Two TEDsters nominated for Oscars and more TED community news

As usual, the TED community is making headlines. Below, some highlights.

A close look at the beauty and pain of hospice care. End Game, a short documentary that follows the last few days of terminally ill patients, is up for an Oscar this weekend. The heart-rending film highlights the work of doctors and caregivers — including BJ Miller — reimagining what palliative care and hospice work can be. In a column for Hollywood Reporter, Motion Picture and Television Fund head Bob Beitcher says, “End Game’s Dr. BJ Miller embodies the commitment and compassion that is crucial to cutting-edge palliative care, helping families and patients travel the difficult journey together.” The film is streaming on Netflix. (Watch Miller’s TED Talk.)

Also up for an Oscar? Period. End of Sentence. Entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham kickstarted a cultural revolution in India with his sanitary pad machine, and now the tale is a compelling Netflix documentary. The Oscar-nominated short doc explains how Muruganantham’s invention empowers rural women, providing them with both clean sanitary napkins and reliable employment, while reducing stigma. “The strongest creature created by God in the world is not the lion, not the elephant, not the tiger … the girl,” says Muruganantham in the film. (Watch Muruganantham’s TED Talk.)

Nita Farahany co-leads AI seminars for congressional staff. Alongside Vincent Conitzer and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, ethicist Nita Farahany kicked off the three-part Duke in DC seminar series on artificial intelligence for a congressional audience. Farahany, a professor of law and philosophy at Duke University, spoke on the potential impact of AI and human collaboration on policy. Questions ranged from predictive policing methodologies to the role of government in AI development. As quoted on Duke’s website, Farahany said, “Because AI is still in such a nascent phase of its development, and because we as a society are going to increasingly face ethical and legal dilemmas from its use and development, there is an important role for government in the field.” (Watch Farahany’s TED Talk.)

Stroke of insight: A choral work based on Jill Bolte Taylor. Identical twin composers the Brothers Balliett have written a new three-part piece for a choral orchestral and mezzo soprano called Fifty Trillion Molecular Geniuses — based on neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor’s book and TED Talk. The Cecilia Choir of New York will premiere the piece with soloist Amanda Lynn Bottoms at Carnegie Hall in early May. Tickets are available now. (Watch Taylor’s TED Talk.)

Mark Kelly runs for US Senate. Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly has launched a campaign in Arizona’s 2020 senatorial special election. Kelly and his wife, former congressional rep Gabby Giffords, announced the campaign with a video highlighting Kelly’s career as an astronaut and pilot, his family roots and his pivot toward gun control activism following an assassination attempt on Giffords in 2011. Kelly describes the issues he cares for most including health care, job and economic growth and the environment. “We’ve seen this retreat from science and data and facts, and if we don’t take these issues seriously, we can’t solve these problems,” he says. (Watch Kelly and Giffords’ TED Talk.)

The Explorers Club Medal awarded to Kenneth Lacovara. For his discoveries of some quite remarkable dinosaur fossils, paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara will be honored at the 115th Explorers Club Annual Dinner. The Explorers Club Medal, the group’s highest award, is presented to those who have made “extraordinary contributions directly in the field of exploration, scientific research, or to the welfare of humanity.” Other TEDsters who have received the honor include Sylvia Earle, Jane Goodall and James Cameron. In a statement for Rowan University Lacovara said, “I’m honored and humbled to be joining a group of medalists that includes so many of the heroes and adventurers who inspired me as a child … I am fortunate to have played a small role in uncovering our wondrous past.” (Watch Lacovara’s TED Talk or see his TED Book, Why Dinosaurs Matter.)

Have a news item to share? Write us at contact@ted.com and you may see it included in this round-up.


TED original podcast WorkLife with Adam Grant is back with Season 2 (and a sneak peek trailer)

The breakaway hit returns March 5, delving deeper into how we work and the psychology of making work not suck

Organizational psychologist, bestselling author and TED speaker Adam Grant returns March 5 with Season 2 of WorkLife with Adam Grant, a TED Original podcast series that takes you inside the minds of some of the world’s most unusual professionals to discover the keys to a better work life. Listen to a sneak peek trailer now and subscribe.

WorkLife was among Apple Podcasts’ most downloaded new shows of 2018, and the trailer gives a taste of what’s in store for 2019 – from celebrating the potential of black sheep in the workplace (as Pixar did) to bouncing back from rejection and examining whether it’s actually possible to create an a*hole-free office.

