TED Talks Science and Medicine

TED Talks Science and Medicine

www.ted.com/talks
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.


The case to infect volunteers with COVID-19 to accelerate vaccine testing | Nir Eyal
Jun 25 • 18 min
Conventional vaccine testing is a slow, years-long process. As thousands of people continue to die each day from COVID-19, bioethicist Nir Eyal proposes a radical idea that could dramatically accelerate the vaccine development timeline: “human challenge…
The new science of personalized vaccines | Ofer Levy
Jun 18 • 11 min
At the intersection of precision medicine and vaccinology lies a revolutionary scientific pursuit: personalized vaccines. Infectious disease specialist Ofer Levy introduces this promising medical approach, in which tailored inoculations will enable…
A dose of reality about generic drugs | Katherine Eban
Jun 17 • 16 min
Investigative journalist Katherine Eban set out to report on a seemingly straightforward question: Are generic drugs really identical to their brand-name counterparts? The answer sparked a decade of interviews, meetings with whistleblowers, on-the-ground…
Let’s make the world wild again | Kristine Tompkins
May 26 • 16 min
Earth, humanity and nature are inextricably interconnected. To restore us all back to health, we need to “rewild” the world, says environmental activist Kristine Tompkins. Tracing her life from Patagonia CEO to passionate conservationist, she shares how…
An ER doctor on triaging your “crazy busy” life | Darria Long
May 13 • 11 min
How do doctors in the emergency room stay calm and focused amidst the chaos? Drawing on years of experience, ER doctor Darria Long shares a straightforward framework to help you take back control and feel less overwhelmed when life starts to get “crazy…
The wonders of the molecular world, animated | Janet Iwasa
Apr 13 • 6 min
Some biological structures are so small that scientists can’t see them with even the most powerful microscopes. That’s where molecular animator and TED Fellow Janet Iwasa gets creative. Explore vast, unseen molecular worlds as she shares mesmerizing…
The galactic recipe for a living planet | Karin Öberg
Apr 10 • 13 min
Did you know that one of the most notorious poisons is also a key ingredient for life as we know it? Join space chemist Karin Öberg and learn how she scans the universe in search of this paradoxical chemical using ALMA, the world’s largest radio…
A history of Indigenous languages — and how to revitalize them | Lindsay Morcom
Apr 7 • 13 min
Indigenous languages across North America are under threat of extinction due to the colonial legacy of cultural erasure, says linguist Lindsay Morcom. Highlighting grassroots strategies developed by the Anishinaabe people of Canada to revive their…
How to make pandemics optional, not inevitable | Sonia Shah
Apr 1 • 43 min
What can past pandemics teach us how to tackle the current one? Tracing the history of contagions from cholera to Ebola and beyond, science journalist Sonia Shah explains why we’re more vulnerable to outbreaks now than ever before, what we can do to…
How you can help save the monarch butterfly — and the planet | Mary Ellen Hannibal
Apr 1 • 11 min
Monarch butterflies are dying at an alarming rate around the world — a looming extinction that could also put human life at risk. But we have just the thing to help save these insects, says author Mary Ellen Hannibal: citizen scientists. Learn how these…
The quest for the coronavirus vaccine | Seth Berkley
Mar 27 • 62 min
When will the coronavirus vaccine be ready? Epidemiologist Seth Berkley (head of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance) takes us inside the effort to create a vaccine for COVID-19. With clarity and urgency, he explains what makes it so challenging to develop, when…
Indigenous knowledge meets science to solve climate change | Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim
Mar 27 • 13 min
To tackle a problem as large as climate change, we need both science and Indigenous wisdom, says environmental activist Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim. In this engaging talk, she shares how her nomadic community in Chad is working closely with scientists to…
The weird history of the “sex chromosomes” | Molly Webster
Mar 23 • 13 min
The common thinking on biological sex goes like this: females have two X chromosomes in their cells, while males have one X and one Y. In this myth-busting talk, science writer and podcaster Molly Webster shows why the so-called “sex chromosomes” are more…
How we could change the planet’s climate future | David Wallace-Wells
Mar 13 • 11 min
The climate crisis is too vast and complicated to solve with a silver bullet, says author David Wallace-Wells. What we need is a shift in how we live. Follow along as he lays out some of the dramatic actions we could take to build a livable, prosperous…
The dangers of a noisy ocean — and how we can quiet it down | Nicola Jones
Mar 11 • 13 min
The ocean is a naturally noisy place full of singing whales, grunting fish, snapping shrimp, cracking ice, wind and rain. But human-made sounds — from ship engines to oil drilling — have become an acute threat to marine life, says science journalist…
How a miniaturized atomic clock could revolutionize space exploration | Jill Seubert
Mar 5 • 11 min
Ask any deep space navigator like Jill Seubert what makes steering a spacecraft difficult, and they’ll tell you it’s all about the timing; a split-second can decide a mission’s success or failure. So what do you do when a spacecraft is bad at telling…
What a nun can teach a scientist about ecology | Victoria Gill
Feb 12 • 13 min
To save the achoque — an exotic (and adorable) salamander found in a lake in northern Mexico — scientists teamed up with an unexpected research partner: a group of nuns called the Sisters of the Immaculate Health. In this delightful talk, science…
The science of friction — and its surprising impact on our lives | Jennifer Vail
Feb 5 • 11 min
