14 billion years in 7 minutes

By Risa Wechsler | March 4, 2011 5:12 pm

You’ve already heard about TEDx from Sean here and here. The main TED conference for 2011 has been going on this week, in Long Beach, and rumors have it that it’s been great. Physicist Janna Levin gave a talk, which is not yet posted. A few of the talks are, though — check out this inspiringly optimistic view of the current situation in the Arab world from Wadah Khanfar. More TED talks here, the ones from this week are starting to appear.

In any case, one of the first very large TEDx Events was organized as a part of Universal Children’s Day in November, with a whole bunch of simultaneous organized events called TEDxYouth. I had the opportunity to give a talk at one of the events TEDxYouth Castellija, to about 400 middle and high school students, about how the Universe works.

Because of the younger audience, they cut the standard ted talk time of 18 minutes to 6 minutes, which made it even harder — at least for those of us used to having a whole hour to say something! Anyways, I managed to try to explain dark matter, galaxies, and the last 14 billion years in this short time. You can take a look here:

The rest of the speaker lineup was really great, and very diverse, including a graffiti artist, the founder of guitar hero, the google chef, and a super compelling biochemist.

My favorite talk was by Garang Akau, one of the lost boys of Sudan, who has subsequently graduated from Stanford and started his own NGO called New Scholars, focused on incubating youth-led enterprise in Africa. His fearlessness and optimism in the face of incredible hardship was seriously inspiring. Check it out:

The best part of the whole thing was meeting and talking with some of the kids, who were truly engaged and curious. Lots more awesome talks are available from TEDxYouth Castelleja and from the rest of the TEDxYouth events. Looks like the day was a smashing success all around, and will be happening again next November.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellany, Personal, Science
  • Kaleberg

    Why do they make the talks shorter for middle school and high school kids? That sounds weird, maybe even counterproductive. Are G rated movies shorter than R rated movies?

  • Matt

    Is MOND really more complex than postulating thousands of unknown, and unseen particles that have evaded detection for an increasingly implausible amount of time shooting through your fingernails?

    Maybe cosmologists need to renew their commitment to understanding Occam’s Razor.

  • Sili

    Why do they make the talks shorter for middle school and high school kids?

    Concentration. The rule of thumb is that people can at best concentrate for a period equal to their age plus two minutes.

    I was told that high schoolers may concentrate for 20 minutes at a time in class, but only 6 minutes if you’re really upping the level of abstraction.

  • Sili

    Is MOND really more complex than postulating thousands of unknown, and unseen particles that have evaded detection for an increasingly implausible amount of time shooting through your fingernails?

    Maybe cosmologists need to renew their commitment to understanding Occam’s Razor.

    Really? RLY?!

    Should we reject electromagnetism as well since that too calls for 10^60 or so invisible charge carriers spread out over the entire universe?

    Hell, by that standard we’d have to reject MOND too – along with Newtonian gravity – since is requires those selfsame invisible atoms to work on.

  • Pingback: 5 March 2011 am « blueollie()

  • Wil

    Well, it is certainly nice to know that dark matter is a long-proven, absolutely immutable law of physics, much more secure than F=ma, and far more certain and fleshed out than 2+2=4. It is nice to know that we have long understood exactly what it is, why it exists, how it is made, and what every last one of its physical, chemical, energy and nuclear properties are, down to seven or eight decimal places.

    The first 50 or 60 groups of scientists who artificially made it in labs were probably excited at the time, but now it is just boring. I am old enough to remember when you couldn’t buy a 5 pound sack of dark matter at WalMart for $7.99. And it has been made by children at science fairs for so many years now, that nobody even bothers with it any more.

    Dark matter is such a long-proven thing, I do not know why Risa even brings it up. It is like spending time arguing whether or not air exists.

  • Sili

    Well, it is certainly nice to know that dark matter is a long-proven, absolutely immutable law of physics, much more secure than F=ma, and far more certain and fleshed out than 2+2=4.

    If it wasn’t for the sarcasm, I’d complain about the strawman argument.

    Anyway, F=ma is wrong. And you may call 2+2=4, but if you want a theoretical underpinning for it, you can’t be sure it’s true.

  • http://www.uned.ac.cr Roberto Bravo

    Could anyone wxplain in olain words why Dr. Hawking mentions that there may exist 10 to the 500 universes as stated in The Grand Design?. Thank you.

  • S.S. Winslow

    Too bad the kids couldn’t have had a good presenter. (sigh)

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