“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.” Emile Chartier, Philosopher

1) Jim Holt – Why does the universe exist?

Jim Holt is an American philosopher, author and essayist. More than that, he is intelligent and engaging to listen to during this talk. He jokes with the audience, admonishing them that “This is a cosmic mystery. Be solemn.” when chuckles break out at one point. He is by turns serious and wry, and because of this made me want to watch the talk more than once so I didn’t miss anything. Be sure to watch to the end for his surprise admission.

2) Megan Washington – Why I live in mortal dread of public speaking.

Megan Washington is a singer who has performed various types of music from jazz to indie pop and alternative rock. She plays guitar and piano, and is a wonderful performer. Her talk is both amusing and poignant as she describes what it was like to struggle with stuttering since early childhood, and how singing has freed her.

3) Ze Frank – Are you human?

Ze Frank has long been one of my favorite internet finds. Whether it was one of his interactive games, which my children and I loved when we discovered them, or his YouTube series about nature, “The Truth About…” I have always found him to be intelligent and clever. Although I will say that if you are easily shocked or offended you should possibly avoid the YouTube series. I now know far more about ducks than I ever wanted to know.

In this Ted Talk Ze Frank administers “The Human Test,” asking the audience a series of “have you ever…” questions, and assuring them that they can be honest because “It’s safe here.”

4) Mac Barnett – Why a good book is a secret door.

Mac Barnett is a children’s author who studied under David Foster Wallace. He’s also involved with 826LA which is a non-profit writing center for children in LA. He also founded the Echo Park Travel Mart, a store for time travelers. He tells a bit about his life working with kids, about 826LA, a writing space for kids, and how the Pirate Shop and the Echo Park Travel Mart came about. He also plays some voicemails from a child to a fictional blue whale that are just about the best thing I’ve listened to this month, or possibly longer.