5 enlightening TED talks given by visionary women in STEM

Women’s History Month continues and so do our celebrations of those working to change the future. This list of TED talks serves to showcase the kind of intelligence, inspiration and big ideas women are bringing to the proverbial tech table.

From quantum computing, data science and outer space technology, women continue to accomplish landmark achievements in the world of STEM. To the young women looking to become the next generation of inventors, engineers, scientists, and tech trailblazers, this inspiring content is a sign of world-changing innovations to come.

The DNA of data

Take a fascinating journey through digital storage history with Bioinformatician Dina Zielinski. From its humble beginnings back in the 1950s when IBM released its first hard drive (spoiler: it weighed over a ton and held the equivalent of one mp3 song); to the first ever TED talk in 1984 where a Sony executive explained how compact discs work; then onward to today, where our data is all stored in the cloud. Her solution for storing zetabytes of information? Write out data in the language of our DNA. Good news — it's already been achieved!

A lesson in quantum computing

Quantum computers ­– the extremely distant, very different technology to what we use today – have the potential to impact everything from security, to health care, to the internet. Quantum physicist Shohini Ghose introduces the audience–and us– to the wonders, victories and powerful uncertainties of quantum computers, as well as justifying our head scratchings with one standout line: “If you are confused by quantum, don’t worry – you are getting it.”

Data donations could end world hunger

Humanitarian aid decision scientist Mallory Freeman explains how donated data can go a long way in helping solve humanitarian crises and minimizing world hunger. She reminds companies that humanitarian aid is a $24bn sector with over five billion people – maybe their next customers – that live in the developing world, so there is a way to do good while also doing good business.

“Weapons of math destruction”

Many people would be surprised to know that algorithms control so much more than just what we see first on social media. They control who gets loans, job interviews, insurance and so much more. And they’re not always fair. In this energetic, impassioned and enlightening look into the power big data and algorithms have over our lives and the biases that come with them, mathematician and data scientist Cathy O’Neil presents ways for data scientists to keep their algorithms in check and overcome these “weapons of math destruction.”

Bringing space back down to Earth

In 1967, the United Nations created the Outer Space Treaty in order to build a set of ethics regarding space travel. Danielle Wood, head of the Space Enabled research group at MIT Media Lab, uses the TED stage to discuss one line in particular: “The exploration and use of outer space should be carried on for the benefit of all people irrespective of the degree of their economic or scientific development…” Today, she’s working to use everything from satellite communication to microgravity research to help progress a more recent United Nations initiative – the 17 Global Development Goals for 2030.

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Topics: Editor's Picks, STEM

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