The travel playlist: Around the world in 5 TEDx Talks

image A gorgeous landscape in Afghanistan, documented by TEDx speaker James Willcox

As school starts, the weather turns cold, and long walks become harder to handle, pangs of wanderlust are sure to set in again. So to celebrate World Tourism Day, we thought we’d bring the great wide world to you. Here, we’ve hand picked five talks that take you all over the world — from Palestine to Poland — so you can travel vicariously through TEDx.

The road less traveled: Tony Wheeler at TEDxQueenstown
In the travel talk to end all travel talks, Tony Wheeler, founder of Lonely Planet, waxes poetic about the adventure of travel — in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Albania, Libya, Myanmar, the Congo, Palestine, Zimbabwe and beyond — with gorgeous photos to boot.

A new look at an old country: Mark Power at TEDxKrakow
Sent to Poland to photograph the country in 2004, just before it joined the European Union, Mark Power found himself coming back again and again. This photographic tour de force at TEDxKrakow will show you the true complexity of this fascinating country. Warning: NSFW, some graphic images.

More than a thousand words — the power of images: Antonio Bolfo at TEDxEast
NYPD police officer and photographer Antonio Bolfo has seen a lot in his career. In this dynamic talk at TEDxEast, he shows how a well-crafted photo can tell a rich, inspiring story — with examples from the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the daily work of NYPD officers.

Off-road tours in Afghanistan: James Willcox at TEDxBathUniversity
James Wilcox operates a very untraditional tour company in Afghanistan and Somalia, giving tourists a chance to see the real places behind the headlines. In this talk at TEDxBathUniversity, he describes how he was inspired to start this off-road initiative after a chance meeting with a UN translator named Abdul.

Scenes from a Romanian village: Katy Fox at TEDxLuxembourgCity
Social anthropologist Katy Fox spent several months as a researcher in rural Romania. At TEDxLuxembourgCity, she shows what she learned — weaving stories of the people she met in the villages with stunning photos of village life.

(Photo from James Willcox’s talk at TEDxBathUniversity)

7 amazing TEDxCity2.0 posters celebrate the city of the future

image(TEDxCity2.0 posters from TEDxMelbourne, TEDxTanta, TEDxPeshawar and TEDxLeeds)

What is the city of the future? What will it look like? How will it come to be?

This weekend, from Taipei to Melbourne to Mexico City, over 100 local organizers will offer their answers at TEDx events in honor of TEDCity2.0, a day-long TED event to celebrate urban innovation.

TED challenged organizers to remix the official TEDCity2.0 posters
(made by design firm Kiss Me I’m Polish) to give them some local flavor — with really impressive results.  

Below, some of our favorites — including a design from TEDxStormont in Belfast, Northern Ireland — whose team cited Seamus Heaney’s poem, “The Cure at Troy,” as inspiration, a poem signaling new hope for Belfast after long political trauma. Eva Grosman, TEDxStormont’s organizer, sent this excerpt:

“History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.”

1. TEDxChristchurch
: Christchurch, New Zealand

Kaila Colbin, organizer:  “Christchurch is a city best defined by transition, as it seeks to rebuild and reinvent itself following the major earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. Today, the city is littered with shipping containers and broken buildings, but it also boasts seeds of life as creative temporary projects have begun to spring up. A summer events pavilion made entirely of blue shipping pallets or a Cathedral made out of cardboard…these are all signs of the re-emergence of Christchurch as a place to experiment and grow.”

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Happy birthday, Erwin Schrödinger! Two TEDx Talks to celebrate the physicist behind the famous cat

imageErwin Schrödinger (Photo: National Geographic / Science Source)

Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger, the physicist with a long name and an even longer(-lasting) impact on the field of quantum physics would have been 126 years old today. To celebrate the creator of the famed Schrödinger’s cat paraodox (which National Geographic explains wonderfully here), we’ve hand-picked a few TEDx Talks for the physicist in everyone.

Quantum certainty for the uncertain: Jacob Biamonte at TEDxCrocettaSalon
Leader of the Quantum Physics Research Division at the ISI Foundation in Turin, Italy, Jacob Biamonte shows how the Schrödinger's cat paradox helps to explain how quantum physics interferes in our lives and how we can observe it.

