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Ideas Worth Spreading

TED is, in effect, a convention of speakers from various walks of life, generally predisposed towards science, arts, and humanities. Run by a small non-profit group, it attracts many of the biggest names in three industries: Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Biyearly conferences occur in various locales, including Oxford, Tanzania, and Mysore, attracting presenters from all over the world - though the central, annual convention is still held in Long Beach, California. Each 'talk' runs a variable amount of time, from five minutes to almost an hour, and the most well-received presentations are provided for free viewing online, under the Creative Commons license.

Talks generally range from the arts to the social sciences, from new methods of interactive design to discourse on education systems. The tone of the presentations oftentimes ranges towards the irreverent, humor and jokes interspersed throughout.


The organization also hosts a charity, the "TED Prize", a $100,000 USD grant and assistance provided yearly to three individuals who wish 'to change the world' in a tangible, worthwhile manner. Every year, after months of preparation, these three individuals release their idea publicly, at the central talks in Long Beach.

TED's website can be found here, but be warned: while worth watching, the videos contained can quickly lead to an Archive Binge.

Not to be confused with the 2012 film.


This website provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: In the Killer Robo-Ants riddle, the titular robo-ants were made with deadly lasers, but not the ability to turn them off, and the inventor has to round them up before they escape their farm and start indiscriminately shooting everything in the city.
  • Atlantis: Mentioned in the Sea Monster riddle as a floating city that failed to pay proper tithe to the sea monsters that are now threatening Atlantartica, the floating city the protagonist rules.
  • Blatant Burglar: The Phantom Thief in the egg drop riddle enters the museum she plans to rob clad in a balaclava.
  • Bungling Inventor:
    • Slate Kanoli, the protagonist's uncle in the Death Race riddle (and a Distressed Dude), is an inventor whose inventions include a snow speedo, a portable cloud, and the Coil Runner, a vehicle where messing with the emergency turbo thrusters can cause any of three catastrophic failures. Subverted in the Human Cannonball riddle, where the cannon he made fails due to being sabotaged.
    • The protagonist of the Killer Robo-Ants riddle somehow accidentally gave her creations the ability to shoot powerful laser beams, and has to deactivate all the ants before they break free and start shooting things. The end implies that she's going to make a robo-anteater that can fly and shoot fire.
  • Butt-Monkey: The protagonist of the Dragon Jousting, Fantasy Election, and Ice and Fire Dragons riddles keeps getting into situations where it's either solve riddles, or be executed.
  • Captain Colorbeard: The Buried Treasure riddle has you trying to find where the pirate Captain Greenbeard buried his treasure.
  • Captain Ersatz: Occasionally worked into the settings of the riddles.
    • The protagonist of the World's Most Evil Wizard riddle is a female Harry Potter who has to survive against the evil wizard Moldevort.
    • Harry Potter is again referenced in the Sorting Hat Riddle, where the protagonist is in the Sorting Ceremony at Magnificent Marigold's Magical Macademy.
    • The Monster Duel riddle takes place at a Diskymon tournament.
    • The protagonist of Dongle's Difficult Dilemma is a young man in a blue tunic and floppy hat, with pointed ears, armed with a sword and shield, going through dungeons and up against an evil wizard known as "Gordon" to collect a trio of powerful artifacts. Any similarities to The Legend of Zelda are purely coincidental.
  • Crash into Hello: On their TED Ed youtube channel, the How to Speed Up Chemical Reactions (And Get a Date) video invokes this trope to illustrate chemical collisions (with parallels between particular orientation and amount of energy in the collisions).
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The manager in the prisoner boxes riddle is angry that the band members keep misplacing their instruments... so he kidnaps them and forces them to solve a riddle under threat to drop the contract if they fail.
  • Eat the Evidence: In the Crystal riddle, the apprentices, having tripped the alarm while stealing the elemental crystals, decide to swallow the crystals. Unfortunately, the crystals could turn them into elemental spirits if they are not decontaminated immediately.
  • Edutainment Show: The talks themselves are definitely meant to educate the audience on whatever topic they cover. That doesn't stop some speakers from injecting humor into their talks.
  • The Emperor: The counterfeit coin riddle features an emperor who jails the protagonist just for speaking out against his taxation policies.
  • Empty Quiver: The Rogue Submarine riddle features the protagonist trying to resolve an Empty Quiver scenario by hacking into the titular sub's computers and inputting the correct code to abort the missile launch.
  • Fair Play Whodunit: The Human Cannonball riddle video challenges the viewer to solve not only the riddle (how to compensate for your cannon's sabotage), but who sabotaged the protagonist's cannon to begin with, out of three suspects: the clown (who has a crush on the trapeze artist who's the protagonist's partner in the act), the lion tamer (who wants to be the circus's star attraction), and the Ringmaster (who always wants more publicity). The culprit is the lion tamer, whose shoulder tassel has been torn off and can be found in the cannon. The ringmaster wasn't involved, because he isn't going to sabotage his star attractions just for some temporary shock value. The clown knew about the sabotage and tried to stop it (he isn't going to risk his loved one's life to sabotage the protagonist), as indicated by a splash of the yellow liquid in his squirting flower near the lion tamer- which is also presumably how the lion tamer lost his tassel.
