In Brief

Rhiannon Giddens and Kate Orff win MacArthur “genius” grants, and more TED news

Posted by: , and

As usual, the TED community has lots of news to share this week. Below, some highlights.

A MacArthur for Rhiannon Giddens and Kate Orff. On October 11, the MacArthur Foundation released their list of 2017 Fellows. Among them are musician Rhiannon Giddens and landscape architect Kate Orff. Giddens, known for her rich reinterpretations of American folk music, performed for lucky audiences at TED2016. Kate Orff spoke at TEDWomen 2010 about her efforts to revitalize New York’s rivers using oysters. Along with the 20 other fellows, Giddens and Orff will each receive $625,000 with no strings attached to pursue their work. (Watch Giddens’ TED Talk and Orff’s TED Talk)

Dare to drive. After recording herself driving a car in Saudi Arabia and posting the footage on YouTube, Saudi Arabian activist Manal al-Sharif became the face of the Dare2Drive campaign. Though cultural traditions excluded women from driving, this campaign called for women to post pictures of themselves on-the-wheel and on-the-go on social media, strategically working against the government’s ban on public demonstrations and protests. Albeit motivated by its potential impact on the economy and the desire to soften the world’s perception of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabian government recently announced that women will be allowed to drive starting in June of 2018. (Watch al-Sharif’s TED Talk)

The internet of flying things. Awaiting medical test results can be nerve-wracking and potentially deadly. That’s why Andreas Raptopoulos’ Matternet has coupled medicine with drone technology. By partnering with Swiss hospitals to deliver blood samples to and from testing centers, Raptopoulos’ drone technology is saving hours in diagnostics and treatment. In addition, through a partnership with Mercedes-Benz, Matternet has launched a drone delivery pilot program in Zurich that carries packages up to 4.4 lbs at 43 mph for over 12 miles — a delivery system they hope to one day deploy globally. (Watch Raptopoulos’ TED Talk)

A new geological era. The Anthropocene Working Group (an international group of scientists) developed a proposal to name the current and official geological era the Anthropocene — an era where humans have notably and markedly altered the course of Earth’s timeline and ecosystems. Publishing their summary of evidence and recommendations in the journal Anthropocene in early October, the authors, including TED speaker Naomi Oreskes, suggest that the start date for this suggested era should be the mid-20th century, when momentous chemical changes, species invasions and global climate shifts began to occur (Watch Oreskes’ TED Talk)

A new way to fund digital journalism. Once purely a form of affirmation, likes and shares might have kindled a new approach to keep digital journalism alive by inspiring digital activists Bruno Torturra, Ariel Kogan, and Thiago Rondon to found Libre. With the ultimate goal of revolutionizing journalism, the founders wanted to engineer a solution to the financial instability that plagues digital journalism, creating a novel way to for members to distribute money from the cost of a Libre membership to their favorite journalism sites. (Watch Torturra’s  TED Talk)

Leather made in the lab. Though most people do not associate the word “homegrown” with leather, Modern Meadow’s new pop-up exhibit in SoHo challenges that dissociation. The biofabrication company led by Andras Forgacs and creatively guided by Suzanne Lee launched a leather brand, Zoa, that is entirely biofabricated. Bonus: One piece from the line is even part of the Paola Antonelli-curated exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art: Items: Is Fashion Modern? on display until January 28. Modern Meadow’s contribution brings together cultivation and innovation in wearable fashion pieces that might not only catch your eye but also tempt you to touch. (Watch Lee’s TED Talk, Forgacs’ TED Talk, and Antonelli’s TED Talk)

A milestone for the US Marine Corps. Even in the 21st century, women still have barriers to break. In this regard, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon details the individual struggles that women face in the military while simultaneously announcing that the United States Marine Corps finally has a woman infantry officer among its ranks. Though her name has yet to be announced, her fellow Marines speak highly of her, noting the physical and societal obstacles she has overcome and exalting her for making herstory. (Watch Tzemach Lemmon’s TED Talk)

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

Photo: Bret Hartman / TED