Taboo Breakers: Notes from Session 4 of TEDWomen 2019

“It shouldn’t be an act of feminism to know how your body works,” says gynecologist Jen Gunter. She discusses “menstrual shame” at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant on December 5, 2019, in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

In Session 4 of TEDWomen 2019, we tackle some big taboos — divorce, menopause, political dissent — and meet the extraordinary people on the front lines of breaking them.

The event: TEDWomen 2019, Session 4: Taboo Breakers, hosted by Corey Hajim and Shoham Arad

When and where: Thursday, December 5, 2019, 2:30pm PT, at La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, California

Speakers: Jeannie Suk Gersen, Joel Leon, Jen Gunter, Lisa Mosconi, Rayma Suprani

Music: Filling the room with her unmistakable rasp, the legendary Macy Gray brought Session 5 to a joyous close with a collection of signature soul grooves.

The talks in brief:

Jeannie Suk Gersen, legal scholar, writer

Big idea: To understand how marriage works, we need to talk about how marriages end.

Why? It may sound counterintuitive, but talking early in a relationship about what happens when two people break up may be one of the best ways to learn how to stay together, says Jeannie Suk Gersen. Too often in marriages, we make sacrifices and we demand them without reckoning their costs, but there is wisdom in looking at the price of our marital decisions — in the same way that divorce law teaches us to do. Where to begin? Gerson lays out three ideas we should discuss with our partners from the get-go: how sacrifice can be a fair exchange; how childcare will impact the relationship; and which assets will be shared and which will be kept separate. If we take the time to have these divorce-conscious and difficult conversations, she says, we can better navigate togetherness.

Quote of the talk: “Divorce makes it incredibly explicit who owes what to whom. Whether you’re married or divorced, those are debts of love that will need to be paid.”

Joel Leon, performer, author and storyteller

Big idea: Parenting inevitably involves sacrifice, but those burdens should be shared. Co-parenting challenges partners to ask: How can I show up for you in a way that benefits our family?

How?  “Co-parenting” might sound like a buzzword invented by well-to-do families and modern sitcoms, says Joel Leon, but it actually refers to a parenting style that challenges fathers and mothers to show up for each other in a world that often assumes fathers to be absent. Connecting his participation as a co-parent to his own experiences as a child — when his mother was the sole source of love, warmth and shelter in his life — Leon asks parents everywhere to reject the stigmas associated with fatherhood and the stereotypes associated with motherhood. Create space for compassion and communication in the home, he says: being a parent is an opportunity, not a responsibility. 

Quote of the talk: “It is work, beautifully hard work, dismantling the systems that would have us believe a women’s role is in the kitchen tending to all things domestic, while the hapless dad fumbles over himself whenever he has to spend a weekend alone with the kids. It is work that needs to happen. Now.”

Jen Gunter, gynecologist

Big idea: Menstruation has historically been a topic connected with shame. This “menstrual shame” has been used as an intentional tool of repression against women — but knowledge about the female body is the key to ending it.

How? For centuries, women and girls have been told that their menstrual pain isn’t real, that their bleeding bodies are gross (or dangerous, or even evil) and that they shouldn’t talk about their periods. These messages silence women, causing a lack of information that perpetuates profound menstrual shame in many societies, says Jen Gunter. She explains how not knowing what is happening to our bodies is disempowering — and gives a quick lesson on the internal processes of the uterus, from ovulation to menstruation. When we know how our bodies work, we can end the menstrual taboo, and when we know what kind of pain is typical, we can begin addressing it. 

Quote of the talk: “It shouldn’t be an act of feminism to know how your body works. It shouldn’t be an act of feminism to ask for help when you’re suffering.”

Lisa Mosconi, neuroscientist

Big idea: Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and we need to pay closer attention to the connection between hormones, menopause and brain health.

How? While there is no such thing as a “gendered brain,” our hormones are actually more closely connected to our brain health than we might realize. In her work, Lisa Mosconi has noted that many of the symptoms we associate with the menopause — hot flashes, night sweats, memory lapses, anxiety — are neurological symptoms. They start in the brain, because of its relationship with estrogen, the hormone whose levels drop when women go through the menopause.  Estrogen plays a vital role in energy production, giving our brain the fuel it needs. Once estrogen levels decline, our neurons slow down and begin to age faster. This puts women at a higher risk of developing the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s. This research is still in its early stages, Mosconi notes, but it suggests that women’s brains in mid-life are more sensitive to hormonal aging than to aging itself. If we break the taboos around speaking about the menopause, we can do more for women’s health — and their brain health in particular.

Quote of the talk: “So many women are worried that they might be losing their minds, but the truth is that your brain is going through a transition and it needs time and support.”

Rayma Suprani, political cartoonist and activist

Big Idea: Political cartoonists are vital to a healthy and free society. As the right to free speech faces rising threats, we need to ensure that cartoonists have the freedom to express their ideas.

How? In 2014, Rayma Suprani submitted a cartoon to her editor at El Universal (a major Venezuelan newspaper) that criticized the health care system. The next day, she was fired. Many suspect the government was involved, and the subsequent threats she received were so terrifying she eventually left the country. Political cartoonists provide an important perspective in society, says Suprani, translating complex social and political issues into a single image. They introduce new ways of looking at the world and government, sparking discussion and raising awareness. When cartoonists aren’t able to express their ideas without fear of backlash, we lose an essential voice in political and cultural dialogue. By ensuring cartoonists can freely share their ideas and criticisms, we can better speak truth to power and cultivate a more free world.

Quote of the talk: “A drawing can be a synthesis of a place: a universe, a country or a society. It can also represent the inner workings of someone’s mind. For me, drawing cartoons is a form of resistance.”

from TED Blog

Strike for the climate: Jane Fonda speaks at TEDWomen 2019

Civil disobedience is becoming a new normal, says actor and activist Jane Fonda. She speaks with host Pat Mitchell about Fire Drill Fridays, her weekly climate demonstrations, at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant on December 5, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

At age 81, actor and activist Jane Fonda is putting her body on the line for the earth. In a video interview with TEDWomen curator Pat Mitchell, Fonda speaks about Fire Drill Fridays, the weekly demonstrations on Capitol Hill she leads in partnership with Greenpeace.

Since moving to the Washington D.C. in September, 2019, Fonda has staged a sit-in of the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill every Friday to protest the extraction of fossil fuels. She’s been arrested multiple times, spent a night in jail and her action is inspiring people around the world to host their own Fire Drill Fridays. She believes protest is becoming a new normal — at least until we see the changes we need. But, she says, we don’t all need to get arrested to raise awareness. She details some of the ways we can pressure our lawmakers and hold governments accountable in the highlights from the interview below.

