Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Patricia Ryan: Don’t insist on English!

by TED Talks - 10 April 2011

I know what you’re thinking. You think I’ve lost my way, and somebody’s going to come on the stage in a minute and guide me gently back to my seat. (Applause) I get that all the time in Dubai. “Here on holiday are you, dear?” (Laughter) “Come to visit the children? How long are you staying?”

Well actually, I hope for a while longer yet. I have been living and teaching in the Gulf for over 30 years. (Applause) And in that time, I have seen a lot of changes. Now that statistic is quite shocking. And I want to talk to you today about language loss and the globalization of English. I want to tell you about my friend who was teaching English to adults in Abu Dhabi. And one fine day, she decided to take them into the garden to teach them some nature vocabulary. But it was she who ended up learning all the Arabic words for the local plants, as well as their uses — medicinal uses, cosmetics, cooking, herbal. How did those students get all that knowledge? Of course, from their grandparents and even their great-grandparents. It’s not necessary to tell you how important it is to be able to communicate across generations. Read the rest of this entry »


Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies

by TED Talks - 31 March 2011

I want you to take a look at this baby. What you’re drawn to are her eyes and the skin you love to touch. But today I’m going to talk to you about something you can’t see, what’s going on up in that little brain of hers. The modern tools of neuroscience are demonstrating to us that what’s going on up there is nothing short of rocket science. And what we’re learning is going to shed some light on what the romantic writers and poets described as the “celestial openness” of the child’s mind.

What we see here is a mother in India, and she’s speaking Koro, which is a newly-discovered language. And she’s talking to her baby. What this mother — and the 800 people who speak Koro in the world — understand that, to preserve this language, they need to speak it to the babies. And therein lies a critical puzzle. Why is it that you can’t preserve a language by speaking to you and I, to the adults? Well, it’s got to do with your brain. What we see here is that language has a critical period for learning. The way to read this slide is to look at your age on the horizontal axis. (Laughter) And you’ll see on the vertical your skill at acquiring a second language. Babies and children are geniuses until they turn seven, and then there’s a systematic decline. After puberty, we fall off the map. No scientists dispute this curve, but laboratories all over the world are trying to figure out why it works this way. Read the rest of this entry »


Stephen Wolfram: Computing a theory of everything

by TED Talks - 8 June 2010

So I want to talk today about an idea. It’s a big idea. Actually, I think it’ll eventually be seen as probably the single biggest idea that’s emerged in the past century. It’s the idea of computation. Now, of course, that idea has brought us all of the computer technology we have today and so on. But there’s actually a lot more to computation than that. It’s really a very deep, very powerful, very fundamental idea, whose effects we’ve only just begun to see.

Well, I myself have spent the past 30 years of my life working on three large projects that really try to take the idea of computation seriously. So I started off at a young age as a physicist using computers as tools. Then, I started sort of drilling down, thinking about the computations I might want to do, trying to figure out what primitives they could be built up from and how they could be automated as much as possible. Eventually, I created a whole structure based on symbolic programming and so on that let me build Mathematica. And for the past 23 years, at an increasing rate, we’ve been pouring more and more ideas and capabilities and so on into Mathematica, and I’m happy to say that’s led to many good things in R and D and education, lots of other areas. Well, I have to admit, actually, that I also had a very selfish reason for building Mathematica. I wanted to use it myself, a bit like Galileo got to use his telescope 400 years ago. But I wanted to look, not at the astronomical universe, but at the computational universe.

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