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.
Did you know that one of the most notorious poisons is also a key ingredient for life as we know it? Join space chemist Karin Öberg and learn how she scans the universe in search of this paradoxical chemical using ALMA, the world's largest radio telescope, to detect hotbeds of molecular activity and the formation of life-sustaining planets.
Indigenous languages across North America are under threat of extinction due to the colonial legacy of cultural erasure, says linguist Lindsay Morcom. Highlighting grassroots strategies developed by the Anishinaabe people of Canada to revive their language and community, Morcom makes a passionate case for enacting policies that could protect Indigenous heritage for generations to come.
What can past pandemics teach us how to tackle the current one? Tracing the history of contagions from cholera to Ebola and beyond, science journalist Sonia Shah explains why we're more vulnerable to outbreaks now than ever before, what we can do to minimize the spread of coronavirus and how to prevent future pandemics. (This virtual conversation is part of the TED Connects series, hosted by science curator David Biello and current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers. Recorded March 31, 2...more
Monarch butterflies are dying at an alarming rate around the world -- a looming extinction that could also put human life at risk. But we have just the thing to help save these insects, says author Mary Ellen Hannibal: citizen scientists. Learn how these grassroots volunteers are playing a crucial role in measuring and rescuing the monarch's dwindling population -- and how you could join their ranks to help protect nature. (You'll be in good company: Charles Darwin was a citizen scientist!)
When will the coronavirus vaccine be ready? Epidemiologist Seth Berkley (head of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance) takes us inside the effort to create a vaccine for COVID-19. With clarity and urgency, he explains what makes it so challenging to develop, when we can expect it to be rolled out at scale and why we'll need global collaboration to get it done. (This virtual conversation is part of the TED Connects series, hosted by head of TED Chris Anderson and current affairs curator Whitney Pennington ...more
To tackle a problem as large as climate change, we need both science and Indigenous wisdom, says environmental activist Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim. In this engaging talk, she shares how her nomadic community in Chad is working closely with scientists to restore endangered ecosystems -- and offers lessons on how to create more resilient communities.
The common thinking on biological sex goes like this: females have two X chromosomes in their cells, while males have one X and one Y. In this myth-busting talk, science writer and podcaster Molly Webster shows why the so-called "sex chromosomes" are more complicated than this simple definition -- and reveals why we should think about them differently.
The climate crisis is too vast and complicated to solve with a silver bullet, says author David Wallace-Wells. What we need is a shift in how we live. Follow along as he lays out some of the dramatic actions we could take to build a livable, prosperous world in the age of global warming.
The ocean is a naturally noisy place full of singing whales, grunting fish, snapping shrimp, cracking ice, wind and rain. But human-made sounds -- from ship engines to oil drilling -- have become an acute threat to marine life, says science journalist Nicola Jones. Watch (and listen) as she discusses the strange things that happen to underwater creatures in the face of ocean noise pollution -- and shares straightforward ways we can dial down the sound to see almost immediate impacts.
Ask any deep space navigator like Jill Seubert what makes steering a spacecraft difficult, and they'll tell you it's all about the timing; a split-second can decide a mission's success or failure. So what do you do when a spacecraft is bad at telling time? You get it a clock -- an atomic clock, to be precise. Let Seubert whisk you away with the revolutionary potential of a future where you could receive stellar, GPS-like directions -- no matter where you are in the universe.
To save the achoque -- an exotic (and adorable) salamander found in a lake in northern Mexico -- scientists teamed up with an unexpected research partner: a group of nuns called the Sisters of the Immaculate Health. In this delightful talk, science journalist Victoria Gill shares the story of how this unusual collaboration saved the achoque from extinction -- and demonstrates how local and indigenous people could hold the secret to saving our planet's weird, wonderful and most threatened species...more
Tribology: it's a funny-sounding word you might not have heard before, but it could change how you see and interact with the physical world, says mechanical engineer Jennifer Vail. Offering lessons from tribology -- the study of friction and wear -- Vail describes the surprisingly varied ways it impacts everyday life and how it could help us make a better world.
