When Black Holes Collide, TEDx talk, Birmingham 2016

TEDxBrum is an annual, individually organised TED event in Birmingham, UK. Started in 2012, the now fourth event was held on June 11th, 2016 at the Town Hall in Birmingham city center, with 'Power of us' as the theme of the day. I was lucky enough to be part of this fantastic event as a speaker, and this page collects some information and a few thoughts on the event and our talk 'When Black Holes Collide'.

Our Story: The First Detection of Gravitational Waves

TEDxBrum invited my colleague Alberto Vecchio and myself to speak at their event this year. We had gained some visibility recently through the announcement of the first detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO project. Both of us worked throughout our entire career on the search for gravitational waves. Now you can watch and listen to our story, including black holes and gravitational waves, below.

When Black Holes Collide, recording of the TEDx talk on Youtube, duration 13 minutes.

Gravitational waves have been predicted by Einstein one hundred years ago. It has taken a large international collaboration of scientists several decades to develop the instruments sensitive enough to measure one of these elusive waves for the first time. A great example for what can be achieved when working together #PowerOfUs! If you want to know more about LIGO and gravitational waves, visit our Gravitational Waves Explained page. Interesting stories about our work and from around our collaboration can be found in the free LIGO Magazine and the LIGO project has collected a number of public science resources.

Impressions From The Event

A TEDx talk is only a little more than 10 minutes long. To tell a story in such a short time can be very effective. For us, this was a new and welcomed challenge. We also wanted to try something slightly unusual for a TEDx talk, namely to tell our story together rather than as individual speakers. Over several weeks, together with the great Anneka Deva and Andrew Lightheart from the TEDxBrum Speaker Team, we spent many hours exploring our journeys and our experiences to compose our story and to identify the key messages we wanted to express. We hope the result is different and brings something new to the collection of the many great public science talks available today.

Andreas Freise, TEDxBrum
Photo by Verity Milligan - veritymilliganphotography.com

When we arrived on the day we had spent little thought on anything but our own presentation, and I was only dimly aware of the overall program. That changed very quickly as we were hit by the full force of a very intense day! Watching the first presentations was a big surprise, not only were the presentations very good, they all combined the personality of the speaker, their story and their delivery into something very powerful. In fact, I had to leave the room for a while because I felt that the talks were affecting me too much for me to be able to give our presentation well.

If you have not done so, you can watch the presentations on Youtube (this is the full playlist). All the presentations left strong impressions with me, the following three even more than others: How to put your anger to work in the world by Simon Willis (European Managing Director of Change.org), B8 Branded by Nafeesa Hamid (a poet, spoken word artist, playwright and creative producer) and What you don't see about depression by Jayne Hardy (founder and CEO of The Blurt Foundation).

Live illustration	by Vicky Neville
Live illustration made during the talk by by Vicky Neville — http://vickyneville.co.uk/.

The organisation before and during the day was fantastic. The Speaker Team provided us with advice, guidance and support over many weeks, dedicating a lot of their time and energy to create the best possible event. During the day, every member of the team was calm and well briefed, with a friendly smile for everyone. This was a key ingredient in creating the amazing atmosphere, which could be felt behind the scenes as well as in the audience. I met many great people and discovered a whole new aspect of Birmingham that I did not know existed. Looking forward to the next TEDxBrum, I will be there!

Speaker feedback collected at the TEDxBrum event
Speaker feedback collected during the event by the TEDxBrum team.

Some links related to the TEDxBrum event and our talk:

Photo by Thom Bartley - www.thombartley.com.