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Photographer Rachel Sussman describes a species of baobab tree found in a particularly dry and fire-prone region of South Africa. The tree protects itself from fire damage by growing primarily upside down, and can live for up to 13,000 years.
Best-selling author Michael Pollan explains how food marketers have turned his critiques (like don't eat anything with more than five ingredients) into another way to sell consumers more food. His new rule of thumb? "Don't eat any foods you've ever seen advertised on television."
Photographer Rachel Sussman presents an image of what is most likely the oldest living thing on planet Earth: a specimen of actinobacteria, found in Siberian permafrost. The bacteria are about 500,000 years old, and in danger of extinction due to climate change.
Digital media artist Aaron Koblin shows off his animated visualizations of flight traffic mapping, text message usage and other illustrated projects, including an animated version of Thom Yorke's face created for an open source Radiohead video.
Antonio Damasio, noted researcher and professor of neuroscience at USC, explains how emotions are integral to decision-making. He discusses his experiences working with people with brain damage who are unable to decide things as simple as where to go to dinner.
Author Mary Roach discusses her scientific research on human arousal and the orgasm.
She tells the case of a women who experiences thirty spontaneous orgasms a day, and of another woman who could simply think herself to orgasm.
Bill Gates describes why he funds genetically modified food research.
"You are right on the verge of starvation all the time, so every tool that's safe and appropriate, you at least want to look into," he says.
Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, discusses his plan to economically price the electric car. "We've taken the price of the battery off the car," says Agassi, bringing the consumer cost down to around $20,000. He also explores developing incentive plans to offer tax breaks and bonuses for consumers who purchase electric cars.
IDEO CEO Tim Brown shares one of the most important parts of design thinking: asking the right question.
He recounts his experience working with a bicycle manufacturer, tweaking their original idea to something more appropriate for the market.
Why is WikiLeaks releasing documents from the Pentagon, when there is no shortage of corruption elsewhere in the world? Editor-in-chief Julian Assange regards it as an issue of trust, explaining that he considers it the website's responsibility to publish any classified information likely to have a significant impact -- regardless of diplomatic origins.
Jane McGonigal, author of Reality Is Broken, points to the 3 billion hours the world invests every week in online gaming as a clear indicator that many people are not being sufficiently challenged in their day-to-day lives.
"5.93 million years is how long people have spent tackling unnecessary obstacles in World of Warcraft," says McGonigal. "We've spent as long playing World of Warcraft as we have evolving as a human species."
Sam Harris, author of The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, discusses the shortcomings of organized religion as a guide for human morality.
Aubrey de Grey, chief science officer of the SENS Foundation, claims the key to human longevity is periodic repair and maintenance on the molecular and cellular level, not a magic bullet that slows down the aging process. Advocating what he calls the "maintenance approach," Dr. de Grey compares caring for the human body to preserving an antique car.
Chef and restaurant owner Dan Barber describes the tragic conditions introduced by modern agriculture in the United States. He calls upon the audience to start making better choices about food which ultimately turn out to be the most delicious.
Kathryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, discusses how the creative and scientific minds of the Enlightenment both welcomed and accepted doubt and error. Schulz encourages mistakes and imagination, stating that they are, "very often the engine of innovation and change and advancement."
Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, argues that the public education system is an inherently flawed relic of the Industrial Revolution. "A degree used to be a passport to employment, now it's a visa," says Robinson. "It's become an algorithm."
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins toys with the idea that technology might be hindering evolution.
Using poor eyesight as an example, Dawkins points out the "obvious survival value" in being able to "see an approaching saber tooth tiger."
Author, scholar and journalist Karen Armstrong discusses the need to apply Socratic philosophy to the counterproductive fierceness of modern debate. "Real philosophical debate...that is conducted in the spirit of malice or hate will not work," she says.
In an era of high tech weaponry engaged on front lines around the globe, author P.W. Singer discusses the need to rethink the antiquated rules of war from 1949's Geneva Convention. Should the global community be looking to Star Trek's Prime Directive for inspiration?
Author and futurist Stewart Brand addresses worries about nuclear energy concerning proliferation of material and waste disposal. He describes a recycling program that converts old nuclear warheads into energy and a facility designed to safely bury spent nuclear fuel.
Jacqueline Novogratz tells the story of how, ten years after donating her sweater to Goodwill, she finds it worn by a young boy in Kingali.
She says, "I hold it...as metaphor for how connected we are as a world."
If the SETI Institute detects a signal from extraterrestrial life, what happens next? SETI director Jill Tarter explains the protocol for such a situation.
Former Vice President Al Gore references new computer modeling to suggest that the north polar ice cap may lose virtually all of its ice within the next seven years.
"Some of the models suggest that there is a 75 percent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during some of the summer months, could be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years," says Gore.
Better Place CEO Shai Agassi's approach to the fueling the electric car revolution? Charging outlets at parking spots for city driving, and battery switching stations for traveling extended distances.
Antonio Damasio argues that even though emotions are viewed as a human trait, they are probably one of the earliest evolutionary advancements.
He explains that emotions are "a way to live for as long as possible", asking "if you were a gene, what would you do?"
SETI director Jill Tarter describes techniques the institute uses to distinguish extraterrestrial signals from stars and far-off natural sounds.
