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TEDx goes to CERN

Inventors, educators and scientists inspired audiences at this year’s TEDxCERN.

Photo of TEDxCERN
Maximilien Brice; Guillaume Jeanneret; Nairit Sur, CERN

It’s not every day you see entrepreneurs, engineers and particle physicists breaking it down to an electronica remix of recordings from CERN’s air conditioning units.

But then again, TEDxCERN only happens once a year.

TEDxCERN is an independently organized TED-like event hosted by CERN that invites scientists and innovators to share their insight. The goal of this year’s TEDxCERN was to showcase the connections between research and society across multiple disciplines, cultures and continents.

“Science really has a big impact in society, even if it takes a long time for it to be applied and make a difference in your life,” says Claudia Marcelloni, the organizer and curator of TEDxCERN. “We wanted to have a conversation about the biggest problems and where the solutions might be.”

The talks addressed topics such as health, genetically modified organisms, nuclear power and climate change.

“The future depends on science, and if we are going to make the right decisions, both at the personal level and at a global level, we need to be able to think rationally about science,” says James Gillies, CERN’s head of communication and the head of the speakers selection committee for TEDxCERN. “For a big public-facing organization like CERN, I think it is almost a moral obligation for us to do events like TEDxCERN and get the word out about other areas of research.”

The TEDxCERN event also wove information about CERN’s fundamental research into the program. CERN cosmologist Julien Lesgourgues discussed the composition of the universe. And animations produced by the TED-Ed education team explained research into antimatter, cosmic rays and cloud formation.

Marcelloni and Gillies were both pleased with how the event turned out, though Marcelloni admits she was originally a bit nervous about the last-minute addition of electronica DJ Tim Exile to the program.

“I had no idea how it would end, and it was a big risk for this kind of audience, but I was very happy with how it ended,” Marcelloni says. “The dance was not planned.”

The videos of the talks and performances are now available online on the TEDxCERN website.


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