Monday, March 3, 2008

2008 TEDPrize Winner: Neil Turok (Part 2 of 3)

This is the second post of a three part series recounting the webcast of one session of the 2008 TED Conference. You can read the first post here. Again, my thoughts will be bold.

2008 TEDPrize Winner: Neil Turok

Next a video rolled of Bill Clinton's TEDPrize wish from 2007: To create a high quality health care system in Rwanda.

A group from TED took a trip to Rwanda to see what it was like. They came back home sharing the dream with others and they opened an open-source raised $500,000 to make the hardware software systems to run open source medical information.

AMD, Sun provide hardware/software solutions for the open-source system.
Carl Page from Handheld Entertainment provides technology to run the systems on hand-powered electricity.
Nokia provides devices and software so local people can communicate with the open-source health care system and the systems can communicate with the rest of the systems.

The initial response that many Christians in my part of the world have to the idea of Bill Clinton having a part in a TED wish is disgust. The work that's being done in Rwanda through TED is good regardless of who's name is on the initial idea. Politics should take a back seat to expressions of compassion.

Great quote by Amy after the video: "People don't feel enough." This is true of the church too.

Chris Anderson then introduced the second TEDPrize winner for 2008, Neil Turok.

Neil Turok

  • Theoretical Physicist testing models of the Big Bang, and moonlights working with Schools in Africa

  • Born in South Aftrica and parents imprisoned for resisting the racist regime.

  • When they got out fled the country.

  • Moved to London for high school.

  • Came backt o Africa to teach at the age of 17. (Lusutu)

  • 80% of the men work in the mines.

  • "There are many bright kids in Africa and if Africa is ever going to be fixed it will be by them, and not by us." The west is not the ultimate solution.

  • Then I turned to theoretical physics.

  • "There's only one question that really matters, 'What banged?!'" Perhaps the universe existed before the bang.

  • According to new theories there are more dimensions than the 3 we know of.

  • Brane theory. We live on one 3-d sheet and another universe exists on another 3-D sheet seperated by a tiny (like the size of a nucleus). In this theory the big bang comes from a place where these sheets collide. This theory fits all of the data we have about galaxies.
    Using gravitational waves we can test this theory.

  • It may be that there have been bangs in the past and there will be bangs in the future.

  • But what about Africa?

  • Big changes are happening in the world, but they're not helping africa.

  • Africa leads the world in death from preventable disease, AIDS, and war. 45,000 die per month in the Congolese war.

  • All of the aid that's been given to Africa has failed to put Africa on its own two feet.

  • An Idea Neil Had: Let's set up an African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. (AIMS). So we set it up and brought students from all over Africa to hear the best lecturers in the world and the students came.

  • Bought an 80 room hotel for $100,000 in South Africa and started the best math institute in Africa.

  • You have to rethink, What is the university for?

  • Working in groups, not chasing grades, solving problems.

  • 5 students are educated in AIMS for cheaper than 1 in America.

  • My TED Dream: The next Einstein will be African. I love huge goals like this!

  • The plan - replicate the AIMS model across Africa

  • Establish 15 new centers

  • Add entreprenuership and policy skills to the curricullum

  • Political support exists. Local scientists must play leading roles and governments must buy in

  • Relevant

  • Innovative

  • Cost-effective

  • High-quality (RICH) The church could benefit from following the RICH model. These are buzz words in the church, but are not fully understood. (For example: Relevant means the phrase "that's how we've always done it" needs to used as little as possible.)

  • Stephen Hawking and several others will be there to launch a new site. May 12

I see a lot of things that we could learn from this, but I will instead pose them as questions.

  1. What could the church learn from the way the secular world answers problems when they see them?
  2. Shouldn't the question "But what about Africa?" be coming off of our lips more than it does?
  3. Amy was right that "People don't feel enough." How do we get people to feel more for those who suffer in our world?

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