Roger Ebert on TED

I’ve been a reader of Roger Ebert’s blog since he started writing it. Most of his posts are about as profound as it gets. Reading his stories ranging in diversity from his own history and childhood to the loneliness of isolation he feels from those that leave comments on his blog, one is left with little doubt why the famous critic was drawn to journalism — he’s an amazing writer.

When he lost his lower jaw to cancer in 2006, he lost the ability to eat and speak. However, he certainly didn’t lose his voice. In this moving talk from TED2011, Ebert and his wife, Chaz, with friends Dean Ornish and John Hunter, come together to tell his remarkable story.

Hit play or watch Roger Ebert’s talk on

Somewhat (but not really) related: Roger Ebert has been entering the New Yorker’s cartoon caption contest almost weekly since it began and this week, he is a finalist for the first time. (New Yorker link).


Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception

Michael Shermer talks about why people believe strange things, including the belief that there are secret messages in popular music when it’s played backwards.

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The All Important Tail

Biologist Robert Full explains how bio-mimicry not only teaches us how to make better robots but also helps us to better understand the world around us. Case in point, while investigating how to replicate gecko feet and in turn to make a gecko robot, Full’s team discovered that the machine didn’t operate well without a tail. When his team asked Full what was the purpose of the gecko’s tail, to his surprise, he wasn’t quite sure, so he set out to investigate. He discovered an entire universe of surprises, which he describes in this TED talk.


Why we think it’s OK to cheat and steal (sometimes)

Listen to Dan Ariely’s talk, presented in February 2009 at the TED conference, about his experiments in predictable irrationality. He explains how bugs in our moral code make us think it’s okay to cheat or steal sometimes but not others.


Walking Art

Theo Jansen invents incredible mechanical creatures, or new kinds of life, as he likes to say. He presented them at TED.
This CGI reconstruction demonstrates the principle behind these walking creatures:

Some intrepid designers at the University of Louisiana have taken the idea and created a kind of walking Segway, they’ve named it the Cajun Crawler:

The scooter was inspired by Theo Jansen’s leg mechanism. Throughout our research, we found no application where Jansen’s leg mechanism was used as a weight-bearing application or vehicle. The legs are made of standard 5052 Aluminum. The joints all contain deep-groove ball bearings.


Pattie Maes’ wearable tech demo at TED

No flying cars yet, but the future is just about here. Check out this amazing device that only costs around $350 for the parts—it’s basically a camera, projector and smart phone interacting with the world around us.

Hit play or watch Pattie Mae at TED.


DNA Folding

Paul Rothemund will send chills down your spine as he explains the astonishing potential of DNA folding in this great TED talk from September 2007.

Hit play or watch Paul Rothemund: The astonishing promise of DNA folding. See also—Paul’s other talk on DNA folding, Paul Rothemund casts a spell with DNA.

economics Health

Are Children’s Car Seats Over Rated?

Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, at a 2005 TED Talk speaks about the economics of car seats. His data lead him to ask the morally difficult question, are children’s car seats worth the time and expense it takes to use them?

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Hit play or watch Steven Levitt on child car seats at


826 Valencia

I just watched Dave Eggers TED talk about the 826 Valencia project. It’s inspiring and funny; please enjoy:

Accepting his 2008 TED Prize, author Dave Eggers asks the TED community to personally, creatively engage with local public schools. With spellbinding eagerness, he talks about how his 826 Valencia tutoring center inspired others around the world to open their own volunteer-driven, wildly creative writing labs. But you don’t need to go that far, he reminds us, “it’s as simple as asking a teacher: How can I help?” He asks that we share our own volunteering stories at his new website, Once Upon a School.


Amazing Ant Colony

This remarkable video from the documentary Ants! Nature’s Secret Power shows a glimpse into the fascinating world of the ant. The narrator describes the intricate ant nest as an accomplishment equivalent to the building of the great wall of China.

The structure covers 538 square feet and travels 26 feet into the earth. In it’s construction, the colony moved 40 tons of soil. Billions of ant loads of soil were brought to the surface. Each load weighed four times as much as the worker ant, and in human terms, was carried over 1/2 mile to the surface.

I also recommend the TED talk by Deborah Gordon: How do ants know what to do?