In Brief

Titus Kaphar and Vijay Gupta named MacArthur Fellows, a musical tribute to #MeToo and other TED news

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As usual, the TED community is busy with new projects and news — here are a few highlights.

Meet two newly minted MacArthur “geniuses.” Visual artist Titus Kaphar and violinist Vijay Gupta have been named 2018 MacArthur Fellows! The fellowship, established in 1981, awards $625,000 over the course of five years to individuals of exemplary creative merit, to spend as they like. Kaphar’s recent projects include The Jerome Project, a painting series on mass incarceration and The Next Haven project, a community space that offers fellowships to artists and curators and mentorship to local high-schoolers. In a video profile, Kaphar said, “I think merging art and history can help motivate social change.” Gupta is a social justice advocate who founded Street Symphony, a nonprofit that centers homeless and incarcerated communities through creative and educational programming in downtown Los Angeles. On his work, Gupta said, “It is as much our job to heal and inspire as it is to disrupt and provoke. It is our job to be the truth tellers of our time.” Congratulations to them both! (Watch Kaphar’s TED Talk and Gupta’s TED Talk.)

SpaceX achieves first California ground landing. Rocket company SpaceX, led by CEO Elon Musk and President Gwynne Shotwell, has landed one of their previously used Falcon 9 rockets on California land for the first time. The Falcon 9 was launched on October 7 to deliver the first of two 3,500-pound Argentinian satellites into low Earth orbit; following the drop-off, the rocket returned to Earth faster than the speed of sound and landed on SpaceX’s new landing pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, north of LA. The full video of the launch and landing is about 30 minutes long and well worth the watch — it’s history in the making! (Watch Musk’s TED Talk and Shotwell’s TED Talk.)

A powerful musical tribute to #MeToo. In collaboration with singer Jasmine Power, Amanda Palmer has released a new song and video called “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now,” marking the one-year anniversary of The New York Times exposé on Harvey Weinstein that catalyzed the #MeToo movement. Directed and choreographed by Noémie Lafrance, the video (NSFW) weaves striking visuals and haunting lyrics into a poignant reflection on sexual violence. In a statement, Palmer said, “As we directed the chorus members through our song chorus, I felt this overwhelming emotion come over me as I gazed into the eyes of each and every woman singing along … Women are rising up, everywhere. Change is happening at every level.” All proceeds from the song’s sales on Bandcamp will be forwarded to the Time’s Up legal defense fund. (Watch Palmer’s TED Talk.)

Rethink Robotics shutters. Widely regarded as the company that introduced the world to collaborative robots, Rethink Robotics, co-founded by Rodney Brooks, has closed. Rethink’s starred products, the Sawyer and Baxter robots, were breakthroughs, the first industrial robots built to work safely with people, rather than operated at a distance. The robots were designed to be used by factory floor workers who could program them by moving their “arms” to complete repetitive or dangerous tasks; they also had animated faces to communicate with their human co-workers. In The Verge, Rethink’s lack of commercial success was listed as the main reason for closing. (Watch Brooks’ TED Talk.)

Spittin’ Venom. Musician Reggie Watts debuted a new track on The Late Late Show with James Corden, paying homage to ’90s hip-hop with a hilarious take on Marvel’s new thriller Venom. Written by Demi Adejuyigbe and featuring Jenny Slate, along with a slew of aggressively ’90s outfits, the skit is a fun, quick watch with a surprisingly catchy beat. (Watch Watts’ TED Talk.)