Tribology: it’s a funny-sounding word you might not have heard before, but it could change how you see and interact with the physical world, says mechanical engineer Jennifer Vail. Offering lessons from tribology — the study of friction and wear — Vail…
A new type of medicine, custom-made with tiny proteins | Christopher Bahl
Jan 28 • 4 min
Some common life-saving medicines, such as insulin, are made of proteins so large and fragile that they need to be injected instead of ingested as pills. But a new generation of medicine — made from smaller, more durable proteins known as peptides — is on…
What ocean microbes reveal about the changing climate | Angelicque White
Jan 24 • 13 min
When the ocean changes, the planet changes — and it all starts with microbes, says biological oceanographer Angelicque White. Backed by decades of data, White shares how scientists use these ancient microorganisms as a crucial barometer of ocean health —…
Are indoor vertical farms the future of agriculture? | Stuart Oda
Jan 21 • 9 min
By 2050, the global population is projected to reach 9.8 billion. How are we going to feed everyone? Investment-banker-turned-farmer Stuart Oda points to indoor vertical farming: growing food on tiered racks in a controlled, climate-proof environment. In…
How designing brand-new enzymes could change the world | Adam Garske
Jan 21 • 13 min
“If DNA is the blueprint of life, enzymes are the laborers that carry out its instructions,” says chemical biologist Adam Garske. In this fun talk and demo, he shows how scientists can now edit and design enzymes for specific functions — to help treat…
Why are drug prices so high? Investigating the outdated US patent system | Priti Krishtel
Jan 16 • 12 min
Between 2006 and 2016, the number of drug patents granted in the United States doubled — but not because there was an explosion in invention or innovation. Drug companies have learned how to game the system, accumulating patents not for new medicines but…
The urgent case for antibiotic-free animals | Leon Marchal
Jan 7 • 10 min
The UN predicts that antimicrobial resistance will be our biggest killer by 2050. “That should really scare the hell out of all of us,” says bioprocess engineer Leon Marchal. He’s working on an urgently needed solution: transforming the massive, global…
The search for dark matter — and what we’ve found so far | Risa Wechsler
Jan 6 • 15 min
Roughly 85 percent of mass in the universe is “dark matter” — mysterious material that can’t be directly observed but has an immense influence on the cosmos. What exactly is this strange stuff, and what does it have to do with our existence?…
Your body was forged in the spectacular death of stars | Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz
Dec 17, 2019 • 15 min
We are all connected by the spectacular birth, death and rebirth of stars, says astrophysicist Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz. Journey through the cosmic history of the universe as Ramirez-Ruiz explains how supernovas forged the elements of life to create everything…
The search for our solar system’s ninth planet | Mike Brown
Nov 22, 2019 • 13 min
Could the strange orbits of small, distant objects in our solar system lead us to a big discovery? Planetary astronomer Mike Brown proposes the existence of a new, giant planet lurking in the far reaches of our solar system — and shows us how traces of…
What it’s like to live on the International Space Station | Cady Coleman
Nov 13, 2019 • 6 min
In this quick, fun talk, astronaut Cady Coleman welcomes us aboard the International Space Station, where she spent nearly six months doing experiments that expanded the frontiers of science. Hear what it’s like to fly to work, sleep without gravity and…
Small rockets are the next space revolution | Peter Beck
Nov 12, 2019 • 11 min
We’re in the dawn of a new space revolution, says engineer Peter Beck: the revolution of the small. In a talk packed with insights into the state of the space industry, Beck shares his work building rockets capable of delivering small payloads to space…
The next software revolution: programming biological cells | Sara-Jane Dunn
Nov 1, 2019 • 14 min
The cells in your body are like computer software: they’re “programmed” to carry out specific functions at specific times. If we can better understand this process, we could unlock the ability to reprogram cells ourselves, says computational biologist…
The link between fishing cats and mangrove forest conservation | Ashwin Naidu
Oct 24, 2019 • 5 min
Mangrove forests are crucial to the health of the planet, gobbling up CO2 from the atmosphere and providing a home for a diverse array of species. But these rich habitats are under continual threat from deforestation and industry. In an empowering talk,…
A love story for the coral reef crisis | Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
Oct 18, 2019 • 6 min
Over the course of hundreds of scuba dives, marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson fell in love — with a fish. In this ode to parrotfish, she shares five reasons why these creatures are simply amazing (from their ability to poop white sand to make…
How a handful of fishing villages sparked a marine conservation revolution | Alasdair Harris
Oct 17, 2019 • 11 min
We need a radically new approach to ocean conservation, says marine biologist and TED Fellow Alasdair Harris. In a visionary talk, he lays out a surprising solution to the problem of overfishing that could both revive marine life and rebuild local…
What happens in your brain when you taste food | Camilla Arndal Andersen
Oct 3, 2019 • 13 min
With fascinating research and hilarious anecdotes, neuroscientist Camilla Arndal Andersen takes us into the lab where she studies people’s sense of taste via brain scans. She reveals surprising insights about the way our brains subconsciously experience…
How community-led conservation can save wildlife | Moreangels Mbizah
Oct 1, 2019 • 5 min
Conservationist and TED Fellow Moreangels Mbizah studied the famous Cecil the lion until he was shot by a trophy hunter in 2015. She wonders how things could’ve gone differently, asking: “What if the community that lived next to Cecil was involved in…
