Terrific TED Talks

TED Conferences LLC was founded in 1984, but TED Talks entered my radar when I was in high school. Now, pretty much everyone I know has heard of TED Talks. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, but TED Talks are given on all sorts of topics. Just go on the TED Talks website; it lists dozens for you! I love TED Talks because they make complicated topics accessible and interesting to almost anyone. They also inspire and leave you wanting to learn more. For that reason, I found six TED Talks that each fall under the umbrella of one of UWaterloo’s six faculties and connected them to UWaterloo courses. You can chase after more knowledge of the topics discussed in TED Talks right here on campus!

1. Faculty of Science

I do not enjoy the sound of my own voice on recordings. It’s not that I think it’s ugly or anything, and I suppose it’s growing on me a little bit, I just don’t think it’s as appealing as the voice I hear when I’m simply speaking out loud. As it turns out, a number of people feel the same way, and there’s an explanation for that: no one has one voice. To find out what that actually means, check out this talk by Rébecca Kleinberger, who I think has a lovely voice. 

If you want to learn more on this topic, I suggest enrolling in PSYCH 320 - Language Development and/or PSYCH 306 - Perception (both offered this fall).

2. Faculty of Arts

What is masculinity? Justin Baldoni is one man who thinks that it needs to be redefined. You may know him from the hit TV show Jane the Virgin (I absolutely love it), but in his talk he gets really personal. Justin explains his own fraught relationship with masculinity and what he’s discovered about it through life experiences and small social media experiments. I strongly encourage both men and women to listen his talk and consider the takeaways with an open mind.

There are a number of fascinating Women’s Studies courses that explore masculinity, but WS 222 - Gender Issues (offered this fall) and WS 209 - Gender Relations (not offered this fall) seem the most relevant to this talk.

3. Faculty of Mathematics

Oh boy. Math. If you’re not studying something that involves math at university, that’s understandable. It can be tough and daunting, and sometimes the required classes we take in elementary and secondary school lessen our curiousity about and confidence in the subject. Still, if you approach math without your past judgments of it in mind, it can be incredibly cool to see how the subject allows people to uncover the hidden truths of our world. In his TED Talk, Frenchman Cédric Villani even explains how it’s sexy

To further explore math, consider taking PMATH 330 - Introduction to Mathematical Logic (offered this fall) and/or CO 480 - History of Mathematics (not offered in the fall). If you can’t take these courses, I hope you at least have a deeper appreciation for all forms of math after listening to this talk.

4. Faculty of Engineering

In studying the social sciences, I’ve learned quite a bit about the effect that smart devices (specifically smart phones) have on our lives from a humanities perspective. As such, when I found a talk featuring an engineer who shares more about the effect that smart devices have on our lives from a tech perspective, I was curious. The engineer, Surya Mattu, is also an investigative journalist and co-hosts the talk with Kashmir Hill, a technology journalist. Together, they tackle the topic of smart devices in relation to ever-elusive privacy (and drop some very cheesy jokes). 

If their talk peaked your interest in the internet, ECE 358 - Computer Networks (offered this fall) and ECE 416 - Advanced Topics in Networking (not offered this fall) seem very relevant. 

5. Faculty of Applied Health Sciences

Our aging population is something that you’ve likely heard at least a little bit about, and probably not in a good way. In his talk, Jared Diamond explains the different ways in which traditional societies treat their elders and how they compare to the different ways modern societies treat their elders. He also quite bluntly examines the “usefulness” of older people and how society can make use of them. The fact that Diamond is in his 70’s makes this talk all the more interesting.

If you want to learn more about aging, check out HLTH 352 - Sociology of Aging and/or HLTH 400 - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Aging. Neither of these courses are offered this fall, but there are plenty of courses on gerontology

6. Faculty of Environment

I have a few friends studying urban planning, and I think it’s a super cool field, so I looked into it right away when I was searching for TED Talks. As expected, TED Talks about planning are super cool too. You may have noticed that eastside communities are often marginalized communities, and Stephen DeBerry addresses that fact in his discussion of planning. As it turns out, “disparity by design” exists, and it’s the reason why most of us understand what people mean when they say “the wrong side of the tracks.”

(The audio recording of the TED Talk is above. The video recording is on the TED Talks website.)

Two courses that seem relevant to this TED Talk are PLAN 233 - People and Plans and PLAN 261 - Urban and Metropolitan Planning and Development. Unfortunately, neither of them are offered this fall. Keep an eye out for them in the future, and if you haven’t already, take PLAN 100 - The Evolution of Planning.


I really enjoy how most of these talks are actually interdisciplinary, and I hope you do too! Don’t forget that the add period for fall 2018 courses ends on September 19!

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