Feed Your Mind: TED Talks Everyone Should Watch

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my high school friends (including Jeannette!) gather for Friendsgiving, an event that is graciously hosted by our friend Christopher. Every year is different and conversation greatly depends on who you’re sitting next to, what’s going on in everyone’s lives, and how much spiked cider has already been consumed. This year we got philosophical at my end of the table, and we started discussing TED Talks. Our conversation was short-lived, but in it we established that TED Talks were amazing and that everyone needs to watch a sampling of them at one point or another.

If you’re not sure what TED or a TED Talk is, here’s a summary:

TED is a non-profit that is devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading” and stands for Technology, Education, and Design. It began in 1984 as a conference on those three topics, but has since grown to two official conferences (The TED Conference and TEDGlobal) that are held annually. There are also countless TEDx conferences held around the world that are independently organized, but adhere to the same general rules and mission.

Speakers at TED events are tasked with “giving the speech of their lives” in 18 minutes or less. While participants are often experts in their respective fields, their talks are generally not boring or academic. Instead, they are often inspirational and offer insight into humanity rather than into their specific expertise.

Visit ted.com for their online video archive and more information.

Ted Talks

TED Talks I Think Everyone Should Watch (In no particular order)

1. Lesley Hazelton: The Doubt Essential to Faith
In her TED talk from June 2013, Lesley Hazelton discusses how in her quest to write a biography of the prophet Muhammad she came to a realization regarding the doubt that is intrinsic in one’s faith. Doubt, fear, and questioning, she explains, is purely human and, consequently, is absolutely essential to one’s faith.

 

2. Cameron Russell: Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model
In her TED talk from 2012, model Cameron Russell discusses the complexities of what it means to be a model in a world where beauty is largely constructed.

 

3. Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music
Benjamin Zander demonstrates to the TED audience that just because you think you don’t like classical music, doesn’t mean you can’t learn to like it — or learn to like anything for that matter. It all has to do with truly listening to what you are hearing.

 

4. John Green: The Paper Town Academy
Author John Green discusses how our perception of the world shapes how we lead our lives and how education and learning often takes place as much out of the classroom as it does inside it. He demonstrates that we all live within learning communities that encourage us to expand the maps of our lives.

 

5. Meg Jay: Why 30 Is Not The New 20
Psychologist Meg Jay discusses her work with 20-somethings and in the process demonstrates that someone’s 20s is not a throw-away decade. Instead it is one of the most import ant decades in human development and should be seized for every opportunity it provides.

 

6. Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius
Author Elizabeth Gilbert discusses the phenomenon of genius and asserts that we all have genius, as opposed to a few of us being geniuses.

 

7. Andrew Solomon: Love No Matter What
Andrew Solomon reflects on his interviews with countless parents and discusses how in the end, regardless of differences, it is love that binds.

 

There are hundreds of TED talks, too many to ever watch and certainly too many to pick a definite favorite from. These are only a few of my favorites.

Have you watched any TED Talks? What are your favorites?

Making a Symphony Out of Science and Making Learning Fun

It’s been a while. Summer, weddings, and Caribbean vacations will do that though. But, that’s no excuse. So I’m back! Miss me? Haha.

One of the main reasons that I’ve been MIA for the last month is that I’m on the job hunt, and every time I use my computer I feel that I need to be searching for jobs and not blogging. And every time I think about blogging I feel kind of guilty. But, I feel that I applied for an acceptable number of jobs today, and as I’m bored at the moment, I’m taking some time to pen the blog post that I’ve been thinking about for a couple weeks.

If you haven’t realized, I’m a nerd. I mean, I have a Master’s degree in History for Heaven’s sake. If that doesn’t qualify as one of the pillars of all that is nerdy, I don’t know what does.

Well, actually….I think this post will cement just how nerdy I can be.

History, social studies, grammar, and literature were always my strong suits in school. Math and science — not so much. But, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t interested in those two subjects. For example, I wanted to be an astronaut for most of my childhood, then amended that to wanting to be an aerospace engineer who designed the next space shuttle. I quickly determined, however, that I could never be either of those things because, like I said, math and science simply didn’t agree with me.

Despite my shortcomings in those subjects, I’ve maintained a hobby-level interest in science — especially in the study of outer space and its proper, related subjects of astronomy and physics. I keep up with the new theories, love Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene, read books on black holes and string theory. But, it’s all very complicated and I would be lying if I said that I completely understand it.

Now, I’m sure this all sounds like pure intellectual insanity. It does even to me. But, there’s something about the subject that enthralls me.

It’s about learning what lies in the wider world beyond us, about how it’s almost impossible to fathom that we are seven billion people living on this one tiny planet, circling this small to average size star, in a solar system, in one small part of a large galaxy, that is an even smaller part of a huge universe.

Our planet, our universe is an amazing place. It is awe-inspiring.

The best thing about it though, is that you don’t even need to be a nerd like me to grasp its awesomeness, or appreciate its beauty.

And you don’t need to be a nerd to learn about the universe, its parts, or the forces that hold it together.

I recently discovered something fascinating on YouTube: a series of videos called the Symphony of Science. The Symphony of Science is not just on YouTube. In reality, it is a musical project created and produced by musician John D. Boswell who aims to “deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form.

In his videos, Boswell takes clips of well known scientists from various television documentaries and programs and strings them together to present  short yet engaging “lessons” on various scientific subjects. But, these aren’t just dry video compilations of interviews. No. Boswell then sets the videos to music and auto tunes all of the clips, creating a musical lesson that leaves you replaying the videos over and over again.

I wish science class had been like this in school.

Up to this point there are 15 music videos, which are available on YouTube or on Boswell’s website. Most are related to outer space, physics or astronomy and heavily feature scientists like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, and Brian Cox. Others are concerned with the animal kingdom and life on Earth and feature other scientists like David Attenborough and Jane Goodall.

Here’s a sample of some of the videos:

1. “A Glorious Dawn” – the first video in the series and probably the best of them all.

 

2. “The Quantum World” – Morgan Freeman helps explain the forces of the universe.

 

3. “The Unbroken Thread” – the beauty of life on Earth and our interconnectedness.

 

4. “We Are Star Dust” – the universe exists in us.

 

So, what do you think? Do you need to be a nerd to appreciate science? To appreciate the universe around us?

Watch the videos. Learning can be fun.

Besides, it’s okay to be a nerd sometimes.

That way you can say:

DISCLAIMER: All Symphony of Science compilations are owned by John D. Boswell. All clips used within those compilations are the property of the programs from which he collected clips.