How one tree grows 40 different kinds of fruit | Sam Van Aken
Sep 27, 2019 • 11 min
Artist Sam Van Aken shares the breathtaking work behind the “Tree of 40 Fruit,” an ongoing series of hybridized fruit trees that grow 40 different varieties of peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines and cherries — all on the same tree. What began as an art…
Can seaweed help curb global warming? | Tim Flannery
Sep 23, 2019 • 14 min
It’s time for planetary-scale interventions to combat climate change — and environmentalist Tim Flannery thinks seaweed can help. In a bold talk, he shares the epic carbon-capturing potential of seaweed, explaining how oceangoing seaweed farms created on…
We need to track the world’s water like we track the weather | Sonaar Luthra
Sep 20, 2019 • 13 min
We need a global weather service for water, says entrepreneur and TED Fellow Sonaar Luthra. In a talk about environmental accountability, Luthra shows how we could forecast water shortages and risks with a global data collection effort — just like we…
How climate change could make our food less nutritious | Kristie Ebi
Sep 16, 2019 • 11 min
Rising carbon levels in the atmosphere can make plants grow faster, but there’s another hidden consequence: they rob plants of the nutrients and vitamins we need to survive. In a talk about global food security, epidemiologist Kristie Ebi explores the…
A “living drug” that could change the way we treat cancer | Carl June
Sep 10, 2019 • 15 min
Carl June is the pioneer behind CAR T-cell therapy: a groundbreaking cancer treatment that supercharges part of a patient’s own immune system to attack and kill tumors. In a talk about a breakthrough, he shares how three decades of research culminated in…
A climate change solution that’s right under our feet | Asmeret Asefaw Berhe
Sep 3, 2019 • 13 min
There’s two times more carbon in the earth’s soil than in all of its vegetation and the atmosphere — combined. Biogeochemist Asmeret Asefaw Berhe dives into the science of soil and shares how we could use its awesome carbon-trapping power to offset…
Emergency medicine for our climate fever | Kelly Wanser
Aug 28, 2019 • 14 min
As we recklessly warm the planet by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, some industrial emissions also produce particles that reflect sunshine back into space, putting a check on global warming that we’re only starting to understand. Climate…
How climate change affects your mental health | Britt Wray
Aug 27, 2019 • 7 min
“For all that’s ever been said about climate change, we haven’t heard nearly enough about the psychological impacts of living in a warming world,” says science writer Britt Wray. In this quick talk, she explores how climate change is threatening our…
What’s at the bottom of the ocean — and how we’re getting there | Victor Vescovo
Aug 2, 2019 • 7 min
Victor Vescovo is leading the first-ever manned expedition to the deepest point of each of the world’s five oceans. In conversation with TED science curator David Biello, Vescovo discusses the technology that’s powering the explorations — a titanium…
The fascinating (and dangerous) places scientists aren’t exploring | Ella Al-Shamahi
Jul 15, 2019 • 15 min
We’re not doing frontline exploratory science in a huge portion of the world — the places governments deem too hostile or disputed. What might we be missing because we’re not looking? In this fearless, unexpectedly funny talk, paleoanthropologist Ella…
Grief and love in the animal kingdom | Barbara J. King
Jul 8, 2019 • 14 min
From mourning orcas to distressed elephants, biological anthropologist Barbara J. King has witnessed grief and love across the animal kingdom. In this eye-opening talk, she explains the evidence behind her belief that many animals experience complex…
5 challenges we could solve by designing new proteins | David Baker
Jun 17, 2019 • 10 min
Proteins are remarkable molecular machines: they digest your food, fire your neurons, power your immune system and so much more. What if we could design new ones, with functions never before seen in nature? In this remarkable glimpse of the future, David…
The mysterious microbes living deep inside the earth — and how they could help humanity | Karen Lloyd
Jun 10, 2019 • 13 min
The ground beneath your feet is home to a massive, mysterious world of microbes — some of which have been in the earth’s crust for hundreds of thousands of years. What’s it like down there? Take a trip to the volcanoes and hot springs of Costa Rica as…
The amazing brains and morphing skin of octopuses and other cephalopods | Roger Hanlon
May 31, 2019 • 13 min
Octopus, squid and cuttlefish — collectively known as cephalopods — have strange, massive, distributed brains. What do they do with all that neural power? Dive into the ocean with marine biologist Roger Hanlon, who shares astonishing footage of the…
These bacteria eat plastic | Morgan Vague
May 28, 2019 • 9 min
Humans produce 300 million tons of new plastic each year — yet, despite our best efforts, less than 10 percent of it ends up being recycled. Is there a better way to deal with all this waste? Morgan Vague describes her research with microbiologist Jay…
Sloths! The strange life of the world’s slowest mammal | Lucy Cooke
May 21, 2019 • 14 min
Sloths have been on this planet for more than 40 million years. What’s the secret to their success? In a hilarious talk, zoologist Lucy Cooke takes us inside the strange life of the world’s slowest mammal and shows what we can learn from their ingenious…
How supercharged plants could slow climate change | Joanne Chory
May 2, 2019 • 13 min
Plants are amazing machines — for millions of years, they’ve taken carbon dioxide out of the air and stored it underground, keeping a crucial check on the global climate. Plant geneticist Joanne Chory is working to amplify this special ability: with her…
A personal air-quality tracker that lets you know what you’re breathing | Romain Lacombe
Apr 22, 2019 • 5 min
