Saturday, August 2, 2008

saturdays with ted: arthur benjamin and dan gilbert

Arthur Benjamin is a mathemagician, combining his loves of math and magic. He performs high-speed calculations -- like knowing what day you were born (which is a trick with an equation, but it's impressive nonetheless) and multiplying multi-digit numbers -- and his geek-inspired jokes are quite adorable. He shares the secrets of his mental calculations in a book he co-authored with Michael Shermer called Secrets of Mental Math. (December 2007, 15:15)

Dan Gilbert is a Harvard psychologist who stumbled upon his life's purpose when he had to sign up for a psychology class when a creative writing class was full. Since then, he has continued his research on happiness at his Hedonic Psychology Laboratory. In this talk, Gilbert talks about synthetic happiness, how we misjude what actually makes us happy. He uses examples from a newspaper to support this, like a politician who lost everything and said "it was for the best." Gilbert also analyzes how freedom of choice actually traps us into false happiness. We are constantly finding ways to be happy -- rather, to be content -- with what we don't like, and that this synthetic happiness works to our disadvantage. Unlike some people I know, this talk is incredibly interesting and often humorous. Gilbert is an engaging speaker, and his research is accessible. His photography class experiment really makes the 21-minute talk worth it. (February 2004, 21:28)

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