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A robot that flies like a bird
Plenty of robots can fly -- but none can fly like a real bird. That is, until Markus Fischer and his team at Festo built SmartBird, a large, lightweight robot, modeled on a seagull, that flies by flapping its wings. A soaring demo fresh from TEDGlobal 2011.
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Einstein the Parrot talks and squawks
This whimsical wrap-up of TED2006 -- presented by Einstein, the African grey parrot, and her trainer, Stephanie White -- simply tickles. Watch for the moment when Einstein has a moment with Al Gore.
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David Gallo shows jaw-dropping footage of amazing sea creatures, including a color-shifting cuttlefish, a perfectly camouflaged octopus, and a Times Square's worth of neon light displays from fish who live in the blackest depths of the ocean.
Moral behavior in animals
Empathy, cooperation, fairness and reciprocity -- caring about the well-being of others seems like a very human trait. But Frans de Waal shares some surprising videos of behavioral tests, on primates and other mammals, that show how many of these moral traits all of us share.
The genius puppetry behind War Horse
"Puppets always have to try to be alive," says Adrian Kohler of the Handspring Puppet Company, a gloriously ambitious troupe of human and wooden actors. Beginning with the tale of a hyena's subtle paw, puppeteers Kohler and Basil Jones build to the story of their latest astonishment: the wonderfully life-like Joey, the War Horse, who trots (and gallops) convincingly
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Photos that give voice to the animal kingdom
Nature photographer Frans Lanting uses vibrant images to take us deep into the animal world. In this short, visual talk he calls for us to reconnect with other earthly creatures, and to shed the metaphorical skins that separate us from each other.
Theo Jansen creates new creatures
Artist Theo Jansen demonstrates the amazingly lifelike kinetic sculptures he builds from plastic tubes and lemonade bottles. His creatures are designed to move -- and even survive -- on their own.
The intelligence of crows
Hacker and writer Joshua Klein is fascinated by crows. (Notice the gleam of intelligence in their little black eyes?) After a long amateur study of corvid behavior, he's come up with an elegant machine that may form a new bond between animal and human.
Cute, sexy, sweet, funny
Why are babies cute? Why is cake sweet? Philosopher Dan Dennett has answers you wouldn't expect, as he shares evolution's counterintuitive reasoning on cute, sweet and sexy things (plus a new theory from Matthew Hurley on why jokes are funny).
The gentle genius of bonobos
Savage-Rumbaugh's work with bonobo apes, which can understand spoken language and learn tasks by watching, forces the audience to rethink how much of what a species can do is determined by biology -- and how much by cultural exposure.
A robot that runs and swims like a salamander
Roboticist Auke Ijspeert designs biorobots, machines modeled after real animals that are capable of handling complex terrain and would appear at home in the pages of a sci-fi novel. The process of creating these robots leads to better automata that can be used for fieldwork, service, and search and rescue. But these robots don't just mimic the natural world — they
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A plant's-eye view
What if human consciousness isn't the end-all and be-all of Darwinism? What if we are all just pawns in corn's clever strategy game to rule the Earth? Author Michael Pollan asks us to see the world from a plant's-eye view.
Ian Dunbar on dog-friendly dog training
Speaking at the 2007 EG conference, trainer Ian Dunbar asks us to see the world through the eyes of our beloved dogs. By knowing our pets' perspective, we can build their love and trust. It's a message that resonates well beyond the animal world.
Tales of ice-bound wonderlands
Diving under the Antarctic ice to get close to the much-feared leopard seal, photographer Paul Nicklen found an extraordinary new friend. Share his hilarious, passionate stories of the polar wonderlands, illustrated by glorious images of the animals who live on and under the ice.
Adam Savage's obsessions
At EG'08, Adam Savage talks about his fascination with the dodo bird, and how it led him on a strange and surprising double quest. It's an entertaining adventure through the mind of a creative obsessive.
What separates us from chimpanzees?
Jane Goodall hasn't found the missing link, but she's come closer than nearly anyone else. The primatologist says the only real difference between humans and chimps is our sophisticated language. She urges us to start using it to change the world.
Nellie McKay sings "The Dog Song"
Animal fan Nellie McKay sings a sparkling tribute to her dear dog. She suggests we all do the same: "Just go right to the pound/ And find yourself a hound/ And make that doggie proud/ 'cause that's what it's all about."
Bring back the woolly mammoth!
It’s the dream of kids all around the world to see giant beasts walk the Earth again. Could -- and should -- that dream be realized? Hendrik Poinar gives an informative talk on the next -- really -- big thing: The quest to engineer a creature that looks very much like our furry friend, the woolly mammoth. The first step, to sequence the woolly genome, is nearly
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How to make a splash in social media
In a funny, rapid-fire 4 minutes, Alexis Ohanian of Reddit tells the real-life fable of one humpback whale's rise to Web stardom. The lesson of Mister Splashy Pants is a shoo-in classic for meme-makers and marketers in the Facebook age.
