Tag Archives: science

TEDxPSU review

TED, which stands for Technology Entertainment and Design, is a set of global conferences that aims to disseminate “ideas worth spreading”. They are privately funded by the nonprofit Sapling Foundation, which releases most of the talks (currently 700+) for free viewing online. TEDx is an independently organized TED event, usually organized by a school or business, although the definition is broad enough that even a group of friends can choose to design and host the event.

I was first introduced to TED while at Penn State, where it was referenced in a range of classes from CAS 100 (Effective Speech) to E SC 481 (Elements of Nano/Micro-electromechanical Systems Processing and Design). TED harnesses a great range of topics, usually presented by effective and engaging speakers. We studied the talks not only for their ideas, but also for their unique presentation styles and ways of connecting with the audience.

I also knew of TED through my brother’s experience with TEDxNYED last year, but it wasn’t until I heard an announcement about TEDxPSU that I considered attending one of the independently organized events. It was clear that the organizers had a limited amount of experience and time to prepare for what happened last Sunday, but overall I definitely think it was worth the trip to Happy Valley. Since I knew that TEDxNYED was focused on education, I expected the theme of TEDxPSU to be a little more focused than “Attend. Listen. Enlighten.” (catch the three tens?) but it seemed to be a good approach for the university’s first TEDx.

Pros:
– The entire day, including admission, breakfast, and lunch, was free!
– The use of technology was strongly encouraged. It was great to see everyone in the auditorium on their smart phones, laptops and iPads, tweeting (competing for “best tweet”) and blogging about the day as it happened. Each attendee’s badge was branded with a QR code which could be scanned for contact information.
– Free and convenient parking was a relief and a welcome surprise.
– All three venues (the IST building, Schwab Auditorium, and the HUB) were excellent choices and appropriate in size, location and aesthetic.

Cons:
– I was severely disappointed that the free AT&T wifi visitors had been promised wasn’t working. I raised my concerns (via tweet, as per instructions), but instead of receiving assistance I only received confirmation from other attendees who could not connect. Good intentions, but failed execution.
– Am I the only one who thought our badges were a tad over-sized (4.5″ x 6.5″)? I felt like a kid on the first day of kindergarten.
– I sat in the balcony for the two afternoon sessions, and was surprised at how insensitive the TEDxPSU volunteers acted. They routinely walked in and out of seats during presentations, talking loudly to each other both in the aisles and in their seats, and distracting the other attendees sitting in the balcony.

There were seven talks that I particularly loved from the day that I will link to below. Three are prerecorded (each TEDx event is required to use a certain number of talks recorded at official TED conferences) and four are unique to TEDxPSU. I encourage you to view them all!
(Clicking on the direct link will provide you with more information about the speaker.)

Joachim de Posada — Don’t Eat the Marshmallows… Yet
Prerecorded from TED2009
[ Link ]

Chris Calkins — The Looming Intergenerational Conflict: Dollars or Sense
[ Link ]

Jason O — Musical Performance
[ Link ]

Jill Bolte Taylor — Stroke of Insight
Prerecorded from TED2008
[ Link ]

Michael Berube — Humans, Superheroes, Mutants, and People with Disabilities
[ Link ]

Sugata Mitra — The Child Based Education
Prerecorded from TEDGlobal2010
[ Link ]

Sam Richards — A Radical Experiment in Empathy
[ Link ]

Links for further reading/watching:
TED Youtube channel
TED website
TEDxPSU website
TED on wikipedia

Varying Sizes

The Genetic Science Learning Center over at the University of Utah has an excellent way of looking at the relative scale of different things, all the way from a coffee bean down to a Carbon atom. Pull the slider all the way to the right to reduce yourself to an atomic scale:

Picture 1

(Click the picture for the link.)

Auto-Tuning and the Universe

In case you’ve never heard of auto-tuning, it’s a process where audio recordings can be adjusted for pitch, usually to disguise mistakes. It’s also being used to take recordings such as interviews, news reports, speeches, etc. and morph them into a more musical version.

This is the coolest auto-tuning project that I’ve seen. It’s called “Symphony of Science” and it features a cast of science greats, including my two heroes Richard Feynman and Bill Nye (along with Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson), essentially talking about the enormity and awesomeness of the universe.

Sometimes the auto-tuning can sound a little odd, so here are the lyrics:

Lyrics:

[deGrasse Tyson]
We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically

[Feynman]
I think nature’s imagination
Is so much greater than man’s
She’s never going to let us relax

[Sagan]
We live in an in-between universe
Where things change all right
But according to patterns, rules,
Or as we call them, laws of nature

[Nye]
I’m this guy standing on a planet
Really I’m just a speck
Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck
To think about all of this
To think about the vast emptiness of space
There’s billions and billions of stars
Billions and billions of specks

[Sagan]
The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it
But the way those atoms are put together
The cosmos is also within us
We’re made of star stuff
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself

Across the sea of space
The stars are other suns
We have traveled this way before
And there is much to be learned

I find it elevating and exhilarating
To discover that we live in a universe
Which permits the evolution of molecular machines
As intricate and subtle as we

[deGrasse Tyson]
I know that the molecules in my body are traceable
To phenomena in the cosmos
That makes me want to grab people in the street
And say, have you heard this??

(Richard Feynman on hand drums and chanting)

[Feynman]
There’s this tremendous mess
Of waves all over in space
Which is the light bouncing around the room
And going from one thing to the other

And it’s all really there
But you gotta stop and think about it
About the complexity to really get the pleasure
And it’s all really there
The inconceivable nature of nature

Found via the ever interesting Mental Floss blog.