Pat Michell: Talk to us about the origin of Fire Drill Fridays.

Jane Fonda: “I was very inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish student, and by the young school climate strikers. Greta says: we have to get out of our comfort zone, we have to behave like our house is burning — because it is. She really struck a chord in me. … It’s an enormous challenge. We have eleven years, many say, a decade. And I thought, ‘Oh, I’m so lucky that I am healthy and living in a decade where we, who are alive, can actually make the difference — we can make the difference as to whether there is a livable future or not.’ What a glorious responsibility we have. We have to step up to the plate. …

“So, I decided, like Greta, I was going to put my body on the line and move to the center of American power, Washington, DC, and have a rally every Friday like the students do. And we work with the students — they speak at my rallies and I speak at their rallies — and then after we speak, we engage in civil disobedience and risk getting arrested.”

PM: Do you have any concerns about putting your body on the line, and your life on hold?

JF: “I realize that not everybody can leave work and go do what I’m doing,” Fonda says. “But I must say that requests are pouring in, and not only from the United States but from other countries, people who want to start Fire Drill Fridays. And the people who are coming and getting arrested with me and engaging in civil disobedience, many of them have never done it before. And they find it transformative.

“But the fact is that there are so many things people can do, starting with talking about it, expressing how you feel about it … even when it’s uncomfortable. … Of course voting is very, very important, and we have to vote for the people that are the bravest, the boldest of our elected officials.”

PM: What would success for Fire Drill Friday look like to you?

JF: “Success would look like every state stops all new fossil fuel expansion. Because if they keep drilling, fracking and mining, the problem will just get worse. So that no matter what we do with windmills and solar collectors and so forth, we’ll never be able to catch up. We have to stop all new expansion.”

PM: Will fire drill Fridays continue?

JF: “There has been such an interest in it … from all around the country, people asking if they can start one …we’re thinking about maybe doing it in Los Angeles.

“But I want to correct one thing: I’m not leading. It’s the young people — it’s the students — that are leading. It’s always the young people that step up with the courage. And it’s pretty amazing, because they’re risking a lot. It’s pretty brave to take a Friday off from school … but they’re doing it anyway. There have been millions of them … all around the world, and they’re saying, ‘Don’t let us have to deal with this by ourselves, we didn’t create this problem. Come and help us.’ So, Grandmas unite!”

PM: Do you leave this experience with a new level of hope or optimism?

Fonda: “Yes, I am optimistic. There are about twenty-five million people in this country who are really scared about climate crisis, and they want to do something but no one has asked them. We have to ask them. We have to get organized. … This coming year is the critical year. What happens is going to be so important. Especially someone who is healthy, who feels relatively young, who has a platform — we have to use it in every possible way we can.”

from TED Blog

Planet Protectors: Notes from Session 3 of TEDWomen 2019

Singer-songwriter Shawnee brings her undeniable stage presence to TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

The impacts of climate change are here, right now. In Session 3 of TEDWomen 2019, we dig deep into some of the most urgent environmental issues we’re facing — exploring solutions and the many ways people across the globe are fighting for change.

The event: TEDWomen 2019, Session 3: Planet Protectors, hosted by Whitney Pennington Rodgers and Chee Pearlman

When and where: Thursday, December 5, 2019, 11am PT, at La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, California

Speakers: Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Kelsey Leonard, Shawnee, Colette Pichon Battle, Renee Lertzmann, Jane Fonda

Music: Singer-songwriter Shawnee brings her undeniable stage presence of music of empowerment to the stage, performing two songs: “Way Home” and “Warrior Heart.”

The talks in brief:

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, environmental activist

Big idea: To combat climate change, we must combine our current efforts with those of indigenous people. Their rich, extensive knowledge base and long-standing relationship with the earth is the key to survival.

Why? Modern science and technology date back only a few hundred years, but indigenous knowledge spans thousands, says Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim. As she puts it: “For us, nature is our supermarket … our pharmacy … our school.” But climate change threatens their — and all of humanity’s — way of life. In her own nomadic community, some social fabrics are unraveling under the strain of its effects. To ensure resilience in the face of these developments, she suggests a marriage of new and old learnings to map and share crucial information for global survival. “We have 10 years to change it. 10 years is nothing,” she says. “So we need to act all together and we need to act right now.”

Quote of the talk: “I think if we put together all the knowledge systems that we have — science, technology, traditional knowledge — we can give the best of us to protect our peoples, to protect the planet, to restore the ecosystems that we are losing.”

“We need to fundamentally transform the way in which we value water,” says Kelsey Leonard. She speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant on December 5, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

Kelsey Leonard, Indigenous legal scholar and scientist

Big idea: Granting our water bodies legal personhood is the first step to addressing the ongoing water crises and injustices —  especially those endured by indigenous people. 

Why? Water is essential to life. Yet, in the eyes of the law, it remains largely unprotected — and our most vulnerable communities lack access to it, says Kelsey Leonard. As a representative of the Shinnecock Nation, she shares the wisdom of her nokomis (or grandmother) on how we should honor this precious life source, by asking these central questions: What if we asked who water is, in the same way we might ask who is mother? This type of orientation fundamentally transforms the way in which we think about water, she says — prompting us to grant water the same rights corporations maintain under the US’s Citizens United case. In this way, and by us to looking to indigenous laws, we can reconnect with the lakes, oceans and seas around us.

Quote of the talk: “We are facing a global water crisis. And if we want to address these crises in our lifetime, we need to change. We need to fundamentally transform the way in which we value water.”

Colette Pichon Battle, attorney and climate equity advocate

Big idea: Climate migration — the mass displacement of communities by climate change — will escalate rapidly in the coming years. We need to prepare by radically shifting policies and mindsets alike.

Why? It’s predicted that climate change will displace more than 180 million people by 2100. As a generational native of southern Louisiana and an attorney who has worked on post-Hurricane Katrina disaster recovery, Colette Pichon Battle knows the world is not prepared for these population shifts — and urges us to plan before it’s too late. How? By first acknowledging that climate change is a symptom of exploitative economic systems that privilege a few over the many, and then working to transform them. We need to develop collective resilience, preparing communities to receive climate migrants by allocating resources and changing social attitudes. And finally, she says, we need to re-indigenize ourselves, committing to ecological equity and human rights as the foundational tenets of a new climate-resilient society.

Quote of the talk: “All of this requires us to recognize a power greater than ourselves and a life longer than the one we will live. We must transform from a disposable, short-sighted reality of the individual to one that values the long-term life cycle of our collective humanity. Even the best of us are entangled in an unjust system. To survive, we will have to find our way to a shared liberation.”

