As usual, the TED community has lots of news to share this week. Below, some highlights.
Hearing and feeling an eclipse. An eclipse is a visual phenomenon, difficult to describe, but what if you can’t see it for yourself? Dr. Henry Winter of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics partnered with The National Center for Accessible Media to design an app for the visually impaired. Dubbed the Eclipse Soundscape project, the app will provide real-time audio descriptions of the event, so that this cosmic event can be enjoyed by everyone. Afterward, recordings of wildlife activity will be available — nocturnal species are roused during the event, and the eclipse’s end creates a “false dawn.” There’s also a “rumble map,” which translates light intensity into touchscreen vibrations, rendering the event readable via fingertip, like braille. TED speaker and sonic astrophysicist, Wanda Diaz Merced, who is blind herself, served as a consultant on the project. (Watch Merced’s TED Talk)
Something both parties can agree on. Partisanship has separated the US Congress like oil and water. But TED Prize winner Charmian Gooch and her watchdog nonprofit Global Witness note on their blog something bringing everyone together: the push to end anonymous companies. The House Corporate Transparency Act has strong bipartisan support — and a matching bill was introduced in the Senate this week. Bills are also circulating that would require the disclosure of ownership for all airplanes seeking registration with the FAA, and for all companies bidding on federal defense contracts — an issue explored on Ideas.TED.com earlier this year. Finally, after a USA Today investigation revealed that Donald Trump has sold 28 properties since election day for $33 million — with about 70% of those buyers being anonymously-owned LLCs (compared 4% two years before) — Maxine Waters has introduced a bill to curb this. The “SHELLs Act,” supported by Global Witness, would require the President and all other Executive branch officials to disclose the individuals behind their real estate transactions. (Watch Charmian’s TED Talk)
Science to the rescue! TEDsters from both sides of the stage came together this week as part of Manoush Zomorodi’s new installment of “Note to Self.” In conversation with David Biello, science curator here at TED, Save the Planet! explores the potential that science and technology may have to rescue our planet. Spread over five 10-minute episodes, you’ll be introduced to America’s love affair with AC, vacuuming out CO2 and even inspirational whale poop. (Watch Zomorodi’s TED Talk)
The future of batteries. New research out of MIT might bring us one step closer to the future of batteries. Lithium-air batteries have the potential to pack more power at a fraction of the weight of current lithium-ion batteries, but scientists still need to work out a few charging and efficiency kinks. The compound lithium-iodide (Lil) has the potential to solve these problems, however, the results from experiments using Lil have been contradictory. To get to the bottom of it, Paula Hammond and a team of scientists ran a series of tests to home in on the particular reactions taking place. They found that Lil enhances the reactivity of water, which ultimately depletes the battery’s ability to charge, perhaps indicating that an alternate compound should be used. While there’s still a long way to go, continued research that addresses these very specific challenges will help us get there. (Watch Hammond’s TED Talk)
Life after prison. Plenty of documentaries and TV shows take us inside prison walls, but that’s not where the story ends. Oprah Winfrey’s new docu-series, Released, takes viewers along with six newly freed individuals for their first 90 days back in society—the ups, downs, and everything in between. TED speaker Shaka Senghor is a consulting producer on the show. It’s a subject close to his heart: he went to prison at 19, where he turned his life around by reading and learning; upon his release at age 38 he became an activist. (Watch Senghor’s TED Talk)
An architect’s plan to preserve and modernize. Architect Aziza Chaouni was awarded a Keeping It Modern grant from the Getty Foundation to create a preservation plan for the Sidi Harazem Thermal Bath Complex in Morocco. Dating from the the late 1950s, only certain parts of the baths remain open to the public today. However, the Fondation Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion (CDG), which owns the baths, is committed to revitalizing them and restoring them to their full functionality. Chaouni, whose credits include restoring the world’s oldest library, will help CDG accomplish their goal by preparing a preservation plan to guide their efforts, which will help them improve the facilities while preserving their architectural significance. (Watch Chaouni’s TED Talk)
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Featured Image Credit: Arne Danielson.