Monthly Archives: May 2013

Living with uncertainty: Fellows Friday with Anita Doron

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Anita Doron’s first feature film, The Lesser Blessed, is a love story that takes place in a remote community in the Northwest Territories. This moving film is being released theatrically in Canada today, and will arrive in the U.S. on June 13th. As it opens, we asked Doron to tell us about the film, her path from poet to filmmaker, and about her absurdist life as a nomad and mother.

What is The Lesser Blessed about?

It’s about a 16-year-old Tlicho kid — Tlicho is a First Nation in the north of Canada — and it’s based on the novel of the same name by Richard Van Camp. Larry Sole, the hero of the story, has to face down the devil right in the eyeball before he can set free his romantic heart. It is also a teenage love triangle. I cast a first-time actor from the Northwest Territories after spotting him in the school hallway. We had a very intense shoot with fires and wolves, Benjamin Bratt, knockouts, first-time kisses and all sorts of insanities. We barely survived, but it was glorious.

You started as a filmmaker from a very young age.

Yes. I made a film — or I tried to make a film — when I was 12 in Eastern Europe. And I got in trouble. There was this river in our city, and people lamented: “Oh, we used to swim in this river at one time. Look at it now, a sewer.” My friend’s dad had a Super 8 camera, and we started sneaking around trying to film factories dumping into the river and interviewing people about the river. Only drunks would speak to us on camera. But yeah, we got called into the deputy mayor’s office and told to stop filming. We were two 12-year-old girls with a little Super 8 camera, and it was hilarious. But we frightened them. There was no turning back after that, because I saw how powerful filmmaking can be.

Actually, as a kid, my first creative expression was through poetry. When I was five, we went to the Black Sea and I was mesmerized by these glowing underwater bugs at night. I wrote a poem, and I saw my mother touched by it — and she is a woman who is very careful about showing excitement. So it meant a lot to me. I kept writing, I couldn’t help myself. I was in a young poets group, and the poem was published in the regional paper. Once I wrote a poem about passers-by and the paper got a lot of mail with people complaining that a kid could not have written this poem, they must have cheated. I remember being very confused by the allegations — there was nothing complex in that poem, just an observation of faces on the street. Hungarian is a great language to write poetry in, you can really lay and twist words and concepts around, get elliptical and flavorful. When I discovered filmmaking, it was a natural transition. I don’t write poetry anymore but, to me, filmmaking is poetry.

How did you find the story for The Lesser Blessed?

I was at the Banff Centre for a filmmaking workshop and became very good friends with an artist named Shelley Niro, and she gave me this book. She knew Richard, and she loved the novel. I fell in love with it too, of course. I wrote the script and got lucky enough to find Christina Piovesan, a producer who had just finished studies at UCLA, and was looking for exciting new projects. (Since then she has made Amreeka and The Whistleblower.) This wasn’t an easy project to fund and get going because it was, without getting too political, a struggle. People would question, “Why are you making a story about a First Nations kid?” And I would say, “Why wouldn’t I?” I love the story, I understand the world and I think it’s one of the most original characters in Canadian literature I’ve come across. He happens to be Native. I identify with him because of who he is.

Where did you film it?

We filmed it in Northern Ontario. It was a logistical impossibility to actually film it in the Northwest Territories because there is no proper infrastructure for filmmaking, and it would have doubled our budget to fly everything up there. It takes place in the winter, so shooting outside in minus 40 would have been torture as well. The desolate, cold, northern landscape was quite close in feel where we filmed. We searched for a long time, too. I didn’t want to compromise and make it look like the north; I wanted it to feel very remote and northern.

The authenticity was brought by the lead character, played by Joel Evans, who is a first-time actor from the very town Richard is from. We did a 550 km casting road trip across the Northwest Territories from high school to high school of different communities because I really wanted to cast from the north. I’d been in the Northwest Territories when I was writing the script, and I met a lot of kids who could be right for the part.

I actually did this through the encouragement of my partner, TED Fellow J. Adam Huggins, who had gone out around the world to cast subjects for his documentary photo essays and believed we would be successful. We took our baby boy along with us, and it was quite the circus show. But we succeeded! On the very last day, as we were leaving and I was considering some kids for call-back, I saw this kid in the hallway cracking jokes and looking exactly the way I had envisioned this character in my head for six years. He didn’t bother coming to the audition because he had a math test and better things to do. But once we pushed his math test and I gave him the script, he nailed it. He’s amazing. He’s a really talented, wonderful guy.

