TEDGlobal 2010 day 2 : TED University session 2

Today was the second part of TED University. We somehow managed to get in time to Keble College (by the way, thanks Sleep Cycle!) and watched the session from the upper floor in the simulcast area.

“Professors” included Lee Hotz on Antartica. Favourite quotes : “It’s so cold researchers have to dig themselves out every day”, or on working with delicate ice samples : “In the coldest place on Earth, they work in a refrigerator”. Since going to the Antartica museum in Chirstchurch I was a bit curious about Antartica and this talk made a good job of highlighting the challenges researchers face there, and what their research is about.

Then Helio Mattar talked about the Mathematics of individual impact on the ecosystem. He showed in numbers (and you had to trust him on the data) that even one man, over the course of his lifetime, can save dozens of tons of waste or tens of olympic swimming pools of drinkable water just by being smarter. Favourite figure : if 22 amercians cut their water consumption by 50%, they will save the equivalent of one minute of the Niagara falls (complete with a dramatic flyover of the falls ;-).

Joseph Ellis talked about his sculptures of clay and ice in China. David Gurman records real-time data (bombings with seismic captors, civilian casualties in Irak ..) and feeds it to artistic projects to raise awareness and making people feel more connected to the issues.

One big highlight followed : our fellow TEDxBasqueCountry organizer Caroline Phillips showed us another of her many talents : she explained and performed with a Hurdy Gurdy, while singing (beautifully) in Basque. Just amazing! We’re starting an effort to get her on the main stage later in the week.

Peter Ma showed his yet-to-be-released iPhone app to make people move more. Jeffrey Mann showed examples of big companies still being able to be cool. Andrea Lucard showed a successful “smart school” community in East L.A. where mexican people stayed true to their roots.

Then Ron Dembo explained the basics of risk thinking. I really liked this one : he explained that the two main types of problems : deterministic and stochastic ones, each had their own optimal solution : execution (of the “best” solution), and hedging, respectively. He then showed examples of stochastic problems not being hedged and how it was a bad call. One other example he gave was that “Faced with the stochastic problem of oil prices in the next 20 years, Toyota hedged 1 billion on the Prius”. And they happened to be right. Simple, but very clearly presented stuff.

I’m missing some of the TED University talks but I didn’t take notes for all of them so I prefer not to be wrong :-)