Wednesday, September 28, 2011

20 Unbelievable TED Talks for Biology Majors

Considering TED acts as one massive repository for human knowledge, discovery, innovation and ideas, it makes perfect sense that biology majors will find some of its offerings appealing. No matter their specialization or expertise, there probably exists an excellent Talk relevant to their interest. The following only represents a small sample size but showcases some seriously wondrous, innovative and sometimes downright scary discoveries. Use them as a nifty supplement to classes and labs, and browse the site’s extensive archives for even more eye-opening awesomeness.

  1. Svante Paabo: DNA clues to our inner Neanderthal

    Although humanity’s origins remain shrouded in some mystery, intensive DNA studies do show that even today’s "evolved" individuals retain some of their Neanderthal roots. At some point in the species’ histories, they mated and started the genetic road that eventually led to the here and now.

  2. John Kasaona: How poachers became caretakers

    John Kasaona helped develop a startling — but absolutely sensational — strategy for curtailing poaching in his native Namibia. Individuals formerly engaged in the cruel practice now apply their skills to sustainability, and the results have proven valuable to man and beast alike.

  3. Rachel Sussman: The world’s oldest living things

    More than just biology majors will marvel over the not-so-ludicrous displays of the most ancient known organisms. Like a 3,000-year-old parsley relative just chillin’ in the Chilean desert or similarly aged lichens native to Greenland — every wonder featured here must be seen to be believed.

  4. Craig Venter unveils "synthetic life:"

    The J. Craig Venter Institute made science history in 2008 when it successfully developed a self-replicating, completely viable cell from synthetic DNA. What this means for medical science and biology should be rather obvious, and the organization’s founder discusses at length the hows and whys behind this amazing new discovery.

  5. Jonathan Drori: Every pollen grain has a story

    Botany buffs know the integral role pollen plays in keeping both species and ecosystems alive, but mainstream society tends to take it for granted. In this illuminating, riveting TED Talk, The BBC’s Jonathan Drori explores the structure’s bizarre and beautiful intricacies in a manner general audiences can appreciate.

  6. Dennis van Engelsdorp: a plea for bees

    Many people wrongly consider bees nothing more than pesky little bugs, but they actually form an irreplaceable component in multiple ecosystems. And the fact that their numbers are dwindling steadily might cause some serious biological and environmental issues if it remains unaddressed.

  7. Bonnie Bassler on how bacteria "talk"

    On the surface, bacteria seem brutally simplistic unicellular organisms — they just slip in, do their thing and never really think about what they do. Bonnie Bassler knows otherwise, as the genuinely complex creatures actually utilize a fascinating system of chemical communication to reach one another.

  8. Stefano Mancuso: The roots of plant intelligence

    Although the concept seems a mite absurd at first, plants possess their own unique brand of brains, even if they aren’t glistening grey masses. Genuinely "extraordinary communicators," everyone’s favorite green and leafy pals are quite adept at hunting, adapting and establishing interdependent, interspecies relationships.

  9. VS Ramachandran: The neurons that shaped civilization

    Mirror neurons, which receive plenty of detailing here, allow humans to process social stimuli — even mimicking others’ actions! Neuroscience expert VS Ramachandran weaves history into his TED Talk by outlining these wondrous structures’ part in establishing humanity’s past, present and possible futures.

  10. Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in action

    No matter how far innovators stretch themselves, they probably won’t ever fully match Mother Nature’s grand, often deceptively simple, designs. But that doesn’t mean they can’t find inspiration in her globe-spanning oeuvre when looking to solve some engineering hang-ups, as Janine Benyus’ lecture wondrously demonstrates.

  11. Jane Goodall helps humans and animals live together

    The Take Care program promotes sustainability, conservation and biodiversity by blending human and chimpanzee societies together. World renowned Jane Goodall explains how the amazing initiative works and how it might influence similar efforts to unite nature with people.

  12. Juliana Machado Ferreira: The fight to end rare-animal trafficking in Brazil

    Biology majors hoping to apply their skills to ecology, sustainability and preservation would do well to check out this TED Fellow’s sterling, inspiring talk. Here, she discusses Brazil’s illegal (but tragically lucrative) animal trade, which botches ecosystems and perpetuates cruelty against innocent species.

  13. Paul Sereno digs up dinosaurs

    Dredge up the remaining shards of that "dinosaur phase" from kindergarten and live vicariously through one paleontologist’s most excellent adventures. Viewers also learn about Project Exploration, a wildly successful nonprofit dedicated to nurturing science and discovery in otherwise lagging students.

  14. Deborah Gordon digs ants

    Inject a healthy dosage of entomology over the course of 20 minutes and learn about Deborah Gibson’s seriously cool work with Arizonian ants: mere dewdrops in the world’s 10,000 known species! For over two decades, she’s devoted her career to exploring their intricate interplay with surrounding ecosystems and understanding their intimate inner workings.

  15. Nathan Wolfe’s jungle search for viruses

    Deadly, devastating pandemics aren’t the brainchild of science fiction authors and filmmakers, but a serious concern in developing and developed nations alike. One way to possibly curtail such critical potential involves discovering viruses right where they spawn and finding cures before they even infect their first human.

  16. Kamal Meattle on how to grow fresh air

    Money plant, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and Areca palm, when displayed together, form more than just a lovely little decorative element. Rather, they actually produce cleaner air than some of their common houseplant cousins, which makes them ideal for creating green settings.

  17. Paul Ewald asks, Can we domesticate germs?

    For biologists studying how harmful bacteria can be rendered inert (or even helpful!), diarrhea provides piles and piles of possibilities. Without it, they would never be able to realize just how the world’s nastier little organisms infest, procreate and eventually spread, and what needs doing to reverse this sometimes lethal process.

  18. Peter Ward on Earth’s mass extinctions

    Understanding mass extinctions remains a pivotal component of any life science student’s education, but not everyone thinks the dinosaurs (just one example, of course) all keeled over because of an asteroid. Peter Ward attributes the phenomenon to hydrogen sulfide instead, and uses his TED pulpit to explain how, why and one startling medical boon.

  19. Edith Widder: The weird, wonderful world of bioluminescence

    Organisms utilize bioluminescence for a broad array of reasons, but the most spectacular examples hail from the most inaccessible oceanic recesses. Take a 12-minute tour of some particularly gorgeous specimens and learn a little something about how such amazing displays come about.

  20. Paul Stamets on 6 ways mushrooms can save the world

    Believe it or not, one humble little fungus might very well help people cure smallpox and clear up pollution: just ask mycology expert Paul Stamets! Here, he details how mycelium can be pressed into service and maybe stave off humanity’s ultimate demise for a while.

Taken From Best Colleges Online

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