To read the full interview, visit the TED Blog >>>

¡Ya está abierta la inscripción para las Becas TED2014!

¡Ya está abierta la inscripción para las Becas TED2014!

¡Convocatoria a innovadores! ¡El programa Becarios TED te está BUSCANDO! La búsqueda se centra en la siguiente cohorte de Becarios TED. Buscamos 20 personas destacadas de todo el mundo: tecnófilos, emprendedores, artistas, científicos, blogueros, cineastas, músicos, activistas y más.

TF2014_FellowsAppOutreach

¡Participa ya! www.ted.com/fellows/apply

Abierta la inscripción hasta el 21 de junio de 2013

Los becarios se sumarán a la comunidad TED en Vancouver, BC, Canadá para TED2014, del 17 al 24 de marzo de 2014, donde participarán de toda la conferencia y de los tres días previos a la misma. Asimismo se podrán beneficiar de valiosos cursos de capacitación y tendrán la oportunidad de brindar una breve charla que se pondrá en consideración para estar en TED.com.

Acerca del programa Becarios TED

El programa Becarios TED reconoce a individuos iconoclastas, extraordinarios, que trabajen en grandes ideas con potencial demostrado para cambiar al mundo, ofreciéndoles herramientas para amplificar el poder de su visión. A tal fin los organizadores del programa seleccionan cada año a 40 personas para que participen en TED o TEDGlobal. La conferencia Becarios ofrece cursos de capacitación impartidos por expertos internacionales de gran prestigio, y representa una oportunidad para vincularse con la comunidad Becarios, y da la posibilidad de brindar una breve charla a la comunidad TED, que será filmada y puesta en consideración para estar en TED.com. Al final del año los organizadores seleccionarán a 10 Becarios para participar en el programa Beca ‘Senior’ que extiende sus beneficios durante dos años más, permitiendo la participación en cinco conferencias consecutivas.

Mientras TED se centra en atraer postulantes que viven o trabajan en Asia/Pacífico, África, el Caribe, América latina y Medio Oriente, la beca también tiene en cuenta solicitudes de otras partes del mundo (los solicitantes deben ser competentes en lengua inglesa). TED busca pensadores y creadores notables que muestren logros poco comunes, osadía excepcional, imaginación moral y potencial para producir cambios positivos en sus respectivos campos. El programa se centra en innovadores tecnológicos, del mundo del entretenimiento, el diseño, la ciencia, el cine, el arte, la música, el espíritu empresarial y la comunidad de ONGs, entre otros campos.

Como parte de la beca, Becarios TED2014 se sumará a la comunidad TED en Vancouver, BC, Canadá para TED2014, del 17 al 21 de marzo de 2014. Los becarios participarán de toda la conferencia y de la conferencia Becarios durante los tres días previos al evento principal, destinada a inspirar, dar poder y apoyar su trabajo. Asimismo se podrán beneficiar de valiosos cursos de capacitación y tendrán la oportunidad de brindar una breve charla a la comunidad TED, que será filmada y puesta en consideración para estar en TED.com.

Para más información:

visita: www.ted.com/fellows

sigue: @tedfellow

mira: www.youtube.com/user/TEDFellowsTalks

súmate: www.facebook.com/TEDFellow

lee: fellowsblog.ted.com

How to write a stellar TED Fellow application

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1. Be concise: We’re looking for as much information about you as possible, but there’s no reason to use the application as your dissertation. We’re all about ideas, and if you have a good one it will stand out from the get-go. If necessary, we’ll dig deeper in later rounds of the application process! And don’t worry, we’ll let you know what is too wordy with built in character limits, but be mindful about crafting your text before you reach them.

2. Actions > Academics: The TED Fellowship is not a traditional academic fellowship. We don’t want to know your class rank or your GPA — we’re interested in what you’ve actually done, what you’re currently doing, and what you want to do. Degrees not required, accolades unnecessary.

3. Don’t be afraid to brag! Humility is terrific — in fact, we look for it — but we’re also looking to understand why you are different, exceptional, a maverick or a mold-breaker; let those talents shine!

4. Apply early! Applications are open for over a month, don’t wait until the last day to submit your application. You’ll cause yourself a lot of unneeded stress and then won’t submit the best application you can (and deserve) to submit.

5. Check your websites, photos, articles, etc. Make sure to test all of the links that you include in your application. We look at each one and if one is broken, we may be missing out on critical information.