The smelly mystery of the human pheromone
Do our smells make us sexy? Popular science suggests yes — pheromones send chemical signals about sex and attraction from our armpits to potential mates. But, despite what you might have heard, there is no conclusive research confirming that humans have these smell molecules. In this eye-opening talk, zoologist Tristram Wyatt explains the fundamental flaws in current
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The four fish we're overeating — and what to eat instead
The way we fish for popular seafood such as salmon, tuna and shrimp is threatening to ruin our oceans. Paul Greenberg explores the sheer size and irrationality of the seafood economy, and suggests a few specific ways we can change it, to benefit both the natural world and the people who depend on fishing for their livelihoods.
Could we speak the language of dolphins?
For 28 years, Denise Herzing has spent five months each summer living with a pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins, following three generations of family relationships and behaviors. It's clear they are communicating with one another -- but is it language? Could humans use it too? She shares a fascinating new experiment to test this idea.
How to restore a rainforest
By piecing together a complex ecological puzzle, biologist Willie Smits has found a way to re-grow clearcut rainforest in Borneo, saving local orangutans -- and creating a thrilling blueprint for restoring fragile ecosystems.
David Gallo on life in the deep oceans
With vibrant video clips captured by submarines, David Gallo takes us to some of Earth's darkest, most violent, toxic and beautiful habitats, the valleys and volcanic ridges of the oceans' depths, where life is bizarre, resilient and shockingly abundant.
Tierney Thys swims with the giant sunfish
Marine biologist Tierney Thys asks us to step into the water to visit the world of the Mola mola, or giant ocean sunfish. Basking, eating jellyfish and getting massages, this behemoth offers clues to life in the open sea.
Robert Ballard on exploring the oceans
Ocean explorer Robert Ballard takes us on a mindbending trip to hidden worlds underwater, where he and other researchers are finding unexpected life, resources, even new mountains. He makes a case for serious exploration and mapping. Google Ocean, anyone?
The voice of the natural world
Bernie Krause has been recording wild soundscapes -- the wind in the trees, the chirping of birds, the subtle sounds of insect larvae -- for 45 years. In that time, he has seen many environments radically altered by humans, sometimes even by practices thought to be environmentally safe. A surprising look at what we can learn through nature's symphonies, from
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Glowing life in an underwater world
Some 80 to 90 percent of undersea creatures make light -- and we know very little about how or why. Bioluminescence expert Edith Widder explores this glowing, sparkling, luminous world, sharing glorious images and insight into the unseen depths (and brights) of the ocean.
Dive into an ocean photographer's world
Somersaulting manta rays, dashing dolphins, swarming schools of fish and munching sharks inhabit a world beneath the ocean's surface that few get a chance to see. Conservation photographer Thomas Peschak visits incredible seascapes around the world, and his photos reveal these hidden ecosystems. "You can't love something and become a champion for it if you don't know
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Evolution's gift of play, from bonobo apes to humans
With never-before-seen video, primatologist Isabel Behncke Izquierdo (a TED Fellow) shows how bonobo ape society learns from constantly playing -- solo, with friends, even as a prelude to sex. Indeed, play appears to be the bonobos' key to problem-solving and avoiding conflict. If it works for our close cousins, why not for us?
Engineering and evolution
Insects and animals have evolved some amazing skills -- but, as Robert Full notes, many animals are actually over-engineered. The trick is to copy only what's necessary. He shows how human engineers can learn from animals' tricks.
The interspecies internet? An idea in progress
Apes, dolphins and elephants are animals with remarkable communication skills. Could the internet be expanded to include sentient species like them? A new and developing idea from a panel of four great thinkers -- dolphin researcher Diana Reiss, musician Peter Gabriel, internet of things visionary Neil Gershenfeld and Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the
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Life lessons from big cats
Beverly + Dereck Joubert live in the bush, filming and photographing lions and leopards in their natural habitat. With stunning footage (some never before seen), they discuss their personal relationships with these majestic animals -- and their quest to save the big cats from human threats.
Nathan Myhrvold on archeology, animal photography, BBQ ...
Nathan Myhrvold talks about a few of his latest fascinations -- animal photography, archeology, BBQ and generally being an eccentric genius multimillionaire. Listen for wild stories from the (somewhat raunchy) edge of the animal world.
Learning from the gecko's tail
Biologist Robert Full studies the amazing gecko, with its supersticky feet and tenacious climbing skill. But high-speed footage reveals that the gecko's tail harbors perhaps the most surprising talents of all.
Fighting a contagious cancer
What is killing the Tasmanian devil? A virulent cancer is infecting them by the thousands -- and unlike most cancers, it's contagious. Researcher Elizabeth Murchison tells us how she's fighting to save the Taz, and what she's learning about all cancers from this unusual strain. Contains disturbing images of facial cancer.
