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A new playlist from Sir Ken Robinson, the most-watched speaker on TED.com

06 May

A new playlist from Sir Ken Robinson, the most-watched speaker on TED.com

by Kate Torgovnick

Sir Ken Robinson is not just an amazing orator — he is the most-viewed speaker onTED.com. His three talks have been viewed an astounding 21.5 million times, making him the sneezing baby panda of the TED ecosystem. Naturally, this made us curious: what talks does Robinson absolutely love?

In this new playlist, Robinson selects 10 talks about education that he finds both inspiring and insightful. His list, given in no particular order, contains talks from Alison Gopnik on what babies think, TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra on his vision of a School in the Cloud, and Shane Koyczan on the ways bullying sticks with us.

TED playlists are collections of talks around a topic, built to illuminate ideas in context. A new playlist is added every week. We hope you enjoy this installment.

Kate Torgovnick | May 5, 2013 at 10:00 am | Tags: children, creativity, education, education week, Ken Robinson, playlist, Sir Ken Robinson, TED | Categories: education | URL:http://wp.me/p10512-jEx

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TED Weekends emphasizes the importance of the student-teacher relationship

by Kate Torgovnick

Rita Pierson and Sir Ken Robinson both give incredible talks in the PBS special TED Talks Education. Photo: Ryan Lash

As the daughter and granddaughter of educators, teaching is in Rita Pierson’s blood. Inthis talk — [ted_talkteaser id=1728] a teaser of next Tuesday’s TED Talks Education on PBS — Pierson is going to make you wish you had been lucky enough to be her student. Pierson believes deeply in forming strong bonds with her students: through simple things like apologizing, laughing and just acknowledging their successes, even in times when they are technically failing.

Pierson challenges other teachers to understand the power of relationships. And this week’s TED Weekends on the Huffington Post explores the influence of connections in the classroom. We are especially excited about this edition because it contains not only a beautiful essay from Pierson, but also an offering from the most-watched speaker onTED.com, Sir Ken Robinson, who also appear in TED Talks Education. Read excerpts of both amazing essays below.

Rita F. Pierson: This Will Make You Appreciate Your Elementary School Teacher

Teachers don’t make a lot of money. They are usually not deemed worthy of news coverage unless there is a scandal or a strike. Most of the time, their major accomplishments are shared only with colleagues and family members and not the media. The celebration is often cut short by some catastrophe the next day. Yet, in spite of the highs and lows, I cannot think of another profession that brings both joy and challenge on a daily basis.

In the spring of my career, I found myself questioning the choice of my life’s work. The students did not appear to be motivated, the paperwork was overwhelming and the constant change of educational direction was discouraging. But, I just could not seem bring myself to do anything else. “Next year”, I would say. “Next year I will switch jobs, make more money and have far less stress.”

Next year just never came. I am now in year 40. And while I am no longer in the classroom or at the schoolhouse, I remain an educator. It finally dawned on me that there was no other profession that would let me change children’s minds and have an impact on their future, long after the school day and school year were over. For every student that finally “got it,” for every rookie teacher that said, “you inspired me to stay,” I get the raise that never quite made it to my paycheck. Read more »

Sir Ken Robinson: Why We Need to Reform Education Now

What should America do about its disastrous high school dropout rate? That’s the focus of TED Talks Education, the first ever TED/PBS television special, hosted by John Legend, the award-winning musician. The program looks not only at what’s going wrong in high schools, but how to put it right. As it happens, the solution is not a mystery; but putting it into practice will involve a major shift in current policies.

In 1970, the U.S. had the highest rates of high school graduation in the world, now it has one of the lowest. According to the OECD, the overall U.S. graduation rate is now around 75 percent, which puts America 23rd out of 28 countries surveyed. In some communities the graduation rate is less than 50 percent. About 7,000 young people ‘drop out’ of the nation’s high schools every day, close to 1.5 million a year. The social and economic costs are enormous.

Research indicates that in general, high school graduates are more likely to find employment, to earn at higher levels and to pay more taxes than non-graduates. They’re more likely to go on to college or other learning programs. They’re more likely to engage positively in their communities and less likely to depend on social programs. It’s not true, of course, that pulling out of high school inevitably leads young people into trouble. Many high school ‘drop outs’ have gone on to have extraordinary, successful lives. What is true is that a very high proportion people who are long-term unemployed, homeless, on welfare or in the correctional system do not have high school diplomas. Read more »

Kate Torgovnick | May 4, 2013 at 9:00 am | Tags: children, education, education week, Ken Robinson, Rita Pierson, teaching, TED Weekends | Categories: education | URL:http://wp.me/p10512-jEs

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Your weekend reading: Weather Channel interns under windy duress, Carl Sagan back from the dead to save us from terrible TV

by Thu-Huong Ha

The extent of human creativity/weirdness always baffles me, but I have to say the Internet really won my heart this week. Here are some staff picks of weird, beautiful, smart stories and videos from the interwebs this week.

  • Today was the final day to tweet #TornadoWeek to turn up the winds on interns at the Weather Channel. It seems the Weather Channel is embracing climate change with reckless abandon as it turns to an aggressively hilarious editorial strategy. [The Weather Channel] UPDATE: Unfortunately the livestream of the interns getting blasted is over, but you can watch a clip at CNBC »
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  • If you were a kid growing up in the U.S. in the ’80s and ’90s, or raised a kid during this time, PBS was a testament to the power of good educational television. A satirical trailer-making group called Gritty Robots published a heart-warming video this week of beloved PBS personalities Carl Sagan, Mr. Rogers, Bill Nye the Science Guy (see his TED-Ed lesson above) and Bob Ross as as the Avengers, saving us from bad TV. [Gizmodo]
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  • Did you know that being annoyed at the incorrect use of “literally” is about as old as the heinous act itself? Ben Yagoda has a literal breakdown. [Lingua Franca]
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  • In response to Amanda Filipacci’s New York Times op-ed piece last week on Wikipedia’s creation of a separate category for American Women Novelists, James Gleick takes a detailed look at Wikipedia’s women problem. [NYRB]
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  • New science magazine Nautilus launches its first issue, on the topic “What makes you so special.” We’re excited to see what’s next from this awesome publication. [Nautilus]
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  • IBM puts out an animation of epically small proportions, moving atoms with extreme precision. The film holds the Guiness World Record for smallest stop-motion film. [youtube http://youtube.com/w/?v=oSCX78-8-q0" target="_blank" style="text-decoration: underline; color: rgb(37, 133, 178); ]
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  • How many countries are there in Africa? Answering the question isn’t as easy as it sounds. [Africa Check] Watch Chimamanda Adichie’s classic talk, “The danger of a single story” »
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  • A quick, surprising synthesis of an extensive study published by PLoS One, about differences in learning between the sexes. [io9]
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  • An inside story on the future of Guantanamo Bay and its history of hunger strikes, by Shihab Rattansi. [Al Jazeera]
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  • The painted turtle is on the path to extinction. A sad, strange story of how it may soon become a 100 percent female species, due to the fact that its eggs are more likely to hatch as females if they are in warm nests. [New Scientist]
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  • Behold: Nature. Donald Trump. … What? [io9]

Thu-Huong Ha | May 3, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Tags: Bill Nye, humor, science, weekend reading | Categories: News | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jDr

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X marks the spot: This week’s TEDx Talks

by Shirin Samimi-Moore

TEDx as seen from space, with help from Google Earth (Image: DigitalGlobe and Google).

It’s TEDx … from space. This unique vantage point of TEDxSanaa’s amazingmountainside signage is brought to you with some help from Google Earth. Take a look for yourself on Google Maps. We take this image as proof that TEDx has become a global enterprise.

This week, from events held across the world, we’ve handpicked four TEDx Talks that encapsulate this diverse venture. Ranging from how racecar driving can save infants’ lives to why video games belong in museums — all of these talks are brought to you by our vast TEDx community. Below, find this week’s talks.

Can music really make you smarter? Jessica Grahn at TEDxWesternU
New parents are awash in products claiming the power to turn their kids into geniuses with just a little bit of Mozart. Could any of these claims be true? At TEDxWesternU, Jessica Grahn examines the effects of music on the human brain, debunks common myths and highlights some of music’s real medical uses. (Filmed at TEDxWesternU.)

Are video games art? Maria Lujan Oulton at TEDxRiodelaPlata
More and more, video games are being accepted and enjoyed as works of art in galleries around the globe. At TEDxRiodelaPlata, Maria Lujan Oulton takes a look at six designers who are using gaming to create powerful forms of interactive art. (Filmed atTEDxRiodelaPlata.)

How F1 racing saves babies: Peter van Manen at TEDxNijmegen 2013
We can use the same technology that evaluates faults in Formula 1 racecars to solve problems off the racetrack, says data analyst Peter van Manen — from detecting warning signs of heart failure in infants to designing ambulances that monitor patients on the way to the hospital. (Filmed at TEDxNijmegen.)

Nanoscale fruit juice and other small things: Stefan Bon at TEDxWarwick
From flame-retardant plastic to healthier chocolate, Stefan Bon shows us the extraordinary promise of the budding field of nanotechnology. (Filmed at TEDxWarwick.)

And, some of this week’s highlights from the TEDx blog:

Shirin Samimi-Moore | May 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Tags: TEDx | Categories: News | URL:http://wp.me/p10512-jEl

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Physicists from CERN team up with TED-Ed to create five lessons that make particle physics child’s play

by Kate Torgovnick

Particle physics. To some, the words may produce anxiety. And while, yes, it is complicated — it is far from incomprehensible. Today, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, better known as CERN, held its first TEDx event, an illuminating look at how particle physics intersects with other disciplines.

As part of TEDxCERN, physicists from the famous institution, home of the Large Hadron Collider (and birthplace of the Word Wide Web), teamed up with animators from TED-Ed to create easy-to-understand animated lessons that explain concepts like dark matter, big data and the Higgs boson in lay terms.

Below, watch all five animations and find out: How did the universe begin? What’s up with antimatter? And why is everyone so excited about the Higgs boson? Enjoyable whether you are new to these terms or have been studying them for years.

The beginning of the universe, for beginners. (Lesson by Tom Whyntie, animation by Hornet Inc.)
How did the universe begin — and how is it expanding? CERN physicist Tom Whyntie shows how cosmologists and particle physicists explore these questions by replicating the heat, energy and activity of the first few seconds of our universe, from right after the Big Bang.

Exploration on the Big Data frontier. (Lesson by Tim Smith, animation by TED-Ed.)
There is a mind-boggling amount of data floating around our society. Physicists at CERN have been pondering how to store and share their data for decades – stimulating globalization of the internet along the way, while “solving” their big data problem. Tim Smith plots CERN’s involvement with big data from 50 years ago to today.

Dark matter: The matter we can’t see. (Lesson by James Gillies, animation by TED-Ed.)
The Greeks had a simple and elegant formula for the universe: earth, fire, wind and water. Turns out there’s more to it than that — a lot more. Visible matter (and that goes beyond the four Greek elements) comprises only 4% of the universe. CERN scientist James Gillies tells us what accounts for the remaining 96% (dark matter and dark energy) and how we might go about detecting it.

What happened to antimatter? (Lesson by Rolf Landua, animation by TED-Ed.)
Particles come in pairs, which is why there should be an equal amount of matter and antimatter in the universe. Yet scientists have not been able to detect antimatter in the visible universe. Where is this missing particle? CERN scientist Rolf Landua returns to the seconds after the Big Bang to explain the disparity that allows humans to exist today.

The basics of boson. (Lesson by Dave Barney and Steven Goldfarb, animation by Jeanette Nørgaard.)
In 2012, scientists at CERN discovered evidence of the Higgs boson. The what? The Higgs boson is one of two types of fundamental particles, and it’s a particular game-changer in the field of particle physics, proving how particles gain mass. Using the Socratic method, CERN scientists Dave Barney and Steve Goldfarb explain the exciting implications of the Higgs boson.