6. Save an offline copy. We recommend you look at the application form first, then spend time offline composing your answers in Google Docs or Microsoft Word or a similar word-processing program.

Check out more in the FAQ’s section.

We’re looking forward to reading your application!

TED2014 Fellowship Applications now OPEN: Apply or nominate someone you know!

TF2014_FellowsAppOutreach

Applications now open! Apply here.

The search for the next class of trailblazers has begun! We’re seeking 20 extraordinary individuals at work on world-changing ideas to join us at TED2014 in our new home, Vancouver, Canada, one of the world’s greatest cities. You’ll join the TED community from March 17 – 21, 2014 and attend as full conference participants, partake in valuable skill building pre-conference workshops, and deliver a short talk to be considered for TED.com.

There’s lots of ways to describe the TED Fellows program, but don’t take our word for how great we think the program is; take the Fellows. TEDGlobal 2012 Fellows talk about what it means to be a Fellow, what it does to your brain, and the bonds that make the program more than an academic exercise.

Bones of remembrance: Fellows Friday with Naomi Natale

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For four years, artist Naomi Natale’s social art practice, the One Million Bones project, has used education, hands-on artmaking and public art installation to raise awareness of ongoing genocide and mass atrocities. On June 8, Naomi and the One Million Bones team will be joined by thousands of volunteers to lay down the one million human “bones,” which participants have made by hand, on the National Mall in Washington, DC — creating a striking visual representation of conflicts we cannot continue to ignore.

Here, we chat with Natale about where the idea for this fascinating demonstration came from.

You’ve been working on the One Million Bones Project for a long time, and it has grown from an idea into massive, global art project. How did you get here?

My background is in art and photography, and I’m especially interested in the intersection of art and activism — particularly the ways art can be used to bring issues that are physically far away close to home on an emotional level. I am deeply committed to the issue of genocide and mass atrocities, and One Million Bones is my way of addressing that.

One Million Bones called for individuals all over the world to create an artistic representation of a human bone, which would then be installed on the National Mall as a visible petition and symbolic mass grave. The installation will be happening June 8 through the 10, 2013.

There have been years of activity leading up to this moment. Tell us about the grass-roots education effort involved.

One of the biggest elements of the project has been the educational component, because so many young people and adults simply don’t know what genocide is — let alone that it is happening today. My concern is, “How will we ever know or look for solutions to an issue if we don’t know what it is and that it is happening?”

We designed curriculum from preschool all the way up to high school so that educators can bring the material into their classrooms in an age-appropriate manner. At the younger age levels, we talk about issues like values, ethics and respect. We talk about virtues and how our bones are like our virtues: they make us who we are though we can’t see them.

For older age groups, we talk directly about genocide and how we can take responsibility as consumers and voters — that our voices matter. The bones they make becomes a symbol of our voices. We then direct students to other organizations that are working on these issues on a deeper level in hopes that this sparks an interest in future activism.

This is a really difficult issue to bring into a classroom. We’ve heard this time and time again, with all the schools that we’ve been working in. But the fact that there’s an activity at the end really opens a space where students can learn about the issues, process them, and then put the intention for change into a direct action. The action piece is really important with an issue this difficult, because otherwise people can be paralyzed by that information, feel completely overwhelmed and want to turn away.

In April 2012, 50,000 bones were laid in Congo Square in New Orleans. Photo: One Million Bones

In April 2012, 50,000 bones were laid in Congo Square in New Orleans. Photo: One Million Bones

To read the full interview, visit the TED Blog >>>

The World on its Head: A Q&A about the ideas behind this exciting TEDGlobal session

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TEDGlobal 2013 guest curators Nassim Assefi and Gabriella Gomez-Mont share how they created the session, “The World on Its Head,” which will make you rethink the global order.

Session 6 of TEDGlobal 2013 has a captivating title: “The World on its Head.” Guest curated by Nassim Assefi and Gabriella Gómez-Mont — both from the inaugural class of TEDGlobal 2009 Fellows — the session will be a chance to turn our conceptions of the Middle East and Latin America upside down, and to rethink staid assumptions about politics, religion, art, architecture, peacemaking and more.

Here, the TED Blog asks Assefi and Gómez-Mont to share what inspired the session and how they went about picking speakers.

Where did the theme “The World on Its Head” come from?

