(Photo credit: Flickr user Saynine)
The world recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the complex cellular instructions known as DNA. Currently, scientists across the globe are doing a lot more than showing off computer-generated spinning double helix models — they are using DNA to do almost unbelievable things — like create tailor-made microbes and resurrected mammoths.
Below, 5 talks on the wonder of deoxyribonucleic acid.
Sex, evolution, and innovation: Frances Arnold at TEDxUSC
We all know that organisms combine genes to create offspring. But what if we could harness those self-replicating processes and make them work for us, asks scientist Frances Arnold. At TEDxUSC, Arnold takes us through a world of possibilities, from testing drugs on microbes to aiding cancer drugs with engineered cells.
What does your genome reveal about you?: Gilean McVean at TEDxWarwick
The first sequenced human genome took years of work and billions of dollars to complete. Today, a person’s genome can be sequenced overnight for a just few thousand dollars. At TEDxWarwick, geneticist Gilean McVean examines the consequences of this technological advance and what it means for our understanding of disease.
How to bring a mammoth back to life: Beth Shapiro at TEDxDeExtinction
Bringing ancient mammoths back to life is assuredly a daunting task, but a major roadblock has been the lack of a complete mammoth genetic sequence due to deterioration over time. Scientist Beth Shaprio reveals the novel approaches that she and her colleagues are taking to revive ancient mammoths.
Creating algae factories for sustainable fuel: Michiel Mathijs at TEDxGhent
In this short and sweet talk from TEDxGhent, Michiel Mathijs elaborates on his plan to take species of algae, one of the most common life forms on the planet, and biologically engineer them to produce oil for fuel. Along the way, Mathijs addresses concerns over bioengineering, describing scientists as not composers, but the “DJs of life,” mixing and matching genetic material.
Genetically evolved technology: Luke Bawazer at TEDxWarwick
Inspired by evolution in the natural world, Luke Bawazer’s work incorporates a type of “synthetic DNA” to test and improve materials like computer chips. According to Bawazer, this type of man-made evolution might one day lead to products that naturally adapt to suit the needs of consumers.
(Video: IBM’s YouTube channel)
Scientists at IBM have beautifully blended science and art by making a film out of carbon atoms. The film, titled “A Boy and His Atom,” took two painstaking weeks to put together, but the effort was worth it: Guinness World Records has officially proclaimed it the “smallest stop-motion film” in the world.
To celebrate, 5 TEDx Talks that show that good things come in small packages.
Nuclear musicians: Radioactive Orchestra at TEDxGöteborg
Why stop at making films out of atoms? At TEDxGöteborg, the Radioactive Orchestra makes a musical connection to the world of atoms by measuring the gamma radiation coming from electrons to produce sounds of varying pitches.
The performativity of matter: Zoe Laughlin at TEDxBrussels
At TEDxBrussels, Zoe Laughlin uses exciting materials such as aerogel — one of the lightest solid materials on Earth — invented by NASA to collect space dust to take art and nanotechnology even further.
Nanomaterials — the science of the small: Stefan Bon at TEDxWarwick
Stefan Bon explores the hype around all things “nano,” with some cool experiments thrown in for good measure at TEDxWarwick.
Material innovation now: Andrew Dent at TEDxGrandRapids
At TEDxGrandRapids, Andrew Dent sexes up material science and product design, explaining how tinkering with materials and their properties can create innovative material solutions.
Tools smaller than cells: Jennifer Campbell at TEDxQueensU
At TEDxQueensU, Jennifer Campbell brings us to the world of the nanoscale, looking at products smaller than a fraction of a millimeter and showcasing tools so small they are sensitive to individual molecules.
Language is a strange thing. We use it every day, but we often forget it’s there; it’s easy to learn as a child, but fiendishly difficult as an adult; and, for reasons that are hard to define, certain words can evoke strong emotions or even downright offend.
Below, 5 TEDx Talks (and one TED Talk!) on the wonders of language and linguistics, from the secret life of pronouns to why we’re so offended by curse words.
John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!!
Since its invention, many people have railed against the rise of “txt spk,” believing its use will eventually lead to the demise of English. John McWhorter begs to differ. At TED2013, he explains that texting is merely a new dialect of English and that we should rest assured that the language we speak isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The Secret Life of Pronouns: James Pennebaker at TEDxAustin
The words you use most say a lot more about you than you may intend. At TEDxAustin, James Pennebaker introduces you to the secret life of pronouns and demonstrates what your speech, emails and tweets say about you.
How Does The Brain Interpret Language?: Steve Nikolidakis at TEDxCooperUnion
In this short and sweet talk, Steve Nikolidakis explains the basics of neurolinguistics and its insight into how the brain processes language at TEDxCooperUnion.
Euphemisms: Kate Burridge at TEDxSydney
What is it about a word that makes it taboo? At TEDxSydney, Kate Burridge explains the mysterious phenomenon of some words being ruder than others.
Grammar, Identity, and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive: Phuc Tran at TEDxDirigo
At TEDxDirigo, Phuc Tran takes you on a fun romp through grammatical mood, debunking the often misunderstood subjunctive, with some interesting examples using Darth Vader thrown in for good measure.
Walk the Talk: Simon Denoth at TEDxZug
At TEDxZug, polyglot Simon Denoth expands on the importance of plurilingualism and the benefits it can bring to society — besides just being a good party trick.