Topic: Global


Gadgets: Synthesising the sound of bananas


Assumedly, the main purpose of a banana (cucumber, zucchini, etc) is to be relished at some stage. Yet, young American inventors Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum have contrived a new means of putting them to use: by eliciting from them authentic musical sounds, like for instance, those of a piano.

A dollop of wobbly jello does work as well and a great number of other materials also prove to be conductive: most fruits and vegetables, shrimp or pizza pie (although some may consider that a bit yucky). Plants will do fine and play-doh (given a certain degree of moisture) and metal objects such as foil, cutlery or pots. Even simple thick lines drawn on a smooth surface with a soft graphite pencil can do the trick – so can live people. What in God’s name are we talking about? A kit called MaKey MaKey.

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Reading time: about 2 minutes
Al Gore's TED Talk on Climate Change

TED Talk. Al Gore: The case for optimism on climate change


Former US Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore presents drastic examples on how man-made forces are gradually destroying our planet. „After World War II, the emission rates started really accelerating. And the accumulated amount of man-made, global warming pollution that is up in the atmosphere now traps as much extra heat energy as would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs exploding every 24 hours, 365 days a year – a fact-checked over and over again.“

Still Al Gore is optimistic that climate change can be tackled. But how?

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Reading time: about 1 minute
TED Talk. Sean Follmer: Shape-shifting tech

TED Talk. Sean Follmer: Shape-shifting tech will change work


Computers can do a million different things and run a million different applications. Yet, they have the same static physical form and the same static interface elements as well: computers don’t allow us to interact with our hands and capture the rich dexterity that we have in our bodies. Sean Follmer’s belief is that new types of interfaces can capture these abilities, that they can physically adapt to us and thus allow us to interact in completely new ways.

Sean Follmer is building a future with machines that bring information to life while you are working with it. Watch this amazing video!

Sean Follmer is a human-computer interaction researcher who designs shape-changing and deformable interfaces. An Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, he teaches the design of smart and connected devices and leads research at the intersection between human-computer interaction (HCI) and robotics.

Header image: Screenshot from TED video.

Reading time: about 1 minute
Humour: Tricky translation engines

Sense of humour required: Beware of translation engines!


When looking for the easy way out, people come up with the most ludicrous of excuses to warrant their hornswoggle doing: house on fire, dog dead, car stolen, wrong place/time/mood, worst bad-hair day ever, princess all of a sudden. Once the procrastination pole has inevitably run out of length, the dreaded task just has to be tackled, no matter what. Translations, for instance, can develop into a painfully tedious exercise. Isn’t it perfectly legitimate then to employ one of those servile robots available online in order to alleviate detested assignments? It is – if you can live with the results. We have put some of these practical computerised interpreters to the test, feeding them with stretches of German articles published during the early stages of’s young history. The English-speaking majority of our readership will have to think in meanders to unravel and realign the contorted texts back to meaning. Even though some of the pidgin might remain a secret forever: as long as no-one has been harmed, reading complete nonsense once in a while can be a great pastime.

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Reading time: about 3 minutes
Buddha statues in South Korea

TED Talk. Daniel Levitin: How to stay calm when stressed


You had a lousy night, overslept, cut yourself shaving, ripped off a button, left your flat in a flurry, forgot to grab the door key from the shelf, got stuck in a traffic jam on the way to the airport where you cannot produce your passport for check-in. You now realise, that you had placed it next to the keys on the shelf to remind you of putting both into your wallet … Mishaps like these tend to trigger a chain reaction, if not a vicious circle. Why? Because under stress, our brain releases cortisol, which disables logical thinking and leaves us disoriented in a blur. But we can train ourselves to plan ahead and to get more organised in our daily routine by utilising the power of our hippocampus. A „pre-mortem“ could also help minimise the damage – by anticipating what might happen before it actually does and by having a rescuing scenario ready. One that has been conceived in a calm and controlled situation.

“We all are going to fail now and then,” says Daniel Levitin, the neuroscientist. “The idea is to think ahead to what those failures might be.”

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Reading time: about 1 minute