Each new WorkLife episode dives into different remarkable, and often unexpected, workplaces – among them the US Navy, Duolingo, NBC’s The Good Place, and the Norwegian Olympic alpine ski team. Adam’s immersive interviews take place in the field as well as the studio, with a mission to empower listeners with insightful and actionable ideas that they can apply to their own work.

“I’m exploring ways to make work more creative and more fun,” says Adam, the bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take. “We spend almost a quarter of our lives in our jobs, and I want to figure out how to make all that time worth your time.”

Produced by TED in partnership with Transmitter Media, WorkLife is TED’s first original podcast created in partnership with a TED speaker. Adam’s talks “Are you a giver or a taker?” and “The surprising habits of original thinkers” have together been viewed more than 15 million times in the past three years.

TED’s continued expansion of its content programming beyond its signature TED-talk format in both the audio and video space. Other recent TED original content launches include The TED Interview, a podcast hosted by Head of TED Chris Anderson that features deep dives with TED speakers; Small Thing Big Idea, a Facebook Watch video series about everyday designs that changed the world; and the Indian primetime live-audience television series TED Talks India: Nayi Soch, hosted by Bollywood star and TED speaker Shah Rukh Khan.

WorkLife with Adam Grant Season 2 debuts Tuesday, March 5 on Apple Podcasts, the TED Android app, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. Season 2 features eight episodes, roughly 30 minutes each. It’s sponsored by Accenture, Bonobos, Hilton and JPMorgan Chase & Co. New episodes will be made available every Tuesday.


Calling all GlobalXplorers: Get ready to go to India

A look at how GlobalXplorer’s expedition of India will roll out, state by state. Armchair archaeologists will search more than 3 million square kilometers for signs of ancient manmade sites. (Photo courtesy of GlobalXplorer and Tata Trusts)

Today, GlobalXplorer, the citizen science platform created by satellite archaeologist Sarah Parcak with the 2016 TED Prize — which allows users live out their Indiana Jones fantasies and search for archaeological sites from home — announced the location of its second expedition. The location will be: India!

GlobalXplorer’s first expedition took users to Peru, where they searched 150,000 kilometers of land and identified thousands of features of archaeological interest, including more than 50 new Nazca Lines and 324 sites determined by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture to be of high interest. The exploration of India will be even more sweeping in scope.

India is a large country with 29 states, spread out over 3.287 million square kilometers. Working with the Archaeological Survey of India (a branch of India’s Ministry of Culture) and alongside Tata Trusts and the National Geographic Society, GlobalXplorer’s new expedition will cover the entire country, state by state. This vast work will be accomplished with the help of machine learning. Over the past year, GlobalXplorer has been working with technology partners to train AI to weed out tiles that either contain no archaeological features or that are not able to be properly searched because of dense cloud cover or an impenetrable landscape. Platform users will take on the next step: looking at tiles with potential signs of archaeological features. Searching this most promising fraction of tiles will be no small task. Parcak estimates that, with the help of the crowd, this mapping will be done in less than three years.

“Folks we are about to announce country #2 for @Global_Xplorer I am SO excited. What’s your guess?” she tweeted at 6:30am this morning. Then later she revealed: “So thrilled to be able to share: Globalxplorer will be heading to India next!”

More information on when the expedition begins will be coming soon. In the meantime, read lots more — including how GlobalXplorer is using a blockchain-enabled app to keep antiquities safe — on Medium. And watch the video below to get excited about what you might find.


Stacey Abrams’ State of the Union response and more updates from TED speakers

The TED community is brimming with new projects and updates. Below, a few highlights.

Stacey Abrams responds to the US State of the Union. Politician Stacey Abrams spoke from Atlanta on behalf of the Democratic party following the State of the Union address. In her speech, she focused on the fight against bigotry, bipartisanship in a turbulent America and voter rights. The right to vote is especially important to Abrams — last November, she lost the Georgia gubernatorial election by 55,000 votes, a loss that some pundits have attributed to voter suppression. “The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders, not where politicians pick their voters,” she said. “In this time of division and crisis, we must come together and stand for, and with, one another.” Watch the full speech on The New York Times website or read the transcript at USA Today. (Watch Abrams’ TED Talk.)

Remembering Emily Levine. The extraordinary humorist and philosopher Emily Levine has passed away following a battle with lung cancer. Reflecting on life and death, Levine said, “’I am just a collection of particles that is arranged into this pattern, then will decompose and be available, all of its constituent parts, to nature, to reorganize into another pattern. To me, that is so exciting, and it makes me even more grateful to be part of that process.” Read our full tribute to Levine on our blog. (Watch Levin’s TED Talk.)

