My TED talk is on how new elements are discovered, specifically by using particle accelerators.




My laptop was unfortunately unable to project slides onto my home TV, so I voiced over the slides instead. This means I couldn’t really record myself standing and talking while still having slides.

In retrospect, I could have filmed myself standing and talking and edited the slides in, but by the time I thought of that, I’d already finished editing. I was also feeling too burnt out to do anything productive, and only had about an hour to spare for polishing the video and creating this post.

Throughout pretty much the entire talk, I sound really weird – almost as if I have a cold.

Finally, the only free editing software that actually worked (the 3rd one I tried) leaves a watermark in the middle of the video, which really sucks.

It’s really bad, and to be honest, it doesn’t even sound like a TED talk, but I hope you enjoy it anyway, if only for the laughter at how awkward I sound.


  1. Hello Liam,

    I really enjoyed your talk, and I love the way that your images clearly represented what you were talking about.
    I was wondering the name and atomic number of the largest element currently discovered is called.

    Thanks, Owen

    • Thanks, Owen!
      As far as I know, the largest element currently discovered is Oganesson, symbol Og. It is element number 118. It’s a noble gas, so it ends in “on”, and it was named after the Russian nuclear physicist Yuri Oganessian.
      Thanks for commenting!


  2. Hello Liam,

    Thank you for your interesting talk. It was a captivating topic and you presented it in a way that the audience would enjoy. I have a number of questions, first, are there any other uses for particle accelerators other than creating new elements? I have heard of them, and I always thought they were for nuclear reactions or creating mass out of energy, or whatever there is in quantum mechanics or relativity. Are those the same things that are smashing elements or did I understand something wrong? Also, is there currently only 118 elements? I heard just today from Hansol or Nathan, that there are 120, and that they just discovered 2 more.

    Anyways, congrats on the “terrible” talk, it wasn’t terrible at all.

    • Thanks, Tony!

      Particle accelerators are indeed used for studying other subjects besides heavy elements. They’re used for studying particle physics, among other things. I’m not too sure about the details; I mainly focused on the element-creation aspect of things. I know that to create new elements, the accelerator can’t be too powerful, so I don’t think it’s the same thing. Here’s a link showing why accelerators can’t be too powerful if they need to create new elements. I found it funny and informative when I first read it. As far as I can tell online, elements 119 and 120 haven’t been discovered, only hypothesized. However, I could be wrong.



  3. Hey Liam,
    I think your TED Talk was amazing! The content is clear and the images helped with your context a lot! (I liked the curiosity joke) I think the way you structured your talk is very effective; it starts off with talking about the past, then the present, and eventually ends off with what’s next in the future. Your topic is very complex yet you explained it in a way that is easy to understand.
    I want to know if energy can be transformed into matter. I’ve watched this TED-Ed on antimatter and matter and it explained that matter is just a high concentration of energy, and the two are interchangeable. (E=mc2) If so, is this a new way to create elements? By concentrating a high amount of energy, will we be able to create new elements???
    Again, fantastic TED Talk Liam! Congratulations!

    • Thanks, Deon! I appreciate the compliments!

      In my research, I didn’t come across anything about energy turning into matter. However, *looks it up on internet* it looks like people are planning on testing the theory sometime soon. I’d imagine that eventually, energy could (potentially) be turned into new elements, but I’m not entirely sure. You’d probably have to look into it more yourself, as I don’t know any more about it than you. Interesting concept, though! I might try to learn more about it myself!



  4. That was really impressive, Liam!
    This is a quite challenging topic to take on and it must’ve taken a lot of research to obtain this much knowledge. You were able to take this hard topic and make it understandable for your viewers. You also talked quite slow which helped my brain catch up with all the new information. Great job! I also love how you integrated the history of discovering new elements. Your entire talk was very well organized as well. I was able to tell what your main points were, and then your supporting points. You also added in humour which added in a very light and joyful atmosphere to your speech.
    One thing I would like to suggest would be having pride in your Ted Talk! I can tell so much effort had been put into this so I don’t think it should be called “Liam Northcott’s Terrible Ted Talk.” It is nowhere near terrible!
    Also something I wanted to ask: When have scientists started using particle accelerators?
    Great job!
    Michelle H

    • Thanks, Michelle! I really thought my TED talk was bad, but you’ve considerably cheered me up. In response to your comment, I’ve made a few… modifications to the post.
      Good question about the particle accelerators. I know that they were invented in the early 1930s, so I assume scientists have been using them since then.
      The first element to be synthesized was technetium, and that happened in 1937. So saying it was in the 1930’s is a safe bet.



  5. Really interesting talk Liam!
    Although it was more of a happy accident, I like the format your Talon Talk is being presented in. I love the concept of your topic; you explained and represented it very well. Your thought process was also really easy to follow! The slides kept very good visual interest, while your voice-over provided engaging auditory interest. Your explanation really piqued my interest; how would atoms beyond 173 cause student’s brains everywhere to implode from sheer complications? Really great talk overall, thank you!

    • Thanks, Yuwen!

      “Yuwen” all the others have really cheered me up with your comments! (Get it?)

      As for your question, the concept wouldn’t cause students’ brains to implode. It is confusing though, and I’ll try to explain it here. I’m pretty sure there’s a part of quantum mechanics which states that particles sometimes appear randomly, one matter, one antimatter. These particles immediately destroy each other upon creation.
      As for its relation to heavy elements, I’m going to quote my source here, as I personally find it hard to explain this. This is gonna be long.

      “It turns out that the innermost electrons of element 173 might be in an unusual, unstable state that can evoke these “virtual” particles.
      If one of these electrons gets kicked out of its shell, for example by zapping it with an X-ray, it will leave a hole behind. This hole will be filled by an electron that appears out of nothing. But for this electron to form, a positron must also form, and this will be emitted by the atom.
      In other words, the electron clouds of these really huge elements might occasionally burp out particles of antimatter.”

      Here’s my source, the quote is from the bottom of the article. My Source

      Hope that helped you. I sorta get it, but I’m still a bit confused about it myself.


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