Nassim Assefi: Gabriella and I brainstormed, trying to tie together our two regions. What is the zeigeist in each of our regions? The undercurrents? What do they have in common? How have they been underestimated? Misunderstood? What is their hidden potential? We settled on “The World On Its Head” after viewing a wonderful map of the world with the South facing upward. That visual became a metaphor for rethinking deeply held assumptions and views of the world and sitting with the discomfort of a new idea until the brain adjusts.

Gabriella Gómez-Mont: For me, the idea of “The World on Its Head” rings strongly and intimately with moments in life when I had to truly rethink important things so deeply that the former map no longer works, no longer matches the new reality. That moment, pause, gap, chaos of no longer understanding anything because one fundamental part of understanding crumbles — it’s one of the most enigmatic and profoundly human moments one can go through.

It is both so strangely beautiful and tremendously brutal to rethink once unshakable truths. No wonder all of us, collectively and individually, try to make the world sit still and force maps to remain the same for centuries even when they no longer work. But in the end, that moment of confusion is a fundamental part of every transformation, adventure, and reconstitution — a pure turbulent threshold between paradigms. And then many new possibilities surface after finding one’s footing again in an upside-down world.

How did the guest curation come about?

Assefi: I had been pitching speaker ideas to [TEDGlobal curator] Bruno Giussani since the moment I met him, and many of those suggestions have made it to the TED stage. I play that role at TEDMED, too. In August 2012, we received a marvelous email invitation out of the blue from Bruno to guest curate/host a session at TEDGlobal. There are more than 300 TED Fellows from around the world, each doing amazing work, and no TED Fellow had ever guest curated a session at TED, so this is an incredible honor.

Gabriella and I were chosen in part because we work in, and come from, distinct regions of the world — I represent the Middle East/Central Asia, and Gabriella Latin America. I’m an internist and global women’s health specialist (most recently tackling maternal mortality in Afghanistan). I also write novels, work on civic peace-oriented projects in the Middle East, defend human rights from a medical angle, and am a feminist activist, a single mom, and a diehard TEDhead. Gabriella is an artist, a documentary filmmaker, a curator for the arts in Latin America, and now head of a civic think tank/laboratory for Mexico City.

I represent the sciences/health, literature, and global politics; she is the arts expert, the design/architecture person, a cultural force. We have different styles of working, but in reality, we overlap quite a bit. I speak Spanish and have worked in Central America. She has traveled in the Middle East. We’re both polyglots, crazy dancers, and global citizens, though we have strong predilections for our regions of origin.

To read the full interview, visit the TED Blog >>>

Only connect!: Fellows Friday with Erik Hersman, on the rise of his go-anywhere modem BRCK

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Five years ago, the non-profit tech company Ushahidi exploited existing technology to create a powerful platform that allowed users to crowdsource crisis information sent over SMS. Now the Kenyan company is set to do the same with the BRCK, a wireless, rugged, battery-powered modem ready for any environment. As the BRCK’s Kickstarter campaign gathers steam, Ushahidi co-founder and TED Fellow Erik Hersman tells us his vision for the BRCK and how it could change how we connect — in Africa and beyond.

It sounds like the BRCK could be a pretty groundbreaking device.

Yes. It’s always hard for people in the West to understand, just the same as it was hard for technologist to understand Ushahidi. They looked at it and said, “Yeah, what’s special about that?” To be honest, technologically there’s nothing special, and there wasn’t even five years ago. It was that we were just using technology differently to solve a certain type of problem.

Same thing with the BRCK. It actually uses a 15-year-old technology. Modems and routers are not new — it’s the way we’re putting them together into a package that makes it really valuable. So sure, you can tether your phone. Sure, you could buy a wifi device. Those will each last two hours and can be shared with five people. Ours lasts 8 to 12 hours and can be shared with 20 people. Ours is made to deal with power on/power off all the time.

Then there’s a cloud backend. You can go to our site and get into your own devices from anywhere in the world, and write software for it from that level. There’s also a hardware side where you can basically plug anything into it, and the devices stack like bricks. So you can plug in extra batteries, maybe a water sensor. Maybe you want connect a Raspberry Pi CPU to it and make a little server. Fine — you can do all that and actually control that anywhere in the world. So layer two is how the BRCK becomes this bridge between the cloud and the internet of things.

Who are the intended users?

At the moment, I think there are two kinds of users for the BRCK. In Africa, it’s will be anybody who needs to connect to the Web often, and who feel the pain of power outages and the less-than-stellar ISP activity that we have in Kenya or in Nigeria or wherever you are. Small businesses across Africa will use it for connectivity.

