes to the timeline of life-sustaining planets.
"A forest is much more than what you see," says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery -- trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.
A new way to study the brain's invisible secrets | Ed Boyden
Neuroengineer Ed Boyden wants to know how the tiny biomolecules in our brains generate emotions, thoughts and feelings -- and he wants to find the molecular changes that lead to disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer's. Rather than magnify these invisible structures with a microscope, he wondered: What if we physically enlarge them and make them easier to see? Learn how the same polymers used to make baby diapers swell could be a key to better understanding our brains.
Clues to prehistoric times, found in blind cavefish | Prosanta Chakrabarty
TED Fellow Prosanta Chakrabarty explores hidden parts of the world in search of new species of cave-dwelling fish. These subterranean creatures have developed fascinating adaptations, and they provide biological insights into blindness as well as geological clues about how the continents broke apart million of years ago. Contemplate deep time in this short talk.
How a blind astronomer found a way to hear the stars | Wanda Diaz Merced
Wanda Diaz Merced studies the light emitted by gamma-ray bursts, the most energetic events in the universe. When she lost her sight and was left without a way to do her science, she had a revelatory insight: the light curves she could no longer see could be translated into sound. Through sonification, she regained mastery over her work, and now she's advocating for a more inclusive scientific community. "Science is for everyone," she says. "It has to be available to everyone, because we are all natural explorers."
Why genetic research must be more diverse | Keolu Fox
Ninety-six percent of genome studies are based on people of European descent. The rest of the world is virtually unrepresented -- and this is dangerous, says geneticist and TED Fellow Keolu Fox, because we react to drugs differently based on our genetic makeup. Fox is working to democratize genome sequencing, specifically by advocating for indigenous populations to get involved in research, with the goal of eliminating health disparities. "The research community needs to immerse itself in indigenous culture," he says, "or die trying."
This scientist makes ears out of apples | Andrew Pelling
TED Fellow Andrew Pelling is a biohacker, and nature is his hardware. His favorite materials are the simplest ones (and oftentimes he finds them in the garbage). Building on the cellulose structure that gives an apple its shape, he "grows" lifelike human ears, pioneering a process that might someday be used to repair body parts safely and cheaply. And he has some even wilder ideas to share ... "What I'm really curious about is if one day it will be possible to repair, rebuild and augment our own bodies with stuff we make in the kitchen," he says.
A smarter, more precise way to think about public health | Sue Desmond-Hellmann
Sue Desmond-Hellmann is using precision public health -- an approach that incorporates big data, consumer monitoring, gene sequencing and other innovative tools -- to solve the world's most difficult medical problems. It's already helped cut HIV transmission from mothers to babies by nearly half in sub-Saharan Africa, and now it's being used to address alarming infant mortality rates all over the world. The goal: to save lives by bringing the right interventions to the right populations at the right time.
This tiny particle could roam your body to find tumors | Sangeeta Bhatia
What if we could find cancerous tumors years before they can harm us -- without expensive screening facilities or even steady electricity? Physician, bioengineer and entrepreneur Sangeeta Bhatia leads a multidisciplinary lab that searches for novel ways to understand, diagnose and treat human disease. Her target: the two-thirds of deaths due to cancer that she says are fully preventable. With remarkable clarity, she breaks down complex nanoparticle science and shares her dream for a radical new cancer test that could save millions of lives.
Gene editing can now change an entire species -- forever | Jennifer Kahn
CRISPR gene drives allow scientists to change sequences of DNA and guarantee that the resulting edited genetic trait is inherited by future generations, opening up the possibility of altering entire species forever. More than anything, the technology has led to questions: How will this new power affect humanity? What are we going to use it to change? Are we gods now? Join journalist Jennifer Kahn as she ponders these questions and shares a potentially powerful application of gene drives: the development of disease-resistant mosquitoes that could knock out malaria and Zika.
How to read the genome and build a human being | Riccardo Sabatini
Secrets, disease and beauty are all written in the human genome, the complete set of genetic instructions needed to build a human being. Now, as scientist and entrepreneur Riccardo Sabatini shows us, we have the power to read this complex code, predicting things like height, eye color, age and even facial structure -- all from a vial of blood. And soon, Sabatini says, our new understanding of the genome will allow us to personalize treatments for diseases like cancer. We have the power to change life as we know it. How will we use it?
Hunting for dinosaurs showed me our place in the universe | Kenneth Lacovara
What happens when you discover a dinosaur? Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara details his unearthing of Dreadnoughtus -- a 77-million-year-old sauropod that was as tall as a two-story house and as heavy as a jumbo jet -- and considers how amazingly improbable it is that a tiny mammal living in the cracks of the dinosaur world could evolve into a sentient being capable of understanding these magnificent creatures. Join him in a celebration of the Earth's geological history and contemplate our place in deep time.
We can reprogram life. How to do it wisely | Juan Enriquez
For four billion years, what lived and died on Earth depended on two principles: natural selection and random mutation. Then humans came along and changed everything — hybridizing plants, breeding animals, altering the environment and even purposefully evolving ourselves. Juan Enriquez provides five guidelines for a future where this ability to program life rapidly accelerates. "This is the single most exciting adventure human beings have been on," Enriquez says. "This is the single greatest superpower humans have ever had."
A new superweapon in the fight against cancer | Paula Hammond
Cancer is a very clever, adaptable disease. To defeat it, says medical researcher and educator Paula Hammond, we need a new and powerful mode of attack. With her colleagues at MIT, Hammond engineered a nanoparticle one-hundredth the size of a human hair that can treat the most aggressive, drug-resistant cancers. Learn more about this molecular superweapon and join Hammond's quest to fight a disease that affects us all.