Renee Lertzman, climate psychologist 

Big idea: We need to make our emotional well-being a fundamental part of the fight against climate change.

How? What’s happening to our planet feels overwhelming. While we have a lot of information at our fingertips when it comes to the science of climate change, we know much less about its emotional impact. Renee Lertzman has interviewed hundreds of people about how climate change makes them feel, and now she wants to equip us with a toolkit for handling our climate grief and still being able to take action. Patience, compassion and kindness are all qualities we need to deploy much more often in our conversations about the crisis, she says. As climate events push us outside our “window of tolerance” — the stresses we can withstand without becoming overwhelmed — feeling numb and seeming apathetic are very natural responses. A lot of people tell her: “I don’t know where to start.” She recommends practicing attunement: listening to our own feelings and those of others, accepting them without judgement and meeting our experiences with curiosity. Whether in a small friendship group or a larger climate action gathering, remembering that we are human is a key ingredient in the fight for our world.

Quote of the talk: “These are hard issues. This is a hard moment to be a human being. We’re waking up.”

Civil disobedience is becoming a new normal, says actor and activist Jane Fonda. She speaks with host Pat Mitchell about Fire Drill Fridays, her weekly climate demonstrations, at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant on December 5, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

Jane Fonda, actor, author and activist

Big idea: In the wake of climate change, protest is becoming a new normal — at least until we see the changes we need.

Why? At age 81, Jane Fonda is putting her body on the line for the earth. In a video interview with TEDWomen curator Pat Mitchell, Fonda discusses Fire Drill Fridays, the weekly demonstrations on Capitol Hill she leads in partnership with Greenpeace. Since moving to the capital in September, Fonda has staged a sit-in of the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill every Friday to protest the extraction of fossil fuels. She has been arrested multiple times, spent a night in jail and her action is inspiring people around the world to host their own Fire Drill Fridays. But, she says, we don’t all need to get arrested to raise awareness: there many ways to put pressure on lawmakers and hold governments accountable. Read a full recap of her talk here.

Quote of the talk: “There are about twenty-five million people in this country who are really scared about climate crisis, and they want to do something but no one has asked them. We have to ask them. We have to get organized.”

from TED Blog

Pattern Makers: Notes from Session 2 of TEDWomen 2019

“You don’t predict the future, you imagine the future,” says author Charlie Jane Anders. She speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December 5, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

In Session 2 of TEDWomen 2019, we meet some extraordinary pattern makers:  people helping us predict the future, improve our relationship to technology and unearth powerful discoveries.

The event: TEDWomen 2019, Session 2: Pattern Makers, hosted by Pat Mitchell and Cloe Shasha

When and where: Thursday, December 5, 2019, 8:30am PT, at La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, California

Speakers: Lucy King, Jennifer Zhu Scott, Angie Murimirwa, Jiabao Li, Eva Galperin, Charlie Jane Anders

The talks in brief:

Lucy King, elephant advocate

Big idea: As their foraging territories shrink, African elephants encroach more and more on agricultural lands — and as a result, upset a delicate balance between elephants and their once-tolerant human neighbors. Amidst ever-more-frequent cases of hungry elephants devouring crops and wrecking farmhouses, Lucy King developed an innovative method to bar elephants from cultivated fields without erecting huge (and often ineffective) electric fences.

How? Through research inspired by local folklore, King discovered that elephants avoid beehives and the painful stings of their inhabitants. As a result, she developed “beehive fences” that release swarms of insects when elephants attempt to breach them, sending the pachyderms packing. In tandem with these fences, King’s “Human-Elephant Co-Existence Program” encourages farmers to plant crops that pollinators love and elephants hate — and that can help farmers establish new livelihoods.

Quote of the talk: “Can you imagine the terror of an elephant literally ripping the roof off your mud hut in the middle of the night, and having to hold your children away as the trunk reaches in looking for food in the pitch dark?”

Jennifer Zhu Scott, entrepreneur and technologist

Big idea: Our personal data is a valuable asset — but we’re not getting paid for it. Giving individuals pricing power over their own data could reduce inequality by empowering people instead of businesses.

Why? Data: the most successful companies in the world are either built on it or profit from it. We the people are producing this data, so why aren’t we getting a paycheck? Data ownership is a personal and economic issue, says Jennifer Zhu Scott, yet too often our conversations fixate on data privacy and regulation instead of the potential prosperity it can bring. And for some, this ownership could be a path out of poverty. Take Zhu Scott’s home country of China — a society that saw its extreme poverty rate drop from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent by 2015. It wasn’t a perfect transition by any means, she says, but this transformation is a case study for how personal ownership can improve people’s lives. We can create an economic model where individuals control and barter their own personal data, instead of letting Facebook or Tencent do it — and startups are already creating tools to make this a reality.

Quote of the talk: “Whoever owns the data owns the future.”

Angie Murimirwa, education activist, executive director of the Campaign for Female Education for Africa

Big idea: “Social interest,” or paying back interest on a loan through service rather than dollars, can promote economic prosperity in communities across Africa — helping girls stay in school, get job training and obtain and pay off loans.

How? Young women in sub-Saharan Africa often can’t afford school and have difficulty finding consistent wages and loans, keeping them trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and inequality. Angie Murimirwa believes that the solution to this economic landscape lies in empowering young people through “social interest” — a kind of loan interest that can be paid off by service, such as mentorship and teaching, instead of traditional currency. Not only has social interest facilitated Murimirwa’s own success, but she has also watched it benefit thousands of others. In fact, nearly 6,300 young women have borrowed close to three million dollars — with a repayment rate above 95 percent. 

Quote of the talk: “We are building a powerful force gaining ever greater momentum, as we open the door for more and more girls to go to school, succeed, lead and, in turn, support thousands more.”

Jiabao Li, artist and engineer

Big idea: Technology affects the way we perceive reality, creating a hyper-fragmented humanity vulnerable to seemingly “mental” allergies. But as with many cures, the problem gives insight into the solution.

How? To emphasize this human-made phenomenon, Jiabao Li created a series of perceptual machines to help question the ways we experience the world in the age of digital media. Her conceptual designs include a bulbous helmet that mimics the amplification effect of social media, and two web browser plug-ins — one that would help us notice things we’d usually ignore, and another that would dilute algorithmic influence. Technology is designed to change what we see and what we think, and in many ways it’s separated us — but we could use it to make the world connected again.

Quote of the talk: “By exploring how we interface with these technologies, I hope we could step out of our habitual, almost machine-like behaviors, and finally find common ground between each other.”

