“TEDxUCR” explores reactions in life, society and science

Martin Arceo demonstrates his black belt in taekwondo with a high kick. Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER
Martin Arceo demonstrates his black belt in taekwondo with a high kick.
Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER

UCR is lucky enough to have its own TEDx organization, which brings the innovative and globally renowned platform of TED to UCR. This year’s theme was “Reaction,” which MC Stan Morrison said is “where actions and reactions converge to create connections between speakers, performers and audience members.”

Martin Kristian Arceo began the night with an ode to taekwondo. Arceo, a history major at UCR who has been practicing taekwondo for 12 years, asserted that taekwondo is “not about fighting … it’s about becoming a better person.” He said that the “do” in “taekwondo” means “the way” and altogether the word means “the way of the hand and the foot.” This definition emphasizes strategy rather than strength and implies the crucial role of the mind. Arceo demonstrated this importance with a quote from Bruce Lee: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

The next speaker, Meng (Summer) Cheng, a second-year PhD student at UCR, called for a new perspective on forgiveness. Cheng claimed that forgiveness is commonly viewed as a sign of weakness and cited a study she performed in which participants who were characterized as powerless were more likely to forgive than those who weren’t. “Forgiveness should not be a sign of weakness but an act of power,” she said. When you’re able to forgive someone, you hold the power to “stop the anger, stop the fear (that they have caused).”

UCR professor Reza Aslan introduces himself to the crowd at TEDxUCR. Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER
UCR professor Reza Aslan introduces himself to the crowd at TEDxUCR.
Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER

Perhaps the most anticipated speaker of the night was Reza Aslan, professor of creative writing at UCR and New York Times best-selling author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” His contribution to the discussion was the general reaction toward radical Islamic terrorism in the United States and Europe. He said that when faced with the topic of terrorism in the United States, a majority of people point the finger at Muslims because “the only form of Muslim is the one you see on CNN.” However, “only 4.6 percent of all attacks by Muslim extremists” were in a Western country, demonstrating that the Muslim extremism we see in the media is not representative of the Islamic religion.

At the same time, however, Aslan argued that bigotry is not about data but lies in something deeper than that: fear. He claimed that people change their mind through relationships and backed this with a poll conducted by The Huffington Post and YouGov, which stated that knowing someone who identifies as Muslim cuts the chance that someone has a negative view toward Muslims. Therefore, the overarching solution to bigotry in America lies in diversity and “we, in our diversity, can all make America beautiful,” explained Aslan.

Following a break for dinner, psychology major Brian To addressed mental illness with a personal walkthrough of his life with Tourette’s syndrome and depression. As a child, his parents didn’t know the cause behind him shaking his shoulders at random times and shouting out of the blue. He was misdiagnosed numerous times, with one doctor even telling him he had allergies and prescribing him Claritin. When one neurologist finally diagnosed him with and prescribed a medication for Tourette syndrome, he began to experience side effects such as weight gain, insomnia and depression. Each of these things were a burden to him in high school but when he entered college, his view of these shortcomings changed. He began to discover the special skills he gained from his adversity such as piano playing, which he used to escape from his problems and his experience with basketball, which he used to deal with weight gain. Understanding the lessons learned and hidden blessings in his obstacles led him to encourage the audience to “embrace (their) failures and struggles.”

Assistant professor Grover talks about the significance of density in biology. Jimmy Lai/HIGHLANDER
Assistant professor Grover talks about the significance of density in biology.
Jimmy Lai/HIGHLANDER

Bringing the discussion of reactions to the field of science, assistant professor in the department of bioengineering at UCR William H. Glover discussed the opportunities that the study of density can bring to technological and biological advancement. He described the applications of density by talking about an experiment with healthy zebrafish embryos. In the experiment, he discovered that healthy zebrafish embryos maintain a constant density at eight micrograms over 14 hours whereas unhealthy embryos decline to six micrograms over the time span. Glover concluded that, “We can’t see (density) but we can feel it and measure it and (use it to) open new worlds around us.”

Lenka Moravkova plays her unique instrument. Jimmy Lai/HIGHLANDER
Lenka Moravkova plays her unique instrument.
Jimmy Lai/HIGHLANDER

In a riveting musical performance, songwriter and electronic producer Lenka Moravkova opened the audience’s ears to the cristal baschet, an idiophone instrument not commonly known in the United States. By delicately rubbing a wet finger on a heavy plate of glass rods, Moravkova produced different tones that created an altogether ethereal, echoey sound. In a brief speech, she described how she was drawn to the sound of glass while growing up in the Czech Republic, which is known worldwide for its Bohemian glass, and how she thought that the “sound (was) amazing.”

Following her speech, Moravkova invited audience members to come onstage to experience the cristal baschet, which a majority of the crowd stayed behind to briefly play. The event had an amazing turnout and audience members left with the inspiring stories of powerful reactions regarding mental health, American society and advancements in bioengineering.

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