Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘TED’

12 APRIL, 2011

Collaborative Whimsy: Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir

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Last month, we had the pleasure of seeing Eric Whitacre premiere the 2.0 version of his astounding virtual choir at TED 2011. The mesmerizing film is composed of 2,052 performances of “Sleep” from 1,752 singers in 58 countries, individually recorded and uploaded to YouTube between September 2010 and January 2011, and is now available for the world to gasp at. Caution: Hold jaw securely in place before watching.

The project is part YouTube Symphony Orchestra, part The Johnny Cash Project, part something entirely groundbreaking. Whitacre’s TED talk pulls the curtain on the making of the magic and is easily the most goosebump-inducing thing you’ll see all week:

“Sleep” is available on Whitacre’s spellbinding new album, Light & Gold.

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30 MARCH, 2011

Underwater Sculptures Help Corals Thrive

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What metal sculptures have to do with your DNA and the future of the world’s oceans.

In 2009, underwater sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor — whom we had the pleasure of profiling for Wired UK a long, long time ago — founded MUSA (Museo Subacuático de Arte), the world’s first underwater museum and an inspired intersection of art and environmental science. These artworks, admired by over 750,000 visitors every year, are designed to become artificial reefs that provide a unique habitat for the ocean’s most fragile and remarkable creatures: Corals, and their many marine companions.

This year, artist and TED fellow Colleen Flanigan was invited to join the project with some of her Biorock designs. As the temperature and acidity of the world’s oceans continue to rise under the effects of global warming, these new sculptures offer corals a vital alkaline environment: Using a low-voltage electrical current, the installations raise the pH of seawater to attract limestone minerals, which adhere to the metal matrix and help corals get the calcium carbonate they need to build their exoskeletons. So Colleen is gathering the necessary arsenal — welding equipment, metal, supplies, power sources, boat rentals, SCUBA tanks — and hiring a professional filmmaker to capture the incredible journey. And she’s funding it on Kickstarter, our favorite platform for microfunding creative projects.

Corals are near the root of the family tree of all living animals. Humans have put these ancestors on the evolutionary tree in peril. We want to give coral back its color through life-supporting underwater Biorock formations.” ~ Colleen Flanigan

The project embodies our highest ideals, a beautiful cross-pollination of art, science and moral imagination, so please join us in supporting it — it’s the best-intentioned $10 (or $100, or $1000) you’ll spend today, we promise.

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25 MARCH, 2011

An Ode to the Brain: TED + Carl Sagan, Autotuned

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Between our deep love for TED, our fascination with music and the brain, and our soft spot for remix culture, it’s hard not to fall for An Ode to the Brain by John Boswell of Symphony of Science fame — an ingenious autotune remix of footage from various TED talks, Discovery Channel programming, Carl Sagan documentaries and other fine purveyors of neuroscience insight.

For our very own remix tribute to TED, do revisit our TEDify side project.

Thanks, Chris

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23 MARCH, 2011

Hans Rosling: How the Washing Machine Sparked the Reading Revolution

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It’s hard not to love statistical stuntman Hans Rosling. Last year, he mesmerized us with a phenomenal augmented reality run through 200 years that changed the world in 4 minutes, as a part of BBC’s excellent The Joy of Stats series. (If you haven’t seen it, do — it’s free online and absolutely fantastic.)

Now, he’s back with another blockbuster TED talk, demonstrating — with his characteristic blend of statistical rigor and delightful wit — that the washing machine was indeed the greatest invention of the Industrial Revolution, enabling everything from economic development through electrical efficiency to intellectual growth by reallocating free time for reading.

An interesting parallel emerges in examining Rosling’s talk in alongside Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus: The washing machine is the antithesis of television, freeing up the same kind of “cognitive surplus” — excess human creative and intellectual energy — that, according to Shirky’s central argument, TV absorbed, a parallel that bespeaks the universal duality of innovation and the incredible potential of technology as a force of social change the polarity of which we get to choose.

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