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TED Talks Science and Medicine

TED Talks Science and Medicine

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.

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The riddle of experience vs. memory | Daniel Kahneman

Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy -- and our own self-awareness.
2010-03-01
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Let the environment guide our development | Johan Rockstrom

Human growth has strained the earth's resources, but as Johan Rockström reminds us, our advances also give us the science to recognize this and change behavior. His research has found nine "planetary boundaries" that can guide us in protecting our planet's many overlapping ecosystems.
2010-08-31
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How a fly flies | Michael Dickinson

An insect's ability to fly is one of the greatest feats of evolution. Michael Dickinson looks at how a fruit fly 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.
2013-02-22
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How to fight desertification and reverse climate change | Allan Savory

"Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert," begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And it's happening to about two-thirds of the world's grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes -- and his work may show -- that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert. (NOTE: Statements in this talk have been challenged by scientists working in this field. Please read "Criticisms & Updates" below for more details.)
2013-03-04
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How we found the giant squid | Edith Widder

Humankind has been looking for the giant squid (Architeuthis) since we first started taking pictures underwater. But the elusive deep-sea predator could never be caught on film. Oceanographer and inventor Edith Widder shares the key insight -- and the teamwork -- that helped to capture the squid on film for the first time.
2013-03-05
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Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals | David Anderson

Modern psychiatric drugs treat the chemistry of the whole brain, but neurobiologist David Anderson has a more nuanced view of how the brain functions. He shares new research that could lead to targeted psychiatric medications -- that work better and avoid side effects. How's he doing it? For a start, by making a bunch of fruit flies angry.
2013-03-12
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The dawn of de-extinction. Are you ready? | Stewart Brand

Throughout humankind's history, we've driven species after species extinct: the passenger pigeon, the Eastern cougar, the dodo ... But now, says Stewart Brand, we have the technology (and the biology) to bring back species that humanity wiped out. So -- should we? Which ones? He asks a big question whose answer is closer than you may think.
2013-03-13
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When you're making a deal, what's going on in your brain? | Colin Camerer

When two people are trying to make a deal -- whether they?re competing or cooperating -- what?s really going on inside their brains? Behavioral economist Colin Camerer shows research that reveals how badly we predict what others are thinking. Bonus: He presents an unexpected study that shows chimpanzees might just be better at it.
2013-03-28
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The Philosophical Breakfast Club | Laura Snyder

In 1812, four men at Cambridge University met for breakfast. What began as an impassioned meal grew into a new scientific revolution, in which these men -- who called themselves ?natural philosophers? until they later coined ?scientist? -- introduced four major principles into scientific inquiry. Historian and philosopher Laura Snyder tells their intriguing story.
2013-04-12
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Parkinson's, depression and the switch that might turn them off | Andres Lozano

Deep brain stimulation is becoming very precise. This technique allows surgeons to place electrodes in almost any area of the brain, and turn them up or down -- like a radio dial or thermostat -- to correct dysfunction. Andres Lozano offers a dramatic look at emerging techniques, in which a woman with Parkinson's instantly stops shaking and brain areas eroded by Alzheimer's are brought back to life.
2013-04-18
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Bring back the woolly mammoth! | Hendrik Poinar

It?s the dream of kids all around the world to see giant beasts walk the Earth again. Could -- and should -- that dream be realized? Hendrik Poinar talks about the next big thing: the quest to engineer a creature that looks very much like our furry friend, the woolly mammoth. The first step, to sequence the woolly genome, is nearly complete. And it?s huge.
2013-05-30
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Could we speak the language of dolphins? | Denise Herzing

For 28 years, Denise Herzing has spent five months each summer living with a pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins, following three generations of family relationships and behaviors. It's clear they are communicating with one another -- but is it language? Could humans use it too? She shares a fascinating new experiment to test this idea.
2013-06-06
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Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem? | Peter Attia

As a young surgeon, Peter Attia felt contempt for a patient with diabetes. She was overweight, he thought, and thus responsible for the fact that she needed a foot amputation. But years later, Attia received an unpleasant medical surprise that led him to wonder: is our understanding of diabetes right? Could the precursors to diabetes cause obesity, and not the other way around? A look at how assumptions may be leading us to wage the wrong medical war.
2013-06-25
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How we'll resurrect the gastric brooding frog, the Tasmanian tiger | Michael Archer