How often do you think about the air you’re breathing? Probably not enough, says entrepreneur and TED Fellow Romain Lacombe. He introduces Flow: a personal air-quality tracker that fits in your hand and monitors pollution levels in real time. See how this…
Inside the black hole image that made history | Sheperd Doeleman
Apr 18, 2019 • 11 min
At the center of a galaxy more than 55 million light-years away, there’s a supermassive black hole with the mass of several billion suns. And now, for the first time ever, we can see it. Astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, head of the Event Horizon Telescope…
Can we regenerate heart muscle with stem cells? | Chuck Murry
Mar 29, 2019 • 14 min
The heart is one of the least regenerative organs in the human body — a big factor in making heart failure the number one killer worldwide. What if we could help heart muscle regenerate after injury? Physician and scientist Chuck Murry shares his…
To detect diseases earlier, let’s speak bacteria’s secret language | Fatima AlZahra’a Alatraktchi
Mar 27, 2019 • 11 min
Bacteria “talk” to each other, sending chemical information to coordinate attacks. What if we could listen to what they were saying? Nanophysicist Fatima AlZahra’a Alatraktchi invented a tool to spy on bacterial chatter and translate their secret…
How you can help save the bees, one hive at a time | Noah Wilson-Rich
Mar 20, 2019 • 12 min
Bees are dying off in record numbers, but ecologist Noah Wilson-Rich is interested in something else: Where are bees healthy and thriving? To find out, he recruited citizen scientists across the US to set up beehives in their backyards, gardens and…
The secret to scientific discoveries? Making mistakes | Phil Plait
Mar 18, 2019 • 11 min
Phil Plait was on a Hubble Space Telescope team of astronomers who thought they may have captured the first direct photo of an exoplanet ever taken. But did the evidence actually support that? Follow along as Plait shows how science progresses — through a…
Where did the Moon come from? A new theory | Sarah T. Stewart
Mar 13, 2019 • 11 min
The Earth and Moon are like identical twins, made up of the exact same materials — which is really strange, since no other celestial bodies we know of share this kind of chemical relationship. What’s responsible for this special connection? Looking for an…
How a new species of ancestors is changing our theory of human evolution | Juliet Brophy
Mar 1, 2019 • 11 min
In 2013, a treasure trove of unusual fossils were uncovered in a cave in South Africa, and researchers soon realized: these were the remains of a new species of ancient humans. Paleoanthropologist Juliet Brophy takes us inside the discovery of Homo…
The age of genetic wonder | Juan Enriquez
Feb 15, 2019 • 18 min
Gene-editing tools like CRISPR enable us to program life at its most fundamental level. But this raises some pressing questions: If we can generate new species from scratch, what should we build? Should we redesign humanity as we know it? Juan Enriquez…
Can we solve global warming? Lessons from how we protected the ozone layer | Sean Davis
Jan 29, 2019 • 9 min
The Montreal Protocol proved that the world could come together and take action on climate change. Thirty years after the world’s most successful environmental treaty was signed, atmospheric scientist Sean Davis examines the world we avoided when we…
What sticky sea creatures can teach us about making glue | Jonathan Wilker
Jan 24, 2019 • 13 min
What if we could harness the sticking powers of sea creatures like mussels, oysters and barnacles, which refuse to budge even on wet, stormy coastlines? Dive into the wonderful world of animals that make their own glue and cement with scientist Jonathan…
The biology of gender, from DNA to the brain | Karissa Sanbonmatsu
Jan 10, 2019 • 12 min
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…
The fascinating science of bubbles, from soap to champagne | Li Wei Tan
Dec 17, 2018 • 14 min
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…
The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it | Katharine Hayhoe
Dec 14, 2018 • 17 min
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…
3 kinds of bias that shape your worldview | J. Marshall Shepherd
Dec 11, 2018 • 12 min
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…
100 solutions to reverse global warming | Chad Frischmann
Nov 28, 2018 • 17 min
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…
The radical possibilities of man-made DNA | Floyd E. Romesberg
Nov 26, 2018 • 13 min
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…
The pharmacy of the future? Personalized pills, 3D printed at home | Daniel Kraft
Oct 18, 2018 • 12 min
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,…
5 transformational policies for a prosperous and sustainable world | Johan Rockström
Oct 17, 2018 • 12 min
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…
The key to a better malaria vaccine | Faith Osier
Oct 16, 2018 • 7 min
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…
The secrets of spider venom | Michel Dugon
Oct 5, 2018 • 12 min
Spider venom can stop your heart within minutes, cause unimaginable pain — and potentially save your life, says zoologist Michel Dugon. With a live tarantula on his arm, Dugon explains the medical properties of their potent toxin and how it might be used…
How I became part sea urchin | Catherine Mohr
Sep 21, 2018 • 6 min
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…
Why we choke under pressure — and how to avoid it | Sian Leah Beilock
Sep 18, 2018 • 15 min
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…
How data is helping us unravel the mysteries of the brain | Steve McCarroll
Sep 4, 2018 • 17 min
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…
How China is (and isn’t) fighting pollution and climate change | Angel Hsu
Aug 29, 2018 • 12 min
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…
A rare galaxy that’s challenging our understanding of the universe | Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil
Aug 28, 2018 • 4 min
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.