Richard Dawkins argues that humanity's historical predisposition towards religion and supernatural beliefs may have held an evolutionary utility. "The rule of thumb: 'Believe whatever your parents tell you,' quite clearly could have survival value," says Dawkins.
Chef Dan Barber recounts his experience on a goose farm in Spain where geese are raised for foie gras without the common practice of being force fed that has sparked controversy from animal rights activists.
Google's Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf discusses the future of television, arguing that the traditional channel-based model will eventually give way to an on demand, content-based model. "If I were a TV broadcaster right now, I'd be paranoid or schizophrenic," says Cerf.
Peter Hirshberg, co-founder and chairman of The Conversation Group, narrates the historical tensions between art and technology.
His projects use crime reports, pollution data, and crowd-sourcing to help bridge the gap between art, technology, and social action.
Author Sam Harris explains that despite humanity's general desire to be moral, our ethical compasses and biases frequently produce "moral illusions."
As an example, Harris points to the developed world's neglect of genocide in countries like Darfur. "We find genocides boring," he says.
The Pentagon publicly demanded WikiLeaks "return" the Afghan War Diary, a collection of U.S. military logs the website published online, and any other classified material it has slated for release. But how could the organization effectively return digital documents? Editor-in-chief Julian Assange jokes, "Should we just email 400,000 records back to the Pentagon?"
Julian Assange comments on Private First Class Bradley Manning's alleged involvement in disclosing classified information to WikiLeaks. Assange denies any knowledge of Manning's involvement and claims to have "never heard the name" before he saw media reports on the case.
Vint Cerf argues that smart phones and technology will not make people less intelligent if their information is critically processed.
"It reminds me of the guy that complained about the invention of writing," he explains, "because he said people would no longer remember anything cause they could just write it down."
Genetically engineered foods are "only unnatural if you don't know the biology," says author and futurist Stewart Brand. "There is no good reason for genetically engineered food crops to be controversial."
Author P.W. Singer discusses the increasingly common "leeching" of advanced and often invasive military technology into civilian life and domestic law enforcement. Do drones engaged on American soil violate our right to privacy? Does the Second Amendment protect our right to "bear robotic arms"?
Rodney Brooks, former iRobot CTO, describes the limitations of today's "stiff" factory robots.
Looking forward, Brooks envisions a future where people interact with robots in the same way we now work with computers.
Author Sam Harris argues that Islam is not simply a peaceful religion that has been corrupted by extremists like Osama bin Laden. "The only problem with Islamic fundamentalism are the fundamentals of Islam," says Harris. "To call Islam a religion of peace ... is completely delusional."
Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place, details the environmental and economic costs of electric driving. Agassi calculates the cost at 60 cents per liter and believes the cost will exponentially decrease over time. "Much like any consumer electronic device, it goes down a curve which cuts in half every period of time," he says.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete says the international community should look to Africa as the "continent that can feed the world."
With its vast open land, conducive climate, and available water supply, Kikwete believes that Africa could greatly increase agricultural production with access to the proper technology.
Antonio Damasio explains that even though many people use the words "feeling" and "emotion" interchangeably, there is a key difference between the two. "Emotion," he explains, is "a set of actions" programmed into us from birth, while "feelings" are how our conscious mind interprets these responses.
"Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf offers his predictions on the future of cloud computing, stressing the importance of interconnecting disparate clouds into a single network. "We're at the same point now in 2010 with Intercloud as we were in '73 with Internet," says Cerf.
Should earthlings actively announce their presence to extraterrestrials?
Director of the Center for SETI Research Jill Tarter says that while broadcasting is inevitable, we should wait until we are more technologically and politically advanced.
Sir Ken Robinson likens the increasing prevalence of ADHD diagnoses to the "plague" of tonsil removals during the '50s and '60s. He argues that while ADHD may be a real condition, it is currently being over-diagnosed in an attempt to "sedate" children who don't conform to the current education system.
Jacqueline Novogratz struggles to understand how a woman she knew in Rwanda could have indirectly engineered the genocide of 800,000 people.
She describes how the principles of tolerance and diversity could have mutated into Nazi-like horror.
Author, scholar and journalist Karen Armstrong explains her view on the spectacle of suffering and its positive and negative effects on humanity. She relates suffering to compassion, recalling various Confucian, Buddhist, and Christian philosophies.
Jacqueline Novogratz describes her experience starting a micro-financed bakery for poor Rwandan women.
She describes her "favorite moment" when, to set an example for the other women, sold out her supply of donuts.
Author Mary Roach discusses a few unsolved mysteries in the field of sex research, including the location of the clitoris in relation to a woman's ability to orgasm and the role orgasm may play in fertility.
As an example, she talks about evidence involving sexually aroused sows and artificial insemination.
Author Michael Ruhlman describes the true costs of cheap, fast food to the country from government subsidized corn to industrial meat.
Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, expresses frustration over the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission for eliminating limits on campaign spending by corporations.
Elon Musk says he was motivated to found SpaceX after learning NASA had no plans to send man to Mars.
Musk considers space exploration one of the main areas that will "most affect the future of humanity."
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk explains why a fully electric vehicle like the Tesla operates more efficiently than a plug-in hybrid.
It's "neither fish nor fowl," Musk says of the plug-in hybrid.