The real danger lurking in the water
The gharial and king cobra are two of India's most iconic reptiles, and they're endangered because of polluted waterways. Conservationist Romulus Whitaker shows rare footage of these magnificent animals and urges us to save the rivers that sustain their lives and our own.
Why I love vultures
As natural garbage collectors, vultures are vital to our ecosystem -- so why all the bad press? Why are so many in danger of extinction? Raptor biologist Munir Virani says we need to pay more attention to these unique and misunderstood creatures, to change our perception and save the vultures.
How photography connects us
The photo director for National Geographic, David Griffin knows the power of photography to connect us to our world. In a talk filled with glorious images, he talks about how we all use photos to tell our stories.
Torsten Reil builds better animations
Torsten Reil talks about how the study of biology can help make natural-looking animated people -- by building a human from the inside out, with bones, muscles and a nervous system. He spoke at TED in 2003; see his work now in GTA4.
The intriguing sound of marine mammals
Peter Tyack of Woods Hole talks about a hidden wonder of the sea: underwater sound. Onstage at Mission Blue, he explains the amazing ways whales use sound and song to communicate across hundreds of miles of ocean.
The great penguin rescue
A personal story, a collective triumph: Dyan deNapoli tells the story of the world's largest volunteer animal rescue, which saved more than 40,000 penguins after an oil spill off the coast of South Africa. How does a job this big get done? Penguin by penguin by penguin ...
Pay attention to penguins
Think of penguins as ocean sentinels, says Dee Boersma -- they're on the frontlines of sea change. Sharing stories of penguin life and culture, she suggests that we start listening to what penguins are telling us.
Keith Bellows on the camel's hump
Keith Bellows gleefully outlines the engineering marvels of the camel, a vital creature he calls "the SUV of the desert." Though he couldn't bring a live camel to TED, he gets his camera crew as close as humanly possible to a one-ton beast in full rut.
a plea for bees
Bees are dying in droves. Why? Leading apiarist Dennis vanEngelsdorp looks at the gentle, misunderstood creature's important place in nature and the mystery behind its alarming disappearance.
Corneille Ewango is a hero of the Congo forest
Botanist Corneille Ewango talks about his work at the Okapi Faunal Reserve in the Congo Basin -- and his heroic work protecting it from poachers, miners and raging civil wars.
Unseen footage, untamed nature
At TED2012, filmmaker Karen Bass shares some of the astonishing nature footage she's shot for the BBC and National Geographic -- including brand-new, previously unseen footage of the tube-lipped nectar bat, who feeds in a rather unusual way …
How we're growing baby corals to rebuild reefs
Kristen Marhaver studies corals, tiny creatures the size of a poppyseed that, over hundreds of slow years, create beautiful, life-sustaining ocean structures hundreds of miles long. As she admits, it's easy to get sad about the state of coral reefs; they're in the news lately because of how quickly they're bleaching, dying and turning to slime. But the good news is
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The coolest animal you know nothing about ... and how we can save it
Although the tapir is one of the world's largest land mammals, the lives of these solitary, nocturnal creatures have remained a mystery. Known as "the living fossil," the very same tapir that roams the forests and grasslands of South America today arrived on the evolutionary scene more than 5 million years ago. But threats from poachers, deforestation and pollution,
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How early life experience is written into DNA
Moshe Szyf is a pioneer in the field of epigenetics, the study of how living things reprogram their genome in response to social factors like stress and lack of food. His research suggests that biochemical signals passed from mothers to offspring tell the child what kind of world they're going to live in, changing the expression of genes. "DNA isn't just a sequence of
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How poachers became caretakers
In his home of Namibia, John Kasaona is working on an innovative way to protect endangered animal species: giving nearby villagers (including former poachers) responsibility for caring for the animals. And it's working.
Clues to prehistoric times, found in blind cavefish
TED Fellow Prosanta Chakrabarty explores hidden parts of the world in search of new species of cave-dwelling fish. These subterranean creatures have developed fascinating adaptations, and they provide biological insights into blindness as well as geological clues about how the continents broke apart million of years ago. Contemplate deep time in this short talk.
Janine Benyus shares nature's designs
In this inspiring talk about recent developments in biomimicry, Janine Benyus provides heartening examples of ways in which nature is already influencing the products and systems we build.
Art made of the air we breathe
Emily Parsons-Lord re-creates air from distinct moments in Earth's history — from the clean, fresh-tasting air of the Carboniferous period to the soda-water air of the Great Dying to the heavy, toxic air of the future we're creating. By turning air into art, she invites us to know the invisible world around us. Breathe in the Earth's past and future in this
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How we rescued the "dancing" bears
Traditionally, the Kalandar community of India has survived by capturing sloth bear cubs and training them to "dance" through extreme cruelty. Kartick Satyanarayan has been able to put an end to this centuries-old practice, and in so doing discovered a lesson of wider significance: make the practitioners part of the solution.