Kate Torgovnick | May 3, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Tags: CERN, cosmology, education, particle physics, TED-Ed, TEDx, TEDxCERN | Categories: Science | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jEg

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TED Radio Hour presents “Unstoppable Learning”

by Shirin Samimi-Moore

Our minds and bodies constantly master lessons from our surroundings. In other words, we seem to have a natural inclination to learn. That is the idea behind this week’s TED Radio Hour: “Unstoppable Learning,” brought to you by NPR. This episode explores that dynamic experience of learning that begins in the womb and how recognizing this essential nature will revolutionize the way we teach.

What happens when you stick a computer in a wall, three feet off the ground, in a slum without so much as running water? “Unstoppable Learning” kicks off with TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra, who found that he had stumbled upon a new method of education — self-directed, with no adults around. He found that the children in the slum, who had little access to education, were able to teach themselves English and even biology just from a computer.

In the next segment, science writer Annie Murphy Paul asks, “When does learning begin?” She shares a startling answer: that learning begins not in preschool or kindergarten, but in the womb. Alison Gopnik then continues to examine the learning that happens during infancy — she finds that despite the drooling and baby talk, these little ones may in fact be geniuses.

Finally, teacher Rita Pierson — the star of today’s talk — expresses the value of establishing strong relationships between student and educator. This begins by being a positive presence, constantly inspiring students to look towards their potential. On Tuesday, May 7, this inspiring teacher will also appear in TED Talks Education — our first televised special — alongside Sir Ken Robinson and Geoffrey Canada. Make sure to tune in to PBS at 10/9c to see her in action.

To hear TED Radio Hour’s “Unstoppable Learning,” check your local NPR schedule to find out when the show airs today. Or listen to it via NPR’s website »

Head to iTunes, where the podcast is available now »

Shirin Samimi-Moore | May 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Tags: education, learning, TED, TED Radio Hour | Categories: education | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jE9

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The journey is its own reward: Fellows Friday with Kellee Santiago

by Karen Eng

TED Fellow Kellee Santiago has won numerous awards for the video game, “Journey.” Here, we talk to her about her craft.

In recent months, That Game Company’s downloadable PS3 game Journey has swept up an armload of awards — the Game Developers Choice Award for Game of the Year and BAFTA Video Game Award for Best Game Design, to name just two — not to mention a Grammy nomination for Best Original Soundtrack. Company co-founder and TED Fellow Kellee Santiago tells us why she believes this remarkable game is touching so many people’s lives, what it might mean for the future of gaming. Bonus: we ask what’s next on her own horizon.

This is a lot of awards at once, isn’t it? How does it feel?

It’s been totally amazing. We did have a good feeling about Journey: the responses we got last year just from our players was totally overwhelming — people really felt they were able to have personal catharsis through it.

By December, which marks the beginning of game awards season, we’d already been getting so much good attention already — people doing costume plays of the characters, making videos, playing the music on YouTube. So we suspected Journey might get nominated as a stand-out game of the year, just as Flow and Flower, our previous titles, had. But amazingly, it also started showing up in best game of the year categories, as well as best story and best soundtrack and graphics, which put Journey in the same category as what’s known as triple-A games — the video equivalent of blockbuster movies — the high-budget disc titles like Halo 4 and Mass Effect 3, Borderlands 2 and Dishonored. Seeing Journey in along with them was amazing. Then we started winning, which was really unbelievable.

I think it really speaks to a shift happening in the games industry around the idea of who can make a quality game, and what defines a quality game experience. The emphasis wasn’t on hours of gameplay or weapon-changing abilities, but on personal, deep experiences.

Tell us about the game experience.

In the game, the player is a robed figure. You wake up in the desert, and you see this giant mountain in front of you. The goal of the game is to go on this journey to the mountaintop — very much inspired by Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey structure.

On each level you’re exploring what appears to be a ruined civilization. You’re in this long robe, and when you encounter pieces of cloth, they can give you energy. And that energy you can use to fly, not infinitely, just for short periods. And you can build upon your ability to fly. But the idea is that cloth is really the only living thing in this desert environment. And as you move through the world, you encounter more complex life forms of cloth, and you start to learn more and understand more about this civilization and what happened there.

It takes about 90 minutes, maybe two hours, to play. We wanted to allow people to play through in one sitting.

How does the multiplayer aspect work?

As you’re going on this journey through different environments to the mountaintop, you can encounter another robed figure like yourself, and that is another real person. We don’t have an AI system, as some people think. It is always just a one-on-one connection, to give you this feeling like you’re in this vast world. So when you happen upon another person, it’s very significant.

One of the goals was to make an online console title that actually made you feel connected to another person, as opposed to the traditional online console gaming experience in which you start up a competitive, usually fighting or shooting game, and get yelled at by people from across the world.

In Journey, there’s actually no language, no voice chat system, and no in-game messaging. You’re also totally anonymous — you don’t have a user ID or a name, nothing that could take you out of the world that we were creating, which also leaves it totally open to players of any age and also from anywhere in the world. Because we don’t rely on language, we can actually have a global server, so you could be playing with someone who doesn’t even speak the same language as you. Yet you share the experience.

Then do you have to play the game together?

You don’t have to. People have different play styles: I could be really into exploration, and they just want to go around and collect everything — then we’d naturally separate and be disconnected and left open to connect with someone else. This offers an organic way of players finding players who are similar to them.

How do the players communicate?

The only way of communicating is through a shout or call system. When you press a button on the controller, you’ll make either a tiny shout or a large call. It can act as a way of saying “Hey, I’m over here!” if you’re in the level but can’t see each other very well. But when two people initially find each other, they “speak” in lots of short chirps. It’s amazing how much actually people can communicate this way. It gets enough across, I guess.

Is there no way they can ever find each other in the real world?

We’ve struggled with this, because from a game design stance, it can be very powerful to allow people to invite friends to play. But we felt the anonymity was really important, because the game is about humanity in general, not the specifics of this particular person. But if you play through the entire game, it’ll take you back to where you started again. At that moment, it will show you the other journeyers you encountered along the way, so people have connected to one another through the Playstation network messaging system afterwards.

There’s also a Tumblr blog actually called Journey Stories, where people post their experiences of playing and try and find each other if they’ve had a particularly moving experience with someone.

But it’s funny to think about how originally it was really just a theory when 13 of us were developing the game. We really felt that simply moving through these environments with another person would be something really compelling to share online. I guess it turned out that we weren’t alone.

Is it meant to be played again and again?

Yes. There are collectibles that you can go and get through multiple playthroughs. But mainly people play again because the environments are beautiful and it’s a really interesting place to be — and you can always encounter another person. That really does change your experience every time.

So even though you know what you’re going to encounter at the end, it’s still worth exploring and making contact with somebody else.

Yeah. A metaphor we used a lot during development was hiking — especially that feeling like we can pass each other on a busy street in an urban environment, we don’t even recognize each other. But when you’re out hiking somewhere, when you see another person, you feel a connection to them. And everyone’s pretty nice usually when you go out hiking. I’ve hiked in Griffith Park on some of the same trails many, many times now because I live right here, but it’s still a beautiful place to explore. I’ll still go back to it.

You’re no longer with That Game Company. What happened, and what are you up to now?

We pretty much disbanded after Journey was shipped, about a year ago. It had been six years, and myself and co-founder Jenova Chen and the other people that had been there for a while, we had just really grown and changed. Your art imitates your life, and it was true for every single one of our games, and Journey was no exception. Jenova said in the acceptance speech that he gave at GDC that, if you played through Journey, you’d understand our own struggles as well. It reflects everything we were going through.

So when it was over, it was time for us to hit the start-a-new-journey button, like we have in the game. I didn’t know what was next. In games, I love the practice of game development and game design, but I’m also passionate about empowering different voices in game development to be successful so that we can have a wider variety of experiences in games. I’m interested in how our business model can impact that. Because the games industry is relatively young, there’s still much room to change that and switch it up. I’ve been doing that also with an angel investment fund called Indie Fund, which I co-founded in the beginning of 2010.

My period of exploration vacillated between both. But I thought that in order to really impact the finances and the business model of the games industry, I would ultimately have to go work for one of the large studios or large console manufacturers and work my way up to being in a position of power. I got connected with Julie Uhrman, who’s the CEO and founder of Ouya, which I joined as Head of Developer Relations a month ago. Ouya made a lot of waves last year. They ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign: making $8.5 million dollars for a new console, which is crazy. It could have only worked on Kickstarter: investors were just laughing them out of the room. No one wanted to get into hardware manufacturing.

With Ouya, I really feel there is an opportunity to have all of the accessibility for development that mobile devices and PCs do, but in the living room — still have developers be able to develop a variety of gaming experiences, but with all the ease and openness of a platform that’s been provided through App Store and Google Play. That really excites me.

Any regrets?

That we lost the Grammy to Trent Reznor. But that’s OK.

Karen Eng | May 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Tags: Fe, Journey, Kellee Santiago, technology, TED Fellows, That Game Company, video games | Categories: Q&A | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jD5

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The teachers who inspired us, and even changed the trajectories of our lives

by Kate Torgovnick

Rita Pierson leads off TED Talks Education, our first televised event, which will air on PBS on May 7. Photo: Ryan Lash

Rita Pierson is the kind of teacher you wish you had. An educator for 40 years, she is funny, sharp and simply has a way with words — so much so that today’s talk feels a bit like a sermon.

[ted_talkteaser id=1728]In this talk, Pierson shares the secret to teaching students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds — make personal connections with them.

“I have had classes so low, so academically deficient that I cried. I wondered, ‘How am I going to take this group in nine months from where they are to where they need to be?” says Pierson, in this amazing talk. “I came up with a bright idea … I gave them a saying: ‘I am somebody. I was somebody when I came and I’ll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here’ … You say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you.”

Pierson’s talk will open our first-ever television special, TED Talks Education, which airs Tuesday, May 7 at 10/9c on PBS. It will be an exhilarating night, featuring talks from educators and innovators with bold ideas, plus performances from host John Legend.Set your DVRs and read lots more here »

In honor of Rita Pierson and TED Talks Education, I asked the TED staff: who is that one teacher who just really, truly influenced you?

“The teacher who changed my life was, serendipitously, my English teacher for kindergarten, 7th grade and senior year of high school. Ms. Barbato taught me how to write eloquently (I hope!), and she had this unexplained faith in me that really galvanized me as a student. What she taught me stuck with me through college and beyond.” —Olivier Sherman, Distribution Coordinator

“Mr. Eric Yang was only in his mid-twenties when I had him as my AP government teacher, but he was unforgettable. He was the first teacher I had who made keeping up with current events mandatory, forcing us to read news sources on our own time and not just from the textbook. He exuded discipline, and that was contagious.” —Thu-Huong Ha, Editorial Projects Specialist

“Mrs. Bailey was my English teacher. I loved her. I was the younger sister of an already very successful big sister, and that was a cloud over my head too. She held my hand and brought me into the sun with her love of the English language. She recommended books just to me, she made me feel special and I just couldn’t get enough of her. I went on a school trip to Amsterdam with her and she brought her husband, who was an artist. She changed my life.” —Juliet Blake, TED TV(who executive produced TED Talks Education)

“Mrs. Mendelson, my 8th-grade English teacher. This was my first year living in the U.S. I think she set the stage for future learning and she’s the main reason I have such good English right now, both written and spoken. So, thank you, Mrs. Mendelson.” —Ruben Marcos, intern

“I still recall how awesome my 6th-grade teacher, Mr. Fawess, was. Middle school in general is basically Hades. I was extremely small, super nerdy, and had a unibrow, asthma and glasses — plus I left school once a week to take classes at the local high school. I got picked on a lot. Mr. Fawess came up with all these ways to take my mind off that — he talked to me about bullying and how to let things roll off your shoulder and gave me books I could read outside of class. He got me thinking about college early and what kinds of subjects I was most interested in. I consider myself lucky to have had such an inspiring teacher. If only he had discouraged me from dressing up as the skunk in our annual school play.” —Amanda Ellis, TEDx Projects Coordinator

