Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘TED’

14 FEBRUARY, 2012

Designer Kelli Anderson on Disruptive Wonder and the Hidden Talents of Everyday Things

By:

Exploring the intersection of irreverence and whimsy, or how to expand what we demand from reality.

Kelli Anderson is one of the most talented, thoughtful, inspiring young designers working today, bringing to each project an artist’s flair, a scientist’s rigor, and a philosopher’s deliberation. In this fantastic talk from TEDxPhoenix, she pulls the curtain on the machinery of her magic — something she calls “disruptive wonder,” a mechanism for revealing the extraordinary talents of ordinary things.

From a solar-powered popsicle truck, a kind of “physical infographic on wheels,” to a holiday card that makes paper interactive, to a wildly believable counterfeit New York Times from the utopian future, to an ingenious paper record player, her projects probe our most fundamental assumptions — about political reality*, about material experience, about design itself — to deliver a potent cocktail of irreverence and delight. Let these 16 minutes make your day:

The world is full of order that doesn’t necessarily deserve our respect. Sometimes there is meaning, justice, and logic present in the way things are — but sometimes there just isn’t. And I think the moment that we realize this is the moment we become creative people. Because it prompts us to mess things up and do something better with the basic pieces of experience.”

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

03 FEBRUARY, 2012

This Is Your Brain on Comedy

By:

The laugh track as cultural currency, or what David Letterman has to do with the dopamine circuit.

“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities,” author and philosopher Jean Houston once said, and Walt Disney famously called laughter “America’s most important export.” But what exactly is humor, and why does it have such a profound effect on us? In this talk from TEDxRainier, comedian Chris Bliss — whose writing credits include The Tonight Show and The Late Show with David Letterman — explores the sociology and neuroscience of humor, the alchemy of laughter, and why honesty and integrity are at the heart of good comedy, using a handful of Pretty Damn Good jokes to illustrate these insights along the way.

I want to talk [about] the unique power the best comedy and satire has in circumventing our engrained perspectives — comedy as the philosopher’s stone that takes the base metal of our conventional wisdom and transforms it, through ridicule, into a different way of seeing, and ultimately being, in the world… It is about communication that doesn’t just produce greater understanding within the individual, but leads to real change… communication that manages to speak to and expand our concept of self-interest.”

For more on the psychology and philosophy of comedy, see John Morreall’s Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor and Robert Provine’s Laughter: A Scientific Investigation.

Thanks, Phil

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

31 JANUARY, 2012

Christopher Sykes, the Filmmaker Behind the Beloved Richard Feynman Documentaries

By:

Storytelling meets the pleasure of finding things out.

For many years, whenever British filmmaker Christopher Sykes got asked at parties what he did, he would say, “I make films about Richard Feynman.” Which he did — though Sykes has made more than 70 eclectic documentaries, he became best-known for his film on Richard Feynman, including the excellent No Ordinary Genius and The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, from which these timeless excerpts on beauty, honors, and curiosity came. Sykes painted a portrait of Feynman that was as fascinating and full of his scientific genius as it was entertaining and brimming with his playful irreverence.

In this talk from TEDxCaltech, Feynman’s daughter, Michelle, introduces Sykes and as he takes the stage to pull the curtain on this extraordinary partnership between a great scientists and a great documentarian.

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe…

I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.” ~ Richard Feynman

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.