In Brief

TED Fellows take over the Oval Office, Elon Musk opens Tesla’s patent trove, Sebastian Thrun on the NanoDegree and much more

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May
TED Fellows at the White House

TED Fellows Jane Chen, David Lang and Manu Prakash pose in the Oval Office. Photo: Courtesy of Jane Chen

Several members of the TED community appeared in the news this week. Below, some highlights:

Yesterday marked the first-ever White House Maker Faire, which brought together 100 students, entrepreneurs, engineers and tinkerers from across the country. A 17-foot robotic giraffe attended, as did TED Fellows Jane Chen, David Lang, Manu Prakash and Jose Gomez-Marquez, plus longtime TEDster Emeka Okafor. The group stopped to snap the pic above in the Oval Office. (Watch Jane’s TED Talk, “A warm embrace that saves lives.” And David’s talk, “My underwater robot.”)

Elon Musk made the bold decision to share Tesla’s patent portfolio with the world. Musk explained in a blog post, “Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” (Watch Elon’s TED Talk, “The mind behind Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity.”)

David Epstein shared why he thinks it’s a big problem that kids are specializing in sports at younger and younger ages in an op-ed in The New York Times. Among his reasons: it places heightened pressure on them, ups their chance of injury and robs them of the experience of being not-so-good at something. (Watch David’s talk, “Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger?”)

Azzam Alwash, who spoke at TEDxBaghdad in 2011, made a cameo in Tom Friedman’s column, “The Real War of Ideas.” The piece sounds the trumpet for something Alwash has been saying for a while: that water has become an expensive commodity in Iraq, costing about twice as much as gasoline. (Watch his TEDx talk, “How do you restore one of the greatest marshlands in the world?”)

Last weekend, TED Fellow Julie Freeman showed a work in progress at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Called “We Need Us,” the piece is an animation that looks at data as an artistic material. (Read more about Julie’s data art.)

Get ready for the “NanoDegree.” Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity is offering an online course that will qualify graduates for an entry-level position at AT&T. “It’s a more focused education with less time wasted,” Thrun says of the class. “They can get a degree quickly, get a job and then maybe do it again.” (Watch Sebastian’s TED Talk, “Google’s driverless car.” And read how he was inspired by another TEDster to start Udacity in the first place.)

Sarah Parcak, a TED Fellow and archaeologist, warns that looters are robbing Egypt of its ancient treasures. She tells National Geographic News, “We are seeing a big spike that came after the revolution … If we don’t do something to stop it, most sites in Egypt will be gone in 25 years.” (Watch Sarah’s TED Talk, “Archaeology from space.”)