TED News in the Brief: J. Craig Venter creates biological fax machine, Jack Andraka honored by Vatican, and more

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J. Craig Venter on the TED stage. He shares his idea for a "biological fax machine."

J. Craig Venter on the TED stage. This week, he talked to The New York Times about his idea for a “biological fax machine.”

Over the past week, we’ve noticed a lot of TED-related news items in the ether. Here, some highlights:

J. Craig Venter (watch his talks on creating “synthetic life” and sampling the ocean’s DNA) has come up with what The New York Times describes as “a biological fax machine.” Huh? In brief, Venter wants to detect life on Mars, determine the organism’s DNA sequence and then transmit the information back to Earth electronically. Sure, the idea is “far-fetched,” but more earthly applications — such as emailing you the exact right antibiotic for your bug — are apparently possible. As always with this topic, it’s controversial. Another TED speaker, George Church (watch his TEDMED talk), turns up in the piece to pour cold water on overweening excitement, saying there’s nothing unique about the idea at all.

Jason Silva, the “performance philosopher” who introed TEDGlobal 2012, has a new short film titled Entropy: The Existential Bummer that has gone viral. As Silva says, “It explores impermanence and love, through the lens of Dylan Thomas, Freud and Rilke.”

What may have been Benoit Mandelbrot’s final interview (watch his TED Talk) was captured by master documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, and just posted by IBM as part of its “Big Brains, Small Films” series.

Krisztina “Z” Holly co-organized the very first TEDx event, TEDxUSC, back in 2009. In her latest column, she shares what she’s learned over the years about TED’s speaker selection process, and chats with our Content Director, Kelly Stoetzel, about how we search for speakers.

16-year-old scientist Jack Andraka (watch his TED Talk, and the mini documentary about him made by Morgan Spurlock, above) was honored by the Vatican this week, for his work on creating a low-cost diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer. Andraka received the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award, which is given annually to young people who prove themselves to be incredible role models.

Raghava KK (watch his talks on his children’s book for the iPad and his 200-year plan) introduces us to the new India over at

Time magazine unveils the 25 Best Inventions of the Year. Included: Michael Archer’s Lazarus Project (watch his TED Talk), which is resurrecting the gastric-brooding frog, and Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu’s Project Inception (watch their talk), which planted a memory in a mouse’s brain.

Nancy Duarte (watch her talk on giving a TED Talk) is giving away her book Resonate for free. Get the HTML5 version or download it from iBooks.