Culture

12 talks that are highly appropriate for Halloween

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Happy All Hallows Evening, TEDsters! While you carve your pumpkins and put the final touches on your costume, here are 12 talks to get you further into the Halloween spirit.

Emma Teeling: The secret of the bat genomeEmma Teeling: The secret of the bat genomeEmma Teeling: The secret of the bat genome
Bats have a bad reputation, says Emma Teeling in today’s talk given at TEDxDublin. While people generally think of bats as creepy — thanks to their alien appearance and habit of hanging upside down — Teeling has great respect for these mammals. The Director of the Centre for Irish Bat Research, Teeling shares several fascinating features of bats, revealing how the bat genome can actually give us great insight into ourselves.
Jon Ronson: Strange answers to the psychopath testJon Ronson: Strange answers to the psychopath testJon Ronson: Strange answers to the psychopath test
In this eerie talk from TED2012, Jon Ronson tells the hair-raising tale of Tony — who faked madness to escape jailtime and ended up in an institution for 12 years after being labeled as a psychopath. With spooky animation by Evan Grant and sound by Julian Treasure, this campfire tale highlights the thin line between crazy and sane.
Paul Rothemund: Playing with DNA that self-assemblesPaul Rothemund: Playing with DNA that self-assemblesPaul Rothemund casts a spell in DNA
Paul Rothemund can be described as a “DNA origamist.” In other words, he writes programs that can shape DNA into stars, smiley faces, snowflakes and a slew of other shapes. But while fun, his work also reveals a fascinating property of the building blocks of life.
Paul Root Wolpe: It's time to question bio-engineeringPaul Root Wolpe: It's time to question bio-engineeringPaul Root Wolpe: It’s time to question bio-engineering
Dogs that glow and mice with human ears. Are these bio-engineering experiments ethical? In this talk from TEDxPeachtree, bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe calls for lines to be set as we further explore bio-engineering.
Joshua Klein: A thought experiment on the intelligence of crowsJoshua Klein: A thought experiment on the intelligence of crowsJoshua Klein: The intelligence of crows
Anyone who got freaked out by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds will not want to watch this talk given from Joshua Klein. At TED2008, Klein shares his work examining how crows not only adjust to human behavior, but are capable of using tools. The point? Crows are much smarter than we think.
Jim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killerJim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killerJim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killer
Neuroscientist Jim Fallon studies how people become killers, specifically looking at how men are more likely to have the specific mixture of genes and environment that result in horrific ends. But Fallon’s work became chillingly personal after a conversation with his mother. At TED2009, Fallon shared that his family tree contains Lizzi Borden — who killed her father and stepmother with an axe – as well as several other murderers.
Virginia Postrel: On glamourVirginia Postrel: On glamourVirginia Postrel on glamour
What is the origin of the word ‘glamour?’ In this talk from TED2004, cultural critic Virgina Postrel shares that the original use of the word was to “cast a glamour,” as in witches casting spells. Here, she traces how the word came to mean something very different in the 20th century.
Theo Jansen: My creations, a new form of lifeTheo Jansen: My creations, a new form of lifeTheo Jansen: My creations, a new form of life
Theo Jansen creates lifelike sculptures that can walk and run. Crafted from plastic tubes and bottles, they are the Frankensteins of the art world. In this talk from TED2007, Jansen shares his work. (And in this TED blog video, see one of his creations run amok.)
Cheryl Hayashi: The magnificence of spider silkCheryl Hayashi: The magnificence of spider silkCheryl Hayashi: The magnificence of spider silk
According to Cheryl Hayashi, spider silk is one of the most high-performance materials available in nature. And with 40,000 species of spiders out there — each able to produce seven types of silks — there is a lot of variety. At TED2010, Hayashi gives a call for us to stop being scared of spiders and to start viewing them as a valuable resource.
Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidneyAnthony Atala: Printing a human kidneyAnthony Atala: Printing a human kidney
What do human organs and cotton candy have in common? In this talk from TED2011, surgeon Anthony Atala shares an emerging technology that could help ease the shortage of organs available for transplant — a 3D printer that uses living cells. Says Atala, “This actually works like a cotton candy machine.” (For an extra dose of “ack!” check out Atala’s talk from TEDMed 2009, “Growing new organs.”)
J.J. Abrams: The mystery boxJ.J. Abrams: The mystery boxJJ Abrams: The mystery box
Writer, director and producer JJ Abrams has brought us many new pop culture classics from Lost, Alias and Fringe to the new Star Trek. In this talk from TED2007, Abrams shares how he became fascinated with the unseen mystery, and how his work passes on the experience to viewers.

Note: This post originally ran on Halloween of 2012. It was updated on October 31, 2013.