Culture

TED Radio Hour asks: What is beauty?

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

TED-Radio-Hour-BeautyWe all know what it feels like to stand in a place that overwhelms our eyes with splendor, to hear a piece of music that seems to pluck the strings of our heart, to behold a face whose shape is pleasing. Beauty: it’s a thing we all know and are drawn to. And yet what is it that makes something beautiful?

Today’s TED Radio Hour asks this deceptively simple question. It begins with violinst Robert Gupta, reflecting on the instinct musicians have to know when something is simply lovely. Next, we hear from Denis Dutton, who looks at the universality of beauty as a gift from our ancient ancestors and the emotions they attached to the things that helped them survive. After, psychologist Nancy Etcoff explains why those we love are so beautiful to us.

In the second half of the show, model Cameron Russell talks about the decisions she made in her talk which went viral earlier this year, all about why she’s a model. Her explanation: “Because I won a genetic lottery.” Civic leader Bill Strickland describes how the magic of the potters’ wheel changed his life, and how he seeks to do the same for the youth of Pittsburgh through his arts education center. And designer Richard Seymour shares why beauty is not so much a thing in and of itself, but a feeling.

It’s an inspiring hour of great moments from TED Talks, embedded in a soundscape of music and fresh interviews. As Strickland says in the show, “When I think of beauty, I think of life and hope and all of its enormous possibilities. “

Check out your local NPR schedule to find out when the show airs today, or listen to it via NPR’s website »

Or head to iTunes, where the podcast is available now »