Friday, 14 March 2008

The mind head eye on - Ted Talks Update

If you're like me, you may have missed a few TED Lectures as they continue to supercharge the world's conciousness. Here, on Mind Head, we bring you a little update.

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

In a wide-ranging talk, Vilayanur Ramachandran explores how brain damage can reveal the connection between the internal structures of the brain and the corresponding functions of the mind. He talks about phantom limb pain, synesthesia (when people hear color or smell sounds), and the Capgras delusion, when brain-damaged people believe their closest friends and family have been replaced with imposters.


What is happiness, and how can we all get some? Buddhist monk, photographer and author Matthieu Ricard has devoted his life to these questions, and his answer is influenced by his faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: We can train our minds in habits of happiness. Interwoven with his talk are stunning photographs of the Himalayas and of his spiritual community.


Larry Lessig gets TEDsters to their feet, whooping and whistling, following this elegant presentation of three stories and an argument. The Net's most adored lawyer brings together John Philip Sousa, celestial copyrights, and the "ASCAP cartel" to build a case for creative freedom. He pins down the key shortcomings of our dusty, pre-digital intellectual property laws, and reveals how bad laws beget bad code. Then, in an homage to cutting-edge artistry, he throws in some of the most hilarious remixes you've ever seen.


What if human consciousness isn't the end-all and be-all of Darwinism? What if we are all just pawns in corn's clever strategy game, the ultimate prize of which is world domination? Author Michael Pollan asks us to see things from a plant's-eye view -- to consider the possibility that nature isn't opposed to culture, that biochemistry rivals intellect as a survival tool. By merely shifting our perspective, he argues, we can heal the Earth. Who's the more sophisticated species now?

Energy guru Amory Lovins lays out his plan for weaning the US off oil and revitalizing the economy in the process. It's the subject of his book Winning the Oil Endgame, and he makes it sound fairly simple: On one hand, the deadly risks of continued dependency, and on the other, some win-win solutions.

Juan Enriquez offers a glimpse of some ground-breaking research to explore the potential of bioenergy. Our current energy sources -- coal, oil, gas -- are ultimately derived from ancient plants -- they're "concentrated sunlight." He asks, Can we learn from that process and accelerate it? Can we get to the point where we grow our own energy as efficiently as we grow wheat? (Less than a month after this talk, his company announced a process to do just that.)

Stephen Petranek reveals the question that occupies scientists at the end of the day (and the beginning of happy hour): How might the world end? He lays out the challenges that face us in the drive to preserve the human race. Will we be wiped out by an asteroid? Eco-collapse? How about a particle accelerator gone wild?

Enjoi headsters. Carpe Cranium.