With Freeman Dyson's astonishing forecasts for the future, it's hard to tell where science ends and science fiction begins. But far from being a wild-eyed visionary, Dyson is 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 is 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 is a renowned and best-selling author.  His most recent book, A Many-Colored Glass, tackles nothing less than biotechnology, religion and the role of life in the universe. He does not shy away from controversy: His recent critiques of the politics of the global warming debate have raised the hackles of some environmentalists. But far from wielding his conclusions like a bludgeon, Dyson wants 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


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 […]

Continue reading

The Lonely Interplanetary guide to scuba diving

August 1, 2008

Bored with Earthly beach destinations this summer? Does the word “Carribbean” not ring exactly, well, “exotic” these days? With this week’s news that (highly acidic) water has been tasted on Mars and an ethane lake has been discovered on Saturn’s moon Titan, perhaps it’s time to investigate otherworldly destinations for fun in the surf. Grab […]

Continue reading