Shouting at a wall. Listening to echo. Looking at a mirror.

TEDxPSU 2011

November 19th 2011 in Business, General

Last weekend on Nov 13th, I attended the much waited (ever since August when I realized I would be living in State College), TEDxPSU. Last year, it was amazing and my expectations were high. I will try to note about some of the talks that interested me and other notes about the event itself which I could not do live due to amazing lack of network by Sprint.

After Dean Brady started off (he had quite fun last year, I feel he is a great host with his ability to relate to the talks, humour and intelligence), Mia Bloom took the stage to discuss the female terrorists. Coming from India, having lived through the assassination news of Rajiv Gandhi, female terrorists/suicide bombers is nothing new to me. Appreciated her talk backed by strong research and findings. Some of the reasons of “why female suicide bombers” were obvious but also depressing (women feigning pregnancy for one). She also said how the next terrorist would be most common looking person – for eg blonde, beautiful , western woman – which I guess again questions the methods of airport security which only looks at places previously known.

This was followed by Mark Ballora’s talk on presenting the data in the form of sound waves. It is an interesting idea, but am surprised that many people/universities are working on this. Surprised because, I am not sure what the practical usage of this is. I tried closing my eyes and tried to visualize, but it is nothing like seeing a wave on the graph. It could be because I don’t have keen understanding of music, but then on the graph all data is visible at once, the timing is indicated accurately etc. Sonification of big bang was interesting.

But yeah my friend Kerean (http://twitter.com/#!/KereanPovich) has different opinion, which is what I like about TED, the variety – there is something for everyone ! Anyways, to quote my friend

“I like the fact that some of the research people presented seem so out of the box and unconventional. They are inspiring and needed to have this country invest enthusiastically again in the potential of science and research.”

Marco Tempest’s iPod magic video was played. As usual, I had seen and shared this before. http://www.ted.com/talks/marco_tempest_the_magic_of_truth_and_lies_on_ipods.html

James Stone next talked about Cyborg Plants. He showed the plant that closes on human touch (nachike mullu in Kannada) which sent me to my childhood.

This was followed by the streaming of Amit Sood’s TED talk. He has built virtual museums here : http://www.googleartproject.com/ I will spend some time on that site. He showed how gigapixels would allow you to zoom to amazing depth.


Dr Joesph Valente next talked about the challenges faced by deaf children. Deaf himself, he gave a peek into the difficulties and how they empowered him. He joked about his pretending to hear (like many others behave to hear but usually don’t).

8 secrets of success was streamed. Frankly no ‘wow’ moment here. http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_st_john_s_8_secrets_of_success.html

Michael Mann then talked about climate change – I could feel the tension in the room. I am always ( I shouldn’t be but I am) surprised how even topics like this are debated as Democrat Vs Republican. In India, we do not have such clear demarcation of opinions among political parties about neutral topics such as these. During lunch I overheard someone say, the talks have been political !

Lunch was ok, but there was a long queue for the photo booth and hence I could not get it. They were printing quotes on the t-shirts I guess. I really wanted to get a sarcasm quote printed :)

Post lunch started with music by Pure Cane Sugar. Apparently they play every Saturday night at Zolas, good music.

Streamed Morgan Spurlock’s talk on the brands and advertising. I had watched this before (no surprise), for some reason I remembered the Indian city named after Snap Deal (http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/17/indian-village-renamed-snapdeal-com-and-its-not-a-cheap-marketing-stunt/) which was more novel. This talk was funny, but I constantly kept thinking what is true, where are the products placed etc , which kind of distracted from the actual talk/video, but there was no meat to follow in the actual video I feel.