Where are all the aliens? | Stephen Webb
Jul 19, 2018 • 13 min
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 new way to monitor vital signs (that can see through walls) | Dina Katabi
Jul 12, 2018 • 13 min
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…
How to build synthetic DNA and send it across the internet | Dan Gibson
Jul 11, 2018 • 15 min
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:…
How we study the microbes living in your gut | Dan Knights
Jul 10, 2018 • 9 min
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…
A new way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere | Jennifer Wilcox
Jul 5, 2018 • 14 min
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…
How we’re saving one of Earth’s last wild places | Steve Boyes
Jul 3, 2018 • 9 min
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 tiny creature that secretly powers the planet | Penny Chisholm
Jul 2, 2018 • 16 min
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…
The story of ‘Oumuamua, the first visitor from another star system | Karen J. Meech
Jun 27, 2018 • 13 min
In October 2017, astrobiologist Karen J. Meech got the call every astronomer waits for: NASA had spotted the very first visitor from another star system. The interstellar comet — a half-mile-long object eventually named `Oumuamua, from the Hawaiian for…
The surprising science of alpha males | Frans de Waal
Jun 18, 2018 • 15 min
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…
Four billion years of evolution in six minutes | Prosanta Chakrabarty
Jun 15, 2018 • 5 min
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…
What we’ll learn about the brain in the next century | Sam Rodriques
Jun 12, 2018 • 13 min
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…
The journey through loss and grief | Jason B. Rosenthal
Jun 12, 2018 • 14 min
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…
Let’s turn the high seas into the world’s largest nature reserve | Enric Sala
Jun 6, 2018 • 13 min
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…
How we can turn the cold of outer space into a renewable resource | Aaswath Raman
Jun 1, 2018 • 13 min
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…
How vultures can help solve crimes | Lauren Pharr
May 31, 2018 • 10 min
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…
The shocking danger of mountaintop removal — and why it must end | Michael Hendryx
May 22, 2018 • 13 min
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…
Scientists must be free to learn, to speak and to challenge | Kirsty Duncan
May 16, 2018 • 13 min
“You do not mess with something so fundamental, so precious, as science,” says Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s first Minister of Science. In a heartfelt, inspiring talk about pushing boundaries, she makes the case that researchers must be free to present…
The doctors, nurses and aid workers rebuilding Syria | Rola Hallam
May 15, 2018 • 7 min
Local humanitarians are beacons of light in the darkness of war, says humanitarian aid entrepreneur and TED Fellow Rola Hallam. She’s working to help responders on the ground in devastated communities like Syria, where the destruction of health care is…
The “dead zone” of the Gulf of Mexico | Nancy Rabalais
Apr 18, 2018 • 12 min
Ocean expert Nancy Rabalais tracks the ominously named “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico — where there isn’t enough oxygen in the water to support life. The Gulf has the second largest dead zone in the world; on top of killing fish and crustaceans, it’s…
Should we create a solar shade to cool the earth? | Danny Hillis
Apr 5, 2018 • 6 min
In this perspective-shifting talk, Danny Hillis prompts us to approach global issues like climate change with creative scientific solutions. Taking a stand for solar geoengineering, he looks at controversial solutions with open-minded curiosity.
