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First taste of TED

I’m at what they call TED Active. It’s the live simulcast of TED’s main event at Long Beach. It’s held in Palm Springs at the iconic 1950s Riviera Resort, where 500 invitees stay, party, and watch TED talks live from bean bags or, if you’re first in the theatre, on your back on a day bed beneath a roof mounted LCD.

Even though you’re not in the Long Beach Auditorium, there’s something truly meaningful about consuming the content live among a group of people who are passionate about ideas, creativity and change. And if you’ve watched a TED talk before, you’ll know that they’re usually pretty meaningful to begin with.

As you’d expect, it’s bloody difficult to choose a standout from the 18 speakers and performers we experienced at the first day of TED’s 2010 event, themed ‘What the world needs now’. But perhaps the biggest collective wow was for cancer researcher William Li. His thesis is that most cancers can be prevented by eating common foods such as tomatoes, grapefruit, earl grey tea, dark chocolate and red wine.

On stage at TED

Sounds too good to be true, huh? But it’s based on what sounded to us TEDsters like some pretty believable logic.

Li’s field is something called ‘angiogenesis’ which describes the body’s growth of capillary blood vessels. To develop and become problematic, cancerous tumours require blood. That blood is delivered to the tumours via said capillaries.

Fortunately, the capillaries feeding diseased cells are poorly constructed and weak, making them extremely susceptible to antiangiogenetics—those substances that restrict or prevent the growth of capillary blood vessels. Antiangiogenetic drugs have been shown to dramatically reduce the blood flow, and therefore growth of cancerous tumours, and in many cases send sufferers into remission.

And the aforementioned common foods are shown to have greater antiangiogenetic properties than the drugs themselves.

The genius of Li’s work resides in the fact that very young, harmless and usually undetectable cancer cells also have weak capillaries. Thus, a diet that includes regular consumption of foods with antiangiogenetic qualities is likely to nip cancer cells in the bud.

If it’s as effective as his research suggests, Li’s work will be the first true medical revolution of the 21st century, and throw into question the future of an increasingly inevitable disease.

Quote of the day I reckon was from British parliamentary heir apparent David Cameron, who opened by explaining his kinship to politics, describing it as “showbiz for ugly people”.

And now I’m off to see what kind of a party TED throws. It’s a Bollywood themed party thrown in an American rat-pack era hotel resort in a town known for it’s predominantly geriatric and/or homosexual locals. A combination worthy of the curiosity that TED manages so well to pique.