“Robert Baldwin’s class ‘Essay and Inquiry.’ Every day: Walk into class. Sit down. Look at the handout on every desk. Read it. Start writing. Class ends — stop writing. Every day. Except Wednesday, when we’d put the desks in a circle and everyone would read something they’d written. The prompts were everything from simple questions like, “What’s your favorite memory of trees?” to readings from Rachel Carson or W.B. Yeats or Orson Welles. It was a whirlwind of ideas, and the constant writing forced us to wrestle with them, and (tritely but correctly) ourselves. It was like a boot camp in thinking. People I know who took, and loved, that class went on to some of the most amazing careers. Every time we get together, we gush about the quiet, unassuming, force of nature that was Mr. Baldwin. He would have hated that last sentence, because the metaphor is strained. But he also taught us to ignore authority, so I’m writing it anyway.” —Ben Lillie, Writer/Editor

“Mrs. Lewis, my 5th-grade teacher, read to us every week. She made us put our heads on the desk and close our eyes and then read wonderful stories to us: The Golden Pine Cone, The Diamond Feather ... It made our imaginations come alive.”Janet McCartney, Director of Events

“My junior high school science teacher, Dr. Ernie Roy, with his outsized laugh and booming voice, was one of my very favorite teachers. He demonstrated to us how important we were to him by making what were obviously personal sacrifices on our behalf: when the lab needed equipment, we knew he had purchased some of it on his own; when we couldn’t get a bus for a field trip, he took a few of us in his own car (something which could have gotten him into quite a bit of trouble); and when a big science fair deadline loomed large, he opened the lab every weekend to help us with our experiments. At a point in my life when I didn’t have a lot of guidance or positive role models, he taught me a lot more than science; he taught me, by example, the power of sacrifice, discipline and self-respect.” —Michael McWatters, UX Architect

“Dr. Heller, my 10th-grade social studies teacher, taught me that passion is the key to learning. I had never met anyone from kindergarten to 10th grade that matched his raw passion for the meaning behind historical events, and it was so contagious.” —Deron Triff, Director of Distribution

“Rene Arcilla, a professor of Educational Philosophy at NYU, changed the way I think. Prior to that class, I hadn’t truly been challenged about what *I* actually thought — much of my educational life was about regurgitating answers. Rene was the first teacher who asked me questions that he/we didn’t know the answers to. Realizing that I had to actually provide the answers from within myself, and not look to an outside source, was very difficult at first. It was a muscle I had to build. I owe a lot of who I am today — and even this job — to the introspective, critical and philosophical thinking I learned from Rene’s classes.” —Susan Zimmerman,Executive Assistant to the Curator

“Mr. Downey — 7th- and 8th-grade Humanities. Still the hardest class I’ve ever taken! I’d credit Mr. Downey with helping me think more expansively about the world. Right before 8th-grade graduation, he showed us Dead Poets Society, and on the final day of class we all agreed to stand on our desks and It was all very dramatic and I think there were tears.” —Jennifer Gilhooley, Partnership Development

“I took my first painting class my sophomore year of high school and fell in love with it. My teacher, Ms. Bowen, told me I could use the art studio whenever I wanted to, and gave me access to all kinds of new paints and canvasses. I spent almost every lunch period there for a few years, and regularly stayed in the studio after school ended. One day, Ms. Bowen told me that a parent of a student I had painted expressed interest in buying the painting of her daughter. After that first sale, I painted portraits of kids in my school on a commission basis, and continued to do so for the remainder of my high school experience. Thanks to Ms. Bowen’s mentorship, I felt empowered to try to make money from something I was passionate about and loved to do. Here is one of the paintings.” —Cloe Shasha,TED Projects Coordinator

“I had a chemistry teacher, Mr. Sampson, who used to meet me at school an hour before it started to tutor me when the material wasn’t clicking. That was the first class I had ever really struggled with, and he made this investment to help me get through the material — but more importantly learn that I could teach myself anything.” —Stephanie Kent, Special Projects

“On the first day of my Elementary Italian Immersion class, I asked to be excused to use the restroom in English. Professor Agostini kept speaking rapidly in Italian as I squirmed in my seat. Since she seemed unclear about my request, I asked her again to no avail. Finally, I flipped through my brand-new Italian-English dictionary and discovered the words, ‘Posso usare il bagno per favore.’ Suddenly, she flashed me a smile, handed me the key, told me where to go in Italian, and pointed to my dictionary so I could learn how to follow her directions. Even though I only studied with her for one semester, I will never forget that I emerged from her class knowing intermediate-level Italian.” —Jamia Wilson, TED Prize Storyteller

“My history teacher in high school, Mr. Cook, challenged us to think hard about what happened in the past and directly related it to what was happening around us. He gave us ways to try and predict what could happen in the future. He was the first person to make me take ownership of what it meant to be a citizen and the social responsibility that came with that. Because he taught ‘World History’ rather than a regionally specific class, we learned extensively about other countries, and I am convinced he is the reason that I went abroad to Ghana in college and I am now still an avid traveler today.” —Samantha Kelly, Fellows Group

“The professor who taught me Intro to Women and Gender Studies my sophomore year of college completely changed my framework for thinking about human relationships within a hierarchy. She brought coffee and tea to class for us every morning to congratulate us for being so dedicated to learning as to choose an 8:30 a.m. class. When I emailed her to say I’d be out sick, she sent me a get-well e-card. And when, in a fit of undergraduate irresponsibility, I simply failed to do an assignment, she wasn’t the least bit mad — instead, I received a phone call from her a week after the end of the semester informing me that, because I’d done such good work, she couldn’t bear to give me the B+ I numerically deserved. It was incredible to see how fully she lived the subject she taught; the philosophy of compassion and equality.” —Morton Bast, Editorial Assistant

“My high school photography teacher, Susan Now. I’m convinced that the support I got from Susan got me through high school. Two years later, when I was freaked out about transferring colleges, I, without hesitation, called her for advice. She made me feel comfortable and challenged me to speak up and be confident with expressing myself as a student. So valuable!” — Ella Saunders-Crivello, Partnerships Coordinator

“Cliff Simon, one of my college professors, taught me that wisdom is the greatest pursuit, our skills and passions are transferable, and that fear will only ever always hold us back. To this day, he’s a great mentor. We’re now great friends, and I even officiated his wedding ceremony.” —Jordan Reeves, TED-Ed Community Manager

“My 10th-grade biology teacher spoke and interacted with me like I was a grown-up individual and not one of a batch of ‘kids.’ He made us all fascinated with the subjects he taught because he spoke to us not at us. I always worked hard to match that capacity that he saw in me. He was only in his 50s when, a few years after I graduated, he died suddenly of a heart attack. Lots of sad former students.” —Ladan Wise, Product Development Manager

“Stephen O’Leary, my professor and mentor at the University of Southern California, showed me that the quality of my thinking could be directly traced to the quality of the authors I referenced in my bibliography. This realization motivated me to both seek and challenge everything I have read ever since. This habit likely played a part in me finding myself so passionate about being a part of TED.” —Sarah Shewey, TEDActive Program Producer

“My high school art teacher was equal parts smart and silly, and always insightful. Mr. Miller showed a bunch of restless seniors that art class wasn’t just about memorizing which painters influenced which periods. Instead, he taught us that art was — at its core — an exciting way to touch both the head and the heart. Mr. Miller took our class to the Met in New York one warm spring afternoon, a trip I’ll never forget. Great art, he told us, was about great ideas, and not simply the pleasing arrangement of color, shape and form. Thank you, Russ Miller.” —Jim Daly, TED Books

“Mrs. Presley, my 1st-grade teacher, advanced my reading skills to full-on chapter book independence … and for that I’ll be forever grateful! But the most valuable gift she gave me was self-esteem. At my school, we’d bring a brown bag lunch with our name written on the bag. I always wanted a middle name like the other kids, and this daily ritual made me feel the lack. I must have let my mom know, because she started to write middle names on my bag. At first it started: ‘Marla Ruby Mitchnick.’ Then ‘Marla Ruby Diamond Mitchnick,’ and then ‘Marla Ruby Diamond Violet Mitchnick,’ and so on. Mrs. Presley never skipped a single syllable — she just read it straight through, and I felt like a beloved and fortunate person with a beautiful name, surrounded by wonderful friends.” —Marla Mitchnick, Film + Video Editor

“I signed up for Journalism 1 in high school having no idea what I was getting myself into. Marcie Pachino ran a rigorous course on the joys of telling other people’s stories and on the extreme responsibility that comes with reporting news that might otherwise go unheard. She was kind and inspiring, but wouldn’t hesitate to give you an edit of an article that simply read ‘Ugh’ in big red letters. The key: you always knew she was right. I went on to become a journalist professionally and, in all my years of writing, I’ve never encountered a more demanding editor.” —Kate Torgovnick, Writer (the author of this post)

“Professor Stephen Commins completely changed my learning experience at UCLA. He pushed the boundaries of what I thought I could accomplish as an undergrad, and having him as my research professor improved my quality of education tenfold. I’ll never forget in my last lecture with him, he left our class with this piece of advice: to work on poverty domestically before attempting to help those abroad, because you aren’t truly a development professional until you have done both.” —Chiara Baldanza, Coordinator

“My high school English teacher Veronica Stephenson went above and beyond to allow me the opportunity to dive into theater and acting in a very underfunded arts community. She saw passion in me, and engaged it by spending a lot of her own time and effort to help me pursue something I loved. I learned so much from her and got more personalized experience than I probably would have from a more arts-focused curriculum due solely to her faith in me.” —Emilie Soffe, Office Coordinator

Now it’s your turn. Who is the teacher who most inspired you? Please share in your comments.

Kate Torgovnick | May 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Tags: children, education, education week,teachers, TED Talks education, TEDTalks | Categories: education | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jDM

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Collapse of faith: Mohammad Tauheed on the Savar garment-factory disaster

by Karen Eng

An eight-story building named Rana Plaza in the Savar neighborhood on the outskirts of Dhaka collapsed at 9am on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Hundreds of workers were killed, and many more were trapped for days under the rubble until rescued with severe injuries. Photo: Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights.

TED Senior Fellow and architect Mohammad Tauheed runs ArchSociety.com, a nonprofit community resource for architects and designers in developing nations. When the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, collapsed last week, killing hundreds of garment factory workers, Tauheed supported the rescue efforts. Here, he tells us his experience of the disaster, how corruption and greed can quickly lead to tragedy, and what’s being done to prevent illegal building practices.

What happened?

The Savar tragedy is a matter of great sorrow and grief. The saddest reality of the whole thing is that it was avoidable. It is not a case of a plain accident. Cracks were detected in the building a day before the collapse. According to news sources, the tenants were advised to stop all activities in the building and to evacuate. That instruction was not followed, so TV reporters went there and interviewed the owner, Sohel Rana, a local politician, and asked why. He declared the cracks were nothing serious, that the building was safe. While a bank and shops in the first two floors were closed once the cracks were found, several garment factories on the upper floors of the building stayed open. The garment-factory managers forced their fearful workers to resume work the next day, and the building collapsed within a few seconds, with thousands of workers inside. It has taken more than 500 lives so far. There were around 2,500 survivors rescued alive from the debris, and many are still missing. The second phase of the rescue work is currently running. Heavy machinery is clearing the rubble, with no more hope of finding anyone alive. Days after the collapse, Sohel Rana was arrested.

What was your firsthand experience of the disaster?

I went there with medical supplies to deliver to the onsite health camp. It was an overwhelming experience. Thousands of people were waiting in tears to hear the news of their relatives among the victims, a private hospital nearby was dedicatedly busy round the clock to receive wounded survivors, frequent sirens of rushing ambulances and other emergency vehicles, many small voluntary booths giving away drinking water, snacks and free phone calls. In those few days, I’m sure everyone in Bangladesh thought and wished they could come to help in some way, wished they could contribute something to save a life. I was standing amid the crowd and crying.

I heard that the rescue workers needed light tools like cutters, drills, and so on to make holes in the concrete, so I called up architects and construction companies I knew, asked them to stop work for a day or two and send their equipment and men to the rescue site. Everybody responded positively and tried their best.