Rob Roger’s political cartoons talk was my favorite talk I think. He set out to find a new avatar for America and explored different possibilities, by which he showed his cartoons. He entered various topics such as oil, pop culture, church etc. The one thing we hoped he did not show, but he did show – about Joe Pa. There was a collective sympathetic ‘aww’ from the audience that was quite touchy. Not one did laugh, obviously, and Rob quickly moved on to the next. (You can find that here http://www.robrogers.com/gallery.html)

Ali Carr-Chellman ( who had given an awesome talk last year at TEDxPSU about gaming to re-engage boys in learning http://www.ted.com/talks/ali_carr_chellman_gaming_to_re_engage_boys_in_learning.html). Her passion to improve education is so inspiring. She is so emotionally invested in improving education that I feel this world needs many more of Ali Carr-Chellman. This time she talked about Cyber Charting and funding. This is another video I will look forward to be uploaded.

Oh yeah, if you are interested in the gaming topic, check this talk by Jane McGonigal. (http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html). I had the fortune of listening to her live at the BB conference.

Next was a talk streamed (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/wael_ghonim_inside_the_egyptian_revolution.html) by the Googler. I think in the next revolution, no Googler will be allowed to create a Facebook page but only a Google+ page and we all know how much revolution causing that is ;-)

I understand that social media is an enabler but when people point to it as anything more than just that, I tune out. His conclusion ‘The power of people is much stronger than people in the power” is no biggie or nothing new. No disrespects.

Lori Hepner next showed how tweets can be visualized. It was artistically interesting. My numb creative mind respects such people and their out of the box thinking. (Had to use that phrase, because she showed a circular identity ! haha). This reminded me of my talented friend who had created something similar – an electronic toy which emitted different colors and rotated in circle depending upon the input combination..I don’t remember now what the input was driven by, but it was some kind of human input. He had done this to impress a girl – just saying that there are many sources of innovation and motivation :) http://www.lorihepner.com/

There was a talk on geocaching, I think my sleep deprivation was finally getting to me. Should watch this after the upload.

Ian Rosenberger was awesome – energetic, enthusiastic young guy. He formed Thread International to treat the wastes in Haiti. The best part is that it is for profit and blueprint of their company etc was interesting and ambitious ! More power to the likes of him.

Jack Matson, CEO of Envinity , engaged in an inspirational talk. The pictures of environmentally conscious homes/buildings were beautiful ! He talked about intelligent fast failure. Another one I am waiting for the upload to watch again.

There was a talk on water, and climate change.

Derek Severs, who had last time given a good talk on modern poetry with a good slideshow and a funny poem, was entertaining. I was expecting to see him live. First, was disappointed with a video. Second, the content of the video was a big disappointment. To say, idea is nothing execution is everything, he created a story and explained with made up numbers as if it is a great revelation and discovery ! Come on Derek, you are better than this and we deserve better than that. I wish they had not shown this short (was it like 1 minute) video.

Jack Langelaan talked about electric aircraft, the cost effectiveness etc. Liked it, but given how fast cars have gone electric (due to both technology and policy reasons), I don’t think I will see electric aeroplanes in my life time. He was optimistic that public will fly them in next few years ! Huh. Also, even if the cost is cheaper, I am sure the businesses will make it as expensive as current travel for this reason: customers are already ok with the current price ! (otherwise called value pricing in our marketing world). And also due to demand, but I can’t put my head around that logic as of now. Anyways, I am a cynic.

Eric Mockenstrum explained bitcoin.org, but I don’t think I followed him completely. It is about virtual currency independent of third party.

Violin performance was very nice – especially when violins started playing from different corners of the room :) I was busy turning to every direction.

Dean Brady, the host gave his own talk about ‘relics’ to ‘revolutions’. As usual, he linked to other talks of the day. He definitely can do a good TED talk.

Outside there were photo, playstation and Kinect booths and as expected, I did not win the raffles ! I did get the picture though !

A well organized event but I think I am somewhat let down by comparison to the last year’s. There was a huge audience last time, and there was not a single technical issue. This time, the mic and clicker gave problems many times and the audience was smaller.

However, it gave me a great avenue to hang out with friends, listen to inspirational talks, music, and thought provoking ideas. Also, this being the great Penn State, all of this + food for free, what can get better than this on a Sunday :)

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