How fungi recognize (and infect) plants | Mennat El Ghalid
Mar 27, 2018 • 4 min
Each year, the world loses enough food to feed half a billion people to fungi, the most destructive pathogens of plants. Mycologist and TED Fellow Mennat El Ghalid explains how a breakthrough in our understanding of the molecular signals fungi use to…
The wonderful world of life in a drop of water | Simone Bianco and Tom Zimmerman
Mar 7, 2018 • 11 min
“Hold your breath,” says inventor Tom Zimmerman. “This is the world without plankton.” These tiny organisms produce two-thirds of our planet’s oxygen — without them, life as we know it wouldn’t exist. In this talk and tech demo, Zimmerman and cell…
How we look kilometers below the Antarctic ice sheet | Dustin Schroeder
Mar 1, 2018 • 11 min
Antarctica is a vast and dynamic place, but radar technologies — from World War II-era film to state-of-the-art miniaturized sensors — are enabling scientists to observe and understand changes beneath the continent’s ice in unprecedented detail. Join…
The role of human emotions in science and research | Ilona Stengel
Feb 26, 2018 • 10 min
Do human emotions have a role to play in science and research? Material researcher Ilona Stengel suggests that instead of opposing each other, emotions and logic complement and reinforce each other. She shares a case study on how properly using emotions…
This deep-sea mystery is changing our understanding of life | Karen Lloyd
Feb 6, 2018 • 13 min
How deep into the Earth can we go and still find life? Marine microbiologist Karen Lloyd introduces us to deep-subsurface microbes: tiny organisms that live buried meters deep in ocean mud and have been on Earth since way before animals. Learn more about…
Could fish social networks help us save coral reefs? | Mike Gil
Jan 30, 2018 • 4 min
Mike Gil spies on fish: using novel multi-camera systems and computer vision technology, the TED Fellow and his colleagues explore how coral reef fish behave, socialize and affect their ecosystems. Learn more about how fish of different species…
Why I study the most dangerous animal on earth — mosquitoes | Fredros Okumu
Jan 29, 2018 • 12 min
What do we really know about mosquitoes? Fredros Okumu catches and studies these disease-carrying insects for a living — with the hope of crashing their populations. Join Okumu for a tour of the frontlines of mosquito research, as he details some of the…
The thrilling potential for off-grid solar energy | Amar Inamdar
Jan 26, 2018 • 14 min
There’s an energy revolution happening in villages and towns across Africa — off-grid solar energy is becoming a viable alternative to traditional electricity systems. In a bold talk about a true leapfrog moment, Amar Inamdar introduces us to proud owners…
The surprising solution to ocean plastic | David Katz
Jan 25, 2018 • 11 min
Can we solve the problem of ocean plastic pollution and end extreme poverty at the same time? That’s the ambitious goal of The Plastic Bank: a worldwide chain of stores where everything from school tuition to cooking fuel and more is available for…
How we can stop Africa’s scientific brain drain | Kevin Njabo
Jan 10, 2018 • 8 min
How can Africans find solutions to Africa’s problems? Conservation biologist Kevin Njabo tells his personal story of how he nearly became part of the group of African scientists who seek an education abroad and never return — and why he’s now building a…
You aren’t at the mercy of your emotions — your brain creates them | Lisa Feldman Barrett
Jan 2, 2018 • 18 min
Can you look at someone’s face and know what they’re feeling? Does everyone experience happiness, sadness and anxiety the same way? What are emotions anyway? For the past 25 years, psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett has mapped facial expressions,…
Lessons from a solar storm chaser | Miho Janvier
Dec 12, 2017 • 5 min
Space physicist Miho Janvier studies solar storms: giant clouds of particles that escape from the Sun and can disrupt life on Earth (while also producing amazing auroras). How do you study the atmosphere on the Sun, which burns at temperatures of up to…
Adventures of an interplanetary architect | Xavier De Kestelier
Dec 11, 2017 • 12 min
How will we live elsewhere in the galaxy? On Earth, natural resources for creating structures are abundant, but sending these materials up with us to the Moon or Mars is clunky and cost-prohibitive. Enter architect Xavier De Kestelier, who has a radical…
How augmented reality could change the future of surgery | Nadine Hachach-Haram
Dec 8, 2017 • 11 min
If you’re undergoing surgery, you want the best surgical team to collaborate on your case, no matter where they are. Surgeon and entrepreneur Nadine Hachach-Haram is developing a new system that helps surgeons operate together and train one another on new…
Fashion has a pollution problem — can biology fix it? | Natsai Audrey Chieza
Nov 29, 2017 • 13 min
Natsai Audrey Chieza is a designer on a mission — to reduce pollution in the fashion industry while creating amazing new things to wear. In her lab, she noticed that the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor makes a striking red-purple pigment, and now she’s…
The future of good food in China | Matilda Ho
Nov 28, 2017 • 5 min
Fresh food free of chemicals and pesticides is hard to come by in China: in 2016, the Chinese government revealed half a million food safety violations in just nine months. In the absence of safe, sustainable food sources, TED Fellow Matilda Ho launched…
Why wildfires have gotten worse — and what we can do about it | Paul Hessburg
Nov 7, 2017 • 14 min
Megafires, individual fires that burn more than 100,000 acres, are on the rise in the western United States — the direct result of unintentional yet massive changes we’ve brought to the forests through a century of misguided management. What steps can we…