The gastric brooding frog lays its eggs just like any other frog -- then swallows them whole to incubate. That is, it did until it went extinct 30 years ago. Paleontologist Michael Archer makes a case to bring back the gastric brooding frog and the thylacine, commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger.
2013-06-27
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A simple solution to the coming phosphorus crisis | Mohamed Hijri

There's a farming crisis no one is talking about: The world is running out of phosphorus, an essential element that's a key component of DNA and the basis of cellular communication. As biologist Mohamed Hijri shows, all roads of this crisis lead back to how we farm -- with chemical fertilizers chock-full of the element, which plants are not efficient at absorbing. One solution? A microscopic mushroom ...
2013-10-29
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Why we should build wooden skyscrapers | Michael Green

Building a skyscraper? Forget about steel and concrete, says architect Michael Green, and build it out of ? wood. As he details in this intriguing talk, it's not only possible to build safe wooden structures up to 30 stories tall (and, he hopes, higher), it's necessary.
2013-07-09
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The interspecies internet? An idea in progress | Vint Cerf

Apes, dolphins and elephants are animals with remarkable communication skills. Could the internet be expanded to include sentient species like them? A new and developing idea from a panel of four great thinkers -- dolphin researcher Diana Reiss, musician Peter Gabriel, internet of things visionary Neil Gershenfeld and Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet.
2013-07-10
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The voice of the natural world | Bernie Krause

Bernie Krause has been recording wild soundscapes -- the wind in the trees, the chirping of birds, the subtle sounds of insect larvae -- for 45 years. In that time, he has seen many environments radically altered by humans, sometimes even by practices thought to be environmentally safe. A surprising look at what we can learn through nature's symphonies, from the grunting of a sea anemone to the sad calls of a beaver in mourning.
2013-07-15
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Our shared condition -- consciousness | John Searle

Philosopher John Searle lays out the case for studying human consciousness -- and systematically shoots down some of the common objections to taking it seriously. As we learn more about the brain processes that cause awareness, accepting that consciousness is a biological phenomenon is an important first step. And no, he says, consciousness is not a massive computer simulation.
2013-07-22
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Why I fell in love with monster prime numbers | Adam Spencer

They're millions of digits long, and it takes an army of mathematicians and machines to hunt them down -- what's not to love about monster primes? Adam Spencer, comedian and lifelong math geek, shares his passion for these odd numbers, and for the mysterious magic of math.
2013-09-03
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A mouse. A laser beam. A manipulated memory. | Xu Liu

Can we edit the content of our memories? It's a sci-fi-tinged question that Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu are asking in their lab at MIT. Essentially, the pair shoot a laser beam into the brain of a living mouse to activate and manipulate its memory. In this unexpectedly amusing talk they share not only how, but -- more important -- why they do this.
2013-08-15
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3 reasons we still haven?t gotten rid of malaria | Sonia Shah

We?ve known how to cure malaria since the 1600s, so why does the disease still kill hundreds of thousands every year? It?s more than just a problem of medicine, says journalist Sonia Shah. A look into the history of malaria reveals three big-picture challenges to its eradication. Photos: Adam Nadel.
2013-09-12
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Why bees are disappearing | Marla Spivak

Honeybees have thrived for 50 million years, each colony 40 to 50,000 individuals coordinated in amazing harmony. So why, seven years ago, did colonies start dying en masse? Marla Spivak reveals four reasons which are interacting with tragic consequences. This is not simply a problem because bees pollinate a third of the world's crops. Could this incredible species be holding up a mirror for us?
2013-09-17
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How reliable is your memory? | Elizabeth Loftus

Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus studies memories. More precisely, she studies false memories, when people either remember things that didn't happen or remember them differently from the way they really were. It's more common than you might think, and Loftus shares some startling stories and statistics -- and raises some important ethical questions.
2013-09-23
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Why our universe might exist on a knife-edge | Gian Giudice

