This 745-foot aerial sculpture stretched along the Vancouver waterfront at TED2014. The net-like design, created by artist Janet Echelman, was made from a fiber called Spectra, which is 15 times stronger than steel. 

Passersby could use their cell phones to manipulate the lights, a trick set up by Google’s Aaron Koblin. "The lighting on the sculpture is actually a giant website," he says. “It’s one huge Google Chrome window spread across five HD projectors.” 

See how the art was made »

Learn about the technology behind it »

 

The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The danger of a single story

Adrianne Haslet-Davis dances again for the first time since the Boston terrorist attack last year. 

When the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon finish line, Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost the lower half of her left leg in the explosion. She’s a ballroom dance teacher, and she assumed she would never dance again. With most prosthetics, she wouldn’t.

But Hugh Herr, of the MIT Media Lab, wanted to find a way to help her. He created a bionic limb specifically for dancers, studying the way they move and adapting the limb to fit their motion. (He explains how he did it here.)

At TED2014, Adrianne danced for the first time since the attack, wearing the bionic limb that Hugh created for her.  

Hugh says, “It was 3.5 seconds between the bomb blasts in the Boston terrorist attack. In 3.5 seconds, the criminals and cowards took Adrianne off the dance floor. In 200 days, we put her back. We will not be intimidated, brought down, diminished, conquered or stopped by acts of violence.”

Amen to that, Hugh. 

Watch the full talk and performance here »

How astronauts get back to Earth (or, reasons not to be an astronaut)

There’s nothing quite like floating in outer space, says astronaut Chris Hadfield. Until you look down at that giant blue orb housing your entire species and you’re left with the inevitable question: "How will I ever get home???" 

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This is how: By plummeting through the atmosphere squashed into a tiny capsule with a bunch of other people. The return trip starts in the Soyuz space capsule, which detaches from the space station and plummets toward the Earth’s atmosphere.

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That tiny capsule comes rocketing back to Earth with the force of a meteorite. Hadfield says it’s not the pee-your-pants-in-fear experience that you might imagine. “We weren’t screaming, we were laughing,” he says. “It was fun." (He had obviously never seen the landing gif below.)

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As the capsule gets closer to land, a parachute opens to slow it down, and shock absorbers kick in on impact.  

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Once the capsule has finally stopped rolling and catapulting and otherwise traumatizing everyone inside, a team on the ground “reaches in, drags you out and plunks you in a chair.”   

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That’s when Hadfield says he begins to fully appreciate what he’s done. He says, ”You have taken the dreams of that nine-year-old boy, which were impossible and dauntingly scary, and put them into practice.” 

Thumbs up, Colonel. We’re impressed. Watch the full talk here »

(Don’t miss Hadfield singing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” at the end. It is THE BEST.)

This is a DNA Vending Machine.

Each of those little vials holds human DNA, with a collectible photo of the person who donated it. You can buy it just like you’d buy a Coke or a bag of chips, and then you can do…whatever. (What do you actually do with a sample of DNA?) 

TED Fellow Gabe Barcia-Colombo created the vending machine as an art installation. He gathered a bunch of his friends on Friday nights and taught them how to extract their own DNA — the weirdest/coolest dinner party idea of all time. (In the photos above, the floating white stuff is the DNA.) Then, with their permission, he sold it. 

Of course, there’s a bigger question behind all this: Who owns your DNA? And what should strangers or scientists be able to do with yours? Gabe wants to push people to think about the ethical and legal questions we’ll have to answer as access to biotechnology increases.   

What do you think, would you be willing to sell your DNA?

Watch the full talk here »

Some things are just better in slow motion. Filmmaker and nature photographer, Louie Schwartzberg uses a high-speed camera shooting at hundreds of frames per second to capture the elegant sweep of an owl’s wings and the adorable wobble of a Jesus Lizard as it walks on water.

For more gorgeous footage, watch the talk here »

The Oxford comma is probably the only punctuation mark that can make people want to strangle and scream at each other. (Journalists aren’t supposed to use it but sometimes we sneak one in…*cue evil laughter*)

So what’s the big deal? Watch the video to find out. 

theatlantic:

For Shame: The Giant Poster That Shows Drone Pilots the People They’re Bombing

A new project, initiated by a collective of artists from around the world including the French JR, has tried to reach the people pulling the trigger in America’s drone wars—the drone operators themselves.
It’s called “Not A Bug Splat,” and its gets its name from the term drone operators use for a successful “kill,” because—in the pixelated grayscale of the drone camera—ending a human life looks like squashing a bug.
Read more. [Image: Not a Bug Splat]


Such an incredible use of TEDPrize winner JR’s Inside Out project. After pasting thousands of portraits around the world, he encouraged other people to make the project their own. We love what they did with it.  
Read more about the ethics of drones here »

theatlantic:

For Shame: The Giant Poster That Shows Drone Pilots the People They’re Bombing

A new project, initiated by a collective of artists from around the world including the French JR, has tried to reach the people pulling the trigger in America’s drone wars—the drone operators themselves.

It’s called “Not A Bug Splat,” and its gets its name from the term drone operators use for a successful “kill,” because—in the pixelated grayscale of the drone camera—ending a human life looks like squashing a bug.

Read more. [Image: Not a Bug Splat]

Such an incredible use of TEDPrize winner JR’s Inside Out project. After pasting thousands of portraits around the world, he encouraged other people to make the project their own. We love what they did with it.  

Read more about the ethics of drones here »

5 days of TED, in one mind-expanding infographic
What happens at TED? “It’s an impossible question to answer,” says Lucy Farey-Jones. “It’s like being asked, ‘How is food?’ or ‘Puberty — how was it?’” So she made this fabulous infographic (with designer Blake Bakken) to explain. 
Click here to see a larger, interactive version of the infographic »

5 days of TED, in one mind-expanding infographic

What happens at TED? “It’s an impossible question to answer,” says Lucy Farey-Jones. “It’s like being asked, ‘How is food?’ or ‘Puberty — how was it?’” So she made this fabulous infographic (with designer Blake Bakken) to explain. 

Click here to see a larger, interactive version of the infographic »