Your kids might live on Mars. Here's how they'll survive | Stephen Petranek
It sounds like science fiction, but journalist Stephen Petranek considers it fact: within 20 years, humans will live on Mars. In this provocative talk, Petranek makes the case that humans will become a spacefaring species and describes in fascinating detail how we'll make Mars our next home. "Humans will survive no matter what happens on Earth," Petranek says. "We will never be the last of our kind."
The most mysterious star in the universe | Tabetha Boyajian
Something massive, with roughly 1,000 times the area of Earth, is blocking the light coming from a distant star known as KIC 8462852, and nobody is quite sure what it is. As astronomer Tabetha Boyajian investigated this perplexing celestial object, a colleague suggested something unusual: Could it be an alien-built megastructure? Such an extraordinary idea would require extraordinary evidence. In this talk, Boyajian gives us a look at how scientists search for and test hypotheses when faced with the unknown.
How humans could evolve to survive in space | Lisa Nip
If we hope to one day leave Earth and explore the universe, our bodies are going to have to get a lot better at surviving the harsh conditions of space. Using synthetic biology, Lisa Nip hopes to harness special powers from microbes on Earth -- such as the ability to withstand radiation -- to make humans more fit for exploring space. "We're approaching a time during which we'll have the capacity to decide our own genetic destiny," Nip says. "Augmenting the human body with new abilities is no longer a question of how, but of when."
This country isn't just carbon neutral -- it's carbon negative | Tshering Tobgay
Deep in the Himalayas, on the border between China and India, lies the Kingdom of Bhutan, which has pledged to remain carbon neutral for all time. In this illuminating talk, Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay shares his country's mission to put happiness before economic growth and set a world standard for environmental preservation.
The secrets I find on the mysterious ocean floor | Laura Robinson
Hundreds of meters below the surface of the ocean, Laura Robinson probes the steep slopes of massive undersea mountains. She's on the hunt for thousand-year-old corals that she can test in a nuclear reactor to discover how the ocean changes over time. By studying the history of the earth, Robinson hopes to find clues of what might happen in the future.
Why your doctor should care about social justice | Mary Bassett
In Zimbabwe in the 1980s, Mary Bassett witnessed the AIDS epidemic firsthand, and she helped set up a clinic to treat and educate local people about the deadly virus. But looking back, she regrets not sounding the alarm for the real problem: the structural inequities embedded in the world's political and economic organizations, inequities that make marginalized people more vulnerable. These same structural problems exist in the United States today, and as New York City's Health Commissioner, Bassett is using every chance she has to rally support for health equity and speak out against racism. "We don't have to have all the answers to call for change," she says. "We just need courage."
What the discovery of gravitational waves means | Allan Adams
More than a billion years ago, two black holes in a distant galaxy locked into a spiral, falling inexorably toward each other, and collided. "All that energy was pumped into the fabric of time and space itself," says theoretical physicist Allan Adams, "making the universe explode in roiling waves of gravity." About 25 years ago, a group of scientists built a giant laser detector called LIGO to search for these kinds of waves, which had been predicted but never observed. In this mind-bending talk, Adams breaks down what happened when, in September 2015, LIGO detected an unthinkably small anomaly, leading to one of the most exciting discoveries in the history of physics.
We're headed towards a global food crisis: Nearly 3 billion people depend on the ocean for food, and at our current rate we already take more fish from the ocean than it can naturally replace. In this fact-packed, eye-opening talk, entrepreneur and conservationist Mike Velings proposes a solution: Aquaculture, or fish farming. "We must start using the ocean as farmers instead of hunters," he says, echoing Jacques Cousteau. "The day will come where people will demand farmed fish on their plates that's farmed well and farmed healthy -- and refuse anything less."
When Andrés Ruzo was a young boy in Peru, his grandfather told him a story with an odd detail: There is a river, deep in the Amazon, which boils as if a fire burns below it. Twelve years later, after training as a geoscientist, he set out on a journey deep into the jungle of South America in search of this boiling river. At a time when everything seems mapped and measured, join Ruzo as he explores a river that forces us to question the line between known and unknown ... and reminds us that there are great wonders yet to be discovered.
Should you be able to patent a human gene? | Tania Simoncelli
A decade ago, US law said human genes were patentable -- which meant patent holders had the right to stop anyone from sequencing, testing or even looking at a patented gene. Troubled by the way this law both harmed patients and created a barrier to biomedical innovation, Tania Simoncelli and her colleagues at the ACLU challenged it. In this riveting talk, hear the story of how they took a case everybody told them they would lose all the way to the Supreme Court.
How we can make crops survive without water | Jill Farrant
As the world's population grows and the effects of climate change come into sharper relief, we'll have to feed more people using less arable land. Molecular biologist Jill Farrant studies a rare phenomenon that may help: "resurrection plants" -- super-resilient plants that seemingly come back from the dead. Could they hold promise for growing food in our coming hotter, drier world?
Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does so much interesting stuff exist in the universe? Particle physicist Harry Cliff works on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and he has some potentially bad news for people who seek answers to these questions. Despite the best efforts of scientists (and the help of the biggest machine on the planet), we may never be able to explain all the weird features of nature. Is this the end of physics? Learn more in this fascinating talk about the latest research into the secret structure of the universe.
