Skylar Tibbits makes things that make themselves.

In this new video — part of a series chronicling the day-to-day adventures of TED Fellows — TED Fellow Tibbits reveals some of the mesmerizing, wacky, and revolutionary materials coming out of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, where his team prints objects with “memory” that dynamically respond to stimulation.

Think: a printed cube that folds before your eyes, or a printed pipe able to sense the need to expand or contract.

Recently, the Self-Assembly Lab has produced some delightfully brainy creations, like a strand of material that folds itself into any number of Crambin protein structures when thrown into the air. (Crambin proteins, if you didn’t know, are seed storage proteins for a type of cabbage. But you already knew that, didn’t you?)

Watch the whole video here»

GoldieBlox, the super cool engineering toy set for girls (and the brainchild of TEDxPSU speaker Debbie Sterling), just released this amazing ad, which combines the Beastie Boys, a Rube Goldberg machine, and some dancing to show why there needs to be more diversity in the toys presented to girls. Not everything needs to be pink and princess-y!
We love this ad almost as much as we love Debbie’s talk,  “Inspiring the next generation of female engineers,” which you should totally watch right now and learn why she decided to start GoldieBlox (Hint: It’s to help girls learn that they can be engineers, despite what anyone tells them.) Well — right after you watch these girls engineer one amazing backyard machine.

GoldieBlox, the super cool engineering toy set for girls (and the brainchild of TEDxPSU speaker Debbie Sterling), just released this amazing ad, which combines the Beastie Boys, a Rube Goldberg machine, and some dancing to show why there needs to be more diversity in the toys presented to girls. Not everything needs to be pink and princess-y!

We love this ad almost as much as we love Debbie’s talk, “Inspiring the next generation of female engineers,” which you should totally watch right now and learn why she decided to start GoldieBlox (Hint: It’s to help girls learn that they can be engineers, despite what anyone tells them.) Well — right after you watch these girls engineer one amazing backyard machine.

How music sounds with a hearing implant — listen below!

imageThe Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (by gichristof)

Ever wonder what the world sounds like with a hearing implant? At the moment, it’s not the best. One person describes it as hearing everything through a robot voice, and more complex sounds, like music, are almost impossible to comprehend.

Tone and timbre — what make music sound like music — get lost with a cochlear implant, a highly controversial, surgically-implanted device that allows the deaf and hard of hearing to experience sound. Without picking up on timbre, for example, you can’t distinguish the sounds of one instrument from another, so you can’t hear what’s a guitar and what’s a flute if they play the same note.

Now, two scientists are out to change that. A new electronic processing system for implants is currently being developed by electrical engineer Les Atlas and bioengineer Jay Rubinstein at the University of Washington (home to TEDx event TEDxUofW). This new system makes implants more sensitive to complicated sounds, a huge breakthrough that not only makes music sound better, but also helps users distinguish between sounds in a noisy room, which — right now — is really difficult to do with a cochlear implant.

Below — what a pretty famous song sounds like through a normal cochlear implant, thanks to Seattle radio station KPLU:

And now — the same song through Alas and Rubinstein’s new implant:

(If you didn’t pick up on it, that is “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel.)

While we’ve got you thinking about cochlear implants, you can learn more about their relationship with music in Charles Limb’s TEDMED talk on the subject. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you to check out Rachel Kolb’s inspiring TEDxStanford talk on deaf culture and advocacy in a world so often geared toward the hearing:: "Navigating deafness in a hearing world."

A new streetlamp powered by … algae?

The glowing, neon green lamp you see above is the invention of
French biochemist Pierre Calleja, who had the crazy idea of using algae to
power otherworldly, tube-shaped streetlamps that double as homes for this growing gloop. In a talk at TEDxLausanneChange, he explains the process behind the invention.

You may remember photosynthesis from biology class — if not, Wikipedia will remind you: “Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the sun, into chemical energy that can be used to fuel the organisms’ activities.” But can photosynthesis help us light our sidewalks and roadways? Calleja thinks so.

He and his team at FermentAlg developed this lamp to double as a habitat for microalgae, which absorb solar energy and consume carbon dioxide. These lamps are designed to store the energy made from this process, so that when placed in unlit places, they can continue to shine.

These beautiful lights are not only practical, but their symbiotic technology could help in the fight against rising carbon emissions and climate change.

For more on Calleja’s work, check out his talk below:

(Photos: Pierre Calleja and Reuters)