Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘TED’

20 OCTOBER, 2010

Street Artist JR Wins 2011 TED Prize

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In a highly unusual yet utterly inspirational move, TED has awarded the 2011 TED Prize of $100,000 to one of our favorite street artists, the shadowy Parisian JR. Known for his large-scale graffiti murals touching on subjects like freedom, identity and limit, the anonymous 27-year-old artist has recently entered filmmaking — his powerful documentary debut, Women Are Heroes, based on the 2009 exhibition of the same name, premiered to astounding acclaim at Cannes this year.

JR creates “Pervasive Art” that spreads uninvited on the buildings of the slums around Paris, on the walls in the Middle-East, on the broken bridges in Africa or the favelas in Brazil. People who often live with the bare minimum discover something absolutely unnecessary. And they don’t just see it, they make it. Some elderly women become models for a day; some kids turn artists for a week. In that Art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators.”

Previous TED Prize winners have included Bill Clinton, marine biologist Sylvia Earle, educational entrepreneur Dave Eggers, and chef and nutrition activist Jamie Oliver.

We’re thrilled to see TED further expand its celebration of creativity and philanthropy with work that lives outside the world of traditional high culture and even the law, yet touches millions of lives in a very human and powerful way, injecting joy, pride and humility where they are needed the most.

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18 OCTOBER, 2010

RIP Benoît Mandelbrot: Remembering The Father of Fractals

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We reported yesterday with great sadness that Benoît Mandelbrot, known as the father of fractal geometry, has passed away. We have to agree with Jason Kottke that one day, Mandelbrot’s contribution to mathematics will be regarded as Einstein’s contribution to physics is today — his geometrical algorithms have been applied to everything from lung surgery to financial markets. And while we don’t go as far as making a dizzifying animated-gif tombstone, we’d like to commemorate the great thinker with a few of our favorite Mandelbrot gems.

In February, we had the pleasure of seeing him speak at TED, where he gave a fantastic talk on fractals and the art of roughness. The talk is based on Mandelbrot’s theory of roughness, best articulated in this excellent Edge interview from 2004.

I prefer the word roughness to the word irregularity because irregularity — to someone who had Latin in my long-past youth — means the contrary of regularity. But it is not so. Regularity is the contrary of roughness because the basic aspect of the world is very rough.” ~ Benoît Mandelbrot

Curiously, Mandelbrot didn’t get his start with fractals as a physicist or mathematician or geometrist. He started by studying stock market prices. His book, Fractals and Scaling In Finance: Discontinuity, Concentration, Risk, is utterly fascinating in a deep yet lateral and cross-disciplinary way that hardly any other financial book has managed to be.

Visually, Mandelbrot fractals have propagated the synth-creative field in the form of trippy, mesmerizing artwork and animation, such as this treat from teamfresh. (An additional hat tip is due to the great mathematician for his indirect contribution to language with such delightfully incongruous linguistic bedfellows as “math porn” — a term that has been used to describe the vibrant, colorful artwork based on Mandelbrot fractals.)

Finally, a gem as priceless as they come — Benoît Mandelbrot in conversation with our greatest creative and curatorial hero, MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, at a SEED/MoMA salon in 2008:

The power of fractals is that they’re so instinctive, immediate graspable, even without knowing there’s a geometric law behind them.” ~ Paola Antonelli

If you haven’t yet read The Fractal Geometry of Nature, his seminal work offering a compelling yet digestible mathematical explanation of everything from snowflakes to coastlines to capillary beds, do yourself a favor and do.

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23 SEPTEMBER, 2010

Steven Johnson on Where Good Ideas Come From

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“Chance favors the connected mind.”

After their animated exploration of capitalism, the RSA are back with a visual distillation of one of the most important questions in creative culture: Where do good ideas come from? Steven Johnson tackles the grand question with insights from his latest book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, and a historical perspective on innovation throughout human civilization.

Johnson’s answer strongly echoes the Brain Pickings mission — to build a rich and wide-spanning pool of mental resources that serve as the building blocks of creativity.

That’s the real lesson: Chance favors the connected mind.” ~ Steven Johnson

Also worth watching: Johnson’s recent TED talk, one of our favorites this year:

Where Good Ideas Come From comes as a fine addition to these must-read books by TEDGlobal speakers.

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