In the West, I think the user type are the people who travel, who go camping, who go backpacking or hiking and want some type of internet connectivity in a rugged case. We’re happy if it gets picked up in the US and Europe, but we are much more interested in providing a device that works for people like us here in Africa.

But I’m guessing there are many other possible applications we haven’t even thought of yet.

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To read the full interview, visit the TED Blog >>>

The beginning, end, and future of the Kepler mission

Artist's concept illustrating Kepler-47, the first transiting circumbinary system -- multiple planets orbiting two suns – 4,900 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Cygnus. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

Artist’s concept illustrating Kepler-47, the first transiting circumbinary system — multiple planets orbiting two suns – 4,900 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Cygnus. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

On Wednesday, NASA announced that the Kepler spacecraft had to be shut down due to a malfunction of one of its reaction wheels. Lucianne Walkowicz (watch her TED Talk), an astrophysicist working on the Kepler mission to find possible habitable planets, responds to the news — reflecting on her thoughts on the day of the spacecraft’s launch and considering what the future may bring.

Four years ago, the Monday before last, I was standing on a small spit of land at Kennedy Space Flight Center. It was dark, I was cold (having foolishly assumed that Florida in May would be warm), but above all, I was nervous.

Kepler was about to launch.

A few weeks before, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory had gone into the drink, done in by a failed fairing on the same kind of launch vehicle that now held Kepler. We’d been told it would be fine, and we’d been cleared for launch, but I was still nervous. I wasn’t the only one — I remember Jonathan Fortney literally hopping up and down next to me in anticipation in those last few moments before the countdown. I had only joined the Kepler team a few months before, after finishing grad school and going to work with Gibor Basri at Berkeley. I was new enough that I’d missed the order for an official Kepler launch day hat, so Kepler’s wonderful Deputy PI Dave Koch gave me one of his.

My nervousness wasn’t helped by the fact that the day before, a number of us had gone on a tour of Kennedy Space Flight Center that featured a reel full of terrifying footage of early failed launches (I guess before you see the Saturn V control room, they want to impress the risks of exploring space upon you). Soren Meibom and I exchanged nauseated looks at we watched grainy footage of one rocket after the other exploding on the screens of the Saturn V anteroom, grumbling and reassuring one another that it would probably be fine.

The night of the Kepler launch, I stood out in the spectator area feeling like I could almost see the gears of my life turning. Six years before then, in 2002, I had been out in similar chill and dark at Kennedy, shivering in a previous emergency-purchase hoodie* to watch the launch of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. In that case, the launch was the culmination of a project for me– close to the last thing I would do before graduating from college and heading off to grad school. It was later that summer that I would meet Kepler’s PI Bill Borucki for the first time, at a meeting of the SPIE. I’d never been to a professional conference before, and so I stood anxiously next to my poster** half-hoping and half-terrified that someone would come talk to me. The person who came by to talk to me about my poster was Bill. Though I didn’t know who he was at the time, and certainly had no idea I’d ever be working with him, I clearly recall our interaction. I was left with an impression of bulldog tenacity, which I only later came to appreciate was the driving force behind the successful launch of Kepler.

It would be an understatement to say that a great deal of planning went into Kepler, in the sense that space missions are designed to finely-tuned specifics upon which their teams live and breathe. But I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that Kepler’s data took everyone’s breath away, even those who’d been living the mission details for years. When the first ten days of commissioning data came down, a small group of us sat in a conference room at NASA Ames to see the early returns. Someone put up a lightcurve from Kepler, an eclipsing binary***. Then came the question:

“I’m sorry — I missed it, what is that a model of?”

A pause.

“That’s the data.”

Though you might think that, after four years, we’d have become inured to the Kepler data and the constant onslaught of associated discoveries (“yeesh, another Earth-size planet in the habitable zone? Snoozers!”) the truth is, it really doesn’t get old. The incredible success of the mission is not just because of how much these data have told us, but because of how much more they have left to tell.

It remains to be seen whether Kepler will stage an incredible comeback — and though we’d all like to see that happen, the chances are very, very slim. Kepler resides in so-called “Earth-trailing” orbit, meaning that it orbits the Sun, tagging along after Earth while falling further and further behind. It’s far out of range for repair. If the reaction wheel revives, Kepler’s mission of searching for small exoplanets may continue — but without that wheel (and therefore the ability to point with precision), it’s unlikely to be possible. Kepler may go on to another life as a telescope with a different goal, but it won’t be the same.