The biggest surprise of discovering the Higgs boson? That there were no surprises. Gian Giudice talks us through a problem in theoretical physics: what if the Higgs field exists in an ultra-dense state that could mean the collapse of all atomic matter? With wit and charm, Giudice outlines a grim fate -- and why we shouldn't start worrying just yet.
2013-10-24
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The paralyzed rat that walked | Grégoire Courtine

A spinal cord injury can sever the communication between your brain and your body, leading to paralysis. Fresh from his lab, Grégoire Courtine shows a new method -- combining drugs, electrical stimulation and a robot -- that could re-awaken the neural pathways and help the body learn again to move on its own. See how it works, as a paralyzed rat becomes able to run and navigate stairs.
2013-11-06
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How your "working memory" makes sense of the world | Peter Doolittle

"Life comes at us very quickly, and what we need to do is take that amorphous flow of experience and somehow extract meaning from it." In this funny, enlightening talk, educational psychologist Peter Doolittle details the importance -- and limitations -- of your "working memory," that part of the brain that allows us to make sense of what's happening right now.
2013-11-22
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What is so special about the human brain? | Suzana Herculano-Houzel

The human brain is puzzling -- it is curiously large given the size of our bodies, uses a tremendous amount of energy for its weight and has a bizarrely dense cerebral cortex. But: why? Neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel puts on her detective's cap and leads us through this mystery. By making "brain soup," she arrives at a startling conclusion.
2013-11-26
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Body parts on a chip | Geraldine Hamilton

It's relatively easy to imagine a new medicine -- the hard part is testing it, and that can delay promising new cures for years. In this well-explained talk, Geraldine Hamilton shows how her lab creates organs and body parts on a chip, simple structures with all the pieces essential to testing new medications -- perhaps even custom cures made for one specific person.
2013-12-03
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The $80 prosthetic knee that's changing lives | Krista Donaldson

We've made incredible advances in technology in recent years, but too often it seems only certain fortunate people can benefit. Engineer Krista Donaldson introduces the ReMotion knee, a prosthetic device for above-knee amputees, many of whom earn less than $4 a day. The design contains best-in-class technology and yet is far cheaper than other prosthetics on the market.
2013-12-19
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A bold new way to fund drug research | Roger Stein

Believe it or not, about 20 years' worth of potentially life-saving drugs are sitting in labs right now, untested. Why? Because they can't get the funding to go to trials; the financial risk is too high. Roger Stein is a finance guy, and he thinks deeply about mitigating risk. He and some colleagues at MIT came up with a promising new financial model that could move hundreds of drugs into the testing pipeline.
2014-01-07
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Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore | Leyla Acaroglu

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.
2014-02-11
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Could future devices read images from our brains? | Mary Lou Jepsen

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.
2014-03-03
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My DNA vending machine | Gabriel Barcia-Colombo

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.
2014-03-06
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The birds and the bees are just the beginning | Carin Bondar

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.)
2014-03-14
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The neuroscience of restorative justice | Daniel Reisel

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?
2014-03-18
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Zombie roaches and other parasite tales | Ed Yong

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 ...
2014-03-26
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The discovery that could rewrite physics | Allan Adams

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.
2014-04-01
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The sore problem of prosthetic limbs | David Sengeh

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.
2014-04-10
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How synchronized hammer strikes could generate nuclear fusion | Michel Laberge

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.
2014-04-22
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Tiny satellites show us the Earth as it changes in near-real-time | Will Marshall

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.
2014-11-18
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Autism ? what we know (and what we don't know yet) | Wendy Chung

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.
2014-04-28
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Get your next eye exam on a smartphone | Andrew Bastawrous

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.
2014-04-30
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The emergent patterns of climate change | Gavin Schmidt

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.
2014-05-01
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The loves and lies of fireflies | Sara Lewis

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.
2014-07-01
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The psychology of your future self | Dan Gilbert

"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.
2014-06-03
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Why science demands a leap into the unknown | Uri Alon

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.
2014-06-12
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Why we should trust scientists | Naomi Oreskes

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.
2014-06-25
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A tool to fix one of the most dangerous moments in surgery | Nikolai Begg

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.
2014-07-15
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What humans can learn from semi-intelligent slime | Heather Barnett

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.
2014-07-17
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En liten tjänst av I'm With Friends. Finns även på engelska.
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