Some common life-saving medicines, such as insulin, are made of proteins so large and fragile that they need to be injected instead of ingested as pills. But a new generation of medicine -- made from smaller, more durable proteins known as peptides -- is on its way. In a quick, informative talk, molecular engineer and TED Fellow Christopher Bahl explains how he's using computational design to create powerful peptides that could one day neutralize the flu, protect against botulism poisoning and e...more
When the ocean changes, the planet changes -- and it all starts with microbes, says biological oceanographer Angelicque White. Backed by decades of data, White shares how scientists use these ancient microorganisms as a crucial barometer of ocean health -- and how we might rejuvenate them as marine temperatures steadily rise.
By 2050, the global population is projected to reach 9.8 billion. How are we going to feed everyone? Investment-banker-turned-farmer Stuart Oda points to indoor vertical farming: growing food on tiered racks in a controlled, climate-proof environment. In a forward-looking talk, he explains how this method can maintain better safety standards, save money, use less water and help us provide for future generations.
"If DNA is the blueprint of life, enzymes are the laborers that carry out its instructions," says chemical biologist Adam Garske. In this fun talk and demo, he shows how scientists can now edit and design enzymes for specific functions -- to help treat diseases like diabetes, create energy-efficient laundry detergent and even capture greenhouse gases -- and performs his own enzyme experiment onstage.
Between 2006 and 2016, the number of drug patents granted in the United States doubled -- but not because there was an explosion in invention or innovation. Drug companies have learned how to game the system, accumulating patents not for new medicines but for small changes to existing ones, which allows them to build monopolies, block competition and drive prices up. Health justice lawyer Priti Krishtel sheds light on how we've lost sight of the patent system's original intent -- and offers five...more
The UN predicts that antimicrobial resistance will be our biggest killer by 2050. "That should really scare the hell out of all of us," says bioprocess engineer Leon Marchal. He's working on an urgently needed solution: transforming the massive, global animal feed industry. Learn why the overuse of antibiotics in animal products, from livestock feed to everyday pet treats, has skyrocketed worldwide -- and how we can take common-sense measures to stave off a potential epidemic.
Roughly 85 percent of mass in the universe is "dark matter" -- mysterious material that can't be directly observed but has an immense influence on the cosmos. What exactly is this strange stuff, and what does it have to do with our existence? Astrophysicist Risa Wechsler explores why dark matter may be the key to understanding how the universe formed -- and shares how physicists in labs around the world are coming up with creative ways to study it.
We are all connected by the spectacular birth, death and rebirth of stars, says astrophysicist Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz. Journey through the cosmic history of the universe as Ramirez-Ruiz explains how supernovas forged the elements of life to create everything from the air you breathe to the very atoms that make you.
Could the strange orbits of small, distant objects in our solar system lead us to a big discovery? Planetary astronomer Mike Brown proposes the existence of a new, giant planet lurking in the far reaches of our solar system -- and shows us how traces of its presence might already be staring us in the face.
In this quick, fun talk, astronaut Cady Coleman welcomes us aboard the International Space Station, where she spent nearly six months doing experiments that expanded the frontiers of science. Hear what it's like to fly to work, sleep without gravity and live life hurtling at 17,500 miles per hour around the Earth. "The space station is the place where mission and magic come together," Coleman says.
We're in the dawn of a new space revolution, says engineer Peter Beck: the revolution of the small. In a talk packed with insights into the state of the space industry, Beck shares his work building rockets capable of delivering small payloads to space rapidly and reliably -- helping us search for extraterrestrial life, learn more about the solar system and create a global internet network.
The cells in your body are like computer software: they're "programmed" to carry out specific functions at specific times. If we can better understand this process, we could unlock the ability to reprogram cells ourselves, says computational biologist Sara-Jane Dunn. In a talk from the cutting-edge of science, she explains how her team is studying embryonic stem cells to gain a new understanding of the biological programs that power life -- and develop "living software" that could transform medi...more
Mangrove forests are crucial to the health of the planet, gobbling up CO2 from the atmosphere and providing a home for a diverse array of species. But these rich habitats are under continual threat from deforestation and industry. In an empowering talk, conservationist and TED Fellow Ashwin Naidu shares how community-driven efforts in South and Southeast Asia are working to protect mangroves -- all with a little help from the mysterious and endangered fishing cat.
