TED News in Brief: The (real) secret to a great infographic, Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz, and more

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Here, your weekly recap of TED-related news:

You see their work every time you start a TED Talk: the video firm Psyop created our water-drop titles (among lots of other work you’ll recognize). Now they’ve released their very first iOS and Android game — a game for social good called “Nightmare: Malaria.” It comes from their nonprofit wing, EGG (Establishment for Greater Good). See a preview above.

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei (watch his TED talk) is planning a new series of artworks to debut at Alcatraz, the iconic American prison in San Francisco Bay. As he told the New York Times: “The idea of loss of freedom as a punishment raises philosophical questions.” The exhibit, still in progress, will debut next September.

In other news of art, Isaac Mizrahi (watch his talk, and check out his playlist of TED favorites) is creating this year’s production of Peter and the Wolf, an annual tradition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum. It’s a fully staged production, with choreography from John Heginbotham and costumes, of course, from Mizrahi himself.

Via the wonderful GovLab Digest newsletter, this equally wonderful Vice Motherboard story on Finland’s “choose-your-own-adventure bus,” Kutsuplus. How it works: Using your smartphone, you propose a route, and if other riders also want to go where you’re going, it’s half the fare. What makes this unusual bus system work, writer Brian Merchant suggests, are two ideas we explore a lot here at TED: algorithms and social equality.

What makes a great infographic? At Harvard, TED Fellow Michelle Borkin (read our Q&A with her) led a study that found a couple of key takeaways. Most important, as recapped by Fast Co Design: If the graphic itself is memorable, you’re more likely to remember the information it contains.

Origami master Robert Lang (watch his TED Talk) is helping design new folding solar arrays for spacecraft. Watch them unfold at Brigham Young University in this mesmerizing video.


In their TED Talks, Clay Shirky, Beth Noveck and Jen Pahlka have all talked about the connections — both real and hoped-for — between government and the open-source world of GitHub. (See Shirky’s GitHub reader.) Now, GitHub has made it official, with a site devoted to fostering great code for government: Learn more in this blog post.

Jeff Bezos (watch his TED Talk) made a splash on Sunday in a 60 Minutes piece about the future of Amazon. In a moment that seemed to genuinely surprise host Charlie Rose, Bezos unveiled a rather far-out plan to deliver goods by quadcopter. Was he inspired by TED’s own Drone Week? One Twitter user thinks so.

Eli Pariser’s made a compelling case that your online life can isolate you in a “filter bubble,” where you only meet people who share your opinions. Spurred by this idea, three researchers just published a paper on a nifty tool to systematically pop that bubble. It works by exposing you to other opinions — but from people with whom you have other things in common. As Pariser told the TED Blog: “It’s an ingenious approach to solving the problem, and I’m really excited that so many folks are taking a hard look at this.”

Aljazeera takes a look at the second TEDx event held in Yemen, TEDxSanaa. The author of the story writes, “The 17 speakers almost unanimously provided a humbling dose of reality and a look at the unique hardships facing Yemen …  The first speaker on stage, Abduljaleel Heidar, set the tone for this conference’s ‘Actions Matter’ theme. Using a story about how giving up qat — a mild narcotic chewed by many Yemenis — helped a taxi driver improve his lot in life, Heidar made an impassioned plea for Yemen to become a ‘qat-free nation’ … Other talks were more light-hearted, like a dentist who encouraged the audience to smile more.”