There are a vast assortment of 'Scientific' TED Talks, and I'm not exactly sure how to break them down into more specific catigories? Perhaps as all of you add to this list we can later sub-divide our selections...
In the meanwhile, my daughter turned me on to this Terrific Talk:
Bonnie Bassler on How Bacteria "Talk"
Pay close attention because Bonnie is a 'speed-talker' as she tries to cover her extensive research into her short 20 minute slot.
Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria "talk" to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry -- and our understanding of ourselves.
In 2002, bearing her microscope on a microbe that lives in the gut of fish, Bonnie Bassler isolated an elusive molecule called AI-2, and uncovered the mechanism behind mysterious behavior called quorum sensing -- or bacterial communication. She showed that bacterial chatter is hardly exceptional or anomolous behavior, as was once thought -- and in fact, most bacteria do it, and most do it all the time. (She calls the signaling molecules "bacterial Esperanto.")
The discovery shows how cell populations use chemical powwows to stage attacks, evade immune systems and forge slimy defenses called biofilms. For that, she's won a MacArthur "genius" grant -- and is giving new hope to frustrated pharmacos seeking new weapons against drug-resistant superbugs.
Bassler teaches molecular biology at Princeton, where she continues her years-long study of V. harveyi, one such social microbe that is mainly responsible for glow-in-the-dark sushi. She also teaches aerobics at the YMCA.
"She's really the one who's shown that this is something that all these bacteria are doing all the time. And if we want to understand them, we have to understand quorum sensing."
Ned Wingreen, Princeton, on Nova ScienceNOW
The SETI Institute's Jill Tarter makes her TED Prize wish: to accelerate our search for cosmic company. Using a growing array of radio telescopes, she and her team listen for patterns that may be a sign of intelligence elsewhere in the universe.
SETI's Jill Tarter has devoted her career to hunting for signs of sentient beings elsewhere, and almost all aspects of this field have been affected by her work.
Why you should listen to her:
Astronomer Jill Tarter is director of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute's Center for SETI Research, and also holder of the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI. She led Project Phoenix, a decade-long SETI scrutiny of about 750 nearby star systems, using telescopes in Australia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. While no clearly extraterrestrial signal was found, this project was the most comprehensive targeted search for artificially generated cosmic signals ever undertaken.
Tarter serves on the management board for the Allen Telescope Array, a massive new instrument that will eventually include 350 antennas, each 6 meters in diameter. This telescope will increase the speed and the spectral range of the hunt for signals from other distant technologies by orders of magnitude.
Tarter is committed to the education of future citizens and scientists. Beyond her scientific leadership at NASA and the SETI Institute, Tarter has been actively involved in developing curriculum for children. She was Principal Investigator for two curriculum development projects funded by NSF, NASA, and others. One project, the Life in the Universe series, created 6 science teaching guides for grades 3-9. The other project, Voyages Through Time, is an integrated high school science curriculum on the fundamental theme of evolution in six modules: Cosmic Evolution, Planetary Evolution, Origin of Life, Evolution of Life, Hominid Evolution and Evolution of Technology.
"'Are we alone?' Humans have been asking [this question] forever. The probability of success is difficult to estimate but if we never search the chance of success is zero."
As the recipient of the 2009 TED prize, Jill Tarter hopes to empower a new generation of SETI enthusiasts. She discusses her plans to assemble a group of engineers to advise, create and facilitate a system of mass collaboration over the web and incorporate innovative data processing methods.
Through this system, Tarter predicts that we will be able to globalize the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.
Vaccine-autism claims, "Frankenfood" bans, the herbal cure craze: All point to the public's growing fear (and, often, outright denial) of science and reason, says Michael Specter. He warns the trend spells disaster for human progress.
Why you should listen to him:
Michael Specter's new book, Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives,dives into a worrisome strain of modern life -- a vocal anti-science bias that may prevent us from making the right choices for our future. Specter studies how the active movements against vaccines, genetically engineered food, science-based medicine and biotechnological solutions to climate change may actually put the world at risk. (For instance, anti-vaccination activists could soon trigger the US return of polio, not to mention the continuing rise of measles.) More insidiously, the chilling effect caused by the new denialism may prevent useful science from being accomplished.
