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Ask HN: What is your favorite TED talk?
123 points by derwiki on Jan 20, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 80 comments
I really like Hans Rosling, Clay Shirky, Richard Dawkins, and Nick Bostrom's talks. I've found TED talks to be pretty hit-or-miss, so I'm reaching out to HN.

I'm also aware of this thread: http://www.imminst.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=16384 but I'm more interested in what you guys think.

An oldie but a goldie: Sir Ken Robinson's talk on education and creativity delivered with such panache: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools...

Agree completely. I'm inspired every time I watch it.

i second that. some deep thoughts conveyed in an entertaining way :)

Definitely great talk. Highly recommended.

Jill Bolte's talk about her stroke.

Her talk illustrates the different processing styles of our right and left hemispheres. This is a fascinating subject, that often gets trivialized because of all the New Age BS revolving around it.

Her experience is remarkable, and very powerfully delivered. Don't be fooled by her "spiritual" overtones, the science she references is very real and convincing, and the way she ties it to her own experience is fascinating.


If you found her talk fascinating (as did I), definitely check out her book (http://drjilltaylor.com/book.html), which covers the entire process in great detail. At times its a bit slow, but it successfully elucidates the challenges she faced, and the eight years of recovery which followed the stroke.

I think the spiritual aspect of the story shouldn't be ignored: our perception of reality is also 'plastic', and we can, to a large extent, retrain ourselves to respond differently to sensory input.

Amazon'd. I've actually meant to research her recovery. Can't wait.

I agree that the spiritual half of the story is crucial as well. Actually, this reply got too long and spawned a short blog post, check it out if you are interested. ( http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=442574 )

I was merely reaching across the aisle, lending her some tech credence despite the fact that she sounds like "one of those spiritual types" at times.

Agreed, both the TED video and her book were amazing. If you are the kind of person that wants your reality expanded, take a look at what she is up to.

On the morning of my stroke I woke up to a pounding pain behind my left eye. I'm asking myself what's wrong with me, what's wrong? Then I realised oh my gosh I'm having a stroke, and the next thing my brain says to me is wow this is so cool: How many brain scientists have the iopportunity to study their own brain from the inside out. But then it crosses my mind: I'm a very busy women, I don't have time for a stroke.

Talk about dedication to your studies...

Yes, it truly was fascinating. I had forgotten I'd watched it until you mentioned it... perhaps I'll have to watch again!

Another good one not yet mentioned is Benjamin Zander on Music and Passion:


Wow! Thanks for sharing. I've listened to many interviews and presentations by famous musicians such as Andres Segovia, Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani etc. But this guys brilliant analysis of Chopin's Prelude op.28 no.4 has to be one of the most inspiring things I've ever heard on music. Funny how after the first five minutes of the presentation I had given up all hope of learning anything from him since he seemed to be more interested in just giving an entertaining talk. I think I've found a new musical hero!

I like Joshua Klein's talk about Crows: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/joshua_klein_on_the_intel...

I, for one, welcome our new crow overlords.

Definitely the crows talk has been my favorite.

A quick summary if you are not convinced. This guy has trained crows to interact with a vending machine. I am surprised by how intelligent they are. Go watch it!

I was so inspired by Joshua Klein's talk that i even sent him a congratulatory mail too. Now whenever i look at crows, i observe them, before i just used to think they were nuisance.

That talk was absolutely amazing. It was incredibly inspiring.

I'm particularly fond of Steven Levitt after reading Freakonomics. I enjoyed his talk on the pointlessness of mandating car seats for children and what should really be done to improve their safety:


I also like the SeaDragon/Photosynth demo (along with various other talks that have come from Microsoft Research)


These are all mentioned in the thread the description links to, but I think it's worth pointing theme out as highlights.

Aubrey De Gray on aging http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/aubrey_de_grey_says_we_ca...

Jeff Hawkins on AI http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jeff_hawkins_on_how_brain...

Neil Gershenfeld on Fab Labs http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/neil_gershenfeld_on_fab_l...

Ray Kurzweil on how technology will transform us http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ray_kurzweil_on_how_techn...

Ramachandaran's talk had a profound effect on me (neuroscience/brain). Mark Bittman's talk was great, but I like everything that man writes (food). Clinton's talk made me feel like I knew him better after watching it. It felt very personal. Dave Eggers' talk was beautiful (learning). Ze Frank's talk was good if you follow his stuff. Murray Gell-Mann gave a beautiful talk (physics). I bought Dan Gilbert's book after watching his. Alan Kay was, obviously, very good. Sir Ken Robinson's talk was absolutely great also (learning.)

