Playlist TEDTalks

8 TED Talks about the wonders of patterns

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The swirl behind Arthur Benjamin shows the pattern of Fibonacci numbers. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Arthur Benjamin is perhaps the world’s leading mathemagician and, in today’s talk, he aims to show the creativity, beauty and wonder that is as much a part of math as logic. Arthur Benjamin: The magic of Fibonacci numbers Arthur Benjamin: The magic of Fibonacci numbers Stepping onto the TEDGlobal 2013 stage, Benjamin takes us on a spirited tour of the Fibonacci numbers, where the patterns to be found go far beyond simply adding two consecutive numbers to get the next. Math is the science of patterns, says Benjamin, and isn’t it incredible that as we note the arithmetical significance of this sequence, that we can also see it in action all around us?

“Fibonacci numbers appear in nature surprisingly often,” says Benjamin. “The number of petals on a flower is typically a Fibonacci number. Or the number of spirals on a sunflower or a pineapple.”

Benjamin’s talk reminds us of several other TED classics. Human beings have a proclivity for patterns, and this collection of talks sheds light on how, and why, we lock into patterns and use them in countless facets of life.

Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception
The brain is wired to see patterns and this is not just the case in humans. Birds in a box, with two holes to peck, will continue the pattern of action that resulted in the delivery of a food reward, even if the food is really dispensed randomly. This is just one of the ways Michael Shermer, the director of the Skeptics Society, cleverly gives us insight into our innate “patternicity.” Often, the tendency to follow patterns can lead us to offbeat, incorrect or out-of-this-world conclusions.
Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies
Our innate nature of pattern-recognizing is even evident in a baby’s ability to learn language. By “taking statistics” and finding trends in the words constantly spoken to and around them, young children identify and absorb the cultural characteristics of their native language. In this talk, Patricia Kuhl describes this fascinating — and critical — period of language acquisition.
Beau Lotto: Optical illusions show how we see Beau Lotto: Optical illusions show how we see Beau Lotto: Optical Illusions show how we see
Patterns are essential in our brains’ ability to make sense of the infinite possibilities of the stimuli in our surroundings. We use guidance from neighboring clues and our own memories of past experience to fill in the blank that is the perception of the present. Beau Lotto, exposes the assumptions that the brain makes based on such patterns through the trickery of optical illusion.
Jean-Baptiste Michel: The mathematics of history Jean-Baptiste Michel: The mathematics of history Jean Baptiste: The mathematics of history
Patterns expose consistencies throughout human history that teach us about the past and allow us to anticipate the future. Did you know there is a mathematic equation that links the language of the King of England in the 9th century to Jay-Z? Jean-Baptiste Michel has found this equation and sees great potential in finding more intriguing trends in our time of digitized data.
David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization
Data journalist David McCandless turns complicated data sets — worldwide military spending versus worldwide charity giving, media panic over disease and disaster — into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes. Why? To make the invisible patterns of our world highly visible.
Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs
Ethno-mathematician Ron Eglash noticed a fascinating pattern as he began to study at African villages in many different parts of the continent — that they were built on fractal geometry, with smaller structures resembling the larger structures. These fractal patterns are also visible in African art and architecture — even in popular board games and divination practices.

And a bonus TEDx talk:

Laurie Frick: Seeing the hidden language in art
Identifying patterns help humans to find clarity in seemingly useless information. Laurie Frick, an engineer turned artist, collects and simplifies millions of data points of human tracking into visuals that expose trends amidst seeming background noise. Beginning with measuring her own minute-to-minute sleep patterns, in this talk from TEDxAustin, she describes a form of art that celebrates the surveillance and reveals the structure that makes the human condition more accessible.