Eva Galperin, cybersecurity expert and technical advisor

Big idea: Stalkerware is on the rise. We need to educate the public on how to protect themselves and convince antivirus companies to begin detecting it.

How? Eva Galperin was shocked to discover that an alarming number of people are being hacked by their current or former partners. A common and particularly insidious form of this modern-day abuse is “stalkerware,” software designed to track or spy on someone without their knowledge. Stalkers simply buy the program, install it on their victim’s devices and pay the software company for remote access, letting them see their victim’s every movement, text message or email. When Galperin discovered that most antivirus softwares do not detect these programs, she launched the Coalition Against Stalkerware to raise awareness and advocate for antivirus companies to begin detecting it. She hopes that by next year, antivirus software will be able to offer stalkerware detection to discourage abusers and protect victims. 

Quote of the talk: “Full access to a person’s phone is the next best thing to full access to a person’s mind.”

Charlie Jane Anders, author and futurist

Big Idea: Dreaming about our collective future is the first step toward creating a better one.

How: The world is changing so fast that no one — not even futurists like Charlie Jane Anders — can predict what it will look like in a few years. Now, she vaccinates herself against the acute onset of future shock by imagining it in all its wild possibilities, instead of trying to predict it. In a process that’s part fever dream and part research-based extrapolation, she constructs future worlds by living them through her characters and speculating about the delights and challenges that could arise. It’s by engaging in such directed flights of fancy, Anders suggests, that we can begin constructing a better world of tomorrow. 

Quote of the talk: “You don’t predict the future, you imagine the future.”

from TED Blog

Truth Tellers: Notes from Session 1 of TEDWomen 2019

Author and playwright Eve Ensler discusses the power of apologies — and the four crucial components of a sincere one. She speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December 4, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

The stage is set for TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant! In the opening session, we heard from an extraordinary lineup of truth tellers: six speakers and two performers who shined a light on issues that matter — from immigration and abuse to leadership and how we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all — and shared new ways to look at old problems.

The event: TEDWomen 2019, Session 1: Truth Tellers, hosted by Pat Mitchell, Helen Walters and Kelly Stoetzel

When and where: Wednesday, December 4, 2019, 5pm PT, at La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, California

Speakers: H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Sister Norma Pimentel, Yifat Susskind, Gina Brillon, Heather C. McGhee, Eve Ensler

Opening: Reid D. Milanovich, vice chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, welcomes TEDWomen attendees to the Cahuilla Valley, which has been his tribe’s ancestral homeland for thousands of years.

The talks in brief:

“I was the first woman president of an African nation, and I do believe more countries ought to try that,” says H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December 4, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel laureate, former President of Liberia

Big idea: A nation needs women leaders to prosper. We must work together to remove the barriers that have kept them from achieving full equality and political representation.

How? When H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf began her 12-year presidency of Liberia in 2006, she inherited the challenges of a post-conflict country: economic collapse, infrastructure destruction, institutional dysfunction. But most challenging of all was the damage women and children endured during the civil war, she says. Since then, she’s helped steward economic growth and the reconstruction of the nation’s infrastructure — but there’s still work to be done. On the TEDWomen stage, she announces the recent launch of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development, aimed at elevating women into strategic government positions — and breaking through the structural barriers that let inequality thrive. Only by working towards full gender equity can we ensure peace and prosperity for all, she says.

Quote of the talk: “I was the first woman president of an African nation, and I do believe more countries ought to try that.”

Sister Norma Pimentel, religious leader, sister with the Missionaries of Jesus, licensed professional counselor

Big idea: We must see that the immigrants detained at the border are part of the same human family as the rest of us. If not, we stand to lose our own humanity.

Why? In her work at detention facilities at the US-Mexico border, Sister Norma Pimentel has learned that the people there simply want what all of us want: safer, better lives for themselves and their families. While the humanitarian response has been impressive and many dedicated volunteers are helping out, the overall policies and procedures we have in place are causing great suffering — particularly for separated children and parents. We need to put aside our prejudices and and fears and treat migrants in ways that are respectful and compassionate.

Quote of the talk: “It’s important to be able to see [immigrants and refugees] as people, to be able to have a personal encounter when we can feel what they feel, when we can understand what they’re hurting. … It is then that we are present to them and we can make their humanity a part of our own humanity.”

Yifat Susskind, human rights activist

Big idea: In a time global strife and uncertainty, we can secure a brighter future by “thinking like a mother” — with optimism and empathy.

Why? When you think like a mother, you imagine better worlds and act to make them possible, says Yifat Susskind. Why? Because mothers are versed in a vital language: the language of love. When love drives how we act within our communities, we become empowered to repair the world and protect those in need of help. Empathy and optimism are powerful tools, she says, both in our private lives and across public policy. By thinking like mothers and acting with love, we can prioritize the most vulnerable and forge a luminous, resilient path forward.

Quote of the talk: “Love isn’t just an emotion, it’s a capacity. A verb. An endlessly renewable resource.”

A comedic interlude: Comedian Gina Brillon commanded the stage with an uproarious stand-up performance, poking fun at the lighter woes of womanhood and everyday interactions that make you think twice. For instance, she posed this winning question: “Have you ever had somebody say something wrong with such confidence that it made you question how you’ve been saying it your whole life?”

Writer and advocate Heather C. McGhee explores how racism leads to bad policymaking — and hurts the economic potential of everybody. She speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December 4, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED)

Heather C. McGhee, writer, advocate

Big idea: Racism is bad for everyone — even the people set up to benefit from privilege.

Why? Heather C. McGhee is a self-proclaimed “public policy wonk.” She investigates problems in the American economy: rising household debt, declining wages, shortfalls in infrastructure investments. Through her research and travels across the US, she’s come to a chilling conclusion: racism is making our economy worse, and not just in ways that disadvantage people of color. “It turns out it’s not a zero sum,” she says. “Racism is bad for white people too.” Take, for example, the subprime mortgages that precipitated the 2008 recession. African Americans and Latinos were three times as likely as white people to be sold these toxic loans, even if their credit was as good. But stereotypes blinded many policymakers to this reality, keeping them from stopping the crisis when we still had time. Now, McGhee says the way forward is to hold accountable the people selling racist ideas for profit — and start recognizing that we’re all on the same time.

Quote of the talk: “It’s time to reject that old paradigm and realize that our fates are linked. An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Disability is the spark for artistry, aesthetic and innovation, says choreographer Alice Sheppard. She performs with her collaborator Laurel Lawson perform at at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, on December 4, 2019 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo: Stacie McChesney / TED)

A special performance: Artistic director Alice Sheppard speaks about the work at her dance company Kinetic Light, which creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. As she puts it: disability is the spark for artistry, aesthetic and innovation. She’s joined onstage by her choreographic collaborator Laurel Lawson, creating a stunning performance highlighting the movement of the dancers’ wheelchairs.