Over the course of hundreds of scuba dives, marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson fell in love -- with a fish. In this ode to parrotfish, she shares five reasons why these creatures are simply amazing (from their ability to poop white sand to make colorful "wardrobe changes") and shows what's at stake -- for us and them -- as climate change threatens the future of coral reefs.
We need a radically new approach to ocean conservation, says marine biologist and TED Fellow Alasdair Harris. In a visionary talk, he lays out a surprising solution to the problem of overfishing that could both revive marine life and rebuild local fisheries -- all by taking less from the ocean. "When we design it right, marine conservation reaps dividends that go far beyond protecting nature," he says.
With fascinating research and hilarious anecdotes, neuroscientist Camilla Arndal Andersen takes us into the lab where she studies people's sense of taste via brain scans. She reveals surprising insights about the way our brains subconsciously experience food -- and shows how this data could help us eat healthier without sacrificing taste.
Conservationist and TED Fellow Moreangels Mbizah studied the famous Cecil the lion until he was shot by a trophy hunter in 2015. She wonders how things could've gone differently, asking: "What if the community that lived next to Cecil was involved in protecting him?" In a quick talk, Mbizah shares the state of conservation in her home of Zimbabwe -- and why she thinks that communities living with wildlife are the ones best positioned to help them.
Artist Sam Van Aken shares the breathtaking work behind the "Tree of 40 Fruit," an ongoing series of hybridized fruit trees that grow 40 different varieties of peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines and cherries -- all on the same tree. What began as an art project to showcase beautiful, multi-hued blossoms has become a living archive of rare heirloom specimens and their histories, a hands-on (and delicious!) way to teach people about cultivation and a vivid symbol of the need for biodiversity to ...more
It's time for planetary-scale interventions to combat climate change -- and environmentalist Tim Flannery thinks seaweed can help. In a bold talk, he shares the epic carbon-capturing potential of seaweed, explaining how oceangoing seaweed farms created on a massive scale could trap all the carbon we emit into the atmosphere. Learn more about this potentially planet-saving solution -- and the work that's still needed to get there.
We need a global weather service for water, says entrepreneur and TED Fellow Sonaar Luthra. In a talk about environmental accountability, Luthra shows how we could forecast water shortages and risks with a global data collection effort -- just like we monitor the movement of storms -- and better listen to what the earth is telling us.
Rising carbon levels in the atmosphere can make plants grow faster, but there's another hidden consequence: they rob plants of the nutrients and vitamins we need to survive. In a talk about global food security, epidemiologist Kristie Ebi explores the potentially massive health consequences of this growing nutrition crisis -- and explores the steps we can take to ensure all people have access to safe, healthy food.
Carl June is the pioneer behind CAR T-cell therapy: a groundbreaking cancer treatment that supercharges part of a patient's own immune system to attack and kill tumors. In a talk about a breakthrough, he shares how three decades of research culminated in a therapy that's eradicated cases of leukemia once thought to be incurable -- and explains how it could be used to fight other types of cancer.
There's two times more carbon in the earth's soil than in all of its vegetation and the atmosphere -- combined. Biogeochemist Asmeret Asefaw Berhe dives into the science of soil and shares how we could use its awesome carbon-trapping power to offset climate change. "[Soil] represents the difference between life and lifelessness in the earth system, and it can also help us combat climate change -- if we can only stop treating it like dirt," she says.
As we recklessly warm the planet by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, some industrial emissions also produce particles that reflect sunshine back into space, putting a check on global warming that we're only starting to understand. Climate activist Kelly Wanser asks: Can we engineer ways to harness this effect and further reduce warming? Learn more about the promises and risks of "cloud brightening" -- and how it could help restore our climate to health.
"For all that's ever been said about climate change, we haven't heard nearly enough about the psychological impacts of living in a warming world," says science writer Britt Wray. In this quick talk, she explores how climate change is threatening our well-being -- mental, social and spiritual -- and offers a starting point for what we can do about it.
Victor Vescovo is leading the first-ever manned expedition to the deepest point of each of the world's five oceans. In conversation with TED science curator David Biello, Vescovo discusses the technology that's powering the explorations -- a titanium submersible designed to withstand extraordinary conditions -- and shows footage of a never-before-seen creature taken during his journey to the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
We're not doing frontline exploratory science in a huge portion of the world -- the places governments deem too hostile or disputed. What might we be missing because we're not looking? In this fearless, unexpectedly funny talk, paleoanthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi takes us on an expedition to the Yemeni island of Socotra -- one of the most biodiverse places on earth -- and makes the case for scientists to explore the unstable regions that could be home to incredible discoveries.
