Monday, March 11, 2013

TED Is Still Worth Your Time

There is so much information on the internet.  Unfortunately much of it is plain wrong or just a waste of time.  Even when you find a site with good information, wading through it can seem like drinking from a fire hydrant.  A few years ago in this column I introduced you to TED.  I was not sending you to a weird dating service. TED is not a guy; it is a web site that features videos and discussions that will challenge your brain. After viewing some great material this past week I am prompted to urge you to give TED a try. It will renew your faith in the value of the internet.

TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) began in 1984 as a conference sponsored by the Sapling Foundation.  The foundation’s mission is to disseminate “ideas worth spreading.”  The initial conference invited the very top minds in the fields of technology, entertainment and design to share ideas, discoveries and inventions.  The conferences are still held but videos of the individual presentations are now made available free on the web.

Today there are more than 1000 videos and the subject matter has broadened.  You can find presentations on religion, psychology, astronomy, education, medicine and many other subjects.  The great thing about TED is that it invites the very best and brightest.  Right now you can watch Jane Goodall, Bill Gates and several Nobel laureates.  All you need is a computer and access to a broadband Internet connection.  Point your browser to

The presentations are very fast paced.  TED asks each presenter not to exceed 18 minutes. Some make use of videos and graphics while others stay with a standard lecture format.  Each presentation is translated into several languages.

There are topics and opinions that will challenge you.  All of them will make you think.  I have watched several and each of them has been outstanding.  You will find a new presentation posted most every day and all of them are archived and searchable by topic or presenter.

Perhaps the most jaw dropping talk was by Surgeon AnthonyAtala who demonstrated an early-stage experiment that could someday solve the organ-donor problem: a 3D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney. Using similar technology, Dr. Atala’s young patient Luke Massella received an engineered bladder 10 years ago; we meet him onstage.

Another recent segment argues that an insect's ability to fly is perhaps one of the greatest feats of evolution. Michael Dickinson looks at how a common housefly 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.

The next time you find that the 500 channel cable universe offers little to watch or your Twitter account is less than stimulating, spend some time with TED.   It will be time well spent.


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