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.
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 hope we need to inspire us to act -- and that hope begins with a conversation, today.
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. Learn more about how we can reverse global warming and create a world where regeneration, not destruction, is the rule.
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. As a tarantula crawls up and down his arm, Dugon explains the medical properties of this 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 being put in place to prevent people from using this tech to monitor somebody without their consent.
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.
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.
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 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 relatives and our evolutionary ancestors.
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 conservation, miracles can happen," Sala says.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.