The curiosity of quantum mechanics: Raymond Laflamme at TEDxWaterloo
At TEDxWaterloo, physicist Raymond Laflamme — one of those responsible for changing Stephen Hawking’s mind on the reversal of the direction of time in a contracting universe — gives the audience a crash course on quantum mechanics and ponders just what practical solutions quantum technology could provide a rapidly-advancing world.

Bonus — Camero Cat at TEDxKraków
Though not physicists (as far as we know), Camero Cat is well worth your time. Sounding like a mix of Gogol Bordello, The Decemberists, and Beirut, this “alternative pop opera” group from Kraków puts on a great show at TEDxKraków.

TEDxKrakow hackers code into the night

The night before TEDxKrakow's 2012 event, four groups of hackers  — web developers, app developers, graphic designers and computer programmers — greeted the morning with four brand new platforms for civic engagement in their city.

This was TEDxKrakow’s Hackathon, an all-night coding session designed to create solutions for the local community.

"Here in Krakow we’re blessed with a thriving community of developers and programmers, so when one of our partners (the Krakow branch of the Sii Group) wanted to meet them as part of their involvement with the event, we came up with the idea of organizing a hackathon," said organizer Ewa Spohn.

"In Krakow, hackathons aren’t anything new and they happen regularly, but they tend to focus on commercial applications," she said. As TEDxKrakow is a non-profit, and our goal is to make a difference in this enchanting and sometimes surprising city, we wanted to do something a little more interesting."

Inspired by Jennifer Pahlka’s TEDTalk, “Coding a better a government," the team of TEDxKrakow decided that ideas worth spreading needed to become actions worth doing in groups of 1s and 0s.

They went to the regional governor’s office to ask for a partner in the state, knowing that developments can’t happen without data.

"I had little hope of a positive answer as Polish government agencies are still reeling from decades of communist rule and release public data reluctantly, but to my surprise he loved our idea. In fact, he said he’s been waiting for years for a grassroots initiative to find him, and added that he’d give us access to anything we want," said Ewa.

“Everyone from the police to health service, education, social care, environmental protection, immigration and major infrastructure investments report to him,” she said, “so the potential was giant.”

Thanks to the governor, the TEDxKrakow team soon had pools of valuable community data, ready to be mined for service to the city.

"Much to our amazement," said Ewa, "it all came together the night before TEDxKrakow (and the night that TEDxKids@Krakow was happening). About 40 developers and graphic designers gathered together in a co-working space in the district of Kazimierz, and over the obligatory beer and pizza, they got to work."

Programmers divided into four groups, each group dedicated to a different system: .net, Java, Android and iOS. “There was also a team who managed the extraction of data from the city’s database,” said Ewa. “Each group came up with an idea for an app based on the data provided, and we chose one that won a small prize at the end of the evening — around 1 a.m.”

Screenshot from Shrank

The winning project, Shrank, allows potential home buyers and renters to determine which districts of Krakow best fit their requirements for a neighborhood, taking into account city data on parks, crime, market prices, number of families, and options for public transportation.

Another app that caught the judges’ interest was aimed at tourists, said Ewa. Krakow is a city of 800,000 that receives over 9 million visitors a year, she said, so assistance to this overflow of tourists is necessary. The app, something new for the city, provides directions to various historical monuments in and around the city.

A crowd favorite created a challenge for users — a quiz on Krakow based on population data in an app that allows users to pit their knowledge against their friends.

"All in all, the TEDxKrakow Hackathon was a resounding success," said Ewa. "Our sponsor got to know local tech leaders, our programmers had fun, met each other, and some even found employment."

Though what was most important to the team at TEDxKrakow was the bond created between government and citizen, a bond they will hope will encourage innovations to come. “Our [governor] saw that a lot can be achieved in a very short period of time,” said Ewa. “If you just give people the data, things happen. It doesn’t require a huge IT budget and years of life-sapping project management to make something happen.”

TEDxKrakow team members hope a Krakow API will be next, but for now another Hackathon will take place in December.

Unsurprisingly, this second edition of the TEDxKrakow Hackathon is already creating buzz in the city. “We’ve already got a lot of interest from potential partners and government institutions,” said Ewa, and she’s quite convinced things won’t stop there.

"If there are any other Polish coders out there who want to come and play, contact us," she said.