Let's not use Mars as a backup planet | Lucianne Walkowicz
Stellar astronomer and TED Senior Fellow Lucianne Walkowicz works on NASA's Kepler mission, searching for places in the universe that could support life. So it's worth a listen when she asks us to think carefully about Mars. In this short talk, she suggests that we stop dreaming of Mars as a place that we'll eventually move to when we've messed up Earth, and to start thinking of planetary exploration and preservation of the Earth as two sides of the same goal. As she says, "The more you look for planets like Earth, the more you appreciate our own planet."
The untapped genius that could change science for the better | Jedidah Isler
Jedidah Isler dreamt of becoming an astrophysicist since she was a young girl, but the odds were against her: At that time, only 18 black women in the United States had ever earned a PhD in a physics-related discipline. In this personal talk, she shares the story of how she became the first black woman to earn a PhD in astrophysics from Yale -- and her deep belief in the value of diversity to science and other STEM fields. "Do not think for one minute that because you are who you are, you cannot be who you imagine yourself to be," she says. "Hold fast to those dreams and let them carry you into a world you can't even imagine."
How we're growing baby corals to rebuild reefs | Kristen Marhaver
Kristen Marhaver studies corals, tiny creatures the size of a poppyseed that, over hundreds of slow years, create beautiful, life-sustaining ocean structures hundreds of miles long. As she admits, it's easy to get sad about the state of coral reefs; they're in the news lately because of how quickly they're bleaching, dying and turning to slime. But the good news is that we're learning more and more about these amazing marine invertebrates -- including how to help them (and help them help us). This biologist and TED Senior Fellow offers a glimpse into the wonderful and mysterious lives of these hard-working and fragile creatures.
What are animals thinking and feeling? | Carl Safina
What's going on inside the brains of animals? Can we know what, or if, they're thinking and feeling? Carl Safina thinks we can. Using discoveries and anecdotes that span ecology, biology and behavioral science, he weaves together stories of whales, wolves, elephants and albatrosses to argue that just as we think, feel, use tools and express emotions, so too do the other creatures – and minds – that share the Earth with us.
The coolest animal you know nothing about ... and how we can save it | Patrícia Medici
Although the tapir is one of the world's largest land mammals, the lives of these solitary, nocturnal creatures have remained a mystery. Known as "the living fossil," the very same tapir that roams the forests and grasslands of South America today arrived on the evolutionary scene more than 5 million years ago. But threats from poachers, deforestation and pollution, especially in quickly industrializing Brazil, threaten this longevity. In this insightful talk, conservation biologist, tapir expert and TED Fellow Patrícia Medici shares her work with these amazing animals and challenges us with a question: Do we want to be responsible for their extinction?
Deep under the Earth's surface, discovering beauty and science | Francesco Sauro
Cave explorer and geologist Francesco Sauro travels to the hidden continent under our feet, surveying deep, dark places inside the earth that humans have never been able to reach before. In the spectacular tepuis of South America, he finds new minerals and insects that have evolved in isolation, and he uses his knowledge of these alien worlds to train astronauts.
Geneticist Jennifer Doudna co-invented a groundbreaking new technology for editing genes, called CRISPR-Cas9. The tool allows scientists to make precise edits to DNA strands, which could lead to treatments for genetic diseases ... but could also be used to create so-called "designer babies." Doudna reviews how CRISPR-Cas9 works -- and asks the scientific community to pause and discuss the ethics of this new tool.
Why medicine often has dangerous side effects for women | Alyson McGregor
You might not know this: Many of the medicines we take -- common drugs like Ambien and everyday aspirin -- were only ever tested on men. And the unknown side effects for women can be dangerous, even deadly. Alyson McGregor studies the differences between male and female patients; in this fascinating talk she explains how the male model became our framework for medical research ... and what women and men need to ask their doctors to get the right care for their bodies.
You can grow new brain cells. Here's how | Sandrine Thuret
Can we, as adults, grow new neurons? Neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret says that we can, and she offers research and practical advice on how we can help our brains better perform neurogenesis—improving mood, increasing memory formation and preventing the decline associated with aging along the way.
Alzheimer's is not normal aging — and we can cure it | Samuel Cohen
More than 40 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer's disease, and that number is expected to increase drastically in the coming years. But no real progress has been made in the fight against the disease since its classification more than 100 years ago. Scientist Samuel Cohen shares a new breakthrough in Alzheimer's research from his lab as well as a message of hope. "Alzheimer's is a disease," Cohen says, "and we can cure it."
Why climate change is a threat to human rights | Mary Robinson
Climate change is unfair. While rich countries can fight against rising oceans and dying farm fields, poor people around the world are already having their lives upended -- and their human rights threatened -- by killer storms, starvation and the loss of their own lands. Mary Robinson asks us to join the movement for worldwide climate justice.
I leapt from the stratosphere. Here's how I did it | Alan Eustace
On October 24, 2014, Alan Eustace donned a custom-built, 235-pound spacesuit, attached himself to a weather balloon, and rose above 135,000 feet, from which point he dove to Earth, breaking both the sound barrier and previous records for high-altitude jumps. Hear his story of how -- and why.
The troubling reason why vaccines are made too late ... if they're made at all | Seth Berkley
It seems like we wait for a disastrous disease outbreak before we get serious about making a vaccine for it. Seth Berkley lays out the market realities and unbalanced risks behind why we aren't making vaccines for the world's biggest diseases.
How quantum biology might explain life's biggest questions | Jim Al-Khalili
How does a robin know to fly south? The answer might be weirder than you think: Quantum physics may be involved. Jim Al-Khalili rounds up the extremely new, extremely strange world of quantum biology, where something Einstein once called "spooky action at a distance" helps birds navigate, and quantum effects might explain the origin of life itself.
