Culture

Playlist: Embrace your inner nerd

Posted by: Jessica Gross

Vive les nerds! While the term used to be something of a put-down, meant to mock an excessive interest in math or science, it’s now often used in an almost prideful way to signify a passion for pretty much anything. And that applies to pretty much all of those who end up on the TED stage. Here, just some of the talks in which TED speakers refer to themselves as nerds, covering topics from bugs to data to pop culture.


Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me
TEDGlobal 2012
Marshall, a communications teacher, urges scientists and engineers to “talk nerdy to us”–that is, make their ideas simple enough to understand, but no simpler. She’s learned something from engineers, too, she says: they’ve taught her “to become really in touch with my inner nerd.”


Richard Pyle dives the reef’s Twilight Zone
TED2004
Pyle begins his talk about life deep in coral reefs with this introduction: “I’m not just an ichthyologist, I’m a bona fide fish nerd. And to a fish nerd, this is some pretty exciting stuff.” For non-fish nerds, too.


Bono: The good news on poverty (Yes, there’s good news)
TED2013
“I have truly embraced my inner nerd,” says U2’s frontman toward the beginning of his talk about inspiring data on worldwide poverty. “So exit the rock star. Enter the evidence-based activist, the factivist.” And with that, he flips his rockstar glasses upside-down so they resemble mad-scientist goggles.


Noah Wilson-Rich: Every city needs healthy honey bees
TEDxBoston 2012
When honey bees started disappearing in 2006, a year after Wilson-Rich began his Ph.D. in honey bee health, “suddenly, this little nerd kid going to school working with bugs became very relevant in the world.”


Tavi Gevinson: A teen just trying to figure it out
TEDxTeen
“I am kind of a pop culture nerd,” acknowledges fifteen-year-old Gevinson, before going on to show how she applies that knowledge to advance her theory of what makes a strong female role model.


Cary Fowler: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food
TEDGlobal 2009
Describing a facility he and his colleagues created to house and protect an astounding range of crop species, Fowler says, to audience laughter, “I know this tags me as a bit of a nerd, but some of the happiest days of my life have been spent in this place here.”