My Dad says I have too much time on my hands. I regularly send him emails with links to interesting articles found on the Internet. My latest email contained a link to TED.com, an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED started out as an effort to bring together people from those three worlds. Since its first conference in 1984 its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. TED’s website makes the best of these talks (nearly 200, with more added each week) available to the public for free.
On TED you can watch a presentation by Larry Brilliant, who, as a young doctor, was given a mandate by an Indian guru to eradicate smallpox from the world; he subsequently joined the World Health Organization and did just that. You can listen to Ron Eglash talk about how we owe the binary code that underlies all electronic devices to ancient African organizational arts. Or hear surgeon and author Sherwin Nuland talk about the development of electroshock therapy as a cure for severe, life-threatening depression and relate how the technology saved his own life. Or even be entertained and inspired by Buddhist monk, photographer and author Matthieu Ricard as he discusses the concept of happiness.
Another website that blew me away is the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology’s (M.I.T.) library of video lectures by 71 year old professor, Walter H. G. Lewin, who has emerged as an international Internet guru thanks to his zany physics lectures. In one, Lewin beats a student with cat fur to demonstrate electrostatics. In another he dons nerd safari garb – shorts, sandals with socks and a pith helmet – and fires a cannon loaded with a golf ball at a stuffed monkey wearing a bulletproof vest to demonstrate the trajectories of objects in free fall. He rides a fire-extinguisher-propelled tricycle across his classroom to show how a rocket lifts off. During yet another demonstration he hoists his 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame onto a 30-pound steel ball attached to a pendulum that hangs from the ceiling, swinging across the stage while holding himself nearly horizontal to prove that the period of a pendulum is independent of the mass hanging from it.
Dad may be right that I have too much time on my hands, but when I was working 70 or 80 hours a week I never had time to learn about the millions of interesting things in this world. I have an innate curiosity that seems never to be satisfied. I want to know Why? And How? I am fascinated and intrigued by all this stuff and I can’t think of a better use of time than to educate myself and be able to pass some of these gems along through my blog posts. So, happy viewing to you. I hope you find the videos as delightful as I did.