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Tuesday
Oct162012

Tedx Auckland

Photo by Tedx Auckland

On Saturday 6 October 2012, Auckland hosted a Tedx event at the Aotea Centre. A line-up of 16 invited speakers and performers brought their best stories, lessons and songs to those of us lucky to have tickets to this sold-out event.

Morning Session 1

  • Dr Michelle Dickinson: Nanogirl - My Quest to Become a Superhero
    According to the programme, Dr Michelle specialises in biomedical materials engineering and heads New Zealand’s only nanomechanical testing lab at the University of Auckland. But according to Michelle, what she’s really on about is a life-long quest to obtain superhero powers including flying, invisibility and telepathy. Seems like she’s almost there too having proved that with a cold enough magnetic field she can leave the ground, and with a thin coating of nanoparticles she’s impervious, if not exactly invisible, and with one other thing I can’t remember she can practically read brain activity. Yes, I was paying attention, but my attention was completely captivated by Michelle’s nanoparticly protected sneakers and their complete resistance to the Hershey’s chocolate sauce she poured all over them!
  • Andrew Patterson: Rebuilding Architecture from the ground up
    Maybe, in the end, Andrew Patterson was grateful that as his bach rolled downhill on the back of an uncontrolled trailer, jack-knifed and landed on a steep section he had hoped to build his dream holiday home on. Imagine if that had happened to an *actual* client rather than on his own project. Could anything else go so wrong with trying to move a pre-built dwelling onto a new site? It was an event that seemed to have given Andrew a chance to camp out on the site and his thoughts coalesced around how buildings interact with the environment, or rather, how the environment interact with our buildings. He stepped us through a number of beautiful architectural projects where he and his firm had considered the The Western architectural concept of 'tripod' - Concept; Attitude; Communicate. After his bach sat where it landed, and his family had to camp and use the site as the previous occupants had, he discovered how well the land actually worked with them. In turn, he adjusted the concept of tripod with the pillars: Rangi & Papa Attitude; Form Follows Whanau; and Thinking in Patterns.
  • Dr David Krofcheck: Higgs Boson - the kiwi connection
    Best layman explanation of Higgs boson to date. With structure and humour, Dr David Krofcheck wielded his intelligence with care and generoosity to show how New Zealand’s technology and physicists are connected to CERN and what the heck, and how the heck, and why the heck, they are looking proof of the Higgs field. His passion was evident, and his delight in the subject infectious.
  • Dr Assil Russell: ICARE - changing lives in Iraq
    Sometimes it’s hard to think of how one person can make a difference. The world feels like a big place, and even though some of what’s going on out there gets beamed into our living rooms after bouncing off satellites orbiting our planet, it’s impossible to imagine how any one of us can help out. As a student at Otago University Assil Russell decided she could do something - and it was a tiny something. In fact it was a shift in thinking. She decided to care. To care about the children in Iraq. And by caring she was driven to act. And by acting, others have followed. One person can make a small change that can make a real difference in the lives of others.

Photo of Pip Hall by Tedx Auckland

Morning Session 2

  • Alistair Knott: Teaching computers to talk
    I bet you didn’t know that when you reach for your pint of beer it sets up a process of events in your brain and body to ensure success. Well I sure didn’t until Alistair Knott broke it down into the integral parts. He did this to show the complexity of the simple things we take for granted like reaching for an object or learning to speak through childhood. These things need to be taken into consideration when programming our machines to replicate such things - and then teach each generation of machine so they get better and better. This talk could easily have been dry but it wasn’t. The fascinating connection between language structure and motor skills was demonstrated and explained in a really engaging, entertaining way. And to be honest, I’m not really sure I got any of it, but applauded royally anyway! Check the associated links below for better commentary.
  • Pip Hall: Wet Hot Beauties
    Sitting on her sofa, sipping wine with a friend, and not wanting to start a book club to scratch an itch, Pip Hall thought syncronised swimming would be a great thing to do. And so the Wet Hot Bitches (later to be called the Wet Hot Beauties) was born. Pip commanded the stage with her story, wearing her bathing costume and swimming cap. She urged us to ‘lean into joy’ and make it our own. She said none of them could do Olympic-grade synchronised swimming, but they could do a formation swimming as a group in the pool that suited their abilities. Meanwhile, the membership of the Wet Hot Beauties has swelled into the hundreds, and they have performed at the Fringe Festivals to rave reviews.
  • Dr Paul Wood: What’s your prison?
    I’m not sure if you wrote Paul Wood’s story, anyone would believe it could actually happen. It sounds like the plot for a movie, but it’s very real. Charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison at 18 years old, Paul spent the next 11 years behind bars. Earlier this year, Dr Paul Wood received his psychology doctorate 18 years after he first began his prison sentence. Paul shared what he’d learned through his incarceration and education:
    1. Recognise you are born free.
    2. Choose to break out of your prison.
    3. Make the escape.
    4. Fight for freedom.
    5. Living free.
  • Professor John Windsor: Fighting organ failure
    There were a few groans at the graphic images of shown during Professor Windsor’s talk about organ failure. But I guess seeing an infected, oxygen starved intestine spilling from a human’s gut isn’t what most people get to see on a Saturday. A really interesting talk, but again, I’m not familiar enough about the subject to give a good summary here. Check the associated links below for better commentary.
  • Sam Hunt
    I had completely forgotten Sam Hunt was on the Tedx lineup. I’ve never seen Sam Hunt live in action. His voice and delivery is so distinctive that when I’ve read his poems I only hear him reading them. And he’s funny - of course he’s funny! He’s an observer of life, and life is funny. Sometimes. He said something along the lines of (when introducing one particular poem) “People always ask me.. well, some people have asked me.. actually no one’s ever asked me..” and when retelling a story of talking to a high school student about life and the universe on a beach one day, she asked him what he’d like to be reincarnated as. He said he thought for a bit and then realised that right then, in that moment, on a golden beach, in the sunshine, talking to a lovely teenage girl, he was pretty happy with his life at that moment. And as she ran into the water, and he continued to walk along the beach, he turned back to see a wave crashing over her as she swam and decided that if he was to be reincarnated, he would like to be reincarnated as that wave.

Day Two added soon...

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