Astrophysicist Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz gives TED talk at National Academy of Sciences

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz
Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz speaking at the TED@NAS event in November.

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, is among a select group of scientists who delivered TED talks at the National Academy of Sciences in November. His talk, which is now online at, explored how we are all connected—fundamentally, universally, and atomically.

“Our atoms participated in an epic odyssey with time-spans from billions of years to mere centuries—all leading to you,” Ramirez-Ruiz said in his talk.

He explained that we are all connected by the birth, death, and rebirth of stars: the iron in your blood, the oxygen you breathe, and the silicon in your phone were created in the life cycles of stars. Stellar explosions (supernovas) transform lighter elements (hydrogen and helium, for example) into heavier ones like iron and oxygen. And these elements are always cycling through our bodies and through other living and nonliving systems on our planet. Cosmic and human history are intertwined through this continuous elemental recycling.

A theoretical astrophysicist, Ramirez-Ruiz develops novel computer simulations to explore transient phenomena such as collisions, mergers, and disruptions of stars. He established the Lamat program at UC Santa Cruz to give undergraduate students the opportunity to work with UCSC faculty and graduate students on computational astrophysics projects. As the director of the Lamat program, Ramirez-Ruiz works vigorously to support the promotion and retention of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.

The National Academy of Sciences, the Kavli Foundation, and the Simons Foundation partnered with TED for TED@NAS, hosted by TED’s David Biello and Briar Goldberg. Opening and closing remarks were given by Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences; Robert Conn, president of Kavli Foundation; and Marilyn Simons and Jim Simons, cofounders of the Simons Foundation.