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A decade of e-mailing, IM’ing and social networking is beginning to undo forty million years of touching as a primary human modality. Acclaimed primatologist and evolutionary biologist, Nina Jablonski explores this change, man’s role as the only “self-decorating ape,” and how our underappreciated skin holds the key to our humanity.
Erica Williams is a Washington, D.C.-based activist and commentator who currently serves as the Deputy Director of Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress. In this riveting Poptech talk, Williams discusses how the Millennial generation—today’s 18-30 year olds—are re-imagining the nature of political engagement.
2009 PopTech Fellow Jason Aramburu launched re:char in 2005 to develop low-cost technologies that fight climate change while improving the quality of degraded soils. re:char’s systems convert agricultural waste into renewable fuel and into biochar, sequestering atmospheric carbon and improving soil quality.
Andri Magnason is an Icelandic writer who co-directed the documentary film Dreamland, about a massive industrial project in Iceland that exposed some ugly truths about politics, industry and so-called green energy. He studies what seem like cycles of endless growth simply for growth’s sake. “I was wondering about how rational we are as humans. Where does this come from? Where does this need, this addiction come from?”
Katherine J. Kuchenbecker studies how humans process tactile stimuli. Through her work, she is able to design haptic interfaces, virtual objects and distant environments that feel real to the human touch. Her work aids in everything from creating more immersive environments for surgeons to designing tablet computers with surfaces that simulate reality.
2008 PopTech Fellows Chip Ransler and Manoj Sinha are key principals behind Husk Power Systems (HPS), a for-profit company that’s created a proprietary technology to cost-effectively convert rice husks into electricity. HPS delivers electricity – and dramatically improved lives – to India’s “Rice Belt.”
Having spent two years living in squatter communities across four continents, urban ethnographer Robert Neuwirth finds people living lives of complexity, challenge, and surprising resiliency.
Watch pioneering marine ecologist and Scripps Institution professor Enric Sala build a time machine to the 16th century – exposing a pristine coral reef few human eyes have ever glimpsed. He also explains how 99.9% of the world’s coral reef research has been flawed and posits tourism as a way to save these endangered, natural wonders.
Five-time Grammy award-winner John Legend will move you and motivate you. He weaves stories from his Show Me Campaign—a movement he launched to help eradicate extreme global poverty—in between each soulful song.
Nithya Ramanathan’s organization NexLeaf Analytics couples everyday objects like cell phones with sophisticated analytics to improve projects’ impact. In one example, Nexleaf tracked seabirds’ sounds on a distant island, and by processing the recordings with powerful servers, helped scientists better gauge the seabirds’ risk of extinction.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is not afraid to say “I don’t know.” In fact, he’s proud of his ignorance. A mathematician, philosopher and hedge-fund manager all in one iconoclastic package, Taleb demonstrates the wisdom in admitting the limitations of our knowledge.
What happens when material things become free? Long Tail author and Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson examines new models of wealth distribution and claims we’re moving from economies of scarcity to an age of abundance.
As Corporate Vice President of External Research for Microsoft, Tony Hey is responsible for public-private partnerships with scientific and engineering communities, government agencies, and industry partners worldwide. At PopTech 2009, Hey discussed the critical role of citizen scientists in understanding complex data-intensive problems like climate change and galaxy formation.
Deviant globalization is the global flow of “repugnant” goods and services like drugs, human trafficking and illegal wildlife. Such globalization leverages the mainstream infrastructure of the formal economy along with any downsizing in the role of the state. Nils Gilman asks what this means for countries in flux like Greece and Libya.
2008 PopTech Fellow Ken Banks is the founder of kiwanja.net, which helps non-profits put mobiles to work through innovative offerings like FrontlineSMS – free software enabling coordinated, many-to-many, two-way text messaging. Ken’s solutions are being used worldwide to improve communications in a variety of critical situations.
An eminent roboticist and Ph.D. at MIT’s Media Lab, Dobson is exploring “machine therapy” – a personal, societal and psychoanalytical study of machine design and its effects on peoples’ everyday lives. Watch as she exhibits Screambody, Blendie and Omo, three fascinating robots that respond to – and influence – their users in provocative ways.
Víðir Reynisson, head of the National Commission of Icelandic Police, coordinates the country’s response to natural disasters, including the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and oversees the country’s search and rescue teams. Iceland has developed a nimble crisis management model. “With all disasters, with all crises, comes opportunity.”
Neuroscientist and best-selling author David Eagleman introduces the concept of Possibilianism, a new philosophy that simultaneously embraces a scientific toolbox while exploring new, unconsidered uncertainties about the world around us.
Alysson Muotri is working at the forefront of research on Autism Spectrum Disorder. By studying stem cells from adult patients with Rett syndrome, his work is uncovering new insights into the environmental and genetic causes of autism, and the possibility that autistic neurons may be induced to revert back to normal neurons.
Economic commentator and author Tim Harford presented a creative, challenging perspective on financial systems, drawing upon examples from oil rig explosions to nuclear disasters to make his point. He believes that by studying the triggers of major engineering accidents, we can draw lessons on how to help prevent crises in the financial world.
Naval Captain Wayne Porter and Col. Mark Mykleby of the Marines, military strategists working at the highest level of government, present highlights from their paper, “A National Strategic Narrative.” Their ideas—less military force, more social capital and more sustainable practices in energy and agriculture—have caused a recent stir in policy communities.
Climate change is exacerbating flooding in waterlogged Bangladesh. Already, hundreds of schools get wiped out during the monsoon season. Mohammed Rezwan builds floating schools, healthcare facilities and libraries. “If 20 percent of the land goes under water, which may happen in the next 10 to 20 years, where will these people go? We don’t have enough space, enough land. People have to live on the water in some way.”
“Is water still running?” is perhaps the most important question for water initiatives worldwide, concludes Water for People CEO Ned Breslin. He’s tired of seeing broken hand pumps and taps litter Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These signs of failed projects underscore the critical need to overhaul water aid for real impact.
Author of the Guardian’s weekly ”Bad Science” column and Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks, British physician Ben Goldacre dismantles the questionable science behind an assortment of drug trials, court cases, and events of our time.
Daryl Collins asked families in developing countries who live on $2 a day to track their income and expenses in a financial diary. She learned that these families have rich financial lives but are confronted with sporadic cash flow and lack of appropriate financial tools. As a result, this inhibits their ability to manage money and plan for future generations.
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Podcast Details

Sep 29th, 2009
Latest Episode
Nov 4th, 2014
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