There’s been an annual TED Conference since 1990, and its speeches have become an international sensation since TED shifted its focus to an online audience. There are now over 1,700 presentations available to watch online, and viewers around the world have streamed TED Talks more than one billion times.
The talks are mostly about science, psychology, communication, and innovative businesses. Many are interesting and valuable — but some that are just plain weird.
We’ve picked some of the most ridiculous talks, from one about a self-proclaimed cyborg to another about a woman whose wearable technology channels its users’ own voice to their ears through a tunnel.
Oregon activist Joe Smith wants to reduce waste in the U.S., which is a noble pursuit, for sure. And it's interesting to discover that Americans use 13 billion pounds of paper towels a year. But his instructional presentation on how to revolutionise drying your hands, 'How To Use A Paper Towel,' is just plain silly.
His technique: 'Shake, and fold.' Shake your hands after washing, and fold your towel before using -- a two-step process Smith enthusiastically demos for his audience with a variety of paper towels. 'The fold is important because it allows interstitial suspension,' he explains. 'You don't have to remember that part, but trust me.'
This is probably one of the weirdest science experiments featured on TED: a severed cockroach leg waving back and forth to the bass notes of rock music. In 'The Cockroach Beatbox,' a November 2011 talk, Gage uses the insect to demonstrate how brains receive and deliver electrical signals. And don't worry about the leg the cockroach loses -- Gage assures us that it will grow back.
In 'My Mushroom Burial Suit,' Lee explains how the human body is full of 'toxins' and that traditional burial methods poison the environment. It's why she's training mushrooms to recognise her body's excess skin and hair cells, so that when she's buried, the mushrooms can decompose her body.
You have probably tied your shoes the same way every day since you were five years old or so. But Moore says he's found a better way.
In 'How To Tie Your Shoes,' a three-minute talk filmed in February 2005, Moore demonstrates the 'correct' way to tie the knot. It's easiest to understand by watching yourself, but it's all about the direction you wrap one lace around the other. He says it's not only stronger, but also looks better.
Harbisson was born with achromatopsia, a rare visual condition that causes total colour blindness. In the early 2000s, however, he teamed up with scientists to acquire an 'electronic eye' that senses colour frequencies and turns them into sounds. The thing is, it's a device that a doctor drilled into his head. He proudly proclaims himself to be a cyborg.
'Life has changed dramatically since I hear colour, because colour is almost everywhere,' Harbisson explains in his June 2012 talk, 'I Listen To Colour.' 'So the biggest change, for example, is going to an art gallery, I can listen to a Picasso.'
In 'The Orchestra In My Mouth,' a talk filmed at TEDxSydney, Thum shows off his ability to imitate everything from traditional Chinese music to dubstep using just his voice. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' Thum says, 'I would like to take you on a journey throughout the continents and throughout sound itself.'
You might find it somewhat entertaining -- if you've never heard someone beatbox before -- but otherwise it seems more fitted for an open mic night.
We live in a time when people are more connected to their technology than ever before. But while Apple is preparing a smartwatch to compete with Samsung, Hartman is making hats that let you talk to yourself. She explains the Talk To Yourself Hat in 'The Art Of Wearable Communication':
It physically carves out conversation space for one. And when you speak out loud, the sound of your voice is actually channeled back into your own ears. And so when I make these things, it's really not so much about the object itself, but rather the negative space around the object. So what happens when a person puts this thing on? What kind of an experience do they have? And how are they transformed by wearing it?
At first glance, Meade's paintings look like just that -- paintings. But they're not. In 'Your Body Is My Canvas,' a talk filmed this June, Meade describes her entry into the world of 3-D paintings, where people are her canvases and the final image is a photo of her work.
'What I do in my art is I skip the canvas altogether, and if I want to paint your portrait, I'm painting it on you, physically on you,' she says. 'That also means you're probably going to end up with an earful of paint, because I need to paint on your ear.'
Stoll is an astronomer and author, and he's a very bright guy. But that doesn't mean he knows how to give a presentation.
Stoll goes into full mad scientist mode and uses his talk 'The Call To Learn,' to bounce around the stage making crazy noises and talking about his background, the American education system, and Mobius loops. By the end, you're left wondering what you just saw.
Want more TED Talks but don't have time to watch them all? Consulting firm Oliver Wyman's Wernicke has you covered. With the help of crowdsourcing and inspired by the famous six-word story attributed to Ernest Hemingway ('For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn'), he thinks he found a way to condense the lessons of 1,000 TED Talks into just six words.
In his November 2011 TEDxZurich talk, '1,000 TED Talks, 6 Words,' Wernicke reveals the final solution of his project: 'Why the worry? I'd rather wonder.' It takes over seven minutes to get to this point, which doesn't leave you with much of anything to work with.
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