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VIPs at TED -- AIDS, atheism and the WWW

Los Angeles is a magnet for big thinkers, and some of them showed up at the TED conference in Long Beach, where we heard from the likes of Sam Harris, a Los Angeles native and a writer who makes his case for how he thinks religion -- even ''social'' faith -- is damaging to society, and who challenges myths about atheists as people incapable of acting morally without some divine guidance.

We also heard from epidemiologists about progress toward an AIDS/HIV vaccine, and about how some of our hidebound thinking about sexually risky behavior can be almost as dangerous as the elusive virus itself.

Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, offered some insights as to why the ''world'' part of that hasn't been achieved yet, the technological and political obstacles to making it happen, and how to overcome them.

We'll return to Studio B in the new Mohn Broadcast Center on Monday -- in the meantime, at the TED conference in Long Beach, at the same time that Microsoft founder Bill Gates was speaking to the audience two floors above me, my laptop kept telling me that the Internet Explorer browser I was trying to open had encountered an error. Irony, or coincidence?

-- Patt Morrison