How to win at evolution and survive a mass extinction | Lauren Sallan
Oct 31, 2017 • 6 min
Congratulations! By being here, alive, you are one of history’s winners — the culmination of a success story four billion years in the making. The other 99 percent of species who have ever lived on earth are dead — killed by fire, flood, asteroids, ice,…
Can we stop climate change by removing CO2 from the air? | Tim Kruger
Oct 31, 2017 • 8 min
Could we cure climate change? Geoengineering researcher Tim Kruger wants to try. He shares one promising possibility: using natural gas to generate electricity in a way that takes carbon dioxide out of the air. Learn more — both the potential and the…
What’s hidden under the Greenland ice sheet? | Kristin Poinar
Oct 17, 2017 • 9 min
The Greenland ice sheet is massive, mysterious — and melting. Using advanced technology, scientists are revealing its secrets for the first time, and what they’ve found is amazing: hidden under the ice sheet is a vast aquifer that holds a Lake Tahoe-sized…
A global food crisis may be less than a decade away | Sara Menker
Oct 5, 2017 • 17 min
Sara Menker quit a career in commodities trading to figure out how the global value chain of agriculture works. Her discoveries have led to some startling predictions: “We could have a tipping point in global food and agriculture if surging demand…
Mind-blowing, magnified portraits of insects | Levon Biss
Oct 4, 2017 • 7 min
Photographer Levon Biss was looking for a new, extraordinary subject when one afternoon he and his young son popped a ground beetle under a microscope and discovered the wondrous world of insects. Applying his knowledge of photography to subjects just…
How LIGO discovered gravitational waves — and what might be next | Gabriela González
Oct 3, 2017 • 13 min
More than 100 years after Albert Einstein predicted gravitational waves — ripples in space-time caused by violent cosmic collisions — LIGO scientists confirmed their existence using large, extremely precise detectors in Louisiana and Washington.…
The fascinating secret lives of giant clams | Mei Lin Neo
Sep 26, 2017 • 5 min
When you think about the deep blue sea, you might instantly think of whales or coral reefs. But spare a thought for giant clams, the world’s largest living shellfish. These incredible creatures can live to 100, grow up to four and a half feet long and…
The most Martian place on Earth | Armando Azua-Bustos
Sep 20, 2017 • 4 min
How can you study Mars without a spaceship? Head to the most Martian place on Earth — the Atacama Desert in Chile. Astrobiologist Armando Azua-Bustos grew up in this vast, arid landscape and now studies the rare life forms that have adapted to survive…
What it feels like to see Earth from space | Benjamin Grant
Sep 7, 2017 • 12 min
What the astronauts felt when they saw Earth from space changed them forever. Author and artist Benjamin Grant aims to provoke this same feeling of overwhelming scale and beauty in each of us through a series of stunning satellite images that show the…
What the sugar coating on your cells is trying to tell you | Carolyn Bertozzi
Aug 24, 2017 • 11 min
Your cells are coated with sugars that store information and speak a secret language. What are they trying to tell us? Your blood type, for one — and, potentially, that you have cancer. Chemical biologist Carolyn Bertozzi researches how sugars on…
Meet the microscopic life in your home — and on your face | Anne Madden
Aug 11, 2017 • 10 min
Behold the microscopic jungle in and around you: tiny organisms living on your cheeks, under your sofa and in the soil in your backyard. We have an adversarial relationship with these microbes — we sanitize, exterminate and disinfect them — but according…
Why I still have hope for coral reefs | Kristen Marhaver
Jul 28, 2017 • 7 min
Corals in the Pacific Ocean have been dying at an alarming rate, particularly from bleaching brought on by increased water temperatures. But it’s not too late to act, says TED Fellow Kristen Marhaver. She points to the Caribbean — given time, stable…
You smell with your body, not just your nose | Jennifer Pluznick
Jul 27, 2017 • 7 min
Do your kidneys have a sense of smell? Turns out, the same tiny scent detectors found in your nose are also found in some pretty unexpected places — like your muscles, kidneys and even your lungs. In this quick talk (filled with weird facts), physiologist…
Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality | Anil Seth
Jul 18, 2017 • 17 min
Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience — and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to…
Can clouds buy us more time to solve climate change? | Kate Marvel
Jul 17, 2017 • 13 min
Climate change is real, case closed. But there’s still a lot we don’t understand about it, and the more we know the better chance we have to slow it down. One still-unknown factor: How might clouds play a part? There’s a small hope that they could buy us…
What rivers can tell us about the earth’s history | Liz Hajek
Jul 13, 2017 • 11 min
Rivers are one of nature’s most powerful forces — they bulldoze mountains and carve up the earth, and their courses are constantly moving. Understanding how they form and how they’ll change is important for those that call their banks and deltas home. In…
What happens in your brain when you pay attention? | Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar
Jun 8, 2017 • 6 min
Attention isn’t just about what we focus on — it’s also about what our brains filter out. By investigating patterns in the brain as people try to focus, computational neuroscientist Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar hopes to build computer models that can be used…
How pollution is changing the ocean’s chemistry | Triona McGrath
May 29, 2017 • 9 min