People from all walks of life did their best to help. General people, construction workers, unknown volunteers joined actively in the rescue work hand-to-hand with the firemen and a support team from the army. Their dedication, love for people and bravery were extraordinary. They risked their lives to go inside the rubble and take someone out alive. Hundreds of people donated blood in long queues in different camps in Dhaka. People sent support whatever and however they could. Social networks and news channels were busy with the live updates of ‘what is currently needed onsite’ messages. Hundreds of people actively collected those things and sent them to Savar — food, water, medical supplies, rescue equipment, tools and machinery, flashlights, canisters and cylinders of oxygen, funeral supplies for the deceased, cash, and so on were supplied mostly by the general public. And most often the amount of supply that came arbitrarily met the need. It was heartwarming and all the way an amazing effort that we saw from the citizens.

In your view, who is responsible?

The biggest thing that is responsible here is corruption. From my knowledge as an architect, I can tell you about the building construction-related law and its known flaws. To build in the Dhaka area — the boundary covers nearby suburbs and towns beyond Dhaka metropolitan, including the incident area of Savar — you need permission from the main authority RajUK (Capital Development Authority), as well as permits from 13 different organizations to get permission for construction and approval of architectural design (and, in the case of large projects, structural and other designs), including the municipality, environment department, fire service, electricity and gas distribution authorities, and so on. The approval process and construction are overseen by RajUK. When building a factory, you need to get additional approval from a factory-building construction-related authority, and if it’s a garment factory, you need a license and permission from the non-government organization BGMEA, an association of garment owners that regulates the industry in Bangladesh. If corruption plays any role at any point in this process, incidents like the collapse of Rana Plaza and fire at Tazreen Garments may happen any time. And many of these organizations are infamous for institutionalizing corruption. Allegedly, often this paperwork is done or overlooked by political influences and bribery.

In the case of Rana Plaza, the problem might have happened in a few different layers. Allegedly, the building was designed to be six stories, and the owner built an additional two floors without permission. There could be a fault in the structural design. Then there was the usage of the building: it was architecturally and structurally designed as a commercial complex, for small shops and offices. Counting the number of people per square foot and the weight of the heavy machinery, the dead load and live load of a garment factory is far higher than a commercial building. Even if the initial structural design was okay for commercial use, using the building for garment factories might have made the structure fail. It is difficult to tell what exactly happened without extensive engineering investigation. It was the responsibility of the architects and engineers involved in designing this building to check its legal status.

All the organizations that let the owner make this building without following the rules and let them use it for unapproved purposes are responsible. And along with the building owner, the owners of the garment factories are responsible for accepting the corruption. They are especially responsible for forcing workers to go inside that building that day.

The responsibility also falls upon the foreign companies – including Joe Fresh, Bonmarché, El Corte Ingles, Primark, Mango and Benetton – whose products were being made or had been made in those factories. They must take responsibility for checking the physical conditions, legal aspects and working environment of the factory buildings before they put an order to a third-party supplier. After all, their names and logos are all over the collapsed building, soaked in blood.

Is there any hope for conditions changing for the better? This is not the first time such a thing has happened in Bangladesh’s garment factories.

A few good things have happened recently with building codes and laws in the country. Bangladesh has a national building code, BNBC, first drafted in 1993. In 2006 it became mandatory to follow the code, with a penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. In 2006, a new construction law came out with the help of years’ worth of efforts by architects and related professionals. These codes and laws aren’t entirely perfect yet, but they are under constant practice, observation and development.

And following the Savar incident, the government has declared a few reforms to improve the situation of the garment industry in the country.

Why are the government and authorities not supportive of such changes?

Many of these ideas and proposals will cut corruption and the power of authority of different organizations. And no one wants to mess with the garment industry in Bangladesh, because it’s the highest foreign-currency-earning industry in the country, at more than $19 billion a year and supports the also highly lucrative real-estate industry. So any law that has the potential to reduce the profits in these two sectors will likely not get support.

This business is extraordinarily profitable – it makes people greedy and turns them into beings who can easily force their workers into a known death trap, because the stakes of shutting down a factory even for a few hours is huge in account of profit and loss. The factories are always desperate to keep running, as the supply of garments to Western countries is a highly time-sensitive business, for the frequent changes of fashion in seasons, special occasions and brand campaigns. Western fashion houses also should look into this issue of “time sensitivity” – which may cost human lives.

Of course, not all garment factories in Bangladesh are in bad condition. There are thousands of factories properly designed and maintained, and many foreign companies who procure their products from Bangladesh with commendable responsibility.

One great thing that has resulted from the West’s outsourcing of work to Bangladesh is that thousands of workers have pulled themselves out of extreme poverty. This flow must continue to produce more jobs and opportunities. With a little more responsibility and humane sensibility, we could save hundreds of lives and feed thousands more.

How does the work you do with your nonprofit ArchSociety prevent tragedies like this?

ArchSociety.com focuses on helping architects with open source resources and information. However, following the deadly fire at Tazreen Garments in November 2012, we started working on a new project: an information package that will contain easy-to-understand booklets, posters, stickers, and so on, with fire-safety information and instructions targeted for garment factories. Now it looks like we have to consider adding basic construction safety and law information to that package.

Thanks to the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights for use of their photo. Learn more about their work here.

Karen Eng | May 3, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Tags: TED Fellows | Categories: News | URL:http://wp.me/p10512-jDq

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Unorthodox new pets in the TED office

by asialindsay

We at TED have a new addition to the office: a space-age ant farm!

The Ant Column Cylinder Ant Farm arrived at our office last week. It’s a six-inch tube filled with a nutrient-rich blue goo. We added ants ordered from Ants Alive into the equation and within a few hours, the ants had built a complicated series of tunnels in the goo and looked very at home in their new habitat.

The blue goo that fills the ant farm was originally developed for a higher purpose;researchers at the University of Colorado created it out of seaweed extract to see how the insects would behave in space. (Scientists have been sending animals into orbit since the 1940s. See: Laika the Russian space dog.) The gel was requested by a group of New York high school students who dreamed up an experiment in 2000 to see how ants would tunnel in zero gravity — if they would get disoriented or stay focused like their relatives on earth. The ants were finally launched into space in 2003 aboard the the space shuttle Columbia. However, tragedy struck when the shuttle disintegrated upon re-entry to the atmosphere, killing all crew members aboard.

A decade later, the goo is now available commercially. It contains amino acids, sugars and fungicides to fulfil all the ants’ nutritional needs — and it makes for ant farms that look far more interesting than your standard sand-and-dirt variety.

So why are ants the perfect pet for TED HQ? They value community, they are smart and industrious, plus a little bit quirky — like us. Check out a photo of the ants as their tunnels progress.

This isn’t the first time TED has expressed awe and admiration for creepy crawlies. Below, a selection of TED and TEDx talks featuring our favorite arthropods.

asialindsay | May 3, 2013 at 9:27 am | Tags: ants, pets, TED | Categories: News | URL:http://wp.me/p10512-jDg

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TEDxCERN is about to begin — watch along

by Kate Torgovnick

For the past 59 years, the European Organization for Nuclear Research — better known as CERN — has been a nucleus of innovation, bringing us both the World Wide Web in 1983 and last year’s discovery of what appears to be the Higgs boson. Today, CERN will host its first TEDx event, with speakers ranging from Nobel Prize laureate astrophysicist George Smoot to Britney Wegner, the 18-year-old winner of the Google Science Fair. The event will feature thinkers working hard to understand our universe, showing how physics intersects with, well, almost any discipline of thought out there.

TEDxCERN will not be a closed door event. More than 25 universities, laboratories and organizations around the world will be tuning in. In fact, anyone anywhere in the world with a curiosity about how and why the universe exists is welcome to watch through a free webcast.

The webcast begins at 13:45 (CEST) — that’s 7:45am (EST) to anyone living on the East Coast — and will run until 20:00. Watch here »

Below, some TED Talks to get you hyped for the event:

Still not sure if you want to watch? Read 6 reasons to tune in »

Kate Torgovnick | May 3, 2013 at 7:00 am | Tags: CERN, particle physics, science, TEDx,TEDxCERN, universe | Categories: Science | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jCZ

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This week’s best questions, ideas and debates from TED Conversations

by ajabogdanoff

TED Conversations is a unique space where any member of this community can get feedback on an idea, pose an interesting question, or start a fascinating debate with fellow TEDizens from around the globe. This week, dozens of new conversations were started — on topics ranging from the importance of letter-writing to the existence of infinity. Here, a sampling of the highlights from this week:

First, kicking off a new semester with Jessica Green’s Biodiversity class, a question from University of Oregon student Noel Laporte: What form of renewable energy has or will have the lowest impact on biodiversity? Noel asks:

Climate change, air pollution, rising sea levels and species extinction can all be attributed to the increasing usage of non-renewable energy in the world today. Non-renewable energy reserves are diminishing and finite with an ever-increasing demand from countries around the world. Coal, natural gas and oil all have detrimental effects on the environment. These effects are both local and global, harming species throughout the world. As we consider different renewable forms of energy, can we rank their potential impacts on biodiversity?

Chelsea Grochowski responds:

Concentrating solar thermal plants could fulfill a significant chunk of our more immediate energy demands while other technologies progress. Most people associate solar with photovoltaic solar cells, but PV technology isn’t quite there yet and it’s incredibly expensive. Solar thermal systems on the other hand are much less expensive, more efficient, and because of their heat storage capabilities, are able to operate when there is no daylight.

Land and water are required for CSP systems and both of these can impact biodiversity, however, unlike PV cells, hazardous and rare materials aren’t required for their manufacture. CSPs can be built in areas of lower diversity such as abandoned mining lands and transportation and transmission corridors…

The carbon footprint for the entire life cycle of solar technologies, including manufacture, materials transport, maintenance, etc., is also far less when compared with that of natural gas and coal.

While Ben Story adds:

I think that nuclear power is a very viable option for minimizing the effect of energy production on biodiversity worldwide. In comparison, to standard sources of energy, nuclear energy produce, “…wastes (that) comprise less than 1% of total industrial toxic wastes.” (Source)

A recent study into the effect of renewable energy has revealed that nuclear power comes in third behind wind and hydroelectric power; in terms of its effect on climate change. Climate change being one of the most significant impacts on biodiversity. Although nuclear power does produce significant physical waste, it does not pose any threats to bird populations (as do wind turbines) nor does it threaten local fish and aquatic wildlife (as do dams producing hydroelectric power). In terms of threat to ecosystems worldwide I believe nuclear power to be the ultimate choice if our goal is to conserve global biodiversity.

I think that physical waste is the biggest threat to biological diversity and by reducing waste we can seriously diminish the human effect on ecosystems across the globe. Although, nuclear power instills fear in many people, it is actually one of the safest forms of energy; if safety regulations worldwide are sufficiently increased we can avoid incidents such as those experienced in Chernobyl and Fukushima.

And Joseph Middaugh responds:

Now that the ‘war’ on renewables is over the two I am intrigued with the most are solar and magnetic. Solar due to the fact that technology is rapidly improving and getting stronger as apparent with the developers at Goal Zero. The other is not always thought of as alternative energy, however, after riding a magnetic train at 160mph and not one gas emission or vibration while running. Check out what Magna Drive in Seattle is doing to reduce our needs for oil consumption by using magnets in couplings in manufacturing plants.

This conversation has ended, but be sure to check out the rest of the 168 comments here!

Next, a thought-provoking topic on drug-resistant bacteria, started by Anna Crist, titled: Purell now, Bacteri-ell later? Anna writes:

The hygiene hypothesis, the idea that “too much cleanliness prevents the development of a well-balanced immune response”(Sironi and Clerici, 2010), has received a lot of support and also criticism. It has recently been challenged by the hypothesis of “early immune challenge”, which states that a lack of appropriate immune stimulation during early childhood might account for the increased development of allergies in industrialized countries (Kramer et al, 2013). This proposal places less emphasis on excessive hygienic practices and focuses more on the insufficient exposure to specific environmental microbes, particularly those from non-urban environments, as the reason behind the rise of atopic disease. While different, both hypotheses point to the beneficial health affects of some microbes.

