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Yep, another Wednesday means another TED talk from Barrett; sun follows moon follows sun ad infinitum. But much like how today is an anomalous day whose existence doesn’t make any sense, today’s TED talk is a perfect storm of awesomeness that only comes around very often.

My love of TED talks is well documented on this site. As is my love of Mashups and the ethos behind mashup culture in general. What’s a bit less well-known (unless we know each other personally) is my love of the ALIEN franchise. Since this isn’t film school I won’t go into the reasonings behind that (Confined/Claustrophobic filmmaking as a source of constant unease and tension! Parallels with childbirth and motherhood coupled with disturbing sexual imagery!) but suffice to say that a good way to kill an hour or four is to buy me a beer and ask “Barrett, tell me what ALIEN is really about.”

So why is today special? Because today we get a mashup of TED and ALIEN. More specifically, today we get a TED talk from 2023 as imagined by ALIEN director Ridley Scott, in support of his forthcoming film PROMETHEUS, supposedly set in the ALIEN universe. I don’t even care that it’s viral marketing; it’s well made, well acted, fully supported and promoted by TED itself (How did they pull THAT one off Funny you should ask…) and it represents one of my favorite directors of all time returning to a franchise he launched. I honestly cannot think of a more awesome video to post today.

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All week your faithful editors at Here’s Some Awesome will be selecting their favorites from the year! Some may be previously posted, some may be entirely new — but all represent the kind of awesome we’ve been happy to bring you guys all year long. Please enjoy, and happy holidays!

 

Killed Myself When I Was Young – The Tragic Beauty Of Living And Dying On The Ragged Edge

I’m just gonna come out and say it – this was my favorite video I posted this year. Something about it hit me really hard and it still pops to mind upon occasion.

But beyond all that shock, beyond all that hindsight of twenty-first century engineering, there is something tragically beautiful about the video in the same way that a eulogy is beautiful. It’s a video showing people’s lives through their deaths and near-deaths; of an understanding of who they are at their very core expressed directly through their passion – even if that passion eventually killed them. We should all be so lucky to die doing what drove us to live.

 

Peop1e – United We Rise

The Arab Spring was one of the most worldchanging events of the past year. People all across the world watched in anticipation, awe, and anger, as first a few, then a few hundre, then a few thousand stood up in unison to say “No more!” The repercussions will be felt for decades.

The primary video element is footage from the recent Egyptian revolution – personal and occasionally voyeuristic in its simplicity and access. For the audio, we hear Eddie Hazel’s single-take blues guitar solo from Funkadelic’s 1971 song Maggot Brain. And running through both the audio and video is Charlie Chaplin’s stirring climactic speech from his 1940 film The Great Dictator.

 

The complete history of the entire universe.

Oh TED talks, I’ve posted more than a few in the past year. Can you blame me though when you get gems like someone explaining the (mostly) complete history of the entire universe in 17 minutes?

I think it’s no surprise by now that I fly my nerd flag high. Amongst the other nerdy things that I gravitate towards, I’ve always had a love for the types of science that involve cosmological physics on a universal scale. Because of this, I have a rather…robust science book collection (and my apartment smells of rich mahogany…) so when I say that this is one of the best explanations I’ve ever come across as to how the universe got to its present point, it means I’m comparing it to no less than Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan.

 

The Global Village Construction Set – Open-Source Blueprints for Civilization

This is the second of two TED talks I’ll post today, and another that’s stuck in my head since I found it. I’ve long believed that there isn’t a single human issue that can’t be solved with the proper application of the Internet. Marcin Jakubowski and Open Source Ecology are taking this maxim to an end I could only imagine.

Our goal is a repository of published designs so clear – so complete – that a single burned DVD is effectively a civilization starter kit.

 

My Drunk Kitchen – Important Lessons For Surviving Your Adultolescence

I’m ending with what’s maybe my favorite new webseries of 2011 – My Drunk Kitchen. Yes, it may be “just” Hannah, a laptop camera, and a fair bit of editing, but it goes to show that sometimes it’s less important how you make your show, and more important how you connect with your audience. Hannah is smart, engaging, charming, and altogether entertaining – expect to see more and bigger things from her over the coming years.

For some people, a kitchen is a place where wonders never cease. For others, it’s akin to Mordor: a place into which one simply cannot walk and expect to survive. For Hannah Hart, the kitchen is where one goes to drink heavily while playing with fire.

 

It’s been a fun year, Internet. Here’s to 2012 – may it be even more awesome than 2011.

