Posts about TED

Bacteria Communicate Using a Chemical Language

Each person has about 1 trillion human cells and about 10 trillion bacterial cells. In the webcast Bonnie Bassler, Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, discusses the chemical language that lets bacteria coordinate defense and mount attacks (quorum sensing). The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry — and our understanding of ourselves.

Bacteria do all sorts of amazing things for us: educating your immune system to keep bad microbes out, they digest our food, they make our vitamins…

Related: Disrupting Bacteria CommunicationTracking the Ecosystem Within UsBeneficial Bacteria

Very Cool Wearable Computing Gadget from MIT

Pattie Maes presentation at TED shows a very cool prototype for wearable, useful computing spearheaded by Pranav Mistry (who received a standing ovation at TED). It’s a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment.

The prototype of the system cost only $350. The software, created by them, obviously is the key, but how amazing is that, $350 for the hardware used in the prototype! There is a useful web site on the Sixth Sense project.

The SixthSense prototype is comprised of a pocket projector, a mirror and a camera. The hardware components are coupled in a pendant like mobile wearable device. Both the projector and the camera are connected to the mobile computing device in the user’s pocket. The projector projects visual information enabling surfaces, walls and physical objects around us to be used as interfaces; while the camera recognizes and tracks user’s hand gestures and physical objects using computer-vision based techniques.

The software program processes the video stream data captured by the camera and tracks the locations of the colored markers (visual tracking fiducials) at the tip of the user’s fingers using simple computer-vision techniques. The movements and arrangements of these fiducials are interpreted into gestures that act as interaction instructions for the projected application interfaces. The maximum number of tracked fingers is only constrained by the number of unique fiducials, thus SixthSense also supports multi-touch and multi-user interaction.

Related: Awesome Cat CamCool Mechanical Simulation SystemEngineering a Better World: Bike Corn-Shellerposts on cool gadgets

The Second 5,000 Days of the Web

The web has been around for 5,000 days. In this talk at TED, Kevin Kelly on the next 5,000 days of the web.

Related: Engineering at HomeThe Next Fifty Years of Science by Kevin KellyRobin Williams Saves the Day

Algorithmic Self-Assembly

Paul Rothemund, scientist at Cal Tech, provides a interesting look at DNA folding and DNA based algorithmic self-assembly. In the talk he shows the promise ahead for using biological building blocks using DNA origami — to create tiny machines that assemble themselves from a set of instructions.

Algorithmic Self-Assembly of DNA Sierpinski Triangles, PLoS paper.

I posted a few months ago about how you can participate in the protein folding, with the Protein Folding Game.

Related: Viruses and What is LifeDNA Seen Through the Eyes of a CoderSynthesizing a Genome from ScratchEvidence of Short DNA Segment Self AssemblyScientists discover new class of RNA

Refrigeration Without Electricity

Lack of electricity is a serious problem for vaccines and medicines that need to be cooled. It is hard to imagine that this is a problem, living in the USA, but this is still a problem today. As readers of this blog notice I really like appropriate technology solutions that provide real quality of life enhancements for hundreds of millions of people (which undoubtedly is influence by my father).

Related: Cooling with Clay Pots, Sand and Waterappropriate technology postsWater and Electricity for AllInspirational Engineer Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) posts (great webcasts)

Brian Cox Particle Physics Webcast

TED webcast of Brian Cox discussing his work at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. He does a very good job of explaining some of the basic science in understandable terms.

Related: At the Heart of All MatterNew Yorker on CERN’s Large Hadron ColliderPhysicists Observe New Property of Matter

Inspirational Engineer

One of the topics I care about is engineers making a real difference in the world. I lived in Singapore and Nigeria while I was growing up and traveled widely. My father was a professor of engineering (chemical, industrial), statistics and business. He was very interested in applying technology and human knowledge to help people have better lives, and I share that interest.

People like William Kamkwamba are the people that are worthy of respect. I wish the USA was more focused on people that are worthy of attention, instead of who the news media choose to show and people choose to read about. At least a few of you seem to like reading about those I do, based on the traffic this blog receives (well actually that would be a pretty poor metric, let say the attention popular science sites, magazines, podcasts, TV shows… receive).

Another video with William at TED. I posted about William previously: Make the World Better and Home Engineering: Windmill for Electricity.

Related: Appropriate Technologyposts tagged: engineersWhat Kids can LearnWater and Electricity for All

BlimpBot Foiled by Air Conditioning

TED BlimpBot Report: Foiled by Air Conditioning!