What do you think is the reason for increased allergy levels in industrialized countries? Do you think that a concoction of the “right” microbial species in the form of a lotion, drink, or inhalant (aka “Bacteri-ell”) could be a future replacement for natural exposure to beneficial microbes? Instead of using hand sanitizers like Purell, do you see a future where people from some regions of the world are unsanitizing their hands with “Bacteri-ell”?

Julia Goldberg responds:

According to the National Institute of Health it was found that from 1988-1994 more than 50% of Americans from ages 6-59 were sensitive to at least one allergen. However, a similar study done in 1980 found rates 2-5 times lower. The reason for this large increase in allergens is thought to be the more sterile lifestyles we now live. By disinfecting everything around us, we are severely limiting the amount of bacteria we are exposed to.

Being exposed to different bacteria at a young age is very similar to receiving a vaccination. A vaccination works by stimulating an individual’s immune system in order to develop an immunity to a pathogen. Our bodies immune systems are formed by being exposed to seemingly harmless substances around us, such as pollen, animals, foods, etc. When we do not receive these “vaccinations” of harmless substances at a young age, it can result in allergies later in life when they are finally encountered.

Exposure to certain germs and allergens at a young age are important in the development of our immune systems. Without these exposures our bodies will be unable to fight off everyday substances later in life.

And Walter Holt adds:

Studies have shown that not just humans, but all mammals have microbes on their skin in the order of trillions, with thousands of different species. Also, studies have shown that when we have a more biologically diverse set of microbes, then we have a better immune response to many different pathogens and antigens. But I doubt that our bodies would be ready for an onslaught of microbes in gel form.

We do need more helpful microbes on our skin, and in our gut, but disrupting the biodiversity by adding selected microbes we think are most important could upset our body’s ecosystem. It could become, in a sense, like an invasive species problem on our skin.

Check out this Nature article on allergies and microbes. There’s some good background on the subject here.

While Carly Otis clarifies:

Many people in this conversation have pointed out that it would be a better idea to encourage people to stray away from the use of antibiotics, rather than introduce themselves to microorganisms more frequently. While this is probably a good idea, the focus of the question is whether or not it is possible to develop immunity to microorganisms if you weren’t exposed to them at a young age. We don’t know enough about microbes at this point to be able to determine whether applying a culture of bacteria to ourselves would result in positive or negative outcomes, however the idea is a step in the right direction. Once we have determined which microbes have definitively positive influences on humans, it would be a good idea to allow ourselves to be exposed to them regularly. It may be hard to keep the organisms alive in a way that mimics Purell, because nutrients may become limited quickly. In what other ways could we expose ourselves to these organisms, without having to worry that the culture will die?

With 169 comments, there’s more to read, or check out the rest of the fascinating discussions on TED Conversations!

ajabogdanoff | May 2, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Tags: comments, community, TED Conversations | Categories: News | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jCR

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A possible answer for preventing sewage from flowing into waterways in extreme weather

by Kate Torgovnick

During Hurricane Sandy, 10 billion gallons of raw sewage were released into the rivers, canals and bays of New York and New Jersey — and into homes and buildings that were flooded in the storm. This shocking number comes from a report by Climate Central. As reported in The New York Times earlier this week, the sludge would have been enough to cover Central Park in a 41-foot tall blanket of muck.

“Our sewage infrastructure isn’t designed to handle this type of storm surge,” explained Dr. Alyson Kenward, the principal author of the report.

Right before Hurricane Sandy, architect Ate Atema gave a talk in the TED office (part of our then-new TED@250 series) with an idea for something that might alleviate this very problem in cities like New York: street creeks.

In this talk, Atema explained that “CSO” does not stand for Chicago Symphony Orchestra — it stands for Combined Sewage Overflow, which happens when storm surge overwhelms sewage pipes and causes them to overflow into waterways. Surprisingly, CSOs happen by design. In the 1900s, underground sewer systems were built on a one-pipe model that flows storm runoff and sewage through the same pipes. The pipes were angled so that, when overwhelmed, sewage-tainted water would flow into local waterways, rather than back into homes. Many cities like New York have simply not been able to upgrade these systems.

Atema’s idea is to create separate channels for storm runoff, keeping it separate from sewage by building creeks alongside streets that capture rainwater and flow it into waterways. The creeks are designed with catch basins that weed out street trash and cisterns able to catch the “first flush” of rainwater — which picks up 80% of street pollution contamination. The creeks can be planted with trees and grass, making them into a amenity for a block while treating contamination.

To hear more about how street creeks would work, . Want to hear more about New York’s Gowanus Canal? Watch the talk “Reviving New York’s rivers – with oysters.”

Kate Torgovnick | May 2, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Tags: extreme weather, Hurricane Sandy, New York, rain, sewage, storms, street creeks | Categories: Design | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jCV

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Two ways of thinking about social media: digital tattoos and virtual shadows

by Kate Torgovnick

At concerts, lighters once swayed in the air during poignant moments, the audience belting out lyrics together in a moment of catharsis. Today, the group sing-alongs still happen, but the air shines with a different glow: the light of cell phones.

Last week, while seeing a favorite band, I couldn’t help but notice the sea of undulating phones around me. With my view partially obstructed by shoulders, I found my eyes constantly settling onto the glowing screen of the guy in front of me, who was recording each and every song. The screen allowed me to see clearly, and yet it seemed a strange mediation of a moment that is all about the present. Yes, by recording the full show, you get to watch it later. But what did you really experience in the first place?

[ted_talkteaser id=1730]Meanwhile, the group standing beside me at this concert had faces flushed from a little too much alcohol. They had their phones out too, the flashes going off periodically as they snapped shot after shot — arms excitedly slinging around each other. As soon as a photo was taken, they’d lean into the capturing phone and laugh as its owner typed out a message and posted it on Facebook. Was the liquor-soaked moment really one they wanted to share with everyone, co-workers included?

Both today’s talk, “Juan Enriquez: Your online life, permanent as a tattoo,” and today’s new TED Book from Damon Brown, Our Virtual Shadow: Why We Are Obsessed with Documenting Our Lives Online, take reflective looks at the nuances of what it means to have an online record of life. In his talk, Enriquez classifies social media fragments as “digital tattoos,” while Brown characterizes this mediated life as our “virtual shadow.”

Which concept meshes more with your view of our digital lives? Here, a deeper look at the two concepts.

What are they?

Digital tattoos:

“Tattoos really do shout,” says Enriquez in his talk. “What if Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, cell phones, GPS, FourSquare, Yelp, Travel Advisor — all these things you deal with every day — turn out to be electronic tattoos? And what if they provide as much information about who and what you are as any tattoo ever would?”

Virtual shadow:

As Brown writes in his book, “More than ever, we’re now focused on documenting and building the history of our lives, not on living the life unfolding right in front of us. It’s all about the check-in, the status update, the captured moment, rather than being fully present day to day. We’re each focused on what I call our virtual shadow: a collected narrative that, like a physical shadow, is symbolic of where our real selves have been, albeit a few steps behind.”

Is this a brand-new problem? Nope:

Digital tattoos:

“The Greeks thought about what happens when Gods, humans and immortality mix for a long time,” Enriquez says in the talk. “Lesson #1: Sisyphus. He did a horrible thing and was condemned for all time to roll this rock up — and it would roll back down. It’s a little like your reputation. Once you get that electronic tattoo, you’re going to be rolling up and down for a long time.”

Virtual shadow:

“Socrates had as much trouble with then-new technologies as we do with modern tech. Words were meant to be spoken, Socrates believed, rather than written down,” Brown tells the TED Blog. In his book, he adds, “[It's] the same conflict humans have had throughout time: how do we successfully capture a potentially significant moment? It is the prehistoric caveman making images on the wall, the elementary-school class creating a time capsule, every man in an army platoon getting the same tattoo right before a battle.”

What’s the most disconcerting new technology out there?

Digital tattoos:

Says Enriquez, “Facial recognition is getting really good … Companies likeFace.com now have about 18 billion faces online.”

Virtual shadow:

Writes Brown, “Google Glass can take pictures and video, check your email, text your friends, and surf the web — in short, it can record your whole life … Google claimed that they weren’t built for everyday use, but I doubt Apple planned on people texting while walking, either.”

How do we escape the grip our online lives have over us?

Digital tattoos:

Enriquez tells us, “Be cautious when faced with the choice of doing something boneheaded on Twitter or Facebook. Give it 12 hours.”

Virtual Shadow:

Brown writes, “The best way to separate mundane short-term memories from important long-term memories is to simply be as present as possible … The more aware you are of your surroundings, the more your brain can create a cohesive, solid memory. A rich memory — for instance, making love for the first time — isn’t created by an isolated sensation, like a gentle touch or the smell of a cologne, but from the collecting and connecting of all those inputs into one unforgettable multisensory experience. The brain doesn’t need better tools; it just needs us to be as present as possible when things are actually happening.”

How do photos and video play into this?

Digital tattoos:

“People don’t understand how quickly this has changed,” Enriquez tells the TED Blog. “There weren’t a lot of videos of September 11, because it was a pain in the rear to take video on 9/11. You needed a large camera and battery pack – you had to set up the camera. Now every one of us carries HD in our pockets … HD video is so simple, cheap and easy to use that it can affect a presidential campaign, like what happened with Romney.” He adds, “This 24-second news cycle, where a presidential candidate says something stupid on air and, ‘Gotcha!,’ is now beginning to apply to other people’s lives.”

Virtual shadow:

Brown writes in the book, “My favorite uncle shared some good news: He had pictures — hundreds of pictures — from our wedding day. He’d gotten some gorgeous shots, he said, and he couldn’t wait to send them to us. He also told me that he couldn’t wait to get the official video, since he’d been distracted and missed a lot. He was excited to watch a recap of what had happened while he was busy trying to capture the beautiful moments as they were actually happening.”

Is there potential for good with social media?

Digital tattoos:

“The really neat thing is that this is exactly the kind of stuff that allows a group like TED to be so successful and spread ideas,” Enriquez tells us. “And that allows Twitter to spread ideas in a very powerful way — to take on governments, take on bad officials, expose corruption, start movements, do Kickstarter. I’m not arguing [social media] shouldn’t exist. I’m saying that precisely because this stuff is so powerful, we should be careful.”

Virtual shadow:

“There is definitely much good that comes from social media. I’m a huge Twitter fan …. I think we just need to ask the same question we do with other activities: Is this affecting my quality of life?” he says to the TED Blog. “Saying technology is making us less attentive is a copout. Technology has always been an issue for us, whether it was a child in the ’50s watching too much TV or a caveman playing with a new discovery called fire. Like our ancestors, what we really need to do is find a smart way to integrate our newfound technology into our lives.”

So where do you stand, do you feel like the bits and pieces of you online are your digital tattoos, or that they comprise your virtual shadow? Or perhaps a little bit of both?

Watch Juan Enriquez’s TED Talk on digital tattoos »

Read Damon Brown’s TED Book about virtual shadows »

Kate Torgovnick | May 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Tags: Damon Brown, digital lives, digital tattoos,Facebook, Google, Juan Enriquez, online security, privacy, social media, TED Books,TEDTalks, twitter, virtual shadows | Categories: Technology | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jCE

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When our private lives become public online … will it make us more or less tolerant?

by Helen Walters

Photo: Ryan Lash

“I’m not arguing that this stuff shouldn’t exist,” says Juan Enriquez. “I’m saying that precisely because this stuff is so powerful, we should be careful and think about what we’re doing, instead of treating it like a lark, thinking if we post something at 2am that no one will care.”

The Boston-based entrepreneur and many-time TED speaker is mulling the impact of social media and new technology in an interview with the TED Blog yesterday. As he asks in this short talk from TED2013, what if the “digital tattoos” we create by using programs such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google are in fact as enduring as any embellishment on our physical selves? Shouldn’t we at least try to avoid being branded with the digital equivalent of an embarrassing tramp stamp?

