TEDxBerkeley celebrates giant leaps with more than 1000 attendees

Josh Kahen/Staff

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The 11th annual TEDxBerkeley event celebrated the transformation of small steps into giant leaps, welcoming more than 1000 attendees in Zellerbach Hall on Feb. 8.

This year’s theme was “Moonshot,” referring to the successful mission of putting humans on the moon, a previously unthinkable feat. The talks focused on the power of human innovation and sheer perseverance to address pertinent issues.

“Especially as we enter a new decade, the world is becoming increasingly complex,” said Amy Wu, a campus freshman who serves on the TEDxBerkeley planning team. “We want the audience to take away that within every discipline that you can think of, there are bold and new innovations, ways to take that next step within their lives and to find their own moonshot.”

Chancellor Carol Christ shared the same sentiments regarding the theme and added that Berkeley is a place of “moonshots.”

The first session, “Countdown,” opened with astronomer Emily Levesque. She discussed technological innovations and data collecting in astronomy.

During her talk, Levesque said it is interesting to think about the evolution of astronomy and how it has affected the questions people ask and the ambitions people have.

“I hope the stories and human adventures of doing science are what sticks with people,” Levesque said during the event.

Sophia Yen, a clinical associate professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, discussed menstruation and the harms associated with it, such as ovarian cancer. She described the health risks of periods and called “incessant menstruation” a “new phenomenon.”

The second session, “Peaks and Valleys,” explored different sides to the theme, empowerment and the theme’s downsides.

Aimee Allison, founder and president of She the People, spoke on courage and her story of leaving the military.

“Our conscience is most powerful when spoken out loud,” Allison said during the event, encouraging the audience to speak their consciousness.

Erika Cheung, a whistleblower in the Theranos scandal, described the downsides to highly innovative products. The scandal involved a device that could allegedly run a whole blood panel with a small amount of blood. The data the machine created was inconsistent and Theranos allegedly attempted to falsify the data.

“I was scared, I was terrified and I was anxious,” Cheung said during the event.

Cheung helped stop Theranos from processing thousands of patient samples with the alleged faulty technology.

The third and last session revolved around the “State of Flux.” The band SOL Development opened the session by performing its music as an “Invitation to the Light,” intended to empower the audience to discover their own “activism and healing.”

Speakers detailed their own forms of activism. Carolyn Porco, a planetary scientist known for her work on the 1980s Voyager mission, criticized the prospect of relocating humanity into space as a solution for man-made environmental problems.

“In our rush to adopt new technology, we don’t pause to evaluate the long-term effects,” Porco said during the event. “How about showing our fragile, precious, life-giving planet some love?”

Speaker and professional skier Matthias Giraud, or “Super Frenchie,” talked about the key to accomplishing his stunts.

Members of the audience gasped as Giraud showed a video of his failed attempt jumping off Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, resulting in a coma, three weeks before the birth of his son.

“Success is in the vision, survival is in the details,” Giraud said during the event.

After reflecting upon his mistakes and adopting a new attitude, he showed a video of his successful second attempt. His son’s words, “my heart knows your heart,” echoed in his head.

The conference ended with a performance from nationally acclaimed pianist and campus junior Leyla Kabuli.

A wine reception followed the conference at the Alumni House.

Contact Angelina Wang and Robson Swift at [email protected].