Swallowing pills to get medication is a quick, painless and often not entirely effective way of treating disease. A potentially better way? Lasers. In this passionate talk, TED Fellow Patience Mthunzi explains her idea to use lasers to deliver drugs directly to cells infected with HIV. It's early days yet, but could a cure be on the horizon?
What happened when I open-sourced my brain cancer | Salvatore Iaconesi
When artist Salvatore Iaconesi was diagnosed with brain cancer, he refused to be a passive patient -- which, he points out, means "one who waits." So he hacked his brain scans, posted them online, and invited a global community to pitch in on a "cure." This sometimes meant medical advice, and it sometimes meant art, music, emotional support -- from more than half a million people.
The amazing story of the man who gave us modern pain relief | Latif Nasser
For the longest time, doctors basically ignored the most basic and frustrating part of being sick -- pain. In this lyrical, informative talk, Latif Nasser tells the extraordinary story of wrestler and doctor John J. Bonica, who persuaded the medical profession to take pain seriously -- and transformed the lives of millions.
Decades ago, few pediatricians had heard of autism. In 1975, 1 in 5,000 kids was estimated to have it. Today, 1 in 68 is on the autism spectrum. What caused this steep rise? Steve Silberman points to “a perfect storm of autism awareness” — a pair of psychologists with an accepting view, an unexpected pop culture moment and a new clinical test. But to really understand, we have to go back further to an Austrian doctor by the name of Hans Asperger, who published a pioneering paper in 1944. Because it was buried in time, autism has been shrouded in misunderstanding ever since. (This talk was part of a TED2015 session curated by Pop-Up Magazine: popupmagazine.com or @popupmag on Twitter.)
Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman is trying to answer a big question: Do we experience the world as it really is ... or as we need it to be? In this ever so slightly mind-blowing talk, he ponders how our minds construct reality for us.
The search for planets beyond our solar system | Sara Seager
Every star we see in the sky has at least one planet orbiting it, says astronomer Sara Seager. So what do we know about these exoplanets, and how can we find out more? Seager introduces her favorite set of exoplanets and shows new technology that can help collect information about them -- and even help us look for exoplanets with life.
The joy of surfing in ice-cold water | Chris Burkard
"Anything that is worth pursuing is going to require us to suffer, just a little bit," says surf photographer Chris Burkard, as he explains his obsession with the coldest, choppiest, most isolated beaches on earth. With jawdropping photos and stories of places few humans have ever seen -- much less surfed -- he draws us into his "personal crusade against the mundane."
Chimps have feelings and thoughts. They should also have rights | Steven Wise
Chimpanzees are people too, you know. Ok, not exactly. But lawyer Steven Wise has spent the last 30 years working to change these animals' status from "things" to "persons." It's not a matter of legal semantics; as he describes in this fascinating talk, recognizing that animals like chimps have extraordinary cognitive capabilities and rethinking the way we treat them -- legally -- is no less than a moral duty.
We've heard that bees are disappearing. But what is making bee colonies so vulnerable? Photographer Anand Varma raised bees in his backyard — in front of a camera — to get an up close view. This project, for National Geographic, gives a lyrical glimpse into a beehive, and reveals one of the biggest threats to its health, a mite that preys on baby bees in their first 21 days of life. With footage set to music from Rob Moose and the Magik*Magik Orchestra, Varma shows the problem ... and what's being done to solve it. (This talk was part of a session at TED2015 guest-curated by Pop-Up Magazine: popupmagazine.com or @popupmag on Twitter.)
Pamela Ronald studies the genes that make plants more resistant to disease and stress. In an eye-opening talk, she describes her decade-long quest to isolate a gene that allows rice to survive prolonged flooding. She shows how the genetic improvement of seeds saved the Hawaiian papaya crop in the 1990s — and makes the case that modern genetics is sometimes the most effective method to advance sustainable agriculture and enhance food security for our planet’s growing population.
How to control someone else's arm with your brain | Greg Gage
Greg Gage is on a mission to make brain science accessible to all. In this fun, kind of creepy demo, the neuroscientist and TED Senior Fellow uses a simple, inexpensive DIY kit to take away the free will of an audience member. It's not a parlor trick; it actually works. You have to see it to believe it.
How Mars might hold the secret to the origin of life | Nathalie Cabrol
While we like to imagine little green men, it's far more likely that life on other planets will be microbial. Planetary scientist Nathalie Cabrol takes us inside the search for microbes on Mars, a hunt which counterintuitively leads us to the remote lakes of the Andes mountains. This extreme environment — with its thin atmosphere and scorched land — approximates the surface of Mars about 3.5 billion years ago. How microbes adapt to survive here may just show us where to look on Mars — and could help us understand why some microbial pathways lead to civilization while others are a dead end.
As manager of the Rosetta mission, Fred Jansen was responsible for the successful 2014 landing of a probe on the comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In this fascinating and funny talk, Jansen reveals some of the intricate calculations that went into landing the Philae probe on a comet 500 million kilometers from Earth -- and shares some incredible photographs taken along the way.
How I use sonar to navigate the world | Daniel Kish
Daniel Kish has been blind since he was 13 months old, but has learned to "see" using a form of echolocation. He clicks his tongue and sends out flashes of sound that bounce off surfaces in the environment and return to him, helping him to construct an understanding of the space around him. In a rousing talk, Kish shows how this works -- and asks us all to let go of our fear of the dark unknown.
