TED Radio Hour

TED Radio Hour draws from the vast archive of TED Talks and weaves in new interviews to tackle a central theme or question. It’s a journey through fascinating ideas, astonishing inventions, and new ways to think and create.

Recent Episodes

Press Play

Does something serious happen when we play? In this episode, TED speakers describe how all forms of amusement — tossing a ball to video games — can make us smarter, saner and more collaborative. Comedian Charlie Todd and his group Improv Everywhere choreograph bizarre, hilarious and unexpected public scenes, creating whimsical opportunities for total strangers to play together. Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing and fantasy are more than just fun; humans are hard-wired to play. He came to this conclusion after conducting some somber research about the stark childhoods of murderers. Primatologist Isabel Behncke explains how bonobo apes learn by constantly playing. She says play isn't frivolous; it appears to be a critical way to solve problems and avoid conflict. When video game researcher Jane McGonigal was bedridden after a concussion, she gave herself a prescription: play a game. She says games helped her get better; and for many of us, virtual games can improve our real lives.

What Is Original? (R)

Even the most original ideas are essentially remixes. When is copying flattery, when is it thievery, and when is it sheer genius? In this hour, TED speakers explore how sampling, borrowing, and riffing make all of us innovators. Sampling music isn't about "hijacking nostalgia wholesale," says DJ Mark Ronson. It's about inserting yourself into the narrative of a song while also pushing that story forward. Filmmaker Kirby Ferguson says nothing is original and that our most celebrated creators steal ideas — and transform them into something new. Clothing designs aren't protected by copyright --and the industry benefits by being more innovative, says Johanna Blakley. People often credit their ideas to individual "Eureka!" moments. But writer Steven Johnson shows how history tells a different story.

Spoken And Unspoken (R)

We communicate with each other in all sorts of ways, spoken and unspoken. But how did the origins of language influence action, and can words actually change human behavior, even alter the course of history? In this hour, TED speakers reflect on how our words and methods of communication affect us, more than you might expect. Linguist John McWhorter says that texting has come of age with such speed and force that it's created an entirely new language within a generation. Biologist Mark Pagel believes our complex language system is a piece of "social technology", simply created to help us get things done. Teacher Phuc Tran tells a personal story of how being caught in a world between the subjunctive and indicative tense — yes, grammar — helped him find his identity. Etymologist Mark Forsyth shares the surprising backstory of the word "president." Social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains how "power posing" can affect our brains, and might even have an impact on our success.

Solve For X

Math intimidates a lot of us, but it can deliver surprising answers to life's most pressing questions. In this episode, TED speakers discuss the elegant simplicity, and giddy complexity, of solving for X. Writer Randall Munroe doesn't love math, but has made a career out of solving equations. By answering outlandish hypotheticals, he uses numbers as a playground for the imagination. Polymath Terry Moore wondered why "X" is the universal unknown in Algebra. He dove into the history of numbers to come up with an unexpected answer. Percussionist Clayton Cameron dissects the mathematics of improvisational jazz, discovering how numerical patterns make him a better musician. Entrepreneur and artist Kevin Slavin shows how algorithms can reshape finance, culture and physical environments, with potentially harmful consequences. Mathematician Hannah Fry says math can help you find love. Using mathematical models, she explains how to find an ideal mate and the secret to maintaining a healthy relationship.

Success (R)

Success has become synonymous with financial wealth, influence and status. But can we define success in another way — one that welcomes a broader range of accomplishment? It may not be as obvious as you think. In this hour, TED speakers share ideas for what makes us successful. Life coach Tony Robbins describes why failure should not be an option. Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth says "grit", not IQ, is the new predictor of success. Mike Rowe encourages us not to follow our passion. Ron Gutman shares some compelling research on the hidden power of smiling. And writer Alain de Botton shares a fascinating view about the American paradigm for success and failure.

The Unknown Brain

 The brain can seem as mysterious as a distant galaxy, but scientists are starting to map and manipulate its many regions. In this hour, TED speakers take us on a trip through the human brain. When neuroanatomist Jill Bolte-Taylor felt her brain shut down during a stroke, she was more fascinated than panicked. Even though she spent eight years recovering, she’s grateful for the stroke. Neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel turns brains into soup, so she can meticulously count the neurons, and determine why human brains are unique. Nancy Kanwisher studies the brain partly by staring at her own. She’s spent countless hours in an fMRI scanner, mapping her own brain to gain insight into what makes us human. Neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe explains how one region in  the brain focuses on other people’s thoughts. Philosopher David Chalmers asks why humans have a sense of self, a constantly-running movie full of sensation and internal chatter. He offers two ideas about the nature of consciousness.