Top 7 TED Talks on Mathematics

Oct 09, 2020

Exhausted after leafing through tons of pages or watching YouTube videos? Bored of your professor’s monotonous lectures? Not getting enough help from those e-books or online websites about the subject you’re trying to learn? Friends, please chill. Start listening to TED talks from today onwards and get inspired like never before!

But, what is ‘TED’? Since 1984, a non-profit organization known as Sapling Foundation introduced a series of global conferences to rekindle the lamp of knowledge, with a motto ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’. These enlightening lectures are referred to as TED talks (TED being the abbreviation for Technology, Entertainment and Design), and continue for eighteen exciting minutes.

Do you know how popular TED talks are? Over 200 million people are reported to be viewers of these unique audio-visual sessions, ever since 2006. These talks can guide you about several subjects, ideas and important life lessons. Now, speaking of subjects, how do you like Math? I bet most of you are terrorized by this intimidating subject. For me, it was one of my worst nightmares.

What if some experts decode the various puzzles of Math for you? And, simplify some of the problems you confront regularly whenever you sit down with your sums? Let me offer you some of the best TED talks on Math, presented by some renowned speakers.

1. Geoffrey West: The amazing Math of cities

Dear students, teachers and Mathematicians, you all must hear this. I am sure you would love it. British physicist Geoffrey West has discovered an awesome thing. In this TED talk, he states that the various elements of a city are controlled by mathematical laws. He means that the economic activity, walking speed, crime rate and several other features of a city can be detected by just one number. Can you guess what that number is? Well, it is the population of the city. It’s a beautiful scientific theory about cities.

2. Michael Mitchell: Smart Way to Calculate Large Numbers

Have you ever made attempts to guess how many cookies a jar contains? Or, the number of carpenters in a city? If you haven’t, you must tune into this animated video. Here, mathematician Michael Mitchel describes how the power of ten can be employed to make appropriate estimation from very scanty data. The talk also mentions that mostly, the estimations obtained are very close to the real figure. For, Mitchell unearthed the accurate number of piano tuners in Chicago, without having any knowledge about the population of the city.

3. Margaret Wartheim: Exploring Corals through Geometry

Now, this is sure to impress nature lovers, environmentalists as well as all the science enthusiasts. In this TED talk, noted science writer Margaret Wartheim has uncovered a brand new idea, on which she has been working since 2005, along with her twin sister. She says that marine organisms like sponges, slugs and corals display a remarkable kind of geometry, known as ‘hyperbolic geometry’. Wartheim has added that the best way to represent these objects is through a process called ‘crocheting’. Daina Taimina, a mathematician had first discovered this theory, according to Margaret.

4. Scott Richard: Making the ugliest music with Math

Here, Scott Rickard describes how random music can be created with Math. He states that while one can make pleasant music with repetitions and patterns, he has found out how to put together a musical piece which was devoid of repetitions. This would be possible by using the ‘Golomb Ruler’, which is a unique Mathematical concept. He said that the rhythm of the piece of music would also lack repetitions, apart from its notes. The video also speaks about the first musical piece which had been composed without any repetition.

5. Arthur Benjamin: Clever way of doing Mental Math

This one would blow your mind away. Watch out this marvelous talk by the American mathematician Arthur Benjamin, where he performs ‘mathemagic’ – a fabulous technique of performing superfast math calculations, racing against calculators. First he squares a double digit number, progressing to five digit numbers with the aid of his amazing mental math tricks. Next, he guessed the exact day of the week of the birthdays of certain members of his audience. Furthermore, he performed some other amazing math tricks, and everything was done almost within a fraction of a second!

6. Jean Baptiste Michel: Unearthing History through Math

Did you know that you can acquire a vast amount of historical data with the assistance of Math? Listen to Jean Baptiste Michel talk about this this is possible. Historical concepts like the transition phase of the languages of the world, gory battles, etc. can all be unraveled through digitized history. He mentioned how modern researchers are utilizing huge quantities of data to seek answers to complex questions, which were previously collected from literary, linguistic and historical sources. He also said how quantitative analysis can be used to identify historical patterns.

7. Adam Spencer: The magic of numbers

I would advise students, teachers and Math-lovers to go through this interesting video lecture presented by Adam Spencer, a famous Australian radio presenter, comedian and mathematician. He shares his great love for prime numbers with his viewers, adding that these numbers are so long that most people find them interesting! If you want to know about the history, meaning and significance of these numbers, you cannot afford to miss this informative yet entertaining TED talk. You can also get to know about the largest known prime number from this TED session.

Why not watch these thrilling TED talks and instill a curiosity for Math inside your hearts? Some of the most distinguished mathematicians of the world have shared their perspectives in each of them.

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Sid writes educational content periodically for Wizert and backs it up with extensive research and relevant examples. He's an avid reader and a tech enthusiast at the same time with a little bit of “Arsenal Football Club” thrown in as well. He's got more than 5 years of experience in technical content framing, digital marketing, SEO and graphic designing.

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