[ted_talkteaser id=1730] It’s a new metaphor for an old topic, one that’s busied writers and thinkers of every generation. As Enriquez himself points out, the ancient Greeks were terribly taken with ideas of immortality and how they might be remembered. Yet he believes that in modern life we’re not at all savvy about the long-term consequences of impulsive decisions. He points to Andrea Benitez, the young Mexican woman who recently ran afoul of social media when she proudly and publicly wrote about getting her father to shut down a restaurant she considered didn’t treat her with enough deference. “Now she’s ‘Lady Profeco,’ essentially Lady Macbeth,” says Enriquez of the girl, who’s been roundly trashed within social media, even the subject of an article in The New York Times.

Enriquez is not arguing that Ms. Benitez should have been free to exploit her father’s status. Neither is he saying that the solution is to swear off social media for good. Rather, he’s advocating a path of conscious tolerance. “We’re demanding that young people be responsible for stuff that lasts for a long time,” he says. “Folks should pay attention.”

But isn’t Enriquez just being old school, I ask? Sure, he and I might be horrified by the idea of every last thoughtless jape of our younger selves being captured and broadcast to a virtual audience of millions. But, well, it wasn’t. Why does he think those growing up in a new status quo won’t simply figure out the best way to manage the deluge? Might not society mores shift, so that what he sees as a permanent stain might in fact be as fleeting as a temporary tattoo? “I do wonder,” he allows. “If all our lives become transparent, if you actually get a full picture of the good and the bad of someone sitting next to you in church, how would our societal norms change?”

“I don’t know that there’s one answer,” he adds. “I’d like to think we’d be more tolerant, but often when things are exposed we clamp down and deem something unacceptable.”

In other words, it’s the grey areas we should watch for, and we should foster open conversation about the impact of our media on our actions and behavior. The solution isn’t to deny digital, though heaven knows there are plenty of such ideas in the works. (Enriquez mentions these glasses designed to impede facial identification software.) Instead, we must be thoughtful, smart, and conscious of the decisions we’re making, the tradeoffs we’re making, and the potential consequences of our actions. To apply (whisper it) common sense. That’s a concept that’s as old as the ancient Greeks … and one that’ll never go out of style.

Helen Walters | May 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Tags: Juan Enriquez, online security, privacy, social media, technology, TED2013 | Categories: Technology | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jCb

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Does documenting your life online keep you from actually living it?: An excerpt from the new TED Book, Our Virtual Shadow

by tedblogguest

By Damon Brown

The morning of our wedding, my wife and I only had one major discussion: Should we bring our cell phones? She loved Facebook as much as I loved Twitter, and since we’ve lived and made friends all across the country, the social networks made it easier to stay connected to our loved ones far away. We wanted those who couldn’t make it to the wedding to feel connected, too. But we decided to put the smartphones away. Our decision turned out to be the right one: I can honestly still remember every single moment of the ceremony. I was fully present.

A few months later, my favorite uncle shared some good news: He had pictures — hundreds of pictures — from our wedding day. He’d gotten some gorgeous shots, he said, and he couldn’t wait to send them to us. He also told me that he couldn’t wait to get the official video, since he’d been distracted and missed a lot. He was excited to watch a recap of what had happened because he had been busy trying to capture the beautiful moments as they were actually happening.

At this point, the discussion usually veers into our overly plugged-in society — the subsidized cell phone industry makes photo-ready smartphones really cheap, the prevalence of phones encourages everyone to take more pictures, our phones encourage us to use them every time they buzz, etc. But let’s throw that red herring back into the digital river. Our need to capture our memories certainly didn’t start with Instagram.

The decisions I, my wife, and my uncle faced are part of the same conflict humans have had throughout time: how do we capture and save a potentially significant moment? It is the prehistoric caveman making images on the wall, the elementary-school class creating a time capsule, every man in an army platoon getting the same tattoo right before a battle. Each moldy Polaroid, FourSquare check-in, and uploaded YouTube video creates a breadcrumb trail back through our lives. We want these archives, whether digital or physical, to point back to the very real experience we had, or, just as importantly, to give us insight into someone else’s experience. Silicon Valley tech culture expert Paul Philleo calls these mementos anchors of memory.

If you picture all the experiences in our lifetimes as drops in the ocean, anchors of memory are those manmade landmarks reminding us that something of note is located there. Without them, we risk forgetting our most important moments in a sea of mundane recollections. For instance, the first time you visit the Statue of Liberty, you may create an anchor of memory that is physical, like writing a passage in your diary, or an anchor of memory that is virtual, like checking into the location on an app. The physical anchor of memory takes up physical space and requires physical maintenance: keeping your diary dry, finding a safe place to store it, etc. A virtual anchor of memory takes up virtual space and requires time maintenance: making sure your account is active, managing relationships on the check-in service, etc. The physical anchors of memory represent the stuff we make the space to own, which constitute our possessions; our virtual anchors of memory represent the stuff we make the time to upload, which create our virtual shadow. In both cases, we’ve reserved a spot for a particular symbolic gesture in our life.

To better understand the anchors of memory, let’s look at them as what a programmer would call them: pointers. A pointer is an empty object whose sole purpose is to represent something else with actual content. The Polaroid doesn’t contain your 1978 family reunion, but it points to the memory of that event in your mind. A Twitter status is 140 organized symbols that, for you, trigger a particular idea. Or, in more physical terms, a city mile marker is merely metal with scribbles on it, but it shows you where you have to go to get to that particular place.

But what happens if the pointer, this empty piece of symbolism, aims at something that is inaccurate, incomplete, or, worse, not of value at all?

This essay has been excerpted from the new TED Book Our Virtual Shadow: Why We Are Obsessed with Documenting Our Lives Online, by culture writer Damon Brown, creator of the app Quote Unquote and author of more than a dozen books, includingPorn & Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and Other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture. His new TED Book takes a look at what happens to us as individuals in a world of infinite status updates, constant tweeting, obsessive Instagraming. It answers the question: Does documenting our lives keep us from living them? And more important: How can we use social media tools, which satisfy a real need to be heard and remembered, to help us stay present in actual life?

Our Virtual Shadow” is available for the Kindle, Nook, or through the iBookstore. Or download the TED Books app for your iPad or iPhone. Read more »

tedblogguest | May 2, 2013 at 10:21 am | Tags: Damon Brown, Facebook, Instagram, social media, technology, TED Books, the internet, twitter, virtual life, virtual shows | Categories:Culture | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jCc

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How the TED Machine was built

by Hailey Reissman

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When illustrator/storyteller Oliver Jeffers and animator/woodworker Mac Premo get together, sketchbooks travel 60,000 miles, suitcases wander the streets of Brooklyn and sandwiches are skewered with bows and arrows.

Jeffers and Premo created the opening video for TED2013 — and its star, the TED Machine. The TED Machine works like a schedule board in an old train station — with panels that reveal, with each new flip, the names of the 72 speakers and performers at TED2013 in squiggly handwriting. In the video above, the machine comes to life in stop-motion animation, revealing a magical world filled with ukelele strumming and changing backdrops. At TED2013, the video — which has a homespun charm a bit different from TED’s regular polished punch — elicited the kind of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ normally reserved for fireworks displays.

On Monday, New York creative types crowded the workshop space of Manhattan’s 14th Street Apple Store for an evening with Jeffers, Premo, and TED’s Design Director Mike Femia, for a conversation about building the machine and where to find the best trash in the city. During the event, Jeffers and Premo revealed how they met (at summer camp); what they do when they’re not making art (they make hot dogs text); and how they pitched their idea for the TED machine.

Being asked to create the TED2013 opening sequence was nerve-wracking, Premo told the crowd, but he and Jeffers knew it would be a great opportunity to stretch their creative muscles. “TED is the most intellectually-stimulating blitzkrieg in the world,” he said. “And we had to make a film that encapsulates it.”

So they set out to build the TED Machine by doing what they do best: Premo taking on the woodwork and Jeffers creating a collage — something they had to physically attach to the 72 rotating “name bumpers” on the machine, because as Premo said, “We needed the things to turn.”

In the end, filming took five days (note: this is a 72-second long video!) and even included a trip to Coney Island in 7 degree weather.

Femia explained what drew the design team at TED to Premo and Jeffers in the first place — they were impressed by the hand-painted wooden map that the two had created for TED Prize winner JR to track his Inside Out project. The piece eventually became a landmark of the design for the 14-city TED Worldwide Talent Search.

“The moment before talks start at a TED conference is very dramatic,” Femia explained. “People are settling into their chairs; the lights are getting dim. We asked ourselves, ‘How could we make it special?’”

Femia said he knew Premo and Jeffers were right for the job because of their ability to tell a story with their art. “What I like about their work,” Femia said, “is that it’s explanatory — it celebrates the process, the messiness, the dirtiness.”

Hailey Reissman | May 1, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Tags: animation, Design, Mac Premo, Oliver Jeffers, TED, TED 2013, TED Machine, TED news | Categories: Design | URL:http://wp.me/p10512-jC1

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6 reasons to watch TEDxCERN this Friday

by Hailey Reissman

TEDxCERN will be held inside CERN’s world-famous Globe. Photo: TEDxCERN

You have probably heard of CERN — the European Organization for Nuclear Research and the home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator that is longer than the island of Manhattan. CERN and LHC are famous for their role in the recent discovery of what very likely is the Higgs boson, a particle crucial to the standard model of physics. But now, CERN will house another exciting first: their first TEDx event.

This Friday, May 3, CERN will bring together thinkers of all kinds to examine our universe and provide insight into why studying it matters. And lucky for you, you don’t have to go to Switzerland to watch in real time. The program will stream live online at the TEDxCERN website from 13:45 to 20:00 (CEST).

So why should you tune in?

1. Because of the incredible speaker lineup. CERN has invited 23 great speakers and performers to the stage. Some highlights of the lineup:

  • Philosopher John Searle, the winner of the 2004 National Humanities Award
  • Astrophysicist George Smoot, cosmologist and Nobel Prize laureate
  • Chris Lintott, the head of Zooniverse at Oxford University and co-presenter of the BBC’s Sky at Night program
  • Marc Abrahams, MC of the Ig Nobel Awards and editor of the Annals of Improbable Research
  • 18-year-old Britney Wegner, grand prize winner of the 2012 Google Science Fair
  • Sergio Bertolucci, director for research and scientific computing at CERN

2. Because the venue will be thrilling. TEDxCERN will take place at the Globe of Science and Innovation on the CERN campus in Geneva. This giant wooden globe — about the size of the Sistine Chapel — was first constructed for the 2000 World Exhibition in Hanover, but now stands as a stirring tribute to the groundbreaking work happening at CERN’s headquarters every day. Says the CERN website, “A landmark by day and by night, the Globe … sends a clear message on science, particle physics, cutting-edge technologies and their applications in everyday life.”

3. Because they make understanding particle physics child’s play. Part of CERN’s mission is making the work done there accessible to those who don’t have a deeply-honed understanding of particle physics. To that end, CERN scientists have teamed up with the animators of TED-Ed to create five easy-to-understand (and fun-to-watch) lessons that explain concepts like the Big Bang, dark matter, big data and Higgs boson. The first of these lessons, “The beginning of the universe, for beginners,” is currently available via TED-Ed. The other four lessons will premiere at TEDxCERN — those watching live will be the first to see ‘em.

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4. Because CERN is part of the reason we have the internet. Ever wondered who created that little thing called the World Wide Web? Tim Berners-Lee was a software engineer at CERN in the 1980s, when he proposed the idea to his bosses as a way to “reframe the way we use information.” Twenty years ago this week, CERN offered up the software required to run a web server, a basic browser, and a standard library of code — all royalty free. To celebrate the anniversary, CERN posted the very first public web page ever — dedicated to the “World Wide Web project itself.”

