In Brief

New writing from Casey Gerald, Stephen Hawking’s final book and more TED news

The TED community is brimming with new books and projects. Below, a selection of highlights.

A powerful story of an American odyssey. Writer and business leader Casey Gerald has published a new memoir on his journey through American life. Titled There Will Be No Miracles Here, the book tells Gerald’s story from a childhood of scraping by, to Yale University, to his role as the leader of a nonprofit placing MBA graduates in communities where they can share their knowledge and make a difference. In an interview with NYMag, Gerald says, “I feel very certain that this book, writing it and giving it away, was the highest and best use of the luxury of being alive. Only time will tell whether that’s true.” The memoir, which The New York Times calls “magnificent,” can be found in bookstores and online. (Watch Gerald’s TED Talk.)

New insights on the benefits of playing instruments. In collaboration with neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, guitar manufacturer Fender has published a new report on the emotional, physical and mental benefits of playing instruments with a focus on the guitar. The study has some fascinating findings: women make up half of all new and aspiring guitar players, 72% of participants began playing guitar as a way of bettering themselves and 42% of participants considered guitar-playing a part of their identity. On the study, Levitin said, “Playing an instrument has a meditative aspect that can release positive hormones in the brain … When we play an instrument, it allows us to see ourselves differently — taking on something that is seen as being a masterful skill in society.” (Watch Levitin’s TED Talk.)

A free resource on integrating ethics and tech. In a closing keynote at the 2018 Borah Symposium, game designer and technologist Jane McGonigal spoke about the tangible benefits of video games. As quoted in The Argonaut, McGonigal said, “Microsoft Research estimated that the United States’ global life expectancy had increased by 2.825 million years just because of the amount of increase in physical activity [from the release of Pokémon Go]. That’s a real outcome.” McGonigal also discussed Ethical OS, her latest project, a free online ethics toolkit for technology makers and futurists. McGonigal crafted it in collaboration with the Omidyar Network and her team at the Institute for the Future, where she is the Director for Game Research and Development. (Watch McGonigal’s TED Talk.)

Marvel’s SHURI series is here. The Black Panther universe has a new addition: a comic series focusing on Shuri, the princess of Wakanda. Written by Afrofuturist writer Nnedi Okorafor and illustrated by Leonardo Romero, the first issue was released last week. This series signals a departure from the Black Panther lore so far. According to Marvel, SHURI leads the eponymous main character on exciting adventures and challenges as she strives to lead Wakanda — the fictional African country of the Black Panther universe — in the absence of her brother, King T’Challa. The first issue has three gorgeous covers by artist Sam Spratt and the second issue is out next month. (Watch Okorafor’s TED Talk. and read our new interview with her)

Brief Answers to Big Questions. The final book of the late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was published in October, seven months after Hawking passed away at age 76. Published by Bantam Books, Brief Answers to Big Questions explores some of life’s greatest mysteries, including the existence of God and the possibility of time travel (spoiler alert: Hawking says no and maybe, respectively). The book was finished and polished by Hawking’s family members, who drew from his research, notes and papers following his death. In addition, Hawking, widely considered one of the most influential scientists of his generation, will be honored at the 2019 Breakthrough Prize ceremony. Hawking was awarded a Special Fundamental Physics Prize by the organization in 2013 for his discovery that black holes emit radiation. (Watch Hawking’s TED Talk.)