I’ve been consuming TED talks at a fairly rapid pace for a year now, and they keep on coming. As I’ve been going along, I’ve been capturing brief notes on the ones that I’ve found interesting. Going forward, I’m going to post small batches here. This is mostly for my own reference, but maybe the internets will also find them useful.
Here are the first three (you can see all of them here):
Ron Eglash: African fractals, in buildings and braids
I rolled my eyes a couple times as he was introducing his topic, but as the talk went on, most of my skepticism was addressed, and then I was totally absorbed. He seems to have found many instances where fractal math was consciously used in African culture for very practical engineering and cultural purposes. He has also found that this conscious use of fractals is not present in other non-state societies. He finishes his talk by mentioning how these cultural uses can actually be used in the US to show African-American students that their heritage includes a rich mathematical history, as well.
Matthieu Ricard: Habits of happiness
A Quebecois molecular biologist-turned monk relates the basics of Buddhism, from a Westerner’s point of view. This talk is simple and straightforward, they way I like my explanations of Buddhism. There is a good balance here that represents my belief in mindfulness practice: part subjective experience, part science.
Amory Lovins: We must win the oil endgame
Author of the book Winning the Oil Endgame sees the path to an oil-import-free U.S. as a profitable, not a costly one. His ideas are comprehensive, including new materials for making cars lighter, “feebates” to change buying incentives per weight class of car (rather than between them), and an overall focus on efficiency. The latter one is interesting, as he makes those savings clear by pricing efficiency in terms of $/barrel of oil displaced. He is very glib with his free-market cheerleading, however, and explain very well why profit motives haven’t already pushed our industries to make these changes on their own. Some of his comments about the military wanting to defend America rather than oil pipelines in foreign countries are incredibly naive; it’s not our people on the ground who make policy, it’s the politicians who are financially bound to arms manufacturers.
Again, you can see all of the ted talk notes, here.