Specter has been a writer for the New Yorker for more than a decade; before that, he was a science writer and then the Moscow bureau chief for the New York Times. He writes about science and politics for the New Yorker, with a fascinating sideline in biographical profiles.
"Denialism is a virus and viruses are contagious."
Craig Venter Is On The Verge Of Creating Synthetic Life
"Can we create new life out of our digital universe?" Craig Venter asks. His answer is "yes" -- and pretty soon. He walks through his latest research and promises that we'll soon be able to build and boot up a synthetic chromosome.
Craig Venter, the man who led the private effort to sequence the human genome, is hard at work now on even more potentially world-changing projects.
First, there's his mission aboard the Sorcerer II, a 92-foot yacht, which, in 2006, finished its voyage around the globe to sample, catalouge and decode the genes of the ocean's unknown microorganisms. Quite a task, when you consider that there are tens of millions of microbes in a single drop of sea water. Then there's the J. Craig Venter Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to researching genomics and exploring its societal implications.
In 2005, Venter founded Synthetic Genomics, a private company with a provocative mission: to engineer new life forms. Its goal is to design, synthesize and assemble synthetic microorganisms that will produce alternative fuels, such as ethanol or hydrogen. He was on Time magzine's 2007 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
In early 2008, scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute announced that they had manufactured the entire genome of a bacterium by painstakingly stitching together its chemical components. By sequencing a genome, scientists can begin to custom-design bootable organisms, creating biological robots that can produce from scratch chemicals humans can use, such as biofuel. And in 2010, they announced, they had created "synthetic life" -- DNA created digitally, inserted into a living bacterium, and remaining alive.
"Either he is one of this era's most electrifying scientists, or he's one of the most maddening."
November 19, 2007 — J. Craig Venter visits Google's Mountain View, CA headquarters to discuss his book, "A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life." This event took place on November 12, 2007 as part of the Authors@Google series.
Entrepreneurial mycologist Paul Stamets seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords. The focus of Stamets' research is the Northwest's native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas.
There are cosmic implications as well. Stamets believes we could terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet.
"Once you’ve heard 'renaissance mycologist' Paul Stamets talk about mushrooms, you'll never look at the world -- not to mention your backyard -- in the same way again."
What if human consciousness isn't the end-all and be-all of Darwinism? What if we are all just pawns in corn's clever strategy game to rule the Earth? Author Michael Pollan asks us to see the world from a plant's-eye view.
Why you should listen to him:
Few writers approach their subjects with the rigor, passion and perspective that's typical of Michael Pollan. Whereas most humans think we are Darwin's most accomplished species, Pollan convincingly argues that plants — even our own front lawns — have evolved to use us as much as we use them.
The author and New York Times Magazine contributor is, as Newsweek asserts, “an uncommonly graceful explainer of natural science,” for his investigative stories about food, agriculture, and the environment. His most recent book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, was named one of the top ten nonfiction titles of 2006.
As the director of the Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism at UC Berkeley, Pollan is cultivating the next generation of green reporters.
"His writing—an engaging melange of travelogue, economic analysis, and sheer, tactile joy in the pleasures of food—has made him a favorite among the foodie and enviro crowds alike."
Pollen goes unnoticed by most of us, except when hay fever strikes. But microscopes reveal it comes in stunning colors and shapes -- and travels remarkably well. Jonathan Drori gives an up-close glimpse of these fascinating flecks of plant courtship.
Why you should listen to him:
Jonathan Drori has dedicated his career to media and learning. As the Head of Commissioning for BBC Online, he led the effort to create bbc.co.uk, the online face of the BBC (an effort he recalls fondly). He came to the web from the TV side of the BBC, where as an editor and producer he headed up dozens of television series on science, education and the arts.
After almost two decades at the BBC, he's now a director at Changing Media Ltd., a media and education consultancy, and is a visiting professor at University of Bristol, where he studies educational media and misperceptions in science. He continues to executive produce the occasional TV series, including 2004's award-winning "The DNA Story" and 2009's "Great Sperm Race." He is on the boards of the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Woodland Trust.
"How can you get Segway inventor Dean Kamen to stammer in astonishment? Tell him, as Jon Drori did during a talk called “Why We Don’t Understand as Much as We Think We Do,” that [many] MIT graduates, like the rest of us, can’t figure out how to light a bulb using a battery and a wire."