Christian Long

Clifford Stoll: On Everything

In TED Talks on April 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Reflection by RIVU D.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Clifford Stoll:  On Everything

Since this video does happen to be “on everything”, it makes a multitude of interesting points. But analyzing and deciphering individual points and cases made in the video goes against the very nature of the video, and it would be a shame to ruin such a wonderful talk with analysis.

Instead, I feel like it would be a better path to take if I were merely to persuade why this video was so interesting, and what the casual viewer should take away from it, because after all, there’s more to a presentation then the words spoken or the slides shown.

The first thing you’ll notice if you watch the video, or take away from the video, is how enthusiastic, energetic, and for lack of a better word, goofy the speaker, Clifford Stoll, happens to be. Clifford Stoll energetically leaps across stage back and forth using elaborate hand gestures and enticing speech to effortlessly capture the audience.

Needless to say the things he is saying are undoubtedly significant, but the entire talk itself is a brilliant handbook to how to be a presenter.

This doesn’t mean leap across stage and babble mindlessly if the atmosphere does not call for it, it means that your audience will be much more into your presentation if you display significant self confidence, and you act as though you have the inability to be wrong. Clifford Stoll’s sheer confidence and playful aura manage to enrapture an audience who otherwise, might have passed the talk on as “just another interesting talk in a plethora of interesting talks”. In other words, just like all the rest, without an uniqueness to make it stand out from its predecessors. It leads one to ponder would the video have nearly as much merit if the speaker were merely well versed in his field?

Now on to the actual content of the video.

Clifford Stoll makes some very curious remarks, such as how something such as the future is more easily predicted by a kindergarten teacher rather then someone specialized with the building of new technology. He makes the argument that the kindergarten teachers themselves are raising the future, the next generation, and while scientists may be building new technology for the future, that the teachers are raising the children who will build the improvements to said technology.

He goes on to perform a rather interesting science experiment by actually calculating the speed of sound on the very TED stage itself. The experiment itself is fascinating enough, but what happens to be all the more interesting is that his eighth grade class performed the experiment or one similar. He makes an argument that what he is teaching is “actual” physics, or something you would realistically use in a laboratory, and not “textbook” physics, which is more of a collection of facts needed to be memorized then a guide on how to pursue a career in physics.

The only thing that can be said about the video is that you simply need to watch it.

You may like it, you may not. You may find Clifford Stoll’s energy a bit much at times, or you may appreciate his ability to enrapture an audience, albeit being a tad distracting. And if you happen to be someone in need of getting rid of a little traditional case of stage fright, let this man be your example, as his show of self confidence is a incomparable example of how proper presentation and self confidence has the ability to captivate an audience no matter the subject.


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