1. Erin McKean: The joy of lexicography
Is the beloved paper dictionary doomed to extinction? In this infectiously exuberant talk, leading lexicographer Erin McKean looks at the many ways today’s print dictionary is poised for transformation.
Erin McKean’s job as a lexicographer involves living in a constant state of research. She searches high and low — from books to blogs, newspapers to cocktail parties — for new words, new meanings for old words, or signs that old words have fallen out of use. In June of this year, she involved us all in the search by launching Wordnik, an online dictionary that houses all the traditionally accepted words and definitions, but also asks users to contribute new words and new uses for old words. Wordnik pulls real-time examples of word usage from Twitter, image representations from Flickr along with many more non-traditional, and highly useful, features.
2. Nizar Ibrahim: How we unearthed the Spinosaurus
A 50-foot-long carnivore who hunted its prey in rivers 97 million years ago, the Spinosaurus is a “dragon from deep time.” Paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim and his crew found new fossils, hidden in cliffs of the Moroccan Sahara desert, that are helping us learn more about the first swimming dinosaur — who might also be the largest carnivorous dinosaur of all.
3. Ge Wang: The DIY orchestra of the future
Ge Wang makes computer music, but it isn’t all about coded bleeps and blips. With the Stanford Laptop Orchestra, he creates new instruments out of unexpected materials—like an Ikea bowl—that allow musicians to play music that’s both beautiful and expressive.
More about the speaker: Ge Wang explores the intersection of technology and music, researching how programming languages and interactive software systems can push computer music from coded beeps and tones to something that musicians can actively play in the moment. An assistant professor at Stanford University, Wang is the founding director of both the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) and the Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra (MoPho).
4. Edith Widder: How we found the giant squid
Humankind has been looking for the giant squid (Architeuthis) since we first started taking pictures underwater, but the elusive deep-sea predator could never be caught on film. Oceanographer and inventor Edith Widder shares the key insight — and the teamwork — that helped to capture the squid on film for the first time.
More about the speaker: A specialist in bioluminescence, Edith Widder helps design and invent new submersible instruments and equipment to study bioluminescence and enable unobtrusive observation of deep-sea environments. Her innovative tools for exploration have produced footage of rare and wonderful bioluminescent displays and never-before-seen denizens of the deep, including, most recently, the first video ever recorded of the giant squid, Architeuthis, in its natural habitat.
5. Lucy McRae: How can technology transform the human body?
TED Fellow Lucy McRae is a body architect — she imagines ways to merge biology and technology in our own bodies. In this visually stunning talk, she shows her work, from clothes that recreate the body’s insides for a music video with pop-star Robyn, to a pill that, when swallowed, lets you sweat perfume.
More about the speaker: Lucy McRae is an artist who straddles the worlds of fashion, technology and the body. Trained as a classical ballerina and architect, her work – which is inherently fascinated with the human body – involves inventing and building structures on the skin that reshape the human silhouette. Her provocative and often grotesquely beautiful imagery suggests a new breed: a future human archetype existing in an alternate world. The media call her an inventor; friends call her a trailblazer. Either way, Lucy relies on instinct to evolve an extraordinary visual path that is powerful, primal and unique.
6. Sarah Parcak: Archaeology from space
In this short talk, TED Fellow Sarah Parcak introduces the field of “space archaeology” — using satellite images to search for clues to the lost sites of past civilizations. She’s the winner of the 2016 TED Prize, her wish will help protect the world’s cultural heritage.
More about the speaker: A satellite archaeologist, Parcak analyzes infrared imagery collected from far above the Earth’s surface and identifies subtle changes that signal a manmade presence hidden from view. She aims to make invisible history visible once again — and to offer a new understanding of the past.
Parcak is inspired by her grandfather, an early pioneer of aerial photography. While studying Egyptology in college, she took a class on remote sensing and went on to develop a technique for processing satellite data to see sites of archaeological significance in Egypt. Her method allows for the discovery of new sites in a rapid and cost-effective way.
7. Theaster Gates: How to revive a neighborhood: with imagination, beauty and art
Theaster Gates, a potter by training and a social activist by calling, wanted to do something about the sorry state of his neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. So he did, transforming abandoned buildings to create community hubs that connect and inspire those who still live there (and draw in those who don’t). In this passionate talk, Gates describes his efforts to build a “miniature Versailles” in Chicago, and he shares his fervent belief that culture can be a catalyst for social transformation in any city, anywhere.
8. Dennis Hong: My seven species of robot — and how we created them
Meet seven all-terrain robots — like the humanoid, soccer-playing DARwIn and the cliff-gripping CLIMBeR — built by Dennis Hong’s robotics team at RoMeLa, based at Virginia Tech. Watch to the end for the five creative secrets to his lab’s success.
More about the speaker:
Dennis Hong is the founder and director of RoMeLa — a Virginia Tech robotics lab that has pioneered several breakthroughs in robot design and engineering. Marrying robotics with biochemistry, he has been able to generate new types of motion with these ingenious forms. For his contributions to the field, Hong was selected as a NASA Summer Faculty Fellow in 2005, given the CAREER award by the National Science Foundation in 2007 and in 2009, named as one of Popular Science‘s Brilliant 10.