02/08/2011 08:43 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

TEDMED 2010: Imagine Being Tasked With Inventing A Way Out Of Our Health Problems

Inventor Nathan Myhrvold gave the audience at TEDMED a peek into a few of the creative medical inventions he has in the works.

A former CTO at Microsoft, Myhrvold founded Intellectual Ventures, which brings physicians, scientists, brain surgeons and other walks of life together to tackle some of the toughest problems in the industry.

"When you set out to invent you can't have this, 'failure is not an option' idea. Failure better be an option or you're not thinking broadly enough about the things that might work," he said.

The first example Myhvold gave is not a sexy issue, but a crucial one. Hospital-acquired infections kill 99,000 people a year -- about four times what traffic accidents kill, and three times as many as breast cancer.

He introduced an inventive solution: self-disinfecting surfaces. Using UV technology to kill bacteria the surfaces this is applied to -- anything from a scalpel, to touch-screens or doorknobs -- continually disinfect themselves and in turn make the hospital more safe.

The second example Myhvold gave is something we can all relate to. He discussed an epic cookbook in the works, called Modernist Cuisine. It's a 6-volume, 2,400-page collection of contemporary cooking techniques.

Described as a "cook book for tech geeks," the book is a far cry from your average recipe collection. In his "machine shop," Myhrvold and team cut pots and pans, jars and containers in half to create stunning photographs of food in the process of being cooked -- with explanations of the science behind the process.

"We went through a lot of effort to explain how meat, how plants function. And how that function of those things actually drives how you cook them," he said.

Whether in cooking, or dealing with more serious medical issues, it's engaging with the problems that gives you a real power, said Myhrvold.


Check out the other TEDMED talks we've covered on HuffPost Health. Danny Hillis explains how proteomics picks up where genomics leaves off when it comes to treating cancer. Opera Singer Charity Tillemean-Dick nearly lost her voice and her life until a double lung transplant saved both. And Martha Stewart is invited onto the stage to touch a breathing pig lung kept alive with the latest transplant technology.