Eve Ensler, author, playwright

Big idea: After calling abusers out, we have to call them in. We need to invite them to take responsibility for their actions, to apologize and change. 

How? As a young child, Eve Ensler was sexually abused by her father, an experience that haunted her throughout her life. Thirty-one years after his death, she sat down to write the apology he never gave her —  expressing, in his own words, what she always needed to hear. Now, in the wake of the Me Too and Times Up movements, she shares the incredible power of apologies and how they could offer us a way forward. It boils down to four crucial parts: 1) Admit your wrongdoing in detail, 2) Ask yourself why you did it, 3) Sit with the suffering and hurt you’ve caused, and 4) Take responsibility and make amends. An apology, she says, is the only way for both the victim and the abuser to be free. Let’s create a better process that invites abusers to repent and become someone different along the way.

Quote of the talk: “We don’t want men to be destroyed, we don’t want them to only be punished. We want them to see us, the victims that they have harmed, and we want them to repent and change.”

from TED Blog

Crossover: A night of talks in partnership with Brightline Initiative

Ricardo Vargas, executive director of the Brightline Initiative, welcomes the audience to TEDSalon: Crossover — a night of talks about how we can collaborate, share and learn from each other. (Photo: Jasmina Tomic / TED)

To crossover is to fully embrace what complements us, to find insight and illumination from a style or field adjacent to our own. When fully achieved, it allows us to become greater than the sum of our parts. In this evening of talks, five speakers and one musician shared their own experiences of crossing over to achieve heightened levels of success.

The event: TED Salon: Crossover, hosted by TED’s Crawford Hunt and Alex Moura

When and where: Thursday, November 14, 2019, at the TED World Theater in New York City

The partner: Brightline Initiative, with Brightline executive director Ricardo Vargas warming up the audience with opening remarks

Music: Meg Myers, blending confessional lyrics with emotional rock

The talks in brief:

“Photography can be part of a beautiful experience. Just don’t let it be a block between you and reality,” says photographer Erin Sullivan (Photo: Jasmina Tomic / TED)

Erin Sullivan, photographer

Big idea: Taking photos as a social obligation — in order to share them on Facebook or Instagram — stands in the way of how we relate to nature and other cultures.

Why? We’ve all vacationed to places overrun by camera-toting tourists, and we’ve probably all wondered: Does taking — and, of course, sharing — photos of stunning scenery change our experience? In our fever for documentation, are we missing out on a deeper relationship with our environment? Although at least one study has shown that taking photos solely for ourselves can enhance a traveler’s experience, Erin Sullivan believes questioning our true purpose every time we pull out a phone or a camera might lead us to put it away — and experience singular, beautiful moments as they happen.

Quote of the talk: “Photography can be part of a beautiful experience. Just don’t let it be a block between you and reality. Be intentional. And don’t lose a beautiful, irreplaceable memory because you were too focused on getting the shot.”

Jinha Lee, reality designer

Big idea: An augmented-reality meeting platform that helps coworkers around the world brainstorm and build together in a shared virtual “office.”

How? Remote working has become an everyday reality, yet most distant coworkers still find themselves stuck in front of a confining screen. With Spatial, Jinha Lee‘s augmented-reality meeting platform, a headset-wearing user creates a digital avatar that mimics their every movement, from the direction of their gaze to the motion of their mouse. They then “teleport” these digital avatars into a shared AR space, where fellow users can share their screens, create notes from spoken phrases, organize them and play with them — resulting in a meeting experience blending elements of virtual and physical spaces.

Quote of the talk: “Reducing distance between computers and us can reduce the physical distance between people — and I hope it eventually shortens the distance between people’s minds and dreams.”

Cornelia Geppert, artist and video game maker

Big idea: A video game that shows us we’re not alone in our loneliness — and how we can overcome our biggest monsters.

How: When artist Cornelia Geppert felt the overwhelming crush of loneliness, she channeled her emotions to create a new video game called Sea of Solitude. An adventure brimming with stunning visuals, gamers play as Kay, a young woman in danger of drowning in a world quickly flooding with her own tears. To turn the tide, you must navigate Kay’s feelings of loneliness by managing her relationships and overcoming her monsters, Self-Doubt and Self-Destruction. As you guide her, you just may learn how to face your own struggles and embrace your own difficult emotions.

Quote: “Our monsters appear huge and scary, but if you overcome your reluctance and approach them you soon see that they are no monsters at all, but fragile beings that are simply overwhelmed by what life throws at them.”

Digital culturist Lisa Nakamura shares her vision for creating a new kind of internet. She speaks at TEDSalon: Crossover, in partnership with the Brightline Initiative. (Photo: Jasmina Tomic / TED)

Lisa Nakamura, digital culturist

Big idea: The internet is a trash fire. Let’s work together to make it better.

How? We need to acknowledge that the internet is real life, not a place removed from our day-to-day. It’s where people make money, communicate with one another and can learn anything — including toxic behavior, says Lisa Nakamura. She offers a set of solutions that all citizens of the internet and gaming communities can be a part of, in order to right the wrongs we’ve lived with for too long: catcalling, racism, cruelty, personal attacks. She suggests we reacquaint ourselves with the flagging and reporting tools available now, stop letting the internet raise our children, cultivate a culture of compassion around past egregious behavior and ultimately insist on alternative platforms that allow us to start fresh. By taking these steps in earnest, Nakamura believes we may have a fighting chance to heal some parts of our digital world.

Quote of the talk: “The internet’s been run by the wrong kind of people for a long time. If we envision a different future, if we work together to include everybody, we can create a new kind of internet.”

Guy Winch, psychologist, author

Big Idea: Endlessly thinking about work during your downtime is stressful, unproductive and leads to burn out. If you avoid these ruminations, you’ll be happier in your personal life and more fulfilled at work.

How? Stressing about work doesn’t just happen when you’re working — it happens when you’re trying to relax and recharge too, says Guy Winch. And this type of rumination can be harmful: the more you worry about a deadline or an email draft, for instance, the more likely you are to sleep badly, eat unhealthy foods and have worse moods. Fortunately, by following a few rules, Winch shows how you can vanquish intrusive post-work anxieties for good. First, set clear and strict boundaries: when your workday is over, commit to turning off work reminders and actively participate in whatever you’re doing next. Next, when ruminative thoughts do appear, translate them into resolvable problems. (For example, “I have so much work to do” can become “What can I move in my schedule to finish that task?”) If you can stop ruminating on your job, you’ll be more engaged and motivated at work — and able to more fully enjoy your time off, too.

