playlist

Technology designed by nature

These exciting innovations and breakthroughs demonstrate what's possible when humans draw inspiration from some of nature’s best work.

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  1. 14:28
    Cheryl Hayashi The magnificence of spider silk

    Cheryl Hayashi studies spider silk, one of nature's most high-performance materials. Each species of spider can make up to 7 very different kinds of silk. How do they do it? Hayashi explains at the DNA level — then shows us how this super-strong, super-flexible material can inspire.

  2. 25:01
    Regina Dugan From mach-20 glider to hummingbird drone

    "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" asks Regina Dugan, then director of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In this breathtaking talk she describes some of the extraordinary projects — a robotic hummingbird, a prosthetic arm controlled by thought, and, well, the internet — that her agency has created by not worrying that they might fail. (Followed by a Q&A with TED's Chris Anderson)

  3. 4:52
    Carl Schoonover How to look inside the brain

    There have been remarkable advances in understanding the brain, but how do you actually study the neurons inside it? Using gorgeous imagery, neuroscientist and TED Fellow Carl Schoonover shows the tools that let us see inside our brains.

  4. 16:25
    Emma Teeling The secret of the bat genome

    In Western society, bats are often characterized as creepy, even evil. Zoologist Emma Teeling encourages us to rethink common attitudes toward bats, whose unique and fascinating biology gives us insight into our own genetic makeup.

  5. 13:57
    Hadyn Parry Re-engineering mosquitos to fight disease

    In a single year, there are 200-300 million cases of malaria and 50-100 million cases of dengue fever worldwide. So: Why haven't we found a way to effectively kill mosquitos yet? Hadyn Parry presents a fascinating solution: genetically engineering male mosquitos to make them sterile, and releasing the insects into the wild, to cut down on disease-carrying species.

  6. 14:09
    Deborah Gordon What ants teach us about the brain, cancer and the Internet

    Ecologist Deborah Gordon studies ants wherever she can find them — in the desert, in the tropics, in her kitchen ... In this fascinating talk, she explains her obsession with insects most of us would happily swat away without a second thought. She argues that ant life provides a useful model for learning about many other topics, including disease, technology and the human brain.

  7. 5:07
    Robert Full The secrets of nature's grossest creatures, channeled into robots

    How can robots learn to stabilize on rough terrain, walk upside down, do gymnastic maneuvers in air and run into walls without harming themselves? Robert Full takes a look at the incredible body of the cockroach to show what it can teach robotics engineers.

  8. 6:15
    Jaap de Roode How butterflies self-medicate

    Just like us, the monarch butterfly sometimes gets sick thanks to a nasty parasite. But biologist Jaap de Roode noticed something interesting about the butterflies he was studying — infected female butterflies would choose to lay their eggs on a specific kind of plant that helped their offspring avoid getting sick. How do they know to choose this plant? Think of it as "the other butterfly effect" — which could teach us to find new medicines for the treatment of human disease.

  9. 17:36
    Neri Oxman Design at the intersection of technology and biology

    Designer and architect Neri Oxman is leading the search for ways in which digital fabrication technologies can interact with the biological world. Working at the intersection of computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering and synthetic biology, her lab is pioneering a new age of symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, our products and even our buildings.

  10. 16:46
    Vijay Kumar Robots that fly ... and cooperate

    In his lab at Penn, Vijay Kumar and his team build flying quadrotors, small, agile robots that swarm, sense each other, and form ad hoc teams — for construction, surveying disasters and far more.