5. Because Higgs boson is poised to change everything. In 2012, the media was abuzz with stories about the “god particle,” aka Higgs boson. This particle was theorized to exist in 1964 by six scientists, including one Peter Higgs. The existence of the particle would confirm the existence of the Higgs field, believed to surround everything, giving mass to elementary particles that, without it, would be massless. The discovery of Higgs boson is the beginning of a whole new field of research and several TEDxCERN talks will touch on where it’s headed. We’re looking forward to the talk, “What the Higgs might mean for the fate of the universe,” from theoretical physicist Gian Giudice.

6. Because you won’t be alone. More than 25 universities, laboratories and organizations will be hosting TEDxCERN livestreaming parties, including TEDxAthens in Greece, the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, Università di Pavia in Italy, Kathmandu University in Nepal, the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the United States, and even TED HQ here in New York! Take stock in knowing you’ll be watching along with some of the world’s leading scientists, researchers, and hard thinkers.

Tune in to the TEDxCERN webcast on Friday, May 3rd. It will be available to the public here »

For more information on TEDxCERN, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook orTwitter.

TEDxCERN set-up, in progress. Photo: TEDxCERN

Hailey Reissman | May 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Tags: CERN, particle physics, TEDx, TEDxCERN | Categories: Science | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jBQ

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Sebastião Salgado: A gallery of spectacular photographs

by Helen Walters

The vast tail of a Southern right whale, photographed near Argentina in 2004.

Ask photojournalists to name a peer they admire, and Sebastião Salgado’s name is sure to crop up. The Brazilian is renowned for the long-term projects he undertakes, devoting years at a time to documenting the story of a particular people or the evolution of a certain place. [ted_talkteaser id=1729]As he describes in the talk he gave at TED2013, his attention to detail and his personal attachment to his subjects caused health problems that nearly killed him.

Thankfully, he didn’t give up. His most recent project is Genesis, which he describes as “my love letter to the planet” and for which he spent eight years traveling the world to photograph humans, animals and nature in their native glory. (To read more details about Salgado’s process, see this rather lovely Q&A with TED photographer Ryan Lash.) The resulting black-and-white images include the astonishing shot, above, of a Southern right whale, which he photographed in the Valdés Peninsula in Argentina in 2004. Together, the series forms the focus of a book (including a vast, two-volume edition that costs $9,000 and comes complete with a wooden stand designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando; mere mortals can pick up a hardcover version for $69.99). There’s also a documentary, Shade and Light, filmed by Salgado’s son and Wim Wenders, and exhibitions in cities around the world.

The scale is appropriate. This is truly breathtaking work. And, for all that the scenes Salgado captures will likely feel alien to most of us, the images are imbued with no less than the spirit of humanity. If that sounds overblown, seriously, check these out:

An iceberg photographed on the Antarctic Peninsula. Note the “castle tower,” at top right, apparently carved in the ice by wind erosion. (2005.)

Waura Indians fish in the Puilanga Lake near their village in the Upper Xingu region of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state. (2005.)

The Mursi and the Surma women in Ethiopia are, Salgado says, the last women in the world to wear lip plates. It’s unclear precisely why or how this custom evolved, but it is a mark of women of high birth. (2007.)

Teureum is the leader of the Mentawai clan, which lives on Siberut Island in West Sumatra. The shaman is preparing a filter for sago. (2008.)

Women of the Zo’é village of Towari Ypy in Brazil. (2009.)

Look, ma! No hands! Salgado photographed these chinstrap penguins on icebergs between the Zavodovski and Visokoi islands in the South Sandwich Islands, near Antarctica. (2009.)

Shot from Navajo Native American territory, this breathtaking image captures the junction of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, at the gateway to the Grand Canyon National Park, in Arizona in the United States. (2010.)

Light streams across an elephant disappearing into the bush. Kafue National Park, Zambia. (2010.)

The Nenet people, living deep within the Yamal peninsula in Siberia, inside the Arctic Circle. (2011.)

Helen Walters | May 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Tags: art, Earth, environment, photography,Sebastião Salgado | Categories: photography | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jA1

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The language of photography: Q&A with Sebastião Salgado

by ryanlashphotography

I’ll never forget the first images of Sebastião Salgado’s that I ever saw. At the time, I was just getting into photography, and his images of the mines of Serra Pelada struck me as otherworldly, possessing a power that I had never seen in a photo before (or, if I’m honest, since). [ted_talkteaser id=1729]In the twenty years that I’ve been photographing, his work has remained the benchmark of excellence. So it was with great trepidation that I sat down with him at TED2013, where he gave the talk “The silent drama of photography,” for a short interview. After all, what does one ask of the master?

I have so many questions — I’m a great admirer of your work. But let me begin with: why photography?

Photography came into my life when I was 29 — very late. When I finally began to take photographs, I discovered that photography is an incredible language. It was possible to move with my camera and capture with my camera, and to communicate with images. It was a language that didn’t need any translation because photography can be read in many languages. I can write in photography — and you can read it in China, in Canada, in Brazil, anywhere.

Photography allowed me to see anything that I wished to see on this planet. Anything that hurts my heart, I want to see it and to photograph it. Anything that makes me happy, I want to see it and to photograph it. Anything that I think is beautiful enough to show, I show it. Photography became my life.

You started as a social activist before you were a photographer. Is that how you think of yourself still — as an activist?

No, I don’t believe that I’m an activist photographer. I was, when I was young, an activist — a leftist. I was a Marxist, very concerned for everything, and politics — activism — for me was very important. But when I started photography, it was quite a different thing. I did not make pictures just because I was an activist or because it was necessary to denounce something, I made pictures because it was my life, in the sense that it was how I expressed what was in my mind — my ideology, my ethics — through the language of photography. For me, it is much more than activism. It’s my way of life, photography.

You do these very large, long-term projects. Can we talk a bit about your process at the beginning of a project? How do you conceive of it? How do you build it in your mind before you start?

You know, before you do this kind of project, you must have a huge identification with the subject, because the project is going to be a very big part of your life. If you don’t have this identification, you won’t stay with it.

When I did workers, I did workers because for me, for many years, workers were the reason that I was active politically. I did studies of Marxism, and the base of Marxism is the working class. I saw that we were arriving at the end of the first big industrial revolution, where the role of the worker inside that model was changed. And I saw in this moment that many things would be changed in the worker’s world. And I made a decision to pay homage to the working class. And the name of my body of work wasWorkers: An Archaeology of the Industrial Age. Because they were becoming like archaeology; it was photographs of something that was disappearing, and that for me was very motivating. So that was my identification, and it was a pleasure to do this work. But I was conscious that the majority of the things that were photographed were also ending.

When I did another body of work, Migrations, I saw that a reorganization of all production systems was going on around the planet. We have my country, Brazil, that’s gone from an agricultural country to a huge industrial country — really huge. A few years ago, the most important export products were coffee and sugar. Today, they are cars and planes. When I was photographing the workers, I was looking at how this process of industrialization was modifying all the organizations of the human family.

Now we have incredible migrations. In Brazil, in 40 years, we have gone from a 92% rural population to, today, more than 93% urban population. In India today, more than 50% of the population is an urban population. That was close to 5%, 30 years ago. China, Japan … For many years of my life, I was a migrant. Then after that, I became a refugee. This is a story that was my story. I had a huge identification with it and I wanted for many years to do it.

My last project is Genesis. I started an environmental project in Brazil with my wife. We become so close to nature, we had such a huge pleasure in seeing trees growing there — to see birds coming, insects coming, mammals coming, life coming all around me. And I discovered one of the most fascinating things of our planet — nature.

I had an idea to do this for what I think will be my last project. I’ve become old — I’m 69 years old, close to 70. I had an idea to go and have a look at the planet and try to understand through this process — through pictures — the landscapes and how alive they are. To understand the vegetation of the planet, the trees; to understand the other animals, and to photograph us from the beginning, when we lived in equilibrium with nature. I organized a project, an eight-year project, to photograph Genesis. I talked about how you have to have identification for a project — you cannot hold on for eight years if you are not in love with the things that you are doing. That’s my life in photography.

When you do these large projects, how do you know when it is finished?

Well, I organize these projects like a guideline for a film — I write a project. For the start of Genesis, I did two years of research. When this project started to come into my mind, I started to look around more and more and, in a month, I knew 80% of the places that I’d be going and the way that we’d be organizing it. We needed to have organization for this kind of thing, so I organized a kind of unified structure. I organized a big group of magazines, foundations, companies, that all put money in this project. And that’s because it’s an expensive project — I was spending more than $1.5 million per year to photograph these things, to organize expeditions and many different things. And then I started the project. I changed a few things in between, but the base of the project was there.

Given the changes in digital media, if you were to start a new project now, do you think you’d still go through photography? Or would you try something different?

I would go to photography. One thing that is important is that you don’t just go to photography because you like photography. If you believe that you are a photographer, you must have some tools — without them it would be very complicated — and those tools are anthropology, sociology, economics, politics. These things you must learn a little bit and situate yourself inside the society that you live in, in order for your photography to become a real language of your society. This is the story that you are living. This is the most important thing.

In my moment, I live my moment. I’m older now, but young photographers must live their moment — this moment here — and stand in this society and look deeply at the striking points of this society. These pictures will become important because it’s not just pictures that are important — it’s important that you are in the moment of your society that your pictures show. If you understand this, there is no limit for you. I believe that is the point. As easy as this, and as complicated as this.

ryanlashphotography | May 1, 2013 at 10:51 am | Tags: photography, Q&A, Sebastião Salgado, TED2013, TEDTalks | Categories: art | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jAj

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TED and TED-Ed win 11 Webbys

by tedstaff

The 2013 Webby winners are in, and we are thoroughly humbled by the number of times we see the word “TED” in the list. For each Webby category, there are two big winners: the Webby Winner, the site picked by judges, and the People’s Voice winner, the site that won the popular vote online. In total, TED was honored 11 times.

We’d like to offer a big congratulations to TED-Ed for winning both the Webby and People’s Voice awards in the category Education, and for also being selected as the Webby Winner for Best Practices.

We’d also like to take a moment to high-five TEDxAmsterdam for their Interactive Brain, which won the People’s Voice award in Events.

While we’re very pleased to be the Webby Winner for Best Variety (Channel), we’d like to send our love to SoulPancake for winning the People’s Voice award in the category.

TED also won the People’s Voice award for Events & Live Webcasts, the Webby award for Podcast, and we are extra proud to be double winners in the categories Use of Mobile Video and Education and Discovery.

A big thanks to everyone who voted for the People’s Voice awards online, and to the Webbys for being so incredibly supportive over the years.

tedstaff | April 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Tags: 2013 Webbys, TED, Webbys | Categories: News | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jzY

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Camille Seaman named a Knight Fellow

by Kate Torgovnick

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Photographer Camille Seaman sees the personality in elements of nature. The TED Fellow thrilled us at TED2011 with her haunting photos of polar ice — some glaciers timid, others proud and defiant — and, at TED2013, shared stunning images of supercell clouds, which she characterizes as “lovely monsters.”

We are very excited that Seaman has been named a 2013-14 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow for the U.S., joining the eight international fellows named earlier this month. The Fellows participate in classes, lectures and symposiums at Stanford University, while working on an innovation proposal. Seaman’s project is, “A website that applies indigenous perspectives and wisdom to current environmental stories and issues.”

In other news, Seaman has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her ongoing storm-chasing photography project, “The Big Cloud.”

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Kate Torgovnick | April 30, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Tags: Camille Seaman, Knight Fellows,photography, TED Fellows | Categories: art | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jzP

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As we celebrate 20 years of the World Wide Web, lessons from Tim Berners-Lee

by Helen Walters

“I wanted to reframe the way we use information, the way we work together.”

Such was the kernel of an idea from one Tim Berners-Lee, a software engineer working at CERN back in the 1980s. Working on this idea was a side project for Berners-Lee, one dubbed “vague but exciting” by his boss at the time. Yet today, the results of the experiment turn 20 years old. As his former employer puts it, “On 30 April 1993, CERN published a statement making W3 technology available on a royalty free basis, allowing the web to flourish.” That’s a very less-than-vague achievement we should all take a moment to celebrate.