Quote of the talk: “Ground zero for creating a healthy work-life balance is not in the real world — it’s in our head. If you want to reduce your stress and improve your quality of life, you don’t necessarily have to change your hours or your job. You just have to change how you think.” 

from TED Blog

Catalyze: The talks from TED@NAS

Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences, opens TED@NAS at The National Academy of Sciences on November 1, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Science catalyzes progress. It allows us to explore our biggest questions, generate new ideas and seek out solutions. At TED@NAS, 19 speakers and performers explored how science is igniting change and fueling our way forward — through radical collaboration, quantum leaps and bold thinking.

The event: TED@NAS, for which The National Academy of Sciences, The Kavli Foundation and the Simons Foundation partnered with TED to offer an exciting day of original TED Talks, hosted by TED’s David Biello and Briar Goldberg

When and where: Friday, November 1, 2019, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC

Special performance: A poetry reading by Marilyn Nelson

Opening and closing remarks: Courtesy of Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences; Robert Conn, President of Kavli Foundation; and Marilyn Simons and Jim Simons, cofounders of the Simons Foundation

The talks in brief:

Jim Hudspeth, ear enthusiast

Big idea: Meet “hair cells”: the beautiful and mysterious cells in your inner ear, which allow you to hear the world around you.

Why: Jim Hudspeth has spent the last 45 years studying hair cells, the tiny biological powerhouses that make hearing possible (and that, despite their name, have nothing to do with the kind of hair that grows on your head). On top of each hair cell are “stereocilia”: microscopic rods that twitch back and forth in response to sound, turning vibrations into electrical signals that your brain can interpret. The louder the sound, the more they tremble — with a response time that’s fully a thousand times faster than our other senses. Hudspeth and his team are working to decipher the molecular strategy of hair cells in the hopes of finding a way to reverse hearing problems.

Fun fact: In a very quiet environment, such as a sound chamber, 70 percent of normally hearing people emit sound from their ears!

Paul McEuen and Marc Miskin, micro-roboticists

Big idea: Paul McEuen, Marc Miskin and their colleagues create tiny robots to navigate microscopic worlds. Someday scientists hope to “train” these robots to study (and potentially battle) crop diseases, cancer cells and a host of other microbial menaces.

How: McEuen and Miskin enlist existing semiconductor components and new, innovative materials to create laser-programmable, remotely piloted “robots” with folding platinum legs and brains 1/10,000th the size of a smartphone. These robots could someday revolutionize our understanding of an unseen universe.

Quote of the talk: “Instead of just watching the micro-world, we as humans can now build technology to shape it, to interact with it, to engineer it. In 30 years, when my son is my age, what will we do with that ability?”

Amanda Schochet, ecologist, micro-museum maven

Big Idea: Many large-scale solutions to the world’s problems are simply too slow. To help speed things up, we need to think small.

How? As an ecologist in Southern California, Amanda Schochet studied how bumblebees interacted with “habitat fragments,” small patches of native plants thriving in barren landscapes. Taken together, these fragments made up a vast network of resources, helping bumblebees adapt to environmental change. This gave Schochet an idea: to create “social habitat fragments” for humans in order to cultivate stronger communities and solve our own problems. Thus, the MICRO museum was born: tiny, dense information hubs that can be installed anywhere, from hospital lobbies to libraries, helping people in underprivileged spaces connect and grow. Schochet offers four tips for designing your own micro-solution: zoom in to see how systems interact; look for resources gaps; collaborate with other habitat fragments; and transform your fragment. By building tiny pockets of opportunity, we can knit together community networks that are resilient and expansive.

Quote of the talk: “There are habitat fragments everywhere: passionate individuals and groups of all sizes building toward a system with more equal access … One by one, together, we are filling gaps, strengthening systems that we all depend on.”

By studying oxylipin — a chemical “language” spoken by both phytoplankton in the ocean and the immune cells in our bodies — we can gain a deeper understanding of the planet and ourselves, says oceanographer Bethanie Edwards. She speaks at TED@NAS at The National Academy of Sciences on November 1, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Bethanie Edwards, oceanographer

Big idea: By studying oxylipin — a chemical “language” spoken by both phytoplankton in the ocean and the immune cells in our bodies — we can gain a deeper understanding of the planet and ourselves.

How? Chemicals speak several “dialects,” such as those spoken by hormones, pheromones and toxins. Oxylipin is another such dialect, spoken when fatty acids break down. In the ocean, phytoplankton cells that speak oxylipin have powerful effects on their predators — warding off hungry mouths or even causing devastating mutations in their offspring. Amazingly, cells in the human immune system speak oxylipin, too — communicating with each other to recognize bacteria and heal infected areas. By continuing to investigate how this language works, Edwards hopes we can gain new insight into how our bodies heal.

Quote: “We can think about oxylipins like death cries — they are the last words of phytoplankton.”

Karin Öberg, space chemist

Big idea: The chemical cocktail for a living planet is simple — just add water! (and hydrogen cyanide) — and now easier than ever to identify from light-years away.  

How? Rather than looking for these molecules in planets that already exist, it’s better practice to observe the material before it becomes one, explains Öberg. With the help of ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter and sub-millimeter Array), a telescope comprised of 66 satellite dishes working in unison, Öberg searches for and identifies hotbeds of molecular activity where planets eventually form. By mapping these intergalactically fertile locations, it may be possible to pinpoint life-sustaining planets like Earth.

Fun fact: Hydrogen cyanide, while an extremely deadly poison, is also a fundamental ingredient for newly forming planets.

“Within the next couple years, some astronomer somewhere will find a faint point of light slowly moving across the sky and triumphantly announce the discovery of a new — and quite possibly, not the last — real planet of our solar system,” says planetary astronomer Mike Brown. He speaks at TED@NAS at The National Academy of Sciences on November 1, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Mike Brown, planetary astronomer

Big idea: There’s an unknown planet in our solar system — and we’re on the verge of finding it.

How? Our telescopes aren’t powerful enough to identify unknown objects in the far reaches of our solar system, but they are powerful enough to track the rings of icy bodies that orbit known planets. Mike Brown and his research group discovered one such icy body, called Sedna, in 2004 — it was the most distant known object in the solar system at the time. By studying Sedna’s unusual, elongated orbit, Brown and his team deduced the existence of a distant, unknown, giant planet, which they’re calling Planet 9. At six times the mass of Earth, Planet 9 would become the fifth largest in the entire solar system. It could take years to identify Planet 9’s location with our telescopes, but Brown thinks it’s already hiding in the data. Now, he’s combing through old data for unrecognized images that may show a faint, moving planet — and finally give us a glimpse of Planet 9.