  • Five-Aces Cheater: In the Cheating Royal riddle, the king makes his 4 children play a game of dice to determine which of them will become his heir, has them each record their own scores and tasks the protagonist with analysing them. On closer inspection, it turns out that this trope is in play for 3 of the 4 scores submitted: 2 of the children logged scores that were impossible - Bertram declares a score of 840 when the maximum possible score for the game is 700, and Draco claims to have rolled 423 on dice where every combined score should be a multiple of 5. A third player, Cassandra, declares 700, which would have required her to roll the highest score on her dice 40 times in a row, at odds of 1 in 13 nonillion - improbable enough that, under the rules laid down by the king, it's reasonable to assume she either cheated or miscounted, and disqualify her.
  • Forced Transformation: In the crystal riddle, the apprentices are in danger of transforming into uncontrollable elemental spirits because they swallowed the elemental crystals.
  • Growing Muscles Sequence: Done with a chicken in "History through the eyes of a chicken", who then subsequently rapidly fires eggs out of a cannon in its backside.
  • The Hero Dies: The protagonist of the Risky Disk riddle is an anti-virus program given one chance to pass information about how to defeat a virus to his team before he gets derezzed. If he finds the correct code to indicate where the Virus is holed up, he'll still die, but his team will be able to stop the Virus.
  • Historical Domain Character: The protagonist of the Hades riddle is Sisyphus, who has another chance to escape Hades for good... if he can solve the riddle.
  • La Résistance: The protagonists of the passcode riddle are a trio of resistance fighters in a dystopian future.
  • Logical Fallacies: The Demon of Reason series focuses on teaching these, using the Demon of Reason popping in on real-life demonstrations of said fallacies to lecture about them.
  • Loony Laws: The city of Duonia from the Penniless Pilgrim riddle taxes people based on what direction they walk through the city. Walking right adds 2 pieces of silver to the tax, walking downward multiplies it by 2, walking left subtracts 2, and walking up divides it by 2. Which is a problem for the titular Pilgrim, who has no money and must get from the top left to bottom right of the city without ending up in debt.
  • Meaningful Name: Each of the four apprentices in the crystal riddle have a name corresponding to the elemental crystal they ate, which serves as an alternate way to solve the riddle:
    • Rikku = Riku(陸), Japanese for 'Land' or 'Continent' ('Earth')
    • Sumi = Sum(숨), Korean for 'Breath' ('Air')
    • Bella = Latin for war ('Fire')
    • Jonah = From Jonah and the Whale. Jonah was swallowed by a whale, a fish of the sea. ('Water')
  • No Honor Among Thieves: In the pirate riddle, while all the pirates will follow the pirate code to the letter, their goal is always to get the most gold possible for themselves, and if they think that following a certain plan won't give them more profit than the other alternative, they will vote for the planner to walk the plank.
  • Oddly Small Organization: The rebel group in the Passcode Riddle consists of three people- the protagonist, Zara, and one other person.
  • Phantom Thief: The protagonist of the egg drop riddle is “the world’s most notorious jewel thief” who spends the riddle using a logical deduction to decide which of the eggs featured in a 100-story egg museum she should steal.
  • Pooled Funds: At one point in "The Infinite Hotel Paradox", the night manager is shown swimming in the infinite hotel's infinite profits.
  • Sequel Episode:
    • Fantasy Election is a sequel to the Dragon Jousting riddle, featuring the same protagonist who has to complete a poll after his world transitions to democracy from rulers chosen by dragon jousting tournaments.
    • Ice and Fire Dragons is another sequel to Dragon Jousting, with that same unlucky protagonist needing to divide up territories to satisfy some approaching Elder Dragons.
    • Human Cannonball is a sequel to the Death Race riddle, featuring Slate Kanoli (the racer's uncle) as the protagonist's mentor who designed the cannon he uses.
  • Stock Puzzle: The Ted-Ed riddles series uses several of these as the basis of its riddles.
    • Fox-Chicken-Grain Puzzle: The 4 persons crossing a bridge variant is used in one riddle, where you and your three coworkers must escape a remote lab before zombies get you. The Cannibals and Missionaries variant is used in another riddle, where three lions and three wildebeest must escape a brushfire while making sure the lions never outnumber the wildebeest at any time.
    • Game of Nim: You play a variant of this game against the rogue AI Nim, where you start on top of 25 meters of electrified water, Nim starts at the bottom, both players must lower the water level to exactly 0 on their turn, and can only lower the water levels by 1, 3, or 4 levels.
    • Knights and Knaves: The Three Gods puzzle appears, with the player a crashed astronaut who must figure out the identities of three alien overlords, one of whom is always truthful, another is always false, and a third whose answers are random, using three yes-or-no questions. And to make matters worse, they don't know which of the words Ozo or Ulu means yes, and which means no.
    • Twelve Coins Puzzle: Shows up with the protagonist having to determine which coin amongst twelve is counterfeit- but, because the ruler is not at all patient, can only use the set of scales three times.
  • Take That!: A rather brutal one in "Why can parrots talk?" - the narrator questioning whether parrots can understand what they're saying is juxtaposed with one such parrot advising their owner to "INVEST IN CRYPTO!", with her looking noticeably worried afterwards.
  • Threatening Shark: The sharks in the fish riddle are not threatening to the human characters, but they do threaten the endangered species of rare fish that fell from the cargo.
  • To Serve Man: The aliens in the prisoner hat riddle kidnap the humans specifically to eat them (though for some reason they avoid eating logical thinkers).
  • Villain Protagonist:
    • The Pirate riddle stars five bloodthirsty pirates who have to divide up their ill-gotten gains.
    • The egg drop riddle stars a Phantom Thief who wants to steal a valuable egg from the egg museum.
  • Worthless Treasure Twist: The Buried Treasure riddle concerns the titular treasure of Captain Greenbeard. It turns out to be a chest of tree seeds.
  • You Can't Make an Omelette...: The egg drop riddle ends with the narrator saying “Like the old saying goes, you can’t pull off a heist without breaking a few eggs.”