Art TED Fellows

Icebergs with personality and self-assembling toys: The NY Times covers 2 TED Fellows

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

The New York Times doubled-down today on articles about TED Fellows, running stories on Camille Seaman’s portraits of icebergs as well as on Skylar Tibbits’ toys that assemble themselves.

The photography blog Lens turned its eye on Seaman’s work, marveling out how she captures the personalities of icebergs and glaciers in her stunning images.

“They are like humans in that each one reacts to its environment and its circumstances in its own way,” says Seaman, who has given a TEDTalk and been interviewed on the TED blog. “I’ve come across icebergs that were very stalwart and just refused to dissolve or break up. And there were others — massive, massive icebergs — that were like ‘I can’t take it anymore’ and in front of my eyes would just dissolve into the sea. There’s so many unique personalities. There’s a sadness to them.”

So why icebergs?

Seaman explains to Lens that, as a girl, her grandfather — a member of the Shinnecock tribe — would take her into the forest and show her how to appreciate a tree as an individual. But it was chance that brought her to ice — she traveled to the Bering Straight after being bumped from an Alaska Airlines flight and getting a free ticket as a consolation. In Alaska, Seaman walked on an ice bridge. “I understood that I was on my planet, that I was made of its material, and that in the scheme of things I meant nothing,” she says of the experience.

Meanwhile, the technology blog Bits found its way to MIT architecture researcher Tibbits, who has given a TEDTalk explaining his belief that, in the future, buildings will be self-assembling, self-replicating and self-repairing — just like a strand of DNA. But before he tackles skylines, Tibbits is demonstrating his concepts on a smaller scale — with toys inspired by the self-assembling seen in microbiology.

The Times describes a toy that Tibbits showed at TEDGlobal2012. The toy begins as a set of colored rocks in a flask. But as the flask is shaken, thanks to magnets, the pieces slowly assemble themselves into a pod. Tibbits is also bringing self-assembly to furniture, creating a stool that assembles itself when tumbled in a spinner.

So why is self-assembly so important?

“Construction at human scale is brute force,” Tibbits tells the Times. ”In extreme environments, we don’t know how to build things.”

Camille Seaman (left) and Skylar Tibbits (right)