The TED conference, bulging to its largest ever with some 1,200 participants and speakers, launched its 2007 edition in outer space, with an elegant journey via the Cassini space mission to Saturn's largest moon, Titan, presented by planetary scientist Carolyn Porco.
Titan is cold, roughly -350˚ Farenheit, and has been cloaked from scientists by the thick haze of its atmosphere of methane and other chemicals. However, the European Space Agency's Huygens probe returned images of rivers and water bodies, presumably of liquid methane, as it descended towards a landing on the surface of Titan. Porco declared these first pictures ever taken from a moon of the outer solar system should have been met by ticker tape parades throughout the United States and Europe, though of course it was not.
Porco also describes Enceladus, a moon roughly the size of England and Wales in which polar canals emit plumes suggesting liquid water under ground. She ends with a glorious image from a total eclypse of the sun from the other side of Saturn - explaining the outside the rings comes from the plumes of Enceladus, the tiny moon.
The talk followed a rambunctious parade of colorfully costumed brass musicians that started on stage, and emerged later in the two simulcast rooms downstairs from the Monterey Conference Center auditorium here.
Even the legendary TEDbags of gifts, pictured at the TEDblog site, are bigger and tougher than ever, including bright roll-on luggage.