From mourning orcas to distressed elephants, biological anthropologist Barbara J. King has witnessed grief and love across the animal kingdom. In this eye-opening talk, she explains the evidence behind her belief that many animals experience complex emotions, and suggests ways all of us can treat them more ethically -- including every time we eat. "Animals don't grieve exactly like we do, but this doesn't mean that their grief isn't real," she says. "It is real, and it's searing, and we can see ...more
Proteins are remarkable molecular machines: they digest your food, fire your neurons, power your immune system and so much more. What if we could design new ones, with functions never before seen in nature? In this remarkable glimpse of the future, David Baker shares how his team at the Institute for Protein Design is creating entirely new proteins from scratch -- and shows how they could help us tackle five massive challenges facing humanity. (This ambitious plan is a part of the Audacious Proj...more
The ground beneath your feet is home to a massive, mysterious world of microbes -- some of which have been in the earth's crust for hundreds of thousands of years. What's it like down there? Take a trip to the volcanoes and hot springs of Costa Rica as microbiologist Karen Lloyd shines a light on these subterranean organisms and shows how they could have a profound impact on life up here.
Octopus, squid and cuttlefish -- collectively known as cephalopods -- have strange, massive, distributed brains. What do they do with all that neural power? Dive into the ocean with marine biologist Roger Hanlon, who shares astonishing footage of the camouflaging abilities of cephalopods, which can change their skin color and texture in a flash. Learn how their smart skin, and their ability to deploy it in sophisticated ways, could be evidence of an alternative form of intelligence -- and how it...more
Humans produce 300 million tons of new plastic each year -- yet, despite our best efforts, less than 10 percent of it ends up being recycled. Is there a better way to deal with all this waste? Morgan Vague describes her research with microbiologist Jay Mellies on bacteria that have evolved the unexpected ability to eat plastic -- and how they could help us solve our growing pollution problem.
Sloths have been on this planet for more than 40 million years. What's the secret to their success? In a hilarious talk, zoologist Lucy Cooke takes us inside the strange life of the world's slowest mammal and shows what we can learn from their ingenious adaptations.
Plants are amazing machines -- for millions of years, they've taken carbon dioxide out of the air and stored it underground, keeping a crucial check on the global climate. Plant geneticist Joanne Chory is working to amplify this special ability: with her colleagues at the Salk Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, she's creating plants that can store more carbon, deeper underground, for hundreds of years. Learn more about how these supercharged plants could help slow climate change. (...more
How often do you think about the air you're breathing? Probably not enough, says entrepreneur and TED Fellow Romain Lacombe. He introduces Flow: a personal air-quality tracker that fits in your hand and monitors pollution levels in real time. See how this device could help you track and understand pollution street by street, hour by hour -- and empower you to take action to improve your health.
At the center of a galaxy more than 55 million light-years away, there's a supermassive black hole with the mass of several billion suns. And now, for the first time ever, we can see it. Astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, head of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, speaks with TED's Chris Anderson about the iconic, first-ever image of a black hole -- and the epic, worldwide effort involved in capturing it.
The heart is one of the least regenerative organs in the human body -- a big factor in making heart failure the number one killer worldwide. What if we could help heart muscle regenerate after injury? Physician and scientist Chuck Murry shares his groundbreaking research into using stem cells to grow new heart cells -- an exciting step towards realizing the awesome promise of stem cells as medicine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 h...more
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.
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. Lear...more
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 bei...more
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 pres...more
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 de...more
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.
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.
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.
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 te...more
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.
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 rel...more
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.
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.
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 c...more
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 intellige...more
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.)
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.
"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.
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 dus...more
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. "Tha...more
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 ocea...more
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 ...more
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.
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.
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: "...more
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 mushr...more
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 t...more
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.
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 ma...more
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.
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.
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 calori...more
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 ...more
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)
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.
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 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 an...more
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.
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.
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,"...more
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 pro...more
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.
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 ex...more
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.
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.
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.
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.