This past week, the 2011 TED Conference has been taking place in Long Beach. An annual gathering of the brilliant and innovative, TED isn't exactly the easiest event to attend. Fortunately for us, TEDx Goldstar, an independent TED-related event, offered a simulcast of Wednesday's sessions in Long Beach at the Downtown Independent Theater in Los Angeles. We watched all four of Wednesday's sessions-- "Deep Mystery," "Worlds Imagined," "Knowledge Revolution" and "Radical Collaboration"-- which featured guests ranging from physicist Aaron O'Connell, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me, The Greatest Story Ever Sold), band Antony and the Johnsons and the one and only Bill Gates.
"One thing you've learned after you've been in the TED community is that there is kind of a texture to the presentations through the course the week at TED," said Jim McCarthy, president and CEO of Goldstar, the ticket company that hosted the TEDx event we attended. "Some are hard to follow because they are very scientific and yet they're very rewarding. Some are entertaining, like Morgan Spurlock's talk. Some are touching, like [MIT professor] Deb Roy's talk."
With TED, it's hard to say which talks are tops, but the following five caught our attention. If and when videos become available, we will add those.
Felisa Wolfe-Simon is a NASA Astrobiology Research Fellow. During Wednesday morning's "Deep Mystery" session, she discussed a recent discovery at Mono Lake in Northern California, the microbe GFA-1. She described the microbe as "uninteresting," save for one feature. Arsenic can contribute to its growth.
"That's not supposed to happen," she said.
Wolfe-Simon explained the importance of this discovery in a way that even those of us who never studied biochemistry can understand.
"Diversity of life is actually unified," she explained, before illustrating that no matter how physically different lifeforms appear to be, we're actually very similar. The microbe GFA-1, she said, was doing something "just a little different."
Wolfe-Simon said that this discovery poses a new question, "Could we be missing alternatives to biochemistry here on earth?" Additionally, the findings can help in the study of astrobiology, indicating to researchers "more of what we need to look for and how."
Felisa Wolfe-Simon's talk isn't online at this time, but you can download the recent paper she co-authored through her website.
Famed chef and Food Revolution host Jamie Oliver was the recipient of last year's TED prize. On Wednesday, he returned to Long Beach to update people on the progress of his "wish," to help fight childhood obesity, with a brief talk.
A lot has happened since Oliver won his TED prize, which includes $100,000 and puts recipients in the position to collaborate with influential people on making their wish a reality. Oliver now has several kitchens across the country where people can learn to cook. He has a massive food truck with a fully functioning kitchen, in part to help give cooking lessons. He's continued his Food Revolution series.
But it's this latest season of Food Revolution, which just finished filming, that has brought about a whole other set of problems. Oliver decided to go to L.A., where he's been "banned," he says, from the entire LAUSD. He was able to get into a charter school for a few weeks, but was eventually expelled from there as well.
Oliver's talk highlighted the problems that face food in Los Angeles.
"There are still food deserts within eyesight of the Hollywood sign," he said.
Sounds like the next season of Food Revolution will blast any stereotypes of health-obsessed Angelenos.
LA Weekly's Amy Scattergood has reported on Oliver's problems in our city. Read "Jamie Oliver Fills A School Bus With 57 Tons Of 'Sugar' In Carson + Why L.A. Might Have Been A 'Big Mistake,'" "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution: Jamie's Kitchen Opens, The Revolt Begins + Fighting with the LAUSD" and "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution + the LAUSD: An Open Letter to Parents."