Can we create new senses for humans? | David Eagleman
As humans, we can perceive less than a ten-trillionth of all light waves. "Our experience of reality," says neuroscientist David Eagleman, "is constrained by our biology." He wants to change that. His research into our brain processes has led him to create new interfaces -- such as a sensory vest -- to take in previously unseen information about the world around us.
How do vaccines prevent disease -- even among people too young to get vaccinated? It's a concept called "herd immunity," and it relies on a critical mass of people getting their shots to break the chain of infection. Health researcher Romina Libster shows how herd immunity contained a deadly outbreak of H1N1 in her hometown. (In Spanish with English subtitles)
Rob Knight is a pioneer in studying human microbes, the community of tiny single-cell organisms living inside our bodies that have a huge — and largely unexplored — role in our health. “The three pounds of microbes that you carry around with you might be more important than every single gene you carry around in your genome,” he says. Find out why.
Just like us, the monarch butterfly sometimes gets sick thanks to a nasty parasite. But biologist Jaap de Roode noticed something interesting about the butterflies he was studying — infected female butterflies would choose to lay their eggs on a specific kind of plant that helped their offspring avoid getting sick. How do they know to choose this plant? Think of it as "the other butterfly effect" — which could teach us to find new medicines for the treatment of human disease.
How much of what you think about psychology is actually wrong? In this whistle-stop tour of disproved ideas, Ben Ambridge shares nine popular ideas about psychology that have been proven wrong -- and uncovers a few surprising truths about how our brains really work.
Brain-to-brain communication has arrived. How we did it | Miguel Nicolelis
You may remember neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis — he built the brain-controlled exoskeleton that allowed a paralyzed man to kick the first ball of the 2014 World Cup. What’s he working on now? Building ways for two minds (rats and monkeys, for now) to send messages brain to brain. Watch to the end for an experiment that, as he says, will go to "the limit of your imagination."
Let's save the last pristine continent | Robert Swan
2041 will be a pivotal year for our planet. That year will mark the end of a 50-year agreement to keep Antarctica, the Earth's last pristine continent, free of exploitation. Explorer Robert Swan — the first person to walk both the North and South Poles — is on a mission to ensure that we extend that treaty. With passion and vigor, he pleads with us to choose the preservation of the Antarctic for our own survival.
Hopeful lessons from the battle to save rainforests | Tasso Azevedo
"Save the rainforest" is an environmental slogan as old as time — but Tasso Azevedo catches us up on how the fight is actually going these days. Spurred by the jaw-dropping losses of the 1990s, new laws (and transparent data) are helping slow the rate of deforestation in Brazil. Is it enough? Not yet. He has five ideas about what we should do next. And he asks if the lessons learned in Brazil could be applied to an even bigger problem: global climate change.
What veterinarians know that physicians don't | Barbara Natterson-Horowitz
What do you call a veterinarian who can only take care of one species? A physician. In a fascinating talk, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz shares how a species-spanning approach to health can improve medical care of the human animal -- particularly when it comes to mental health.
Tiny satellites show us the Earth as it changes in near-real-time | Will Marshall
Satellite imaging has revolutionized our knowledge of the Earth, with detailed images of nearly every street corner readily available online. But Planet Labs' Will Marshall says we can do better and go faster -- by getting smaller. He introduces his tiny satellites -- no bigger than 10 by 10 by 30 centimeters -- that, when launched in a cluster, provide high-res images of the entire planet, updated daily.
What the Social Progress Index can reveal about your country | Michael Green
The term Gross Domestic Product is often talked about as if it were “handed down from god on tablets of stone.” But this concept was invented by an economist in the 1930s. We need a more effective measurement tool to match 21st century needs, says Michael Green: the Social Progress Index. With charm and wit, he shows how this tool measures societies across the three dimensions that actually matter. And reveals the dramatic reordering of nations that occurs when you use it.
Humble plants that hide surprising secrets | Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
In this intriguing talk, biologist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim introduces us to rare plant species from isolated islands and regions of Africa. Meet the shape-shifting benjoin; the baume de l'ile plate, which might offer a new treatment for asthma; and the iconic baobab tree, which could hold the key to the future of food. Plus: monkey apples.
A science award that makes you laugh, then think | Marc Abrahams
As founder of the Ig Nobel awards, Marc Abrahams explores the world's most improbable research. In this thought-provoking (and occasionally side-splitting) talk, he tells stories of truly weird science -- and makes the case that silliness is critical to boosting public interest in science.
The future of early cancer detection? | Jorge Soto
Along with a crew of technologists and scientists, Jorge Soto is developing a simple, noninvasive, open-source test that looks for early signs of multiple forms of cancer. Onstage at TEDGlobal 2014, he demonstrates a working prototype of the mobile platform for the first time.
Where to train the world's doctors? Cuba. | Gail Reed
Big problems need big solutions, sparked by big ideas, imagination and audacity. In this talk, journalist Gail Reed profiles one big solution worth noting: Havana’s Latin American Medical School, which trains global physicians to serve the local communities that need them most.
Self-driving cars were just the start. What's the future of big data-driven technology and design? In a thrilling science talk, Kenneth Cukier looks at what's next for machine learning -- and human knowledge.
The state of the climate — and what we might do about it | Nicholas Stern
How can we begin to address the global, insidious problem of climate change — a problem that's too big for any one country to solve? Economist Nicholas Stern lays out a plan, presented to the UN's Climate Summit in 2014, showing how the world's countries can work together on climate. It's a big vision for cooperation, with a payoff that goes far beyond averting disaster. He asks: How can we use this crisis to spur better lives for all?
