Here’s the first slide of my TEDYouth talk from Saturday. It was time consuming but fun to draw all those hands and tiny items of various sorts. The whole talk was about what I call “hidden structures”, which in a sense is what my field (high energy physics, particle physics, cosmology, string theory, etc.,) is all about. To help motivate it all, I started by talking about opening up your smart phone and figuring out how it works by taking it apart and discovering the components inside, and using the rules of how to put them together to deduce the structure of other things (see that second stage of the slide being delivered on stage*).

Since I’m hugely into getting people to learn by really getting stuck into things hands-on (an approach that occupied me for most of my childhood, and is a part of why I do physics as a career today), I was pleased to see that this aspect had resonance with at least two other talks. One was the talk on fast prototyping by Tom Chi, one of the team heads at Google X labs who comes up with ways to test product ideas by building fast prototypes leading to things like the recent Google Glass, and the other was the talk by William Gurstelle, showing the audience how building things can be fun, and who made several speakers out of a few simple components and plugged them into his iphone to show the sound that comes out.

In case you are wondering, those hands in the slides turn out to be the hands of the character that the audience follows through the talk, and you can see a drawing of her here in an earlier post. A fun thing I was able to do was wander off into particle physics, the LHC, quantum gravity, and string theory, and in the end bring it all back to the smartphone. I’m glad it worked, and people seemed to like it. Of course I hardly remember a thing of the actual six minutes of real time on stage… it all happened so fast.


*Thanks for the photo AEF!

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