By Vee Glessner
On Sunday, Oct. 8, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Prescott hosted its third TEDx event, this time featuring six speakers specialized in various disciplines. The conference kicked off at 1 p.m. in the Davis Learning Center, which housed an audience of 100, to explore the theme “That is the Question.”
“If you’ve seen TED talks, it’s a variety of 18-minute-or-less talks on stage, and we’re trying to replicate that on campus to give voices to people who wouldn’t otherwise have a platform to talk and share their ideas,” said Joanna Moore, senior aerospace engineering student and event coordinator. Video of the entire event will be posted on [www.TEDxEmbryRiddlePrescott.com].
The first speaker was Alastair Macdonald, a data analyst and investment consultant. Macdonald’s talk, entitled “How does Social Mood Drive the Economy?” explored the fundamentally moody nature of global economics.
One of Macdonald’s key points was the way that the stock market reflects social mood and vice versa. “All you are doing, at all times, is responding to your internal mood,” according to Macdonald. “This has global implications.” Based on his successful predictions, including everything from stock peaks and valleys to presidential elections, Macdonald implored the audience to take his advice.
“It takes tremendous courage to separate yourself from the herd and be original,” Macdonald told the crowd, “Be brave.” Macdonald’s personality, character, and humor made him a quick favorite and great opener. “I wish we could have given him more than 18 minutes,” said Moore.
The second speaker on the stage was Embry-Riddle student Maciek Czyz, who explored the question, “How do we Follow our Dreams?”
“‘Maybe this isn’t for me. Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe I should give up now.’ Sound familiar?” Czyz asked of the audience, stating that self-doubt is the one key reason dreams stay dreams. His suggested remedy to this is keeping measurable track of progress, whether it be a daily journal, annotated calendar, or spreadsheet.
Personally, Czyz stays accountable by telling his friends and family that he is going to be an astronaut, and although he acknowledges that this dream is aiming high, he confidently pursues it, “Trying and failing is not as scary as failing to try.”
Next on stage was professional counselor Jeffrey Kirkendall with his talk entitled “First We Save the Children.” Kirkendall urged the audience to take their empathy for abused children and apply it to the big picture, “What I’d like to suggest is that our love of these children bring us together.” He hopes that in an era of global confusion and chaos, humankind can unite over children’s rights and use it as a pathway to talk to one another about complicated topics. “Every time I listen to his talk, and I’ve been listening to it since February, it makes me tear up. It makes me feel like I need to get up and do something,” said Moore.
The third speaker, Jessica Stickel, in her talk titled “Wealth is Within,” explored the role that attitude plays in human satisfaction and the “grass is always greener” mindset. “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich, and it never had anything to do with the number in my bank account,” she said. To Stickel, being poor is being stressed, anxious, worried, or even depressed, while riches are defined as self-care, happiness, and optimism.
Stickel gave a few primary ways that a person can become “rich.” Among these were self-care, positive self-talk, connecting with others, and helping others. Stickel closed with a general aphorism that referenced her previous mindset, “Plant seeds so you can see green grass everywhere.” She seems to live by this, according to Moore, “She’s just one of those people where, every time you talk to her, you just feel so cheerful afterwards.”
Next, Engineering 101 professor Paul Burnell took the stage to present “A Take on Time Travel Paradoxes: or ‘What If?’ That is the Question.”
“He obviously loves science fiction,” said Moore. “I loved getting kind of a fun, whimsical one. At TEDx conferences, not everything has to be super serious.”
Burnell proposed that time moves at a universal rate, so “changes you make can never catch up to the present. If you go back five years, that change would take five years to reach the present, which would of course also have moved forward five years.”
Although his unconventional theory seems to open up a lot more questions, Burnell also proposes that there are “infinite copies of history,” which suggests that humankind is not responsible for its actions. Ultimately, Burnell said, we probably won’t find out how accurate his theory is. “Even if I win a Nobel Prize for my time travel ideas, there’s nothing in there about actually getting to the past. In all likelihood, it’s impossible.”
The last speaker of the convention continued the exploration of the nature of existence by examining the title question, “Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?” Speaker David Eagle set out to create a proof by contradiction. “One assumes the opposite of that which they are trying to prove, then follows a series of logical steps until they reach a contradiction,” he described.
“We eliminate the assumption of matter altogether,” he started. After going on to also eliminate space, time, and the natural laws, Eagle urged the audience to “let these things go, along with their explanatory power.”
At this point he encountered the contradiction he was looking for. “There is an unpurgeable remnant, and from that, everything we just shed must re-emerge. What is left? Possibilities.”
The coordinating team thought that Eagle’s ideas would be the perfect ending to the conference. “His talk is big, grandiose. It’s multiverses. It’s the big scale,” said Moore.
Eagle closed by answering his title question. “Why is there something rather than nothing? Because of inextinguishable possibilities.”