From yesterday’s TED blog, a fun piece on seven groups of writers/artists/philosophers who transformed their world—and ours.
Here’s the TED Talk on the Philosophical Breakfast Club I gave at TED Global 2012. Share!
I’m excited to announce that the video of the talk I gave at the TED Global conference in Edinburgh in June will be available for viewing on the TED website starting Friday morning, at 11 am ET. I’ll post a link here when the video goes online!
After I returned from TED Global this summer, I was asked to contribute a piece about my experiences at TED by the magazine Design Mind. It has just come out, and can be read here.
TED’s list of “essential reading” for Fall—books by TED speakers:
With summer dwindling to its last few days, it’s time to put away the beach reads and get the mind back in gear with heartier fare. Why not start with some of the amazing books writer by recent TED speakers? Here, some picks.
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
Retells the tale of a forgetful writer’s journey to becoming U.S. Memory champion, exploring the singular importance of memory in our lives along the way. Watch Joshua’s talk >>
Wired for Culture by Mark Pagel
For the past 80,000 years, culture has played an integral role in shaping the lives humans lead. Evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel explains the evolutionary processes that are so ingrained into our culture, and explores its effects on life today. Watch Mark’s talk >> Read more
St. John’s University has posted a story—featuring some quotes from an interview with me—about my TED experience on the school’s website.
This article in the latest issue of the New Yorker gives a pretty balanced picture of the TED experience. It does leave out, though, something that struck me so strongly during the five days I spent at TED Global: the raw, unfettered intellectual curiosity of the attendees—who could, after all, spend their money and time on a vacation in Fiji, but who choose TED instead. As someone who has spent many years attending academic conferences, I have to say I have never experienced this kind of openness to ideas from all areas, from people with no particular axe to grind or their own intellectual agenda to promote.
One point the author makes is that ideas are presented apart from their academic connections and references to other works. Fair enough—these are short talks, after all. But what he doesn’t mention is the way that the experience encourages the connection between different disciplines and approaches—which may not otherwise have occurred to most of us. Even I was surprised to find that the talks in my session—by a historian and philosopher of science, an artist running the Rhode Island School of Design, a computational architect, a quantum physicist, a researcher photographing light, and a behavioral economist—all could be seen as having a common thread. (Hint: the way that different ways of representing reality, especially art and language, are related to scientific explorations of nature.) It was a heady experience, one I am still learning from.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the folks at TED asked me to be one of eight “guest curators” of the TED bookstore. I put together a list of thematically-related books, and the books–along with my short descriptions of them–were featured on the bookshelves of the onsite bookstore. Here is my list of ten books, along with my “curation philosophy:”
Electricity and Water: Who says they don’t mix?
Throw in a dash of technology, engineering or science, and end up with a galvanising read.
Over the past few years, I’ve been reading and lecturing about the invention of modern science in nineteenth century Britain. Water—the power it generates, as well as the challenges it poses to an island nation—and electricity played crucial roles in England’s rise to scientific and imperial dominance in this period. On my bookshelf now are ten books—fiction and non-fiction—in which water, electricity, or both are central to the tales they tell.
1. Waterland, Graham Swift
Takes place in the Fen country of East Anglia, in bleak marshlands wrested from the sea—a sea that wants the land back. Spanning 240 years, the book weaves a tale of empire-building, sluice-minding, eel reproduction, brewing, incest and madness, adding up to a thoughtful reflection of the nature of history and memory. Both history and memory, like the sea, are fluid and ever-changing. A magical book.
2. Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier
On the shores of the beaches of Lyme-Regis, a young woman named Mary Anning distinguished herself in the early 19th century as a talented fossil-hunter, discovering the first complete skeletons of the ichthyosaurus and plesiosaur. Her discoveries cast doubt on the prevailing views about the age of the earth, helping to make Darwin’s theory of evolution possible. Chevalier does a fine job of fleshing out the lives of Anning and her main champion, Elizabeth Philpot (real people about whom we know little) and setting their story in the context of science and discovery in the nineteenth century. Read more