"Ideas worth spreading" swept Knoxville on Saturday, drawing an audience of 100 to TEDxUTK 2014.
TED, a now global set of conferences, asks speakers to share their diverse expertise in lectures lasting less than 20 minutes. Rising to the challenge, 14 speakers gathered in the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy to discuss topics ranging from photography to creating efficient solar energy panels from spinach.
Chris Barnes, senior in chemical engineering and a TEDxUTK organizer, helped bring such insights to campus.
"We aim to get a mix of arts, sciences, social sciences and everything in between." Barnes said. "... I'm really glad we had such a great turnout."
The event kicked off with Baldwin Lee, professor in photography. Describing each element of a photograph, Lee provided a glimpse of the world through his eyes. Lawrence Scarpa, an architect based in Los Angeles, presented the benefits of green architecture, citing the advantages of natural light and cross ventilation over air conditioning and fluorescent lighting. Neal Eash, associate professor in biosystems engineering and soil science, explored responsible agricultural practices, explaining how proper food distribution could end hunger.
Marilyn Brown, professor of public policy at Georgia Institute of Technology and board member for the Tennessee Valley Authority, detailed issues facing the U.S. green economy.
"Very few Southern states have renewable energy goals," Brown said to the audience. "There are grounds for optimism but only if we don't delay. While we await federal action, state and local organizations are moving ahead."
Barry Bruce, professor in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology, introduced a technique that harnesses photosynthesis to create cheap, renewable energy.
"Improvements are greater than tenfold per year," Bruce said during his presentation. "Unlike biofuels and other energy resources, photosynthesis is 100 percent efficient. At the moment, the cells have enough energy to power an iPad indefinitely."
The conference provided a platform for Bruce to bring his work to the public.
"TED talks are a great resource for students," he said after his talk. "Realistically, we're going to need some more time to develop the technology. However, it's a great concept, and we've made some great progress in the short time that we've been researching it. ... Even if I may be unable to accomplish this work myself, I might have inspired somebody else to pursue it and improve upon it."
In addition to live speakers, the conference played videos of several previous TED talks, including those of Sarah Kay, an American poet, and Neil Harbisson, a British-born artist and self-described cyborg.
After years of watching TED talks online, Amos Manneschmidt, junior in physics, was excited to witness a conference in person.
"I like people to challenge things I previously held true," Manneschmidt said. "At TED talks, you get these really unique, new ideas that are interesting and get you thinking. You'd never think about these ideas unless you came here."
All talks given at TEDxUTK 2014 will be uploaded to YouTube.