10.0 TEDx Talks, Raleigh

If you don’t know what TED Talks are, they are 15-minute talks on Really Important and Inspiring Topics, meant to quickly educate and inspire you. They have been going on for quite a while. Bill Gates famously released mosquitos at one talk, and explained his plan for extracting energy from spent nuclear fuel in another. There are talks on stopping aging and poverty and global warming. In short, they are just fantastic. If you haven’t ever seen them, go browse. Now. You will have one of the better days of your life. :>

So when I heard that there was going to be TED talks here in Raleigh, I just about blew a fuse with excitement. Turns out it was a TEDx event. These are not official TED events, they are put together by anyone that wants to, borrowing the format and a few resources from TED.

It couldn’t have been better. Jim Brown checked in and wanted to meet for lunch – NetApp finally wised up and hired him after a dozen interviews, whoooop! – so he biked downtown (of course) and we headed over to the Raleigh IMAX for lunch, where the event was taking place all day.

I had been streaming it at work in the morning, and was already pretty amped up. When we got there, there was no one really manning the entrance. We asked one guy behind the main desk and he sort of shrugged his shoulders and mumbled something about preregistering, so I said “Oh OK, well we’re just going to peek in and grab some empty seats for a little bit”. I sent a tweet that we got in, and someone tweeted back that I’d better run, they were coming for me. But I was long gone by then. Whee!

The two talks we saw must have been custom-designed for me. The costs of factory farming and unlimited geothermal energy. Holy crap

The first talk was from a local farmer who got out 30 years ago and recently got back in. He was alarmed at the extent that factory farming had taken over. To optimize production at all costs, the “natural” farm cycle had been split into specialized factories. Hogs are produced in one place, corn in another, etc. This broke the cycle of efficiency of the traditional farm, where animal waste fertilized crops that fed the animals. With the new methods, hog waste is a toxic waste problem, and corn fertilizers are produced from largely imported petroleum products. And the products themselves are tainted – milk has to be pasteurized and meat cleansed with ammonia. While the production has actually not gone up that much, the energy efficiency has dropped significantly, requiring an enormous amount of input energy offset by subsidies and military action to protect the flow of oil. Jim took exception to that :> but otherwise generally agreed with the good points. Which was good to hear because I felt like he thought I must have set him up with this talk. Which I didn’t! :>

The second talk was from a retired NASA engineer who is looking for investors for his geothermal energy plants, wahoo! He has everything designed already, he just wants about $200 to build a prototype and get things rolling. Basically it’s a plant that takes advantage of the temperature differential between deep-ocean and surface temperatures. Turbines produce energy, you can harvest purified water from it, and you can even set it up to produce hydrogen fuel. He said with 900 shoreline plants, we could replace the need for imported oil. Get this thing rolling now!!

Back at work, I watched some more and got further pumped up. Videos about the amazing magician who trained to break the record for holding his breath, another documenting the horrible result of our disposable plastic society – all gathering at various oceanic locations around the world. I’ve been going bagless at the grocery store ever since.

It’s so great to know that people are engaging in real problems and taking them head-on. It’s a good day when your faith in humanity is somewhat restored. Keep at it good peoples! :>

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