In 2009, Berners-Lee gave a TED Talk in which he described some of the history of developing the web, and detailed some of his ideas for what might happen next. He essentially documents principles of innovation that hold as true today as they did back when he was experimenting with his radical idea of web-style interoperability, and they’re certainly worth any would-be entrepreneur thinking about in the go-go bubble days of the current tech climate. Innovation, it turns out, is often very less than the result of a Eureka moment of genius insight. Instead, it’s the result of hard work and deep application.

Here, some lessons from Berners-Lee and his twenty-something baby, the World Wide Web.

1. Harness Your Own Frustration

Berners-Lee was annoyed that he couldn’t collaborate easily and seamlessly with the many colleagues who came through CERN’s doors, each one clutching potentially valuable insights and information locked away behind a ton of different formats. He became obsessed with wanting to figure out a way to develop a system to break this problem once and for all. Focusing on solving an actual tangible issue provides a solid foundation for unlocking true innovation potential, yet it’s one that many founders too often seem to overlook. For Berners-Lee, the potential was in the solution it would afford him personally, not in developing a particular technology per se.

2. Involve Others Early

In fact, Berners-Lee is explicit about his focus. “The most exciting thing was not the technology but the community and spirit of people getting together,” he says. It’s a philosophy echoed by a fellow Internet pioneer, Danny Hillis, who described the close-knit spirit of early experimentation in a talk given at TED2013. (Watch the talk below, and do check out his copy of the ARPANET Directory, which included the names and addresses of everyone with an email address in 1982.)

This idea holds particularly true in our age of “launch first, re-launch often.” The point: find your people and figure out how to harness their ideas and input. The web has enabled people from all sorts of locations and backgrounds to connect; there’s simply no excuse for existing in a lone bubble.

3. Don’t Stop

You might think that if you were responsible for launching the World Wide Web, you could kick back, pop open the champagne, and watch the praise and plaudits roll in. Not Berners-Lee. What’s inspiring about his 2009 TED Talk is the passion he clearly shows for his latest project, linked data. It’s clear that he’s proud of his baby, now leaving its teen years and entering adulthood. But it’s also apparent that he feels the conditions are ripe for new invention. His frustration at the walled gardens that have taken over the web (see 1), his excitement at persuading people to provide sources of data (see 2), and his clear drive and excitement at what might be next (see, um, 3) make it clear. We ain’t seen nothing yet.

Helen Walters | April 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Tags: technology, Tim Berners-Lee, world wide web| Categories: Technology | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jzM

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3 teenage thinkers with big ideas for energy

by Kate Torgovnick

Taylor Wilson has been called “The Boy Who Played With Fusion” by Popular Sciencemagazine. At age 9, Wilson stunned tour guides at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, with his complex understanding of rocket science. At 12, he set out to make a “star in a jar.” By 14, Wilson had become the youngest person to achieve nuclear fusion with a working reactor. Built in his parents’ garage, the deuterium-hurling device is now housed in the physics department of the University of Nevado, Reno.

At TED2013, Wilson made his second appearance on the TED stage, above. Now 19, he arrived with a bold new idea — a way to make nuclear energy safe and portable, on a scale where it has the potential to address the global energy crisis. In today’s talk, Wilson shares his latest innovation — Small Modular Fission Reactors. These reactors are small, meaning that they can be built in factories and shipped around the globe. They run on already-molten material, so meltdowns won’t be an issue. They’re installed three meters underground, making them hard to tamper with, and yet, in the event of a disaster, the core can be drained to a tank underneath, stopping the reaction. And while traditional nuclear power plants run for 18 months before needing refueling, the small-scale versions could run for up to 30 years, after which they could be sealed for discarding.

To hear how these reactors work — and a few potential applications, from bringing carbon-free energy to the developing world to propelling rockets into space — watch this talk.

A year ago, at TED2012, Wilson took the TED stage to talk about the nuclear fusion reactor he created in his basement. “I would like to make the case that nuclear fusion will be … our energy future,” he says in this talk, “Yup, I built a nuclear fusion reactor.” “I’d also like to make the case that kids can really change the world.”

Wilson isn’t the only teenager who has shared an energy innovation on the TED stage. At TEDGlobal 2007, William Kamkwamba answered questions about his incredible creation – a homemade windmill he built at age 14.

Kamkwamba set out to make a windmill to bring electricity to his family’s home in rural Malawi. He got the basic plans from a library book, reimagining the design out of spare parts, like a bicycle frame and plastic pipes. Kamkwamba made significant alterations in the design to improve upon it, adding an extra blade to increase the windmill’s power production. In the end, the windmill created 12 watts of energy – enough to power four lightbulbs and two radios in his family’s home. At TEDGlobal 2009, he returned to the stage to tell the story in more detail in the talk “How I harnessed the wind.”

After his TED experience, Kamkwamba set his sights on building a bigger windmill to pump water and power irrigation for his entire village. Kwambama’s story was recently the subject of the documentary William and the Windmill, which won the Grand Jury Award at SXSW.

Bill Gross, the founder of Idealab, is an adult now. But in his talk from TED2003, he revealed that he started his first energy company — called Solar Devices — when he was 15 years old, building on what he learned in school about how parabolas could concentrate rays of light onto a single point. At the height of the gas shortage in 1973, Gross developed his own design for a Stirling engine in metal shop.

“I sold the plans for this engine and for this dish in the back of Popular Sciencemagazine, for $4 each,” he says in this talk, “Bill Gross on new energy.” “I earned enough money to pay for my first year of Caltech.”

Want more talks with ideas for energy (regardless of the speaker’s age)? Watch the TED playlist “The End of Oil.” It begins with Wilson’s talk about his nuclear fusion reactor, continues with Donald Sadoway sharing the missing link to renewable energy, and continues with eight more great ideas for moving beyond our reliance on oil.

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Kate Torgovnick | April 30, 2013 at 11:52 am | Tags: Bill Gross, energy, Taylor Wilson,teenagers, William Kamkwamba, young | Categories: Science | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jzI

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The future of the U.S. economy: TED fans join in the Robert Gordon/Erik Brynjolfsson debate

by ajabogdanoff

Robert Gordon and Erik Brynolfsson debated their opposing views of where the economy is headed at TED2013. Last week, they brought the debate to a TED Conversation. Photos: James Duncan Davidson

Last week, TED speakers Robert Gordon and Erik Brynjolfsson joined us for a live, one-hour debate on the future of the US economy. It was a furious hour of typing, with both speakers contributing just over 1,500 words in response to a wide variety of user questions. A few highlights:

Ryan Zeigler asks:

Mr. Brynjolfsson, you stated in your talk that you feel that we need to “race with machines” rather than against them. In what manner do you feel that this effects the future of education?

Erik Brynjolfsson responds:

We really need to reinvent education. My industry has lagged other industries in digitizing. Far behind music and other media, finance, manufacturing, retailing, etc. But that’s good news: lots of room to improve. Digitization of education will do two things:

1. Much higher quality and lower cost as very best teachers and methods reach larger audiences. Examples: superstars like Sal Khan of Khan Academy or physics lessons from best MIT profs at EdX.
.
2. More importantly, gather enormous data about what’s working and not working. Apply big data techniques to improve teaching methods and to personalize how things are taught. Adapt pace and methods, based on students unique situation. Continuous learning by the educators, not just students. My students are already doing this to optimize ad clicks – can soon do it for education.

Michael Noyes asks:

Capitalism has created more wealth by far for more people than any other system. However, have we reached a point in our technological history when the pendulum must swing back toward more socialist economics to achieve more prosperity for more people?

Robert J. Gordon responds:

You have to distinguish between “socialism” and the capitalist welfare state as exemplified by Sweden, the Netherlands, etc. Socialism involves government ownership of the means of production and was practiced by the postwar UK Labour government which nationalized steel, transport, etc. It was Thatcher’s achievement to reverse all that, and Britain went from being a laggard to one of Europe’s most dynamic economies.

Yes, we need more of a welfare state, particularly to prepare children in poverty to compete in our educational system. Now they are dropping out of high school and condemning themselves to lives of manual labor and unemployment.

Theresa Sanker asks:

When are America’s economic priorities going to shift toward education, saving, and long-term investment, and away from excessive reliance on military power and cheap energy?

Erik Brynjolfsson responds:

When more people like you demand it. Simple as that.

Robert Gordon adds:

Heckman has shown that the problem is not that we don’t spend enough resources on education. Reducing class sizes has no effect. The problem is that educational resources are not distributed evenly. In an ideal world we would get rid of property taxation as the basis for educational finance, since that gives an advantage to communities with wealthy residents. We should have education funded by a nationwide value-added tax.

The problem with our military, besides the needless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the endless buckets of cash poured into ridiculous projects like the F-35 fighter which has no known enemy to justify its cost. We built the B-17 in WWII for $250,000 per plane!

Finally, what’s wrong with cheap energy? Are you in favor of expensive energy?

With 113 excellent questions and answers, this was a fascinating and informative debate. Don’t miss the rest of the responses, available on TED Conversations »

ajabogdanoff | April 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Tags: Business, conversations, debates, economic growth, economics, Erik Brynjolfsson, future of work, Innovation, recession, Robert Gordon,technology, TED2013 | Categories: Business | URL: http://wp.me/p10512-jzr

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Walking meetings? 5 surprising thinkers who swore by them

by Jessica Gross

Nilofer Merchant’s boots at TED2013 were certainly made for walking. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

In today’s talk, Nilofer Merchant gives a startling statistic: we’re sitting, on average, for 9.3 hours per day—far more than the 7.7 hours we spend sleeping. “Sitting is so incredibly prevalent, we don’t even question how much we’re doing it,” Merchant says.[ted_talkteaser id=1726] “In that way, sitting has become the smoking of our generation.”

But there are consequences. Physical inactivity, Merchant says, leads to upticks in our risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes.

Merchant’s own habits changed when a colleague couldn’t fit a meeting into her schedule and asked if Merchant could come along on a dog walk instead. Now, she says, “I’ve taken that idea and made it my own.” Instead of meeting in conference rooms, she asks people to go on walking meetings—20 to 30 miles’ worth a week. “It’s changed my life,” she says.

Merchant is carrying on a long tradition of frequent, even ritualistic, walking. Here are some other fans of the amble. Some are walk-and-talkers; others or simply stroll for its own sake.

  1. Aristotle allegedly instructed students while strolling about—which fits with his students’ being called “Peripatetics.”
    .
  2. In August 1910, Sigmund Freud took a four-hour walk with the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, who had requested an “urgent consultation” via telegraph, according to the BBC. Mahler’s marriage was disintegrating, and he was about to have a breakdown—hence the emergency walk-and-talk with the founder of psychoanalysis. In fact, Freud conducted a number of walking analyses, according to Freud: A Life for Our Time. Another significant example: Freud conducted his first training analysis on Max Eitingon in 1907 through a series of evening walks. Eitingon went to become president of the International Psychoanalytic Association.
    .
  3. Steve Jobs made a habit of the walking meeting, especially for first encounters, according to CNNMoney, which quotes from Jobs’ biography: “taking a long walk was his preferred way to have a serious conversation.”
    .
  4. Harry S. Truman was a routine-oriented man, and walking was a fundamental part of that routine. According to the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, Truman woke up at five in the morning for a “vigorous” walk of a mile or two, “wearing a business suit and tie!” (This in addition to his frequent midday swimming session in the White House pool, “with his eyeglasses on.”)
    .
  5. Charles Dickens “was from childhood an avid, even compulsive, walker,” Sports Illustrated wrote in 1988. (Apparently, the mid-1800s was “the golden age of professional foot racing, or ‘pedestrianism.’” Who knew?) Dickens frequently walked around 20 miles a day—one night in 1857, he logged 30 miles—and often did so at night. Walking was a means of both observing the cities around him and de-stressing. “Dickens found composition to be hard, painful work,” SI writes. “The hours he spent at his desk agitated him tremendously, and walking served as a kind of safety valve.”
 

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