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There aren’t many places in the world where, in the space of just a few hours, you see a cockroach reacting to hip-hop beats, watch a scene from one of Hitchcock’s classic movies, get introduced to the Meissner effect and learn how important the first minutes of a baby’s life really are.
Today, the capital of Belgium was one of those places as it hosted its 4th edition of the annual TEDxBrussels conferences. The TED conferences are held around the world, bringing together high-profile speakers and curious attendees who want to push the limits of their knowledge.
The speakers are invited to perform for about 15 minutes. How they do it is up to them- as long as it’s inspirational and, hopefully, jaw-dropping. Therefore, some speakers use pictures and videos or carry out little experiments while others simply talk and tell a story.
The topics that make up one TED conference are diverse, but they all serve one purpose: the speaker wants to encourage the listeners to think outside their box, surpass their own horizon to discover new worlds, new ways of thinking, and break out of the bubble that engulfs our everyday lives.
The TEDxBrussels conference was divided into several segments, one of which was called ‘BANG- Bits Atoms Neurons Genes’, and another one ‘BANG BANG – Convergence’, both of which were suitably accompanied by the famous Nancy Sinatra version of ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).
Mentioning all the speakers in this blog post is unrealistic, but some of them particularly caught my attention. My favourite talk was given by Dr. Alan Greene, who presented his idea for changing the world in 90 seconds. His presentation (see below) was, in my humble opinion, a great example of how little changes in behaviour can have enormous results. He explained that, especially in the Western World, the umbilical cord of newborn babies is being cut too early. If it was cut 90 seconds later, the baby would receive much more oxygen, blood and iron, which would result in a healthier child growing up with a better developed body and brain. According to his statistics, about two billion people have lost intelligence due to iron deficiency.
Later on, Andrew Keen gave a very passionate speech, warning us about our excessive use of social media. According to him, they are trying to suck us into their ‘community’ and we are so fascinated that we can’t find our way out. He underlined this by showing scenes from classic films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ or peter Weir’s ‘Truman Show’. I definitely recommend you to watch his presentation below!
Zoé Laughlin showed us the ‘performativity of matter’, putting on a great show with lots a little experiments. In one of them, liquid nitrogen was poured onto a piece of ceramic so that it would be able to maintain electric current. The ceramic cooled down so much that it repelled a magnet, making the magnet float above it. The Meissner effect, a great experiment that would fascinate many children at school for sure. (video below)
Dale Stephens made some attendees jealous by explaining how he made a career without ever going to college. Greg Gage brought us neuroscience by showing how the leg of a cockroach transmits music (prompting Twitter user @colingoeu to call him ‘The MacGyver of neuroscience’), Bruno Zamberlin used a bike to create music and Irene van Peer encouraged us to play with pigs in order to learn more about ourselves.
Those who watched the conference might think that the common thread was missing, that there was not one big topic connecting the speeches. However, I’d like to claim that all the speeches had one very common topic: Our life, and what surrounds it. How we make the best out of of life and how we change our way of living for the better. Every speaker presented his ideas for making life more exciting, by inventing, innovating or simply trying a very different path from others.