Through a happy Netflix accident, I recently stumbled on a series called TEDTalks. Throughout the year scientists, philosophers, comedians, inventors, and more meet up at conferences in the US and other countries to share unique and inspiring ideas. The lectures range in length from 4 minutes to 20-ish minutes, and are surprisingly digestible. Directly from the Ted.com website, here is a short explanation:

The springtime TED Conference is held annually in Long Beach and simulcast in Palm Springs. More than a thousand people attend, and the breadth of content includes science, business, the arts and the global issues facing our world. Over four days, 50 speakers each take an 18-minute slot, and there are many shorter presentations, including music, performance and comedy. There are no breakout groups. Everyone shares the same experience. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It works because all of knowledge is connected. Every so often it makes sense to emerge from the trenches we dig for a living, and ascend to a 30,000-foot view, where we see, to our astonishment, an intricately interconnected whole.

One of the first TEDTalks series I watched was centered around archeology and paleontology. After watching a few videos, I was blown away. The amount of knowledge combined with a seamless and interesting delivery completely won me over. I mean, who wants to listen to Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller deliver a lecture on dinosaur bones? No one! On the other hand, listening to a humorous scientist explain to his audience how we can make our own Jurassic Park by messing with chicken DNA is awesome!

Next, I watched a few episodes about sexuality and relationships. Each episode was peppered with humor as well as psychological and sociological theories. Then I moved on to TEDMed, which is a series of medical-related lectures. You would think this would be the most boring of all. Not so! The lecture about engineering organs…let me repeat that: ENGINEERING ORGANS, for pete’s sake…. was riveting. I listened to a surgeon explain that they have come up with a way to take a person’s cells from, say, their bladder and create an entirely new bladder. Particularly helpful if you are a spina bifida patient who has limited or no control of your own bladder. I had heard this sort of thing was possible, but didn’t know any of the details. I’m sure I still don’t, but I have more information than I did before. Then, he showed a video of what looked like a standard laser printer. The “ink” cartridge was sliding back and forth on its track, and it looked for all the world like it was going to print a piece of paper.

You should sit for this. Instead of ink, that cartridge held cells. This laser printer was printing a human heart right before my eyes! Whoa. As with any muscle they engineer, the doctors exercise the muscle before they insert it into a human being. Human beings! They’re really doing this! I’m so excited, and overwhelmed, and amazed by this knowledge. Got 17 minutes, watch this video about printing a human kidney:

Printing a kidney from www.Ted.com

But you know what I started thinking after the glitter fell from my eyes? Why doesn’t THIS make bigger news? Why are we so infatuated with celebrities’ dating lives and politicians’ extramarital affairs? There are so many wonderful things happening in the world that we hear little or nothing about. How can we turn the tide so our children are more interested in googling “cure for diabetes” than “Justin Bieber”?

I don’t have the answer yet, but I think a good start is spreading a love for new knowledge and education. Keep talking about the important things that are happening in the US and around the world. Maybe someday we can get over people like the Kardashians and Jersey Shore kids and take a look at what’s really happening. Cancel TMZ and make the TED lectures available to  everyone!

What was the last thing that truly inspired you? Did you share it with other people?

Convivial (adj.):  1. Friendly, agreeable   2. fond of feasting, drinking, and merry company; jovial

When dealing with topics that have the potential to be dry and boring, it is refreshing to witness such a convivial group of intelligent people imparting their wisdom to others.

Wondering what the deal is with the vocab words? Click here.

6 comments on “TMZ or TED?

  1. TED Talks are awesome! Although I’m a bit more cynical about whether or not we can really change what people are interested in. But hopefully I’m wrong.

    • Yeah, I know it’s a long shot, but I sure am sick of mainstream media these days…here’s hoping!

      • I was having a related conversation with my sister (a writer) the other day. We were arguing about how much choice the consumer (of any media) has in the matter. I’m of the opinion that, even in this day and age, a lot of the media (music, television, books, whatever) we are exposed to is controlled by a very few people. Which creates a kind of illusion of choice when we, say, walk into a bookstore.

        My sister, on the other hand, maintains that consumers have the power to choose what they listen to, watch, and read (they can, for example, consciously decide to frequent independent bookstores), and their choices can affect what becomes popular. I’m sure it’s some combination of the two, or maybe a chicken-egg paradox. In any case… keep the hope alive! 🙂

  2. wow. just wow.

  3. Ted talks are awesome. I knew you would be into them! There is one on words and how they have changed and how they can track them. It’s pretty incredible.

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