Business TED Fellows

Unlikely collaborations: 5 TED Talks that reach across fields

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Jessica Green explains what microbiology has to teach architecture at TED2013. Photo: Ryan Lash

Architecture and microbiology may seem like an odd couple, but TED Senior Fellow Jessica Green would beg to differ. Jessica Green: We're covered in germs. Let's design for that. Jessica Green: We're covered in germs. Let's design for that. In today’s talk, she reveals what’s teeming all over the surfaces around us, and how it can help us build smarter, healthier buildings.

As the founding director of the Biology in the Built Environment Center at the University of Oregon, Green knows that it’s time for biology to join physics as a way for architects to study buildings. When she collaborated with architect Charlie Brown to study the microbes at UO’s Lillis Business Complex, they tracked the health benefits of the ventilation louvers Brown had designed. The result? A wealth of information and a new approach that Green is calling bioinformed design.

We thought this creative crossing of fields was brilliant — and also familiar. Some of the most interesting TED Talks come from a blend of the artistic and the analytical, the silly and the serious, the personal and the political. Here are five talks that make interdisciplinary magic.

1. Mathematics meets history

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Human history has produced a lot of data – words, dates, things, people – but we don’t usually examine it with a quantitative eye. At TED2012, TED Fellow Jean-Baptiste Michel gets computational with the stuff of our past.

2. Art meets government

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When your city has a mayor who’s an artist, he may just paint the town red … literally. And it turns out that’s not such a bad idea. Tirana, Albania’s former mayor, Edi Rama, explains why at TEDxThessaloniki.

3. Music meets medicine

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Robert Gupta is a violinist with a mission to heal – he brings his neurobiology background into his life as a professional musician. At TEDMED 2012, he explores the way that music reaches with ease into the brain’s secret corners.

4. Programming meets parenting

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Agile development – a system of iteration, feedback and self-management – really works. It works for software, it works for business, and at a TED@250 salon, Bruce Feiler shows how it even works for families.

5. And, of course, dance meets science

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In one of the most inspired cross-fertilizations ever to appear at a TEDx event, John Bohannon eschews the slide deck and collaborates with the dance company Black Label Movement to explain complex ideas in physics and biology. Together they make a gorgeous case for the value of the arts.