playlist

When you need to take an intellectual snack break

A selection of fascinating TED Talks for when you need to feed your intellectual curiosity (in 10 minutes or less).

  1. 9:19
    Roselinde Torres What it takes to be a great leader

    The world is full of leadership programs, but the best way to learn how to lead might be right under your nose. In this clear, candid talk, Roselinde Torres describes 25 years observing truly great leaders at work, and shares the three simple but crucial questions would-be company chiefs need to ask to thrive in the future.

  2. 9:42
    Raymond Tang Be humble — and other lessons from the philosophy of water

    How do we find fulfillment in a world that's constantly changing? Raymond Tang struggled with this question until he came across the ancient Chinese philosophy of the Tao Te Ching. In it, he found a passage comparing goodness to water, an idea he's now applying to his everyday life. In this charming talk, he shares three lessons he's learned so far from the "philosophy of water." "What would water do?" Tang asks. "This simple and powerful question ... has changed my life for the better."

  3. 9:44
    Erica Stone Academic research is publicly funded — why isn't it publicly available?

    In the US, your taxes fund academic research at public universities. Why then do you need to pay expensive, for-profit journals for the results of that research? Erica Stone advocates for a new, open-access relationship between the public and scholars, making the case that academics should publish in more accessible media. "A functioning democracy requires that the public be well-educated and well-informed," Stone says. "Instead of research happening behind paywalls and bureaucracy, wouldn't it be better if it was unfolding right in front of us?"

  4. 6:50
    Stephen DeBerry Why the "wrong side of the tracks" is usually the east side of cities

    What do communities on the social, economic and environmental margins have in common? For one thing, they tend to be on the east sides of cities. In this short talk about a surprising insight, anthropologist and venture capitalist Stephen DeBerry explains how both environmental and man-made factors have led to disparity by design in cities from East Palo Alto, California to East Jerusalem and beyond — and suggests some elegant solutions to fix it.

  5. 6:37
    Dan Gartenberg The brain benefits of deep sleep — and how to get more of it

    There's nothing quite like a good night's sleep. What if technology could help us get more out of it? Dan Gartenberg is working on tech that stimulates deep sleep, the most regenerative stage which (among other wonderful things) might help us consolidate our memories and form our personalities. Find out more about how playing sounds that mirror brain waves during this stage might lead to deeper sleep — and its potential benefits on our health, memory and ability to learn.

  6. 7:04
    Jennifer Pluznick You smell with your body, not just your nose

    Do your kidneys have a sense of smell? Turns out, the same tiny scent detectors found in your nose are also found in some pretty unexpected places — like your muscles, kidneys and even your lungs. In this quick talk (filled with weird facts), physiologist Jennifer Pluznick explains why they're there and what they do.

  7. 6:08
    Lux Narayan What I learned from 2,000 obituaries

    Lux Narayan starts his day with scrambled eggs and the question: "Who died today?" Why? By analyzing 2,000 New York Times obituaries over a 20-month period, Narayan gleaned, in just a few words, what achievement looks like over a lifetime. Here he shares what those immortalized in print can teach us about a life well lived.

  8. 6:32
    Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar What happens in your brain when you pay attention?

    Attention isn't just about what we focus on — it's also about what our brains filter out. By investigating patterns in the brain as people try to focus, computational neuroscientist Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar hopes to build computer models that can be used to treat ADHD and help those who have lost the ability to communicate. Hear more about this exciting science in this brief, fascinating talk.

  9. 6:04
    ShaoLan The Chinese zodiac, explained

    A quarter of the world's population cares a lot about the Chinese zodiac. Even if you don't believe in it, you'd be wise to know how it works, says technologist and entrepreneur ShaoLan Hseuh. In this fun, informative talk, ShaoLan shares some tips for understanding the ancient tradition and describes how it's believed to influence your personality, career, marriage prospects and how you'll do in a given year. What does your sign say about you?

  10. 10:05
    Pico Iyer The beauty of what we'll never know

    Almost 30 years ago, Pico Iyer took a trip to Japan, fell in love with the country and moved there. A keen observer of the human spirit, Iyer professes that he now feels he knows far less about Japan — or, indeed, about anything — than he thought he knew three decades ago. In this lyrical meditation on wisdom, Iyer expands on this curious insight about knowledge gained with age: that the more we know, the more we see how little we know.

  11. 9:41
    Eduardo Sáenz de Cabezón Math is forever

    With humor and charm, mathematician Eduardo Sáenz de Cabezón answers a question that's wracked the brains of bored students the world over: What is math for? He shows the beauty of math as the backbone of science — and shows that theorems, not diamonds, are forever. In Spanish, with English subtitles.

  12. 9:47
    Takaharu Tezuka The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen

    At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Meet: the world's cutest kindergarten, designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In this charming talk, he walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids.

  13. 6:12
    Angela Lee Duckworth Grit: The power of passion and perseverance

    Leaving a high-flying job in consulting, Angela Lee Duckworth took a job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn't the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of "grit" as a predictor of success.

  14. 7:17
    Seth Berkley The troubling reason why vaccines are made too late ... if they're made at all

    It seems like we wait for a disastrous disease outbreak before we get serious about making a vaccine for it. Seth Berkley lays out the market realities and unbalanced risks behind why we aren't making vaccines for the world's biggest diseases.

  15. 8:02
    Barry Schwartz The way we think about work is broken

    What makes work satisfying? Apart from a paycheck, there are intangible values that, Barry Schwartz suggests, our current way of thinking about work simply ignores. It's time to stop thinking of workers as cogs on a wheel.

  16. 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.

  17. 9:37
    Melinda Epler 3 ways to be a better ally in the workplace

    We're taught to believe that hard work and dedication will lead to success, but that's not always the case. Gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation are among the many factors that affect our chances, says writer and advocate Melinda Epler, and it's up to each of us to be allies for those who face discrimination. In this actionable talk, Epler shares three ways to support people who are underrepresented in the workplace. "There's no magic wand for correcting diversity and inclusion," she says. "Change happens one person at a time, one act at a time, one word at a time."

  18. 9:58
    Julian Treasure How to speak so that people want to listen

    Have you ever felt like you're talking, but nobody is listening? Here's Julian Treasure to help. In this useful talk, the sound expert demonstrates the how-to's of powerful speaking — from some handy vocal exercises to tips on how to speak with empathy. A talk that might help the world sound more beautiful.

  19. 9:29
    Peter Doolittle How your "working memory" makes sense of the world

    "Life comes at us very quickly, and what we need to do is take that amorphous flow of experience and somehow extract meaning from it." In this funny, enlightening talk, educational psychologist Peter Doolittle details the importance — and limitations — of your "working memory," that part of the brain that allows us to make sense of what's happening right now.

  20. 11:22
    Eduardo Briceño How to get better at the things you care about

    Working hard but not improving? You're not alone. Eduardo Briceño reveals a simple way to think about getting better at the things you do, whether that's work, parenting or creative hobbies. And he shares some useful techniques so you can keep learning and always feel like you're moving forward.