Could you cut the tech giants from your life? In a new multimedia series from Gizmodo, journalist Kashmir Hill details her six-week experiment quitting Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google — and shares surprising insights on how entwined these companies are in daily life. With help from technologist Dhruv Mehrotra, Hill blocked access to one company for a week at a time using a custom VPN (virtual private network), culminating with a final week of excluding all five tech companies. In just her first week of cutting out Amazon, Hill’s VPN logged over 300,000 blocked pings to Amazon servers! Check out the whole series on Gizmodo. (Watch Hill’s TED Talk.)

Exploring the historical roots of today’s biggest headlines. Alongside artist Masud Olufani, journalist Celeste Headlee will launch a new series at PBS called Retro Report that will explore current news stories, “revealing their unknown — and often surprising — connections to the past.” Each one-hour episode will trace the history of four news stories, including Colin Kaepernick’s NFL protests, modern-day drug approval laws and the US government’s wild horse care program. Retro Report will launch on PBS this fall. (Watch Headlee’s TED Talk.)

Customizable vegetables now for sale. Grubstreet has a new profile on Row 7, the seed company co-founded by chef Dan Barber that wants to change the way farmers, chefs and breeders collaborate and connect. Alongside breeder Michael Mazourek and seeds dealer Matthew Goldfarb, Barber hopes to design seeds that have the flavors chefs want, along with the qualities (like high yield and disease resistance) that farmers are looking for.  “We’re trying to deepen the context for the seeds, and this conversation between breeders and the chefs,” Barber said. By prioritizing taste and nutrition, Row 7 plans to engineer ever-evolving seed collections that meet the needs of both farmers and chefs. Row 7’s first seed collection is now available for purchase. (Watch Barber’s TED Talk.)

A promising new report on tobacco divestment. The Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge, led by oncologist Bronwyn King, has a new signatory: Genus Capital Investment, a leading Canadian fossil-free investment firm. Genus released a new report — based on a six-year study — about the financial impacts of divesting from tobacco stocks and removing tobacco from its portfolios. They found that over the past 20 years, tobacco divestment did not negatively affect index portfolios, and that in the past five years, portfolios that excluded tobacco actually outperformed the market. In a statement, King said, “This new research adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that investors do not need to invest in tobacco to achieve excellent returns.” Spearheaded by Tobacco Free Portfolios and the United Nations Environment Programme, the Tobacco-Free Finance Pledge was launched last year and has over 140 signatories and supporters. (Watch King’s TED Talk.)

An HBO feature on superhuman tech. On Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, bionics designer Hugh Herr presented his team’s latest prosthetics and explained why he thinks bionics will soon revolutionize sports. Herr spoke to Soledad O’Brien about a future of enhanced athletic ability, saying “There’s going to be new sports … power basketball, power swimming, power climbing. It’ll be a reinvention of sports and it’ll be so much fun.” In a teaser clip, O’Brien tried on a pair of lower-leg exoskeletons developed at Herr’s MIT lab; the full episode can be viewed on HBO. (Watch Herr’s TED Talk.)


Have a news item to share? Write us at contact@ted.com and you may see it included in this round-up.


Remembering Emily Levine

“You have to understand that we don’t live in Newton’s clockwork universe anymore. We live in a banana peel universe, and we won’t ever be able to know everything or control everything or predict everything.” Emily Levine speaks at TED2018. Photo: Jason Redmond / TED

“That’s what’s so extraordinary about life: It’s a cycle of generation, degeneration, regeneration.”

The humorist Emily Levine has died, after an extraordinary life spent questioning the very nature of reality. A philosopher-comic, she tore apart classics and physics and pop culture, and then, in trickster fashion, stuck them together in ways that created not just a shock of recognition but (as she explained herself back in 2002) a shock of re-cognition, of thinking in a new way. Her goal was to short-circuit your mind, to shake you out of your silly old and/or thinking with a little bit of and/and. Not for nothing did she call herself “the Evel Knievel of mental leaps.”

She worked as a TV writer and producer, a filmmaker and as a connector, a locus for like-minded kooks. She was a force, a word that we hope will make sense on many levels.

Most recently, she turned her attention to the process of dying itself, as she faced down a diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer. As always, it sent her searching through the widest possible array of sources. She read quantum physics (” — well, I read an email from someone who’d read it, but — “), she re-visited Hannah Arendt and an old joke, and tossed everything into the blender of her sharp wit. And it all began to make sense, life, living, dying, death. In her own words: “’I’ am just a collection of particles that is arranged into this pattern, then will decompose and be available, all of its constituent parts, to nature, to reorganize into another pattern. To me, that is so exciting, and it makes me even more grateful to be part of that process.”