x = independently organized TED event

Theme: big Scale.....big Fail?

This event occurred on
October 19, 2012
2:00pm - 5:00pm EDT
(UTC -4hrs)
Burlington, VT
United States

A central feature of large-scale complex social, natural, and technological systems that enable our economies, our communication and sharing of information, the distribution of energy, transportation, food production, and public health, is their continual growth and increasing interconnectedness. In adapting and evolving, these systems can be seen as attempting to gain efficiency of scale, to solve problems (clean energy for all), to allow for new modes of behavior (social media), and by their very existence, to demonstrate remarkable robustness.

But this complexification can also lead to unexpected catastrophe: from massive power blackouts to global financial crashes to the collapse of ecosystems, large-scale complex systems have also repeatedly shown an unpredictable fragility. What can we learn when looking across these diverse examples? Are these system-level failures universal, few in type, or a collection of special one-of-a-kind disasters?

In our 2012 TEDxUVM event, we will bring together speakers from across the scientific landscape to report on the resilience and failure of large-scale complex systems, and our prospects for explanation, prediction, and prevention.

Davis Auditorium
West Pavilion II, Fletcher Allen
Burlington, VT, 05401
United States
Event type:
University (What is this?)
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Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Melba Kurman

Melba Kurman is a writer, analyst, veteran marketer and innovation strategist. She in an expert in forward-thinking business strategies for emerging university technologies and university IP management. In addition to university innovation strategy, Melba writes about the social, economic and intellectual property potential (and challenges) of emerging technologies, most notably 3D printing.

Paul Hines

Paul Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.

Brian Tivnan

Brian Tivnan, a UVM Complex Systems Center affiliate, is the Burlington site leader and chief engineer in the Modeling & Simulation Department for the MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that manages federally funded research and development centers, partnering with government sponsors to support their crucial operational missions. His current research interests include the study of conflict and quantitative finance.

Asim Zia

Asim Zia's research focuses on the development of computational and complex-systems based approaches for informing the theory and practice of public policy analysis. He applies computational modeling approaches to evaluate complex policy and governance problems that span global climate change, energy, transportation, forest conservation, disaster management, watershed management and international development.

Neal Rothleder Rothleder

Neal Rothleder is the Associate Technical Director for the Cyber Security Division of The MITRE Corporation. Prior to MITRE, he was the Group Manager for Customer Analytics at Microsoft. Rothleder holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan. He is a member of IEEE, ACM, and SIGKDD, remains active in the research community, has taught seminars on business intelligence, and is an inventor on three patents.

Brian Wansink

Brian Wansink (Ph.D. Stanford University) is the John Dyson Professor of Marketing and the Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab in the Department of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. Wansink is best known for his work on consumer behavior and food and for popularizing terms such as "mindless eating" and "health halos." His research has focused on how our immediate environment influences eating habits and preferences.

Peter Dodds

Peter Dodds is director of the UVM Complex Systems Center. Together with Chris Danforth, he co-runs the Computational Story Lab. His research focuses on system-level, big data problems in many fields including sociology, geomorphology, biology and ecology. His major current funding is an NSF CAREER award to study sociotechnical phenomena (2009-2014).

Lewis Mitchell

Lewis Mitchell is a a postdoctoral researcher in mathematics and climate. Broadly, he is interested in the messy interface between the "real" world and the more abstract world of mathematics. More specifically, his research is focused in the areas of numerical weather prediction (NWP) and data assimilation, which use techniques from many areas of applied mathematics.

John Voight

John Voight is an assistant professor of mathematics and computer science. His research interests include computational and algorithmic aspects of number theory and arithmetic algebraic geometry, with applications in cryptography and coding theory.

Organizing team


Burlington, VT, United States
  • Keri Toksu
    Media Manager