With Freeman Dyson's astonishing forecasts for the future, it was hard to tell where science ended and science fiction began. But far from being a wild-eyed visionary, Dyson was a clear and sober thinker — and one not afraid of controversy or heresy.

Why you should listen

From inventing Dyson Spheres, a sci-fi conceit postulating habitable shells around Sol-like stars, to "space chickens" and trees that grow in comets, Freeman Dyson was not afraid to go out on a cosmic limb. It would be wrong, however, to categorize him as a publicity-hungry peddler of headline-grabbing ideas. In his 60-year career as one of planet Earth's most distinguished scientists, several things characterize Dyson more than anything else: compassion, caution and overwhelming humanism.

In addition to his work as a scientist, Dyson was a renowned and best-selling author. His book A Many-Colored Glass tackles nothing less than biotechnology, religion and the role of life in the universe. He didn't not shy away from controversy; his critiques of the politics of the global warming debate raised the hackles of some environmentalists. But far from wielding his conclusions like a bludgeon, Dyson wanted younger generations of scientists to take away one thing from his work -- the necessity to create heresies of their own.

What others say

“What sets Dyson apart among an elite group of scientists is the conscience and compassion he brings to his work” — Kristi Coale, Salon.com

Freeman Dyson’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Freeman Dyson

Live from TED2016

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence: Tabetha Boyajian at TED2016

February 17, 2016

Exploring space generates tons of data — so much data that most of it is studied using algorithms, not human eyes. But algorithms are not very good at being creative. What happens when we let humans look at data? Sometimes, even amateurs find things that are surprising, remarkable and weird. Astronomer Tabetha Boyajian came to TED2016 with a story about one of those weird things. The story […]

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TEDTalks' own guitar heroes

August 3, 2008

TEDTalks fan Stefan Kreitmayer was watching Tod Machover — whose lab at MIT developed the tech behind Guitar Hero — when he noticed an interesting coincidence and took a screenshot. Wondering what to watch next? How about these guitar heroes: (Links for these talks: Craig Venter … Freeman Dyson … Kwabena Boahen … the Theme […]

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