As we keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, more of it is dissolving in the oceans, leading to drastic changes in the water’s chemistry. Triona McGrath researches this process, known as ocean acidification, and in this talk she takes us for a…
A secret weapon against Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases | Nina Fedoroff
May 25, 2017 • 15 min
Where did Zika come from, and what can we do about it? Molecular biologist Nina Fedoroff takes us around the world to understand Zika’s origins and how it spread, proposing a controversial way to stop the virus — and other deadly diseases — by preventing…
A climate solution where all sides can win | Ted Halstead
May 17, 2017 • 13 min
Why are we so deadlocked on climate, and what would it take to overcome the seemingly insurmountable barriers to progress? Policy entrepreneur Ted Halstead proposes a transformative solution based on the conservative principles of free markets and limited…
How human noise affects ocean habitats | Kate Stafford
May 12, 2017 • 11 min
Oceanographer Kate Stafford lowers us into the sonically rich depths of the Arctic Ocean, where ice groans, whales sing to communicate over vast distances — and climate change and human noise threaten to alter the environment in ways we don’t understand.…
A tribute to nurses | Carolyn Jones
May 8, 2017 • 10 min
Carolyn Jones spent five years interviewing, photographing and filming nurses across America, traveling to places dealing with some of the nation’s biggest public health issues. She shares personal stories of unwavering dedication in this celebration of…
What you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s | Lisa Genova
Apr 28, 2017 • 13 min
Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be your brain’s destiny, says neuroscientist and author of “Still Alice,” Lisa Genova. She shares the latest science investigating the disease — and some promising research on what each of us can do to build an…
Science in service to the public good | Siddhartha Roy
Apr 25, 2017 • 14 min
We give scientists and engineers great technical training, but we’re not as good at teaching ethical decision-making or building character. Take, for example, the environmental crisis that recently unfolded in Flint, Michigan — and the professionals there…
How radio telescopes show us unseen galaxies | Natasha Hurley-Walker
Apr 18, 2017 • 15 min
Our universe is strange, wonderful and vast, says astronomer Natasha Hurley-Walker. A spaceship can’t carry you into its depths (yet) — but a radio telescope can. In this mesmerizing talk, Hurley-Walker shows how she probes the mysteries of the universe…
How we can find ourselves in data | Giorgia Lupi
Apr 7, 2017 • 11 min
Giorgia Lupi uses data to tell human stories, adding nuance to numbers. In this charming talk, she shares how we can bring personality to data, visualizing even the mundane details of our daily lives and transforming the abstract and uncountable into…
How to take a picture of a black hole | Katie Bouman
Apr 4, 2017 • 12 min
At the heart of the Milky Way, there’s a supermassive black hole that feeds off a spinning disk of hot gas, sucking up anything that ventures too close — even light. We can’t see it, but its event horizon casts a shadow, and an image of that shadow could…
How early life experience is written into DNA | Moshe Szyf
Mar 30, 2017 • 16 min
Moshe Szyf is a pioneer in the field of epigenetics, the study of how living things reprogram their genome in response to social factors like stress and lack of food. His research suggests that biochemical signals passed from mothers to offspring tell the…
3 ways to spot a bad statistic | Mona Chalabi
Mar 24, 2017 • 11 min
Sometimes it’s hard to know what statistics are worthy of trust. But we shouldn’t count out stats altogether … instead, we should learn to look behind them. In this delightful, hilarious talk, data journalist Mona Chalabi shares handy tips to help…
Lifelike simulations that make real-life surgery safer | Peter Weinstock
Mar 20, 2017 • 16 min
Critical care doctor Peter Weinstock shows how surgical teams are using a blend of Hollywood special effects and 3D printing to create amazingly lifelike reproductions of real patients — so they can practice risky surgeries ahead of time. Think: “Operate…
A scientific approach to the paranormal | Carrie Poppy
Mar 3, 2017 • 12 min
What’s haunting Carrie Poppy? Is it ghosts or something worse? In this talk, the investigative journalist narrates her encounter with a spooky feeling you’ll want to warn your friends about and explains why we need science to deal with paranormal activity.
Smelfies, and other experiments in synthetic biology | Ani Liu
Feb 27, 2017 • 7 min
What if you could take a smell selfie, a smelfie? What if you had a lipstick that caused plants to grow where you kiss? Ani Liu explores the intersection of technology and sensory perception, and her work is wedged somewhere between science, design and…
A robot that eats pollution | Jonathan Rossiter
Feb 22, 2017 • 14 min
Meet the “Row-bot,” a robot that cleans up pollution and generates the electricity needed to power itself by swallowing dirty water. Roboticist Jonathan Rossiter explains how this special swimming machine, which uses a microbial fuel cell to neutralize…
What time is it on Mars? | Nagin Cox
Feb 3, 2017 • 13 min
Nagin Cox is a first-generation Martian. As a spacecraft engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Cox works on the team that manages the United States’ rovers on Mars. But working a 9-to-5 on another planet — whose day is 40 minutes longer than…
Why you should love statistics | Alan Smith
Jan 31, 2017 • 12 min
Think you’re good at guessing stats? Guess again. Whether we consider ourselves math people or not, our ability to understand and work with numbers is terribly limited, says data visualization expert Alan Smith. In this delightful talk, Smith explores the…