playlist

Great TED Talks to inspire fiction writing

Fun writing prompts in the form of some fascinating TED Talks.

  1. 15:49
    Andrés Ruzo The boiling river of the Amazon

    When Andrés Ruzo was a young boy in Peru, his grandfather told him a story with an odd detail: There is a river, deep in the Amazon, which boils as if a fire burns below it. Twelve years later, after training as a geoscientist, Ruzo set out on a journey deep into the jungle of South America in search of this boiling river. At a time when everything seems mapped, measured and understood, join Ruzo as he explores a river that forces us to question the line between known and unknown ... and reminds us that there are great wonders yet to be discovered.

  2. 11:06
    Simone Bianco and Tom Zimmerman The wonderful world of life in a drop of water

    "Hold your breath," says inventor Tom Zimmerman. "This is the world without plankton." These tiny organisms produce two-thirds of our planet's oxygen — without them, life as we know it wouldn't exist. In this talk and tech demo, Zimmerman and cell engineer Simone Bianco hook up a 3D microscope to a drop of water and take you scuba diving with plankton. Learn more about these mesmerizing creatures and get inspired to protect them against ongoing threats from climate change.

  3. 14:20
    Tiffany Watt Smith The history of human emotions

    The words we use to describe our emotions affect how we feel, says historian Tiffany Watt Smith, and they've often changed (sometimes very dramatically) in response to new cultural expectations and ideas. Take nostalgia, for instance: first defined in 1688 as an illness and considered deadly, today it's seen as a much less serious affliction. In this fascinating talk about the history of emotions, learn more about how the language we use to describe how we feel continues to evolve — and pick up some new words used in different cultures to capture those fleeting feelings in words.

  4. 12:05
    Genevieve von Petzinger Why are these 32 symbols found in ancient caves all over Europe?

    Written language, the hallmark of human civilization, didn't just suddenly appear one day. Thousands of years before the first fully developed writing systems, our ancestors scrawled geometric signs across the walls of the caves they sheltered in. Paleoanthropologist, rock art researcher and TED Senior Fellow Genevieve von Petzinger has studied and codified these ancient markings in caves across Europe. The uniformity of her findings suggest that graphic communication, and the ability to preserve and transmit messages beyond a single moment in time, may be much older than we think.

  5. 12:44
    Xavier De Kestelier Adventures of an interplanetary architect

    How will we live elsewhere in the galaxy? On Earth, natural resources for creating structures are abundant, but sending these materials up with us to the Moon or Mars is clunky and cost-prohibitive. Enter architect Xavier De Kestelier, who has a radical plan to use robots and space dust to 3D print our interplanetary homes. Learn more about the emerging field of space architecture with this fascinating talk about the (potentially) not-too-distant future.

  6. 9:02
    Kristin Poinar What's hidden under the Greenland ice sheet?

    The Greenland ice sheet is massive, mysterious — and melting. Using advanced technology, scientists are revealing its secrets for the first time, and what they've found is amazing: hidden under the ice sheet is a vast aquifer that holds a Lake Tahoe-sized volume of water from the summer melt. Does this water stay there, or does it find its way out to the ocean and contribute to global sea level rise? Join glaciologist Kristin Poinar for a trip to this frozen, forgotten land to find out.

  7. 4:50
    Armando Azua-Bustos The most Martian place on Earth

    How can you study Mars without a spaceship? Head to the most Martian place on Earth — the Atacama Desert in Chile. Astrobiologist Armando Azua-Bustos grew up in this vast, arid landscape and now studies the rare life forms that have adapted to survive there, some in areas with no reported rainfall for the past 400 years. Explore the possibility of finding life elsewhere in the universe without leaving the planet with this quick, funny talk.

  8. 12:05
    Benjamin Grant What it feels like to see Earth from space

    What the astronauts felt when they saw Earth from space changed them forever. Author and artist Benjamin Grant aims to provoke this same feeling of overwhelming scale and beauty in each of us through a series of stunning satellite images that show the effects human beings are having on the planet. "If we can adopt a more expansive perspective, embrace the truth of what is going on and contemplate the long-term health of our planet, we will create a better, safer and smarter future for our one and only home," Grant says.

  9. 13:08
    Karen Lloyd This deep-sea mystery is changing our understanding of life

    How deep into the Earth can we go and still find life? Marine microbiologist Karen Lloyd introduces us to deep-subsurface microbes: tiny organisms that live buried meters deep in ocean mud and have been on Earth since way before animals. Learn more about these mysterious microbes, which refuse to grow in the lab and seem to have a fundamentally different relationship with time and energy than we do.

  10. 11:03
    Tomás Saraceno Would you live in a floating city in the sky?

    In a mind-bending talk that blurs the line between science and art, Tomás Saraceno exhibits a series of air-inspired sculptures and installations designed to usher in a new era of sustainability, the "Aerocene." From giant, cloud-like playgrounds suspended 22 meters in the air to a balloon sculpture that travels the world without burning a single fossil fuel, Saraceno’s work invites us to explore the bounds of our fragile human and terrestrial ecosystems.