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The Talks at Google podcast - where great minds meet.

Talks at Google brings the world’s most influential thinkers, creators, makers, and doers all to one place. Every episode is taken from a video that can be seen at

May 14, 2024

Writer, broadcaster, and researcher Dr. Aarathi Prasad visits Google to discuss her book “Silk: A World History.” In a tale that spans continents and millennia, Aarathi weaves together the complex story of the queen of fabrics. Through the scientists who have studied silk, and the biology of the animals from which it has been drawn, she explores the global, natural, and cultural history of a unique material that has fascinated the world for thousands of years.

Some four thousand years ago, humans began cultivating silkworms. With it came a growing obsession with unlocking silk’s secrets to understand how the strongest biological material ever known could be harnessed.

Explorers and scientists, including groundbreaking women who pushed the boundaries of societal expectations, dedicated their lives to investigate the anatomy of silk-producing animals. They endured unbelievable hardships to discover and collect new specimens, leading them to the moths of China, Indonesia, and India; the spiders of Argentina, Paraguay, and Madagascar; and the mollusks of the Mediterranean.

Rich with the complex connections between human and nonhuman worlds, the book not only peers into the past but also reveals the fiber’s impact today, inspiring new technologies across the fashion, military, and medical fields, and shows its untapped potential to pioneer a more sustainable future.

Visit to watch the video.