Quote of the talk: “Within the next couple years, some astronomer somewhere will find a faint point of light slowly moving across the sky and triumphantly announce the discovery of a new — and quite possibly, not the last — real planet of our solar system.”

SPHERES, a live VR experience created by writer/director Eliza McNitt

Big idea: For millennia, humans have been drawn to worlds beyond our own. Could cutting-edge VR technology help us translate the invisible waves coming from deep space into sights and sounds we can actually perceive?

How: Performed by Eliza McNitt with Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (soundtrack artists of Stranger Things), SPHERES blends 360-degree video with live sound (and the voices of Jessica Chastain, Millie Bobby Brown and Patti Smith) to map the unseeable mysteries of interstellar space — from the songs of black holes to the whistles of comets. 

Quote of the performance: “Space is not silent: in fact, it’s full of sounds.”

Kelsey Johnson, astronomer

Big Idea: Light pollution is a serious threat for virtually all species, including humans. Kelsey Johnson has a plan for preserving the dark night sky.

Why? Have you ever laid on your back at night, staring up at the star-studded sky? That experience is at risk of disappearing, says Kelsey Johnson. The threat comes from light pollution, or excessive artificial light at night time, which creates a “smog of light” and cloaks our view of space. This affects species in a range of ways: for instance, dog whelks — a type of sea snail — are almost twice as likely to hang out below the water level with a predator in the presence of artificial light. Our own health is at risk, too, Johnson says: by disrupting our circadian rhythms, we may be at a greater risk of breast cancer and obesity. So what can we do? Johnson lays out a series of steps you can take every day: limit your light usage (or don’t use any at all, if you don’t need it); keep light pointed away from the sky; choose warm lights, when possible; and speak up, advocating for the wellbeing of your window to the galaxy, both in your community and on a federal level.

Quote of the talk: If you have never seen a truly dark night sky, I want you to go out and experience one for yourself because, if you don’t, you don’t know what you’re missing and what humanity is losing.”

Risa Wechsler, physicist, dark matter researcher

Big idea: Dark matter is the most mysterious and massive feature of our universe — and we’re just starting to learn about it. 

How? Everything we see can with telescopes — galaxies, planets, stars, dust, gas, us — makes up 15 percent of the total mass of the universe. The other 85 percent is dark matter — which doesn’t emit or absorb light, and can’t be seen with eyes or detected with radio waves. The only reason we know it exists is because we can detect its influence on stars and galaxies. So what exactly is dark matter, and what does it have to do with our existence? Risa Wechsler and teams of physicists are getting creative to figure that out, creating model universes in computers to see what life would look like in the absence of dark matter; building detectors deep underground to try to catch a trace of its passage; and smashing particles together to try and make it in the lab. We’re still far from understanding dark matter, Wechsler says, but studying it could unlock a whole new understanding of physics and our place in the universe.

Fun fact: Dark matter is probably on your body right now. It doesn’t bump into you — it goes right through you.

“Think about how something works, then take it apart to test it. Manipulate something and prove some physical principle to yourself. Put the human back in the technology. You’ll be surprised at the connections you make,” says experimentalist Nadya Mason. She speaks at TED@NAS at The National Academy of Sciences on November 1, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Nadya Mason, experimentalist

Big Idea: By doing hands-on experiments that help us better understand how our everyday devices work, we can reconnect to the physical world.

How? Our everyday devices are shrouded in mystery — most of us don’t know how a touchscreen works, and few of us are compelled to find out. Nadya Mason thinks that we lose understanding and connection to the world when we don’t try to figure out how things work. Experimenting is intuitive to us: babies learn about the world by interacting with it. At some point, though, we’re taught to simply accept the information given to us — but by experimenting, we can rediscover that instinct of curiosity. Hands-on experimentation and testing allows us to use our senses to learn, encouraging us to make new connections and discoveries, Mason says. The research backs this up: hands-on learning improves retention, understanding and well-being. By pursuing that tingle of curiosity and experimenting, we can demystify our surroundings, regain agency over our devices — and have fun.   

Quote of the talk: Think about how something works, then take it apart to test it. Manipulate something and prove some physical principle to yourself. Put the human back in the technology. You’ll be surprised at the connections you make.”

Molly Webster, sex chromosome editor

Big Idea: It’s time to let go of the belief that the X and Y chromosomes define biological sex as a binary — and start celebrating the nuances of science and the diversity of our bodies.

How? While the X and Y chromosomes do determine some part of biological sex, the genes they carry have many other functions, says Molly Webster. For instance, only four percent of the nearly 1,100 genes on the X chromosome have to do with sex determination. The simplistic definition of the X and Y chromosomes misrepresents the actual science of what they do in our bodies, an impact that can ripple across society and pave the way for discrimination. In major sports and in the justice system, for example, people have used these ideas to justify mistreatment against people who have different chromosome orders. Webster calls for us to make room for more inclusive and informed science by incorporating a broader understanding of the X and Y chromosomes in our classrooms and research labs.

Quote of the talk: “We’re at this point where we’re thinking: How do we want to teach science? How do we want to fund science? Who do we want to be as a society? Shouldn’t we allow ourselves to think about the X and Y chromosomes a little more broadly … and if we do, what insights would we gain?”

“When we truly understand exactly how the mind comes from the brain, we will improve the lives of everyone who will have a mental illness in their lifetime … as well as everyone else with whom they share the world,” says neuroscientist Kay Tye. She speaks at TED@NAS at The National Academy of Sciences on November 1, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Kay Tye, neuroscientist

Big idea: It’s common knowledge that physical processes within the brain determine our state of mind: depression, anxiety and a host of other conditions are fundamentally linked to brain activity. Studying the link between the brain and the mind (or emotions) could help uncover effective treatments for mental disorders at their source.

How: By studying neural pathways, Kay Tye is shedding light on how neurons give rise to mental states. Her lab discovered that a region called the amygdala represents a “fork in the road” determining negative or positive emotional outcomes — and as their research continues, they’re identifying regions linked to overeating, anxiety and other negative behaviors. Tye believes that treatments targeting specific neural circuits could lead to a mental health revolution.

Quote of the talk: “When we truly understand exactly how the mind comes from the brain, we will improve the lives of everyone who will have a mental illness in their lifetime … as well as everyone else with whom they share the world.”