I had a three-minute slot to show how the prototype works. This was a pretty high-stake demo, since not only would there be 2,000 of the most influential people in the technology, entertainment and design (TED) worlds watching, but they included Al Gore in the FRONT ROW, Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page and movie stars such as John Cusack and Goldie Hawn.

The bot worked great in the hotel room, and then we took it the the auditorium during a break to test it on the main stage. Yikes. We were getting IR interference from everything, from LCD screens to the bright stage lights, and our reception range dropped to something around three feet. Even worse, the air currents were overcoming the blimp’s ability to fight them. So we gave up on the idea of a fixed IR beacon on the ground, and I decided to hold it in my hand to keep it near the blimp. Even then, the motors couldn’t fight the currents well enough.
So we rushed back to our staging area (my hotel room) and Jordi updated the firmware to give more power to the motors even at the cost of battery life (this demo only had to run three minutes) . We tested it again in the hotel room, it worked fine, and then it was time to go.

It turns out that one big thing had changed since our test run in the auditorium: 600 people had arrived. All that body heat had raised the temperature of the room, kicking in the air conditioning, which came out of huge ducts right over the stage. Basically I was under a raging waterfall of cold air, and the poor blimp sank right to the floor, its little vertical thruster completely overcome.

Related: Lego Autopilot Project UpdateAutonomous Flying VehiclesAlienFly RC Mosquito Helicopter

Robin Williams Saves the Day

And now for another something completely different: Robin Williams Saves the Day at TED When Tech Fails

Before the host, BBC World presenter Matt Frei, could finish his introduction of panelist Sergey Brin from Google, he announced there was a technical issue. Frei didn’t quite know what to do with the empty air while waiting for a fix and joked that the voice in his earphone (the producer) was telling him a long, elaborate political joke about Poland.

That’s when a voice behind me spoke up, presumably a heckler, and began speaking loudly as if he were conducting a live news feed, joking that he was reporting live from TED

The crowd by then had realized it was Williams. Encouraged by their reaction, he continued reporting to some unseen BBC anchorman from his seat: “Well, they said they found the wire, but it’s not plugged in.”

Williams was then invited to take the stage and the crowd roared. He spent the next ten minutes or so riffing on Stephen Hawking (who spoke at TED earlier in the day from Cambridge, England) and the end of the universe — which will take place “exactly in one hour,” he said, looking at his watch.

He joked again about the technical glitch, indicating that although the BBC wasn’t working, audience members “with their phones are going, ‘I’m getting all of this!'” And it was true. Dozens of people were capturing the stand-up act on their phones.

He riffed about a new Apple product called the “iWhy?” and a few seconds later said he had just one question about the British royal family: “All that money and no dental plan,” he deadpanned, which got a lot of laughs and a few sympathetic nods toward the BBC presenter sitting behind him (who appeared to have perfectly fine dental hygiene).

He didn’t spare panelist Brin and Google, noting that if you walk into Google you see everyone in front of their computer sitting on exercise balls, “which I think is how they’re hatching new employees.”

Related: Macavity’s a Mystery CatMinistry of Silly Walks

Now back to your regularly scheduled science: Your Inner Fish

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids do

5 dangerous things you should let your kids do

Gever Tulley, founder of the Tinkering School, talks about our new wave of overprotected kids — and spells out 5 (and really, he’s got 6) dangerous things you should let your kids do. Allowing kids the freedom to explore, he says, will make them stronger and smarter and actually safer.

It is not necessarily the safest thing to try and eliminate all risks. Kids can learn to be safer when they work on not entirely safe things with parents or others that can teach them how to do so safely. And they learn to interact with the world around them and think like a scientist.

Related: Creating a Nation of WimpsLego Autopilot ProjectScience Toys You Can Make With Your KidsWhat Kids can LearnLego Learning

Open Access Education Materials

Watch a video of Richard Baraniuk (Rice University professor speaking at TED) discussing Connexions: an open-access education publishing system. The content available through Connexions includes short content modules such as:

What is Engineering??:

Engineering is the endeavor that creates, maintains, develops, and applies technology for societies’ needs and desires.

One of the first distinctions that must be made is between science and engineering.

Science is the study of what is and engineering is the creation of can be.

and: Protein Folding, as well as full courses, such as: Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering I and Physics for K-12.

Related: Google technical talk webcasts (including a presentation by Richard Baraniuk at Google) – podcasts of Technical Talks at Googlescience podcast postsBerkeley and MIT courses online