An engineer's vision for tiny forests, everywhere | Shubhendu Sharma
A forest planted by humans, then left to nature's own devices, typically takes at least 100 years to mature. But what if we could make the process happen ten times faster? In this short talk, eco-entrepreneur (and TED Fellow) Shubhendu Sharma explains how to create a mini-forest ecosystem anywhere.
Crop insurance, an idea worth seeding | Rose Goslinga
Across sub-Saharan Africa, small farmers are the bedrock of national and regional economies—unless the weather proves unpredictable and their crops fail. The solution is insurance, at a vast, continental scale, and at a very low, affordable cost. Rose Goslinga and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture pioneered an unconventional way to give farmers whose crops fail early a second chance at a growing season.
Depressed dogs, cats with OCD — what animal madness means for us humans | Laurel Braitman
Behind those funny animal videos, sometimes, are oddly human-like problems. Laurel Braitman studies non-human animals who exhibit signs of mental health issues -- from compulsive bears to self-destructive rats to monkeys with unlikely friends. Braitman asks what we as humans can learn from watching animals cope with depression, sadness and other all-too-human problems.
What humans can learn from semi-intelligent slime | Heather Barnett
Inspired by biological design and self-organizing systems, artist Heather Barnett co-creates with physarum polycephalum, a eukaryotic microorganism that lives in cool, moist areas. What can people learn from the semi-intelligent slime mold? Watch this talk to find out.
A tool to fix one of the most dangerous moments in surgery | Nikolai Begg
Surgeons are required every day to puncture human skin before procedures — with the risk of damaging what's on the other side. In a fascinating talk, find out how mechanical engineer Nikolai Begg is using physics to update an important medical device, called the trocar, and improve one of the most dangerous moments in many common surgeries.
Biologist Sara Lewis has spent the past 20 years getting to the bottom of the magic and wonder of fireflies. In this charming talk, she tells us how and why the beetles produce their silent sparks, what happens when two fireflies have sex, and why one group of females is known as the firefly vampire. (It's not pretty.) Find out more astonishing facts about fireflies in Lewis' footnotes, below.
Many of the world's biggest problems require asking questions of scientists -- but why should we believe what they say? Historian of science Naomi Oreskes thinks deeply about our relationship to belief and draws out three problems with common attitudes toward scientific inquiry -- and gives her own reasoning for why we ought to trust science.
Why science demands a leap into the unknown | Uri Alon
While studying for his PhD in physics, Uri Alon thought he was a failure because all his research paths led to dead ends. But, with the help of improv theater, he came to realize that there could be joy in getting lost. A call for scientists to stop thinking of research as a direct line from question to answer, but as something more creative. It's a message that will resonate, no matter what your field.
"Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished." Dan Gilbert shares recent research on a phenomenon he calls the "end of history illusion," where we somehow imagine that the person we are right now is the person we'll be for the rest of time. Hint: that's not the case.
The emergent patterns of climate change | Gavin Schmidt
You can't understand climate change in pieces, says climate scientist Gavin Schmidt. It's the whole, or it's nothing. In this illuminating talk, he explains how he studies the big picture of climate change with mesmerizing models that illustrate the endlessly complex interactions of small-scale environmental events.
Get your next eye exam on a smartphone | Andrew Bastawrous
Thirty-nine million people in the world are blind, and the majority lost their sight due to curable and preventable diseases. But how do you test and treat people who live in remote areas, where expensive, bulky eye equipment is hard to come by? TED Fellow Andrew Bastawrous demos a smartphone app and cheap hardware that might help.
Autism — what we know (and what we don't know yet) | Wendy Chung
In this factual talk, geneticist Wendy Chung shares what we know about autism spectrum disorder — for example, that autism has multiple, perhaps interlocking, causes. Looking beyond the worry and concern that can surround a diagnosis, Chung and her team look at what we've learned through studies, treatments and careful listening.
How synchronized hammer strikes could generate nuclear fusion | Michel Laberge
Our energy future depends on nuclear fusion, says Michel Laberge. The plasma physicist runs a small company with a big idea for a new type of nuclear reactor that could produce clean, cheap energy. His secret recipe? High speeds, scorching temperatures and crushing pressure. In this hopeful talk, he explains how nuclear fusion might be just around the corner.
The sore problem of prosthetic limbs | David Sengeh
What drove David Sengeh to create a more comfortable prosthetic limb? He grew up in Sierra Leone, and too many of the people he loves are missing limbs after the brutal civil war there. When he noticed that people who had prosthetics weren’t actually wearing them, the TED Fellow set out to discover why — and to solve the problem with his team from the MIT Media Lab.
The discovery that could rewrite physics | Allan Adams
On March 17, 2014, a group of physicists announced a thrilling discovery: the “smoking gun” data for the idea of an inflationary universe, a clue to the Big Bang. For non-physicists, what does it mean? TED asked Allan Adams to briefly explain the results, in this improvised talk illustrated by Randall Munroe of xkcd.
In this fascinating, hilarious and ever-so-slightly creepy talk, science writer Ed Yong tells the story of his favorite parasites -- animals and organisms that live on the bodies (and brains!) of other organisms, causing them to do their bidding. Do humans have them too? Maybe ...
The neuroscience of restorative justice | Daniel Reisel
Daniel Reisel studies the brains of criminal psychopaths (and mice). And he asks a big question: Instead of warehousing these criminals, shouldn't we be using what we know about the brain to help them rehabilitate? Put another way: If the brain can grow new neural pathways after an injury ... could we help the brain re-grow morality?