This is just a small sample of the ones that I have seen and liked. I haven't seen most yet.

Not sure if it's my favorite, but the one the hooked me was Bjorn Lomborg's talk on what kinds of projects could cause the most positive change most efficiently:


I saw him speak at my University. He's got the right way of looking at things. Very pragmatic. Also, one of my fave TED talks.

Mycologist Paul Stamets lists 6 ways the mycelium fungus can help save the universe. Seriously....Amazing. A must for everyone. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/paul_stamets_on_6_ways_mu...

+1... My favorite talk thus far. Amazing content, from an amazing man.

The talk done by Clifford Stoll was probably the most amusing however.

That was a good one. Although watching him rave about fungi, I couldn't shake the feeling that if it came down to survival of nature with Fungi at the top, or humanity without fungi, he'd pick fungi every time....is it just me? He's definitely passionate! =)

+1. Also my favorite. Though at a close second is Deborah Gordon's talk on ants. It's amazing:


what some people won't say/do in order to get government funding...what a load of crap!

Clifford Stoll, guy was all over the place, but I found his talk rather amusing and even a bit enlightening.

Yep. It's a bit self-consciously whacky, but he had a serious point to make and brought it across really well.

Here is the YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj8IA6xOpSk

Barry Schartz on the Paradox of Choice. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_par...

To paraphrase his talk: There is an "official dogma" that more choice equals more happiness. In reality, we have gone too far, and now more choice induces: 1. paralysis (you have so many choices that you give up and don't choose anything), 2. regret (if what you choose isn't perfect, you can only blame yourself), 3. high expectations and the impossibility to be pleasantly surprised.

Malcom Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce


Replace spaghetti sauce with software development and Facebook versus Twitter Versus Hacker News Versus Reddit etc

It's all about users =)

Gladwell is a brilliant storyteller. He's got the Ira Glass mojo.

Incidentally, now that I've finagled Gladwell and Glass into the same sentence: Ira Glass's interview on storytelling is not a TED talk. But it should be. Especially part 3:


I've like never like and ok like heard of like Ira like Glass or ok and like like like before but if like that clip like ok is like anything to like go on like then like Gladwell certainly like doesn't like have like his mojo at like like all.

Which is nice.

I think it's probably this one: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/william_kamkwamba_on_buil...

"When he was just 14 years old, Malawian inventor William Kamkwamba built his family an electricity-generating windmill from spare parts, working from rough plans he found in a library book."

Though the actual interview is a bit awkward at times, I found his story to be very inspiring.

Matthieu Ricard: Habits of happiness

What is happiness, and how can we all get some? Biochemist turned Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard says we can train our minds in habits of well-being, to generate a true sense of serenity and fulfillment.


If you have an interest in Buddhism, I recommend this book- http://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Lotus-Journey-Frontiers-Buddhi... , The Quantum and the Lotus, by Ricard and Trinh Xuan Thuan, an astrophysicist. In it they discuss the parallels of modern science and Buddhism. The books format makes a compelling subject even more so, as it is presented as a dialogue. i.e.

Ricard: Lorem Ipsum

Thuan: Lorem Lorem Ipsum

Ricard: Lorem Ipsum?

Thuan: Lorem Ipsum =)

This isn't a TED talk but it might as well be. I found it quite inspiring:

Shai Agassi talking about his company Betterplace:


(Just try to ignore Tim O'Reilly's annoying, negative presence and useless attempts to upstage his guest)

Below is a list of Ted Talks, my top five which blew me away, followed by some other favorites. Enjoy!

Top 5:

Zander on music, Hans Rosling on World Development, Bolte on Strokes, Lessing on Creative Commons, and the DNA Folding one

Some other favourites (full list here: http://www.ted.com/index.php/profiles/favorites/id/564):

Putting photos together - magically (Photosynth)

Design of the Universe

Johnny Lee: Creating tech marvels out of a $40 Wii Remote

John Francis - Planet Walker

Theory of everything


Liberal vs Conservative Brains

How Kids Learn


A must watch.

Steven Pinker's talk: A brief history of violence is great: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth...

Some people fail to realize that our time is the most peaceful there has ever been.

Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called "developing world."


John Doerr seeks salvation and profit in greentech.


No other TED talk had surpassed Isabel Allende's inspiring talk about passion.I can't stop viewing from time to time. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/isabel_allende_tells_tale...

Another captivating small talk by Bob Thurman (father of Uma thurman) is quite fun. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/bob_thurman_says_we_can_b...