However, I take heart in Kepler’s breathtaking data, in knowing that the richness of information that’s there has far more to teach us that what we’ve managed to learn thus far. I’m sad that Kepler’s main mission has likely ended, and I’m sad that there are things Kepler will not now be able to do– but as with so many things in science, every question that remains unanswered now is an opportunity for the future.

* As it happens, Florida is also cold in March.

** “Poster” = printed-out PowerPoint slides pinned to a piece of fabric. Yeah.

*** Two stars that orbit one another, where each star periodically passes in front of the other and blocks some of its light.

Cross-posted from Lucianne’s blog, Tangled Fields.

The guerilla astrogardener: Fellows Friday with Louisa Preston

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Astrobiologist and geologist Louisa Preston looks for analogues to possible life on Mars in the most extreme environments on Earth. Now she’s also considering how humans might someday make a home on the red planet, and is raising funds on Kickstarter in support of AstroGardening – an educational exhibit designed to explore how we might someday grow food on Mars.

Tell us about your Kickstarter campaign for the AstroGardening project.

It’s based around the idea of Mars gardening. If humans want to go to Mars, how would we live when we got there? What would we need, and what would it look like? With the advancement of space exploration, we’re finding that ideas like this are actually becoming a lot more real – not quite science fiction.

The exhibit, which will be hosted in a number of planetariums and museums in the UK, will be inside a plastic geodesic dome, within which is a beautiful, peaceful garden full of different types of plants, fruits, vegetables and flowers. The soil will be red, just like Mars. There will be signs and information everywhere where people can learn about the different plants, how they might grow on Mars, and the various ways we need to develop tools so we can garden on Mars. Mars is frozen, so we need to be able to extract water and keep plants warm, for instance.

And there will be a rover — the first-ever rover designed solely for gardening. It will be automated to be planting a garden at the end of the exhibit, so people can see it in action.

My project partner, installation designer, maker and guerilla gardener Vanessa Harden, and I are designing and building the rover right now. The Kickstarter funds will be used to build the rover, the exhibit itself — plants, soil, the dome — and so on. Most of the venues have agreed to house the exhibit out of kind, for education purposes, so we’re not paying a fee, and it’ll be free for anyone to come and visit it.

Video above: Introducing the AstroGardening project — and the automated gardening rover.

Does this mean that plants that grow on Earth could be transplanted directly to such an environment?

Yes, absolutely. There have been a number of studies that show that if you plant things like asparagus or potato or sweet potato or different types of grains in soil that’s exactly the same as on Mars, they will grow as long as they have water and sunlight and things that plants need. I think one experiment actually showed that you could grow marigolds in ground-up meteorites, and meteorites from Mars. So we know the planet’s soil will allow it. We just need to create the environment.

The exhibit will explain this to people. It will also teach about the conditions on Mars, how plants grow, what they need, why it’s hard for life to grow on Mars, what therefore makes the Earth so special — and from there why it’s so important for us to protect the environment.

I wasn’t going to lead it on to terraforming, but actually I was speaking to my 10-year-old cousin about it, and he asked, “Well what about if we could change Mars to be like Earth?” Terraforming is a really interesting topic, and sounds very much like science fiction, but there are people looking into it. So hopefully the exhibit will address that point and allow people to ask questions, and we’ll be able to provide the answers about how it might be done, and what the ethics are around whether we should be allowed to change another planet to suit us.

The whole thing came out of a desire to get the public involved in understanding that we’re not very far away from gardening in space becoming a reality — actually being able to garden and set up colonies and civilizations on other worlds — and how it might happen. So we came up with an exhibit that the public can be involved in and not only looks beautiful, but is scientifically relevant and accurate.

How does this dovetail with your work looking for analogue Mars environments on Earth?

It works brilliantly. I look for environments on the Earth that mimic Mars, and I study how life can grow there. In the past, I’ve studied how microorganisms survive in these environments. Are these places really hot, really cold, really acidic, really dry? So it’s a natural step for me to then start thinking about how you might grow plants or how we as humans might survive in these areas, too.

I grew up watching TV shows and films about humans and aliens living on other worlds and I kept thinking, Well how would we live there? These worlds look completely different from ours; how would we survive? And now I’m finally in a position to actually be able to think about this question and use science to answer it.

To read the full interview, visit the
TED Blog >>>