If you knew me in Real Life, you’d probably already know that I’m dangerously addicted to TED Talks. If you are reading this and have no idea what TED is, here’s an explanation from the TED website:


TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year’s TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.


The TED Talks are video recordings of  people giving talks at these TED conferences. The smartest, most accomplished people in the world, telling me about their work, their ideas, their cutting edge gadgets. Right there on the web, for free.


I could lose DAYS on this stuff. I’m not the only one. Last year, my husband and brother-in-law (with total family involvement from our excited children)  hacked their Wii remote to create a digital whiteboard, a touchscreen and a head-mounted 3-D viewer after watching this TED Talk by Johnny Lee:


[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgKCrGvShZs 480×295]


I ask you, where else could you find information that would make a whole family excited about disassembling  part of an expensive video game system instead of just, you know, using it to play games. (Of course, later that summer we created a low-tech air conditioner with a a box fan, a length of copper tubing and a bucket of ice water,  so maybe we’re not the best examples.)


Still there is a lot of information to be had there. I can trace the fact that my sons are now home schooled back to this talk by Sir Ken Robinson, about how schools kill creativity (fair warning- it’s 20 minutes long, but quite amusing):


[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY 425×344]


 Now, for the tech-lovers among us, take a look at this jaw-droppingly awesome augmented reality mapping technology from Microsoft:


[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLmaoLqN7I8 480×295]


They have now added a “Best of the Web” feature which allows them to share extraordinary and inspiring talks that were not recorded at TED conferences. Like the Harvard commencement speech given by J.K. Rowling that has so recently moved and inspired me, The Fringe Benefits of Failure.


Many of the shorter, more entertaining videos have made their way onto YouTube. The best of these give us insight into our world and ourselves, or else give detailed instructions on how to turn household appliances into doomsday devices.


Well, okay. Not really. But TED Talks are like the best bits of the best lectures you might ever have heard in college, and they are totally free. What’s not to love about that?


I am going to leave you with one I found to be quite fun, though perhaps not earth-shatteringly revolutionary. Micheal Shermer: Why People Believe Strange Things.


[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8T_jwq9ph8k 425×344]