Helen Fisher's view on romantic love and her scientific observations how it differs from other themes of 'love' which can also be described as the most addictive substance on earth. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/helen_fisher_studies_the_... If you don't be in love like the story she told about Mayan King in the begining, then don't love at all.

The one by Philip Zimbardo: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/philip_zimbardo_on_the_ps...

He talks about good and evil, about his famous Stanford prison experiment, about Abu Ghraib, about heroes and villains. Very emotional, very expiring and thought-provoking.

It's gotta be photosynth. The ability to stitch together disparate photos is really cool: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/blaise_aguera_y_arcas_dem...

Here's a gem: McKean: Redefining the dictionary http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/erin_mckean_redefines_the...


Thomas Barnett draws a new map for peace


In this bracingly honest talk, international security strategist Thomas Barnett outlines a post-Cold War solution for the foundering U.S. military that is both sensible and breathtaking in its simplicity: Break it in two.

He's a great speaker, funny if a little hyper active. He received a standing ovation; presumably reflecting the timeliness of his message after the difficulties in Iraq.

The following had an impact on me:

Tony Robbins


Daniel Gilbert


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


It's hard for me to pick a favorite. I hope at least one of them is useful to you.

I found Dave Eggers Ted Prize speech to be funny and inspiring. http://www.tedprize.org/video-talk-dave-eggers/

Ditto. His humility and humor about doing something that so directly improves the lives of people around him is just crazy inspiring.

The second Hans Rosling talk where he swallows a sword at the end.

Oh and I'd also really recommend Tony Robbin's talk. I've seen him live and this is a real snap-shot of that http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/tony_robbins_asks_why_we_...

I think his approach is really interesting and think he has a genuine desire to help people work out what drives them and use that to do something good.

I've always loved this one, great message and a really good speaker


"NASA's 1 year budget would fund NOAA's budget to explore the oceans for 1,600 years"

Really eye-opening talk about ocean exploration, or lack thereof. This guy has discovered some amazing things.

I would definitely say Jonathan Harris talking about wefeelfine.org http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jonathan_harris_tells_the...

It's a fascinating data-mining project as well as something that looks at how technology can affect people and what we can do to help.

Iqbal Quadir on Grameen bank and microfinance: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/iqbal_quadir_says_mobiles...

The talk covers the scaling of capitalism to the "other 80%" and the profound social change that takes place with small capital outlays.

I quite like Brian Cox's talk on the LHC.

Whenever anyone has asked me what the big deal about it was, or if I knew anything about it (I'm the "go to geek" it seems) I've always referred them to that particular talk.

He has a very eloquent way of putting it into perspective that has a very romantic view of science which I found inspiring enough to share.

My favourites have mostly been mentioned - David Deutsch talking about the open-ended generation of knowledge, Dan Gilbert on perception and consciousness, Aubrey De Grey on reversing aging and his arguments for why it will be possible, Barry Schwartz's paradox of choice talk, Malcolm Gladwell.

And Burt Rutan on space exploration.

It's little off the beaten path, but I guess I really like food. Dan Barber's parable of foie gras was really interesting and moving to me.


Bill Strickland's talk inspired me to think about what can be done by one person. Also he has a great casual speaking style.


I've always loved this one, great message and a good speaker


"NASA's 1 year budget would fund NOAA's budget to explore the oceans for 1,600 years"

I've always loved this one, great message and a good speaker


"NASA's 1 year budget would fund NOAA's budget to explore the oceans for 1,600 years"

I've always loved this one, great message and a good speaker


"NASA's 1 year budget would fund NOAA's budget to explore the oceans for 1,600 years"

As someone in the education field, I found Alan Kay's talk really, really inspiring:


Gever Tulley - 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangero...

I'm shocked that nobody mentioned Ron Eglash's talk on African Fractals: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ron_eglash_on_african_fra...

Hodgman, hands down. But that's because I'm a sucker for great stories.


I've just started watching TED... but i really liked the http://www.thedolectures.com/ which are similar

the David Deutsch one.

"What is our place in the cosmos?"


My favorite, too.

He's written for this blog, if you're interested.


There was a really good one by the guy from Archive.org

Brewster Kahle?

Dean Kamen tech talk wasn't elegant but meaningful

Chris Abani's talk on Humanity.

Chris Abani's talk on Humanity.

save thread

This one by Phillipe Stark is my must-watch TED talk.


He talks about how he approaches his work and about what drives him to excel. I watch it every few months, it gets better every time.

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