“TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.”
So says their website. TED is a California thing. By my understanding, which may be flawed, it primarily conducts an annual conference of highly selected speakers giving short presentations on a wide variety of topics. The conferences cost thousands of dollars to attend, but are always filled. I do not understand who is so motivated to attend, but they do record these presentations and post them on their web site, http://www.ted.com. The more popular ones get linked from sites like The Huffington Post.
Browsing through the topics is a good way to pass idle moments of the day. The presentations are high quality and all try to stay under 15 minutes.
As an example, a recent one was on modern high-speed photography . Back in my high school days I was fascinated by such photos in Life magazine, photos of a bullet blasting through an apple, a football deformed at the instant it was kicked (the classic shown here), a drop of water bursting apart as it hits a pavement, etc.
Now, the TED presenter tells us, they can take photos a million times faster, so fast they can actually show the movement of a pulse of light. By rapidly turning a laser on and off they can generate a pulse just a few millimeters thick, and the photographs can show this pulse moving through objects such as a plastic soda bottle. (A recent article on the Higgs boson states that the detector at the CERN collider is essentially a camera that takes millions of frames a second.)
There is no mention of how this is done, just that it is possible. The presentation is to stimulate your imagination for other uses.
Technology is only one of many categories. The next one I watched was an art critic speculating on who the girl was in Vemeer’s famous painting “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” The assumption was always that she was his 12-year-old daughter, but the author suspects she was a servant. A slightly open mouth in Flemish art of the time indicated sexual availability. She then expands this into a general discussion on the relationship between the artist and the subject.
All interesting stuff, and part of the charm is that you never know what you will find.