Friday, January 1, 2010

A Cornucopia of TED Talks: Best of 2009

After attending my first TED Conference in February 2009, I began posting every Friday morning a video (courtesy of the TED site, which enables them to be shared) of a different talk given at one of their past conferences. There have been forty-three such posts to date, and I am going to use this first Friday of the New Year to encourage visitors to this blog to watch one that they may have missed, or which they did not have sufficient time to see the first time around. Here is a link to the page in "A Guide to This Site" which lists all forty-three talks from 2009. Below I shall single out some of my own personal favorites -- but do not take my word for it; use the previous link to find some of your own. Happy New Year!

The very first talk of the February 2009 Conference, given by Juan Enriquez, the director of the Life Sciences Project at Harvard Business School, remains one of the best for its discussion of the financial crisis (from which which we still have not emerged), and for its glimpses into the future.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love (2006), gave this marvelous meditation on her creative muse.

If you missed the talk by Willie Smits on how to regrow a rain forest, be sure to watch it now. Seeing him explain his rational approach to ecology, and how he puts it all together, was one of the highlights of TED 2009!

One of the 2009 winners of the TED Prize, music educator José Antonio Abreu of Venezuela, explained his astonishingly successful method of empowering impoverished children through their innate musical talents ("El Sistema"), and expressed his wish that it be enabled in more countries. (There also is a link from that page to a simply hair-raising performance one of his most talented graduates, Gustavo Dudamel, who is now the new conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic.)

Nina Jablonski gave an unforgettable talk on the simple facts behind the evolution of different skin colors in the human race.

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels shared some highly entertaining stories behind his amazing and innovative projects.

That supreme statistical sportscaster from Sweden, the perennially popular Dr. Hans Rosling, earned two posts here: the first on statistics showing the real facts about worldwide AIDS, and the second on how his datasets have the power to alter mindsets.

Both Jonathan Haidt and Dan Ariely gave illuminating talks on their investigations into the workings of our moral sense.

Planetary scientist Carolyn Porco took us along with her on the ground-breaking Cassini mission to Saturn, and shared some stunning photographs of that most beautiful of planets.

It is fascinating to compare the two different perspectives on the Internet that were offered by Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain and by the Internet's real inventor, Tim Berners-Lee.

Another great trio of contrasting talks had to do with what makes the difference between success and failure. Richard St. John laid out his eight keys to achieving success, and French philosopher Alain de Botton gave a witty analysis of how close success is to failure, while UCLA Coach John Wooden unforgettably reminded us of the difference between winning and success.

And there were so many more: Bonnie Bassler on how bacteria communicate, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita on predicting what Iran will do with nuclear weapons, Cary Fowler's amazing world seed bank, plus many glimpses into future technology -- wireless electricity, intelligent safe plugs for our homes, and how to make any water drinkable.

It is impossible to single out just one talk above them all, but if you did not see this amazing presentation of how a great conductor communicates with a great orchestra to produce the finest music, then be sure to find some time this weekend to watch Itay Talgam take you behind the scenes, with wonderful old footage gleaned from a lifetime of study.

A whole new cycle of talks will begin next Friday. Enjoy -- and once again, Happy New Year to all!

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