Speakers at TEDxLSU 2017 Saturday spoke about everything from gravitational waves, to communicating through dance, to breast cancer research, and chose to deliver their messages in formats from slam poetry, to comedy to dance.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and TEDx events are focused on creating community changing conversations in the cities they take place in.
Each year the event centers around a theme that helps stir conversations for change, with this year’s theme being, “Chain Reaction.”
Gaby Gonzalez, an LSU professor in physics and astronomy, and spokesperson for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Scientific Collaboration, or LIGO, focused her talk on the impact LIGO’s discovery of gravitational waves had on women in science.
The gravitational waves were found when LIGO detectors discovered a ripple in the fabric of space and time in which resulted from the collision of two black holes. The detection proved Albert Einstein's prediction, which he formulated nearly a century ago, about the existence of gravitational waves, she said.
Gonzalez hopes the presence of women on the team that worked to discover the waves will inspire more women to pursue careers in STEM fields, and more specifically physics.
Another speaker who focused on impact in the scientific realm was LSU’s Dean of the College of Science, Cynthia Peterson.
Peterson’s research focuses on uncovering the dynamics of proteins in hopes that it will provide clues about how to turn them on or off when they are out of balance.
In addition to science, Peterson’s other passion is music, which she has explored through her lifelong devotion to the piano.
Peterson delivered her talk to the background of a piano, cello and drums, while she explained the connections between science and jazz: learning as you go, honing your skills and collaborating with others.
During past TED talks, Edward Lynch, a 2014 Computer Engineering graduate, attended the free simulcasts because his student budget never allowed him to pay for a ticket to the event.
After missing the ticket deadline last year, Lynch decided he would finally attend the event in person this year.
“A couple of years ago, I was excited to learn that TED was coming to LSU," Lynch said. "I really enjoyed all the talks today, but I especially liked Dr. Cynthia Peterson’s talk about how science is like jazz. I related a lot because I’m a software developer, which can be rigorous at times, but I also have creative outlets like playing jazz on the trumpet and being a DJ.”
The tail end of the talks took a bit of a morbid turn, when Lauren Pharr spoke about how her research on turkey vultures was used to help solve a murder case in Louisiana.
Pharr’s work has given her the opportunity to use her research to work with law enforcement professionals around the country to help them more quickly identify human remains.
TED talk attendee Kylee Brown, a 25-year-old Plaquemine resident, spends her days as a nutrition agent for the LSU Agricultural Center, and decided to attend the event after hearing about it from a friend volunteering for the event.
“I like that the speakers were local people; for instance, the last speaker helped solve a murder in Louisiana," Brown said. "I also like how laid back things are and how the speakers walked around after each session so you could go talk to them.”
Other speakers spoke on topics ranging from economics, to behavior technology, to race issues and comedy.
The event was designed to spark conversation to inspire change in the Baton Rouge area, and for Lynch the purpose was accomplished.
“The talks showed that we’re making scientific and medical advances in the community, and that life and people are valuable,” said Lynch. “I think many of the talks will inspire people to do something different, whether that’s posting an idea, expressing their creativity or treating others with respect.”
For more information about TED talks or next year’s event visit www.tedxlsu.com.