Angelicque White, biological oceanographer

Big idea: Angelicque White studies the base of the Pacific Ocean’s food web: microbes. This “forest of the sea” is composed of the most important organisms on the planet, whose health is directly linked to the health of the oceans.

How: Ocean microbes provide food for many of the ocean’s larger inhabitants and are a crucial barometer of marine chemistry. Rising marine temperatures are throwing this microbial ecosystem out of balance, leading to toxic algal blooms that ruin shellfish harvests and impact the lives of fish and marine mammals. By tracking the composition of our oceans over time, White and her colleagues hope to understand both marine health and how we might rejuvenate it.

Quote of the talk: “I personally believe that sustained observation of our oceans and our planet is the moral imperative for our generation of scientists. We are bearing witness to the changes that are being inflicted upon our natural communities, and by doing so, it provides us the opportunity to adapt and enact global change — if we’re willing.”

“How do you save one special, weird species from going extinct?” asks science journalist Victoria Gill. “You find people who know all about this animal, and you ask them, and you listen to them.” She speaks at TED@NAS at The National Academy of Sciences on November 1, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Ryan Lash / TED)

Victoria Gill, science journalist

Big idea: Science alone can’t save the world. To make big breakthroughs, we also need collaboration between scientists and local experts.

How? To save the axolotl — an exotic (and adorable) salamander found in the freshwater lakes of Mexico — scientists teamed up with the people who know this wonderfully weird amphibian best: the Sisters of the Immaculate Health. For centuries, these nuns have concocted a special axolotl medicine, gathering crucial information and building up wisdom about this rare species. Gill reminds us that unusual collaboration between traditional scientists and knowledgeable locals often results in a deeper, fuller understanding of our ecosystems and the creatures that live in them — leading to more successful solutions for all.

Quote: “How do you save one special, weird species from going extinct? … You find people who know all about this animal, and you ask them, and you listen to them.”

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, astrophysicist, stellar storyteller (and certified stellar mortician)

Big idea: We are all — fundamentally, universally, atomically — connected.

How? We’re connected by the birth, death and rebirth of stars: the iron in your blood, the oxygen you breathe and the silicon in your phone relies on the interstellar life cycle, Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz says. Atomic-grade supernovas transform lighter elements (hydrogen and helium, for example) into heavier ones (like iron) — one of the most important being oxygen. This continuous elemental recycle explains everything from the Big Bang to the air we breathe, inextricably intertwining cosmic and human history. Essentially, we are life forms evolved to inhale the waste products of plants but also supernova explosions — which means it’s technically accurate to say that you’ve shared oxygen molecules with the world’s greatest minds.

Quote of the talk: “Our atoms participated in an epic odyssey with time-spans from billions of years to mere centuries — all leading to you.”

from TED Blog

Announcing TED Masterclass: TED’s official public speaking course

We’re excited to announce the release of TED Masterclass — TED’s official public speaking course. Delivered via mobile app, the course is guided by TED’s Head Curator, Chris Anderson, and is designed to help you identify, develop and share your best ideas as a TED-style talk.

Based on Anderson’s book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, the TED Masterclass app features 11 animated lessons that break down the techniques that speakers use to present their ideas from TED’s main stage. The lessons are taught using vivid animations, handpicked clips from celebrated TED Talks and exclusive insights from TED’s speaker coaches.

Developed by TED-Ed, the new app teaches people how to connect with an audience, explain complex ideas and give more persuasive presentations. The app also features a library of full-length TED Talks, including talks from Brené Brown, Bryan Stevenson, Susan Cain and many other TED speakers. Each talk featured in the app exemplifies and reinforces concepts introduced within the course.

You can complete the course at your own pace and can revisit each lesson as future public speaking opportunities arise. The app is free to download from both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, and full access to the course is available as an in-app purchase.

from TED Blog

The TED Interview podcast kicks off season 3

The TED Interview launches its newest season on October 9, 2019. Last season notably featured Bill Gates, Monica Lewinsky and Susan Cain — and you can expect another thoughtful lineup of scientists, thinkers and artists for the new season.

Season 3 features eight episodes, during which head of TED Chris Anderson will continue to inspire curiosity with in-depth conversations on our consciousness, the ways we navigate community and the power of embracing paradox.

During Season 3, Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert expands on his TED Talk concerning the science of happiness; Turkish-British author Elif Shafak deconstructs storytelling and global community; and Michael Tubbs, one of the world’s youngest mayors, makes a case for universal basic income.

Listen to the first episode with happiness expert Dan Gilbert on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

With a diverse lineup of global thought leaders, TED’s podcasts are downloaded in more than 190 countries (nearly every place on Earth!). “Just like the ideas we explore, The TED Interview continues to grow with even more thoughtful and challenging conversations this season,” says Chris Anderson. “We’ve hit our stride and will be delving deeper into the minds of some of TED’s most remarkable speakers.”

More speakers will be unveiled throughout the season, and you can listen to them on The TED Interview for free on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. New hour-long episodes air every Wednesday. 

TED’s content programming extends beyond its signature TED Talk format with six original podcasts. In August 2019, TED was ranked among Podtrac’s Top 10 Publishers in the US.

The TED Interview is proudly sponsored by Lexus, whose passion for brave design, imaginative technology and exhilarating performance enables the luxury lifestyle brand to create amazing experiences for its customers.

from TED Blog

Helping learners of English find their own voice

Transportation Teahouse at Huangjueping Street in Chongqing, China. (Photo: National Geographic Learning – Life as Lived)

Since its inception, TED has been zealous in its mission of spreading ideas that inspire. It was out of this passion that a partnership between National Geographic Learning emerged to create materials for the English language learning classroom — and help English learners to find their own voice.

National Geographic Learning’s goal is to bring the world to the classroom and the classroom to life. They create English programs that are inspiring, real and relevant. Students learn about their world by experiencing it through the stories, ideas, photography and video of both National Geographic and TED.

The language learning classroom is meant to be a safe place where learners can make mistakes and build confidence before going out into the world. But it can also be a place where learners can struggle to see a connection between the real world and the language they’re learning.

National Geographic Learning believes that if we want learners to understand the value of learning English — a language that connects them to the world — then we need to bring the real world into the classroom and show them the opportunity learning a language brings. The teaching and learning programs created by National Geographic Learning with TED Talks give learners of English (and their teachers) a way to talk about ideas that are relevant to them and help them develop a voice of their own in English.

This partnership has resulted in five textbook programs for the English language learning classroom so far. National Geographic Learning and TED have also collaborated to create a unique classroom supplement, Learn English with TED Talks — a language learning app with a difference.

For more information about all of the English language learning materials made with TED Talks please visit

Happy learning!

from TED Blog