So I’m gonna be totally honest here: I only have a very slight idea what’s actually going on in the above video. All I know is that it looks like living liquid metal, and living liquid metal – when it’s not hunting you endlessly through time in an effort to reduce the human race to nothing more than a somewhat Kardashian obsessed memory – is awesome.

The prefix “Ferro” generally involves magnetism, so we’ve got that, but how it goes from “rotating spikes” to “melty thing” to “hedgehog having sex with a viking helmet,” I have no idea. So I’m going to avoid falling back on the “fucking magnets, how do they work?” joke and just copy shamelessly from the description:

A steel sculpture with changing magnetisation is coated with ferrofluid.
The fluid is pulled in the direction of increasing flux density and forms peaks, which become smaller in higher flux density. At an accumulation of fluid at ridges, the flux density at the surface decreases. The flow and the distribution of the fluid can be observed at several characteristic locations.

The crown has horizontal cavities that discontinue the gradient of flux density. On the way to the top the fluid is accumulated until the cavities are bridged by fountains. On the way back the fluid falls in large drops over the gap. The horizontal cavity at the ridge of the hexagon remains filled at the retreat. With increasing magnetisation the fluid at the ridge rises steeply as the flux density on the hexagon is slightly higher than at the other side of the cavity.

Yeah, totally got it now. Thanks guys.

(Science is awesome!)

Our goal is a repository of published designs so clear – so complete – that a single burned DVD is effectively a civilization starter kit.

It’s hard not to find the above concept compelling. Even with the internet, the idea that the essential knowledge of several thousand years of human progress can be collected, collated and distributed so completely as to be considered “a civilization starter kit” is amazing. This is the goal of Marcin Jakubowski and Open Source Ecology.

OSE is a maker-like collective of engineers, farmers, and various other interested parties whose goal is to distill the technological necessities of agriculture, building, and manufacturing down to the smallest point possible; ideally allowing a small group of people with access to nothing but basic tools and scrap materials to build or rebuild a sustainable and viable, modern civilization from scratch. It’s incredibly ambitious, unwaveringly idealistic, and truly has the potential to unleash a massive amount of change across whole swaths of the planet.

Okay, so yes – that’s a rather grandiose title, but hear me out on this one. I think it’s no surprise by now that I fly my nerd flag high. Amongst the other nerdy things that I gravitate towards, I’ve always had a love for the types of science that involve cosmological physics on a universal scale. Because of this, I have a rather…robust science book collection (and my apartment smells of rich mahogany…) so when I say that this is one of the best explanations I’ve ever come across as to how the universe got to its present point, it means I’m comparing it to no less than Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan.

Now granted, if you read A Brief History of Time or Cosmos you’re going to get a much broader and denser overview, I understand that; but in neither of those cases will you be spending just over fifteen minutes and change to receive that information either. From the Big Bang to the formation of life, to the migration of intelligent life, this is a wealth of very cool, very interesting information presented in a staggeringly easy to understand manner. Science is awesome.

“I would like to…tell you about a project which was started about 16 years ago. And it’s, uh about…making new forms of life.”

Come on. I mean, how can you not want to watch a video that starts like that. Obviously this Dutch artist is fucking crazy because he’s talking about creating living creatures out of things like plastic bottles and tubing. It’s just ripe for drive-by mockery.

Only…it’s not. You might start a little incredulous, but by the end, you’re captured in his web of imagination. He’s saying things that while they should may make no earthly sense…do.

Continuing the theme of art mimicking nature I started last week, Theo Jansen’s TED talk is an hour’s worth of brilliance in a ten minute bag. His inorganic, skeletal “lifeforms” are designed to move, react to the world around them, and even survive on their own; powered only by the forces of the natural world around them. He really stretches the realms of both your understanding of nature, your assessment of life, and the english language at times.

It’s difficult to describe, but I promise you’ll never look at the world around you the same way again.

Reuben Margolin is a bay-area artist who makes “Techno-Kinetic Wave Sculptures.” Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know what that phrase means, because until I watched the above video, I had no idea either. Basically, Margolin makes sculptures that mimic nature on both a very large and very small scale. As an example, imagine a the spiral wave a canoe paddle makes as it pushes through the water, but blown up 100x larger and made out of a latticework of carved wood beams (or just skip to 1:04 in the video if your brain comes up short on the image like mine would.)

There’s something both unsettling and incredibly mesmerizing about seeing them in motion, but the process by which they’re created is spectacular. His work requires an absolute ton of mathematics, carving or otherwise creating incredibly precise and intricate moving parts by hand, then assembling them into these gigantic moving sculptures that look simultaneously familiar and foreign. The video details the creative process behind one such piece – the intersection of two wave forms – from conception through completion.