Playlist TED-Ed

8 fascinating talks about Mars, including a new one from Bill Nye the Science Guy

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

In today’s thrilling TED-Ed lesson, Bill Nye the Science Guy admits that he has S.O.D., otherwise known as Sundial Obsessive Disorder. But there is a good reason for it — a sundial helped Nye’s father escape from a prison camp in China during World War II, launching a lifelong obsession that Nye eventually picked up himself.

At an event several years ago, Nye caught a glimpse of a device — called a “photometric calibration target” — that would soon be on its way to Mars on the outside of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The device was essentially a test pattern for cameras — a metal post with gray rings around it — that would allow them to gauge the color of the Martian sky. Nye had an “aha” moment. These devices could easily be turned into sundials, charting the progression of time on the red planet.

Because of Nye’s suggestion, a sundial has now been on Mars.

To hear the amazing story of how Nye’s father escaped from prison camp, and how exactly this Martian sundial works, watch Nye’s wonderful talk. And after the jump, watch seven more talks about Mars.

Joel Levine: Why we need to go back to Mars
The surface of Mars was not what was expected, says atmospheric scientist Joel Levine in this talk from TEDxNasa. Levine explains the tantalizing hints of past life — including craters of ice and evidence of ancient oceans — and why we need more research on the planet.

Penelope Boston says there might be life on Mars
Cave scientist Penelope Boston believes that there is a 25 to 50 percent chance that the Mars Rovers didn’t find life on Mars because said life is inhabiting deep caves.  At TED2006, she gives ideas on where — and how — we should continue the search.

Cynthia Breazeal: The rise of personal robots
The first robot landed on Mars in 1997. So how is it possible that we don’t have them in our homes and offices yet? In this talk from TEDWomen, Cynthia Breazeal explains her work in teaching robots to interact with human beings.

Charles Elachi on the Mars Rovers
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab has become the stuff of legends. At Serious Play 2008, director Charles Elachi tells behind-the-scenes stories and shows rarely seen footage recorded by the Mars Rover project.

Stephen Petranek counts down to Armageddon
What will bring on the end of the world, and what is our best chance for surviving it? In this talk from TED2002, Stephen Petranek describes how we could go about “terraforming” Mars — a process that could take hundreds of years.

Jon Nguyen: Tour the solar system from home
Jon Nguyen is the Visualization Software Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In this talk from TEDxSanDiego, he demos a tool that allows anyone to explore the solar system in detail — even take a trip to Mars — using data provided by spacecrafts in orbit.

Burt Rutan sees the future of space
In this talk from TED2006, spacecraft designer Burt Rutan admits that Mars was not quite as interesting as space enthusiasts had hoped. But he believes that is in part because NASA used robots for the mission to the planet and explored only the deserts. A call for entrepreneurs to pick up the slack in government funding for space exploration.