The birds and the bees are just the beginning | Carin Bondar
Think you know a thing or two about sex? Think again. In this fascinating talk, biologist Carin Bondar lays out the surprising science behind how animals get it on. (This talk describes explicit and aggressive sexual content.)
Vending machines generally offer up sodas, candy bars and chips. Not so for the one created by TED Fellow Gabe Barcia-Colombo. This artist has dreamed up a DNA Vending Machine, which dispenses extracted human DNA, packaged in a vial along with a collectible photo of the person who gave it. It’s charming and quirky, but points out larger ethical issues that will arise as access to biotechnology increases.
Could future devices read images from our brains? | Mary Lou Jepsen
As an expert on cutting-edge digital displays, Mary Lou Jepsen studies how to show our most creative ideas on screens. And as a brain surgery patient herself, she is driven to know more about the neural activity that underlies invention, creativity, thought. She meshes these two passions in a rather mind-blowing talk on two cutting-edge brain studies that might point to a new frontier in understanding how (and what) we think.
Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore | Leyla Acaroglu
Most of us want to do the right thing when it comes to the environment. But things aren’t as simple as opting for the paper bag, says sustainability strategist Leyla Acaroglu. A bold call for us to let go of tightly-held green myths and think bigger in order to create systems and products that ease strain on the planet.
A bold new way to fund drug research | Roger Stein
Believe it or not, about 20 years' worth of potentially life-saving drugs are sitting in labs right now, untested. Why? Because they can't get the funding to go to trials; the financial risk is too high. Roger Stein is a finance guy, and he thinks deeply about mitigating risk. He and some colleagues at MIT came up with a promising new financial model that could move hundreds of drugs into the testing pipeline.
The $80 prosthetic knee that's changing lives | Krista Donaldson
We've made incredible advances in technology in recent years, but too often it seems only certain fortunate people can benefit. Engineer Krista Donaldson introduces the ReMotion knee, a prosthetic device for above-knee amputees, many of whom earn less than $4 a day. The design contains best-in-class technology and yet is far cheaper than other prosthetics on the market.
It's relatively easy to imagine a new medicine -- the hard part is testing it, and that can delay promising new cures for years. In this well-explained talk, Geraldine Hamilton shows how her lab creates organs and body parts on a chip, simple structures with all the pieces essential to testing new medications -- perhaps even custom cures made for one specific person.
What is so special about the human brain? | Suzana Herculano-Houzel
The human brain is puzzling -- it is curiously large given the size of our bodies, uses a tremendous amount of energy for its weight and has a bizarrely dense cerebral cortex. But: why? Neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel puts on her detective's cap and leads us through this mystery. By making "brain soup," she arrives at a startling conclusion.
How your "working memory" makes sense of the world | Peter Doolittle
"Life comes at us very quickly, and what we need to do is take that amorphous flow of experience and somehow extract meaning from it." In this funny, enlightening talk, educational psychologist Peter Doolittle details the importance -- and limitations -- of your "working memory," that part of the brain that allows us to make sense of what's happening right now.
A spinal cord injury can sever the communication between your brain and your body, leading to paralysis. Fresh from his lab, Grégoire Courtine shows a new method -- combining drugs, electrical stimulation and a robot -- that could re-awaken the neural pathways and help the body learn again to move on its own. See how it works, as a paralyzed rat becomes able to run and navigate stairs.
A simple solution to the coming phosphorus crisis | Mohamed Hijri
There's a farming crisis no one is talking about: The world is running out of phosphorus, an essential element that's a key component of DNA and the basis of cellular communication. As biologist Mohamed Hijri shows, all roads of this crisis lead back to how we farm -- with chemical fertilizers chock-full of the element, which plants are not efficient at absorbing. One solution? A microscopic mushroom ...
Why our universe might exist on a knife-edge | Gian Giudice
The biggest surprise of discovering the Higgs boson? That there were no surprises. Gian Giudice talks us through a problem in theoretical physics: what if the Higgs field exists in an ultra-dense state that could mean the collapse of all atomic matter? With wit and charm, Giudice outlines a grim fate -- and why we shouldn't start worrying just yet.
Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus studies memories. More precisely, she studies false memories, when people either remember things that didn't happen or remember them differently from the way they really were. It's more common than you might think, and Loftus shares some startling stories and statistics -- and raises some important ethical questions.
Honeybees have thrived for 50 million years, each colony 40 to 50,000 individuals coordinated in amazing harmony. So why, seven years ago, did colonies start dying en masse? Marla Spivak reveals four reasons which are interacting with tragic consequences. This is not simply a problem because bees pollinate a third of the world's crops. Could this incredible species be holding up a mirror for us?
3 reasons we still haven’t gotten rid of malaria | Sonia Shah
We’ve known how to cure malaria since the 1600s, so why does the disease still kill hundreds of thousands every year? It’s more than just a problem of medicine, says journalist Sonia Shah. A look into the history of malaria reveals three big-picture challenges to its eradication. Photos: Adam Nadel.
Why I fell in love with monster prime numbers | Adam Spencer
They're millions of digits long, and it takes an army of mathematicians and machines to hunt them down -- what's not to love about monster primes? Adam Spencer, comedian and lifelong math geek, shares his passion for these odd numbers, and for the mysterious magic of math.
A mouse. A laser beam. A manipulated memory. | Xu Liu
Can we edit the content of our memories? It's a sci-fi-tinged question that Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu are asking in their lab at MIT. Essentially, the pair shoot a laser beam into the brain of a living mouse to activate and manipulate its memory. In this unexpectedly amusing talk they share not only how, but -- more important -- why they do this.
