playlist

The fabulous life of germs

Germs — they get around. Learn what their travels and overall existence can teach us about not just ourselves, but the past, present and future of humanity.

  1. 5:31
    Christina Warinner Tracking ancient diseases using ... plaque

    Imagine what we could learn about diseases by studying the history of human disease, from ancient hominids to the present. But how? TED Fellow Christina Warinner is an achaeological geneticist, and she's found a spectacular new tool — the microbial DNA in fossilized dental plaque.

  2. 8:43
    Jessica Green We're covered in germs. Let's design for that.

    Our bodies and homes are covered in microbes — some good for us, some bad for us. As we learn more about the germs and microbes who share our living spaces, TED Fellow Jessica Green asks: Can we design buildings that encourage happy, healthy microbial environments?

  3. 21:05
    Laurie Garrett Lessons from the 1918 flu

    In 2007, as the world worried about a possible avian flu epidemic, Laurie Garrett, author of "The Coming Plague," gave this powerful talk to a small TED University audience. Her insights from past pandemics are suddenly more relevant than ever.

  4. 18:14
    Bonnie Bassler How bacteria "talk"

    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.

  5. 17:51
    Paul Ewald Can we domesticate germs?

    Evolutionary biologist Paul Ewald drags us into the sewer to discuss germs. Why are some more harmful than others? How could we make the harmful ones benign? Searching for answers, he examines a disgusting, fascinating case: diarrhea.

  6. 12:15
    Nathan Wolfe The jungle search for viruses

    Virus hunter Nathan Wolfe is outwitting the next pandemic by staying two steps ahead: discovering deadly new viruses where they first emerge — passing from animals to humans among poor subsistence hunters in Africa — before they claim millions of lives.

  7. 6:28
    Raymond Wang How germs travel on planes — and how we can stop them

    Raymond Wang is only 17 years old, but he's already helping to build a healthier future. Using fluid dynamics, he created computational simulations of how air moves on airplanes, and what he found is disturbing — when a person sneezes on a plane, the airflow actually helps to spread pathogens to other passengers. Wang shares an unforgettable animation of how a sneeze travels inside a plane cabin as well as his prize-winning solution: a small, fin-shaped device that increases fresh airflow in airplanes and redirects pathogen-laden air out of circulation.

  8. 16:59
    Maryn McKenna What do we do when antibiotics don't work any more?

    Penicillin changed everything. Infections that had previously killed were suddenly quickly curable. Yet as Maryn McKenna shares in this sobering talk, we've squandered the advantages afforded us by that and later antibiotics. Drug-resistant bacteria mean we're entering a post-antibiotic world — and it won't be pretty. There are, however, things we can do ... if we start right now.