Our shared condition -- consciousness | John Searle
Philosopher John Searle lays out the case for studying human consciousness -- and systematically shoots down some of the common objections to taking it seriously. As we learn more about the brain processes that cause awareness, accepting that consciousness is a biological phenomenon is an important first step. And no, he says, consciousness is not a massive computer simulation.
Bernie Krause has been recording wild soundscapes -- the wind in the trees, the chirping of birds, the subtle sounds of insect larvae -- for 45 years. In that time, he has seen many environments radically altered by humans, sometimes even by practices thought to be environmentally safe. A surprising look at what we can learn through nature's symphonies, from the grunting of a sea anemone to the sad calls of a beaver in mourning.
The interspecies internet? An idea in progress | Vint Cerf
Apes, dolphins and elephants are animals with remarkable communication skills. Could the internet be expanded to include sentient species like them? A new and developing idea from a panel of four great thinkers -- dolphin researcher Diana Reiss, musician Peter Gabriel, internet of things visionary Neil Gershenfeld and Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet.
Why we should build wooden skyscrapers | Michael Green
Building a skyscraper? Forget about steel and concrete, says architect Michael Green, and build it out of … wood. As he details in this intriguing talk, it's not only possible to build safe wooden structures up to 30 stories tall (and, he hopes, higher), it's necessary.
How we'll resurrect the gastric brooding frog, the Tasmanian tiger | Michael Archer
The gastric brooding frog lays its eggs just like any other frog -- then swallows them whole to incubate. That is, it did until it went extinct 30 years ago. Paleontologist Michael Archer makes a case to bring back the gastric brooding frog and the thylacine, commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger.
Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem? | Peter Attia
As a young surgeon, Peter Attia felt contempt for a patient with diabetes. She was overweight, he thought, and thus responsible for the fact that she needed a foot amputation. But years later, Attia received an unpleasant medical surprise that led him to wonder: is our understanding of diabetes right? Could the precursors to diabetes cause obesity, and not the other way around? A look at how assumptions may be leading us to wage the wrong medical war.
Could we speak the language of dolphins? | Denise Herzing
For 28 years, Denise Herzing has spent five months each summer living with a pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins, following three generations of family relationships and behaviors. It's clear they are communicating with one another -- but is it language? Could humans use it too? She shares a fascinating new experiment to test this idea.
It’s the dream of kids all around the world to see giant beasts walk the Earth again. Could -- and should -- that dream be realized? Hendrik Poinar talks about the next big thing: the quest to engineer a creature that looks very much like our furry friend, the woolly mammoth. The first step, to sequence the woolly genome, is nearly complete. And it’s huge.
Parkinson's, depression and the switch that might turn them off | Andres Lozano
Deep brain stimulation is becoming very precise. This technique allows surgeons to place electrodes in almost any area of the brain, and turn them up or down -- like a radio dial or thermostat -- to correct dysfunction. Andres Lozano offers a dramatic look at emerging techniques, in which a woman with Parkinson's instantly stops shaking and brain areas eroded by Alzheimer's are brought back to life.
In 1812, four men at Cambridge University met for breakfast. What began as an impassioned meal grew into a new scientific revolution, in which these men -- who called themselves “natural philosophers” until they later coined “scientist” -- introduced four major principles into scientific inquiry. Historian and philosopher Laura Snyder tells their intriguing story.
When you're making a deal, what's going on in your brain? | Colin Camerer
When two people are trying to make a deal -- whether they’re competing or cooperating -- what’s really going on inside their brains? Behavioral economist Colin Camerer shows research that reveals how badly we predict what others are thinking. Bonus: He presents an unexpected study that shows chimpanzees might just be better at it.
The dawn of de-extinction. Are you ready? | Stewart Brand
Throughout humankind's history, we've driven species after species extinct: the passenger pigeon, the Eastern cougar, the dodo ... But now, says Stewart Brand, we have the technology (and the biology) to bring back species that humanity wiped out. So -- should we? Which ones? He asks a big question whose answer is closer than you may think.
Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals | David Anderson
Modern psychiatric drugs treat the chemistry of the whole brain, but neurobiologist David Anderson has a more nuanced view of how the brain functions. He shares new research that could lead to targeted psychiatric medications -- that work better and avoid side effects. How's he doing it? For a start, by making a bunch of fruit flies angry.
Humankind has been looking for the giant squid (Architeuthis) since we first started taking pictures underwater. But the elusive deep-sea predator could never be caught on film. Oceanographer and inventor Edith Widder shares the key insight -- and the teamwork -- that helped to capture the squid on film for the first time.
How to fight desertification and reverse climate change | Allan Savory
"Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert," begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And it's happening to about two-thirds of the world's grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes -- and his work may show -- that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert. (NOTE: Statements in this talk have been challenged by scientists working in this field. Please read "Criticisms & Updates" below for more details.)
An insect's ability to fly is one of the greatest feats of evolution. Michael Dickinson looks at how a fruit fly takes flight with such delicate wings, thanks to a clever flapping motion and flight muscles that are both powerful and nimble. But the secret ingredient: the incredible fly brain.
Let the environment guide our development | Johan Rockstrom
Human growth has strained the earth's resources, but as Johan Rockström reminds us, our advances also give us the science to recognize this and change behavior. His research has found nine "planetary boundaries" that can guide us in protecting our planet's many overlapping ecosystems.
The riddle of experience vs. memory | Daniel Kahneman
Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy -- and our own self-awareness.