Happy birthday, Camus! Or, life is meaningless and birthdays don’t even matter.

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Today would have been Albert Camus’s 100th birthday, and we want to celebrate, but we’re in a bit of a quandary — there’s something profoundly ironic about celebrating the birthday of one of the world’s most famous existentialists.

You see, Camus didn’t think there was much to celebrate. He spent his life torturing himself with one central question: Once we know that life lacks meaning, is it better to live or to die? (He was a super cheery guy.) Like others in the Existentialist tradition, Camus called out the absurdity of our lives—the activities we perform, the relationships we forge, the beliefs we hold. None of these things have any real meaning, says Camus. And if they lack meaning, can they have any value?

We don’t have a talk by Camus (stay tuned for TEDxBeyondtheGrave), but we do have this fabulous, vaguely related talk by Stephen Cave at TEDxBratislava. In his talk, Stephen asks us to think about what death means to us—and to consider how our feelings about death affect the way we live. From his talk:

“The characters of a book are not afraid of reaching the last page. Long John Silver is not afraid of you finishing your copy of Treasure Island. And so it should be with us. Imagine the book of your life. Its covers—its beginning and end—are your birth and your death. You can only know the moments in between, the moments which make up your life. It makes no sense for you to fear what is outside those covers, whether before your birth or after your death. And you needn’t worry how long the book is, or whether it’s a comic strip, or an epic. The only thing that matters is that you make it a good story.”

So, here’s to Camus, and the many good stories he made:

Welcome to the first playlist in Slovak: 4 talks in Slovak

At TEDx we are excited to present to you our first playlist in Slovak. With more than 20 TEDx events in this Central European country, we thought it was high time to showcase some of the fantastic talks coming out of the region.

Below, 4 talks in Slovak ranging from multiculturalism in the playground to the shifting role of hacktivism in Slovakia. Enjoy!

Vitajte pri sledovaní prvého playlistu v slovenčine.

Sme nadšení, že môžeme v rámci TEDx uviesť náš prvý slovenský playlist! Po viac ako 20 TEDx podujatiach v tejto stredoeurópskej krajine sme dospeli k záveru, že je najvyšší čas predviesť niektoré z fantastických prednášok pochádzajúcich z tohto regiónu.

Nižšie nájdete štyri fascinujúce prednášky v slovenčine, siahajúce od multikulturalizmu na detských ihriskách až po meniacu sa úlohu hacktivizmu na Slovensku. Vychutnajte si ich!

Revolutionary organic vegetable farming: Ján Šlinský at TEDxBratislava
Meet Ján Šlinský, a farmer who believes that farming should be done another way, the AgroCircle way. In his charming talk at TEDxBratislava he expounds his unique system of community supported farming, putting forward that vegetables should be grown organically and with TLC. (Filmed in Slovak with Slovak and English subtitles.)

Zoznámte sa s Jánom Šlinským, farmárom, ktorý verí, že farmárčenie by sa malo robiť iným spôsobom – pomocou agrokruhu. V tejto čarovnej prednáške na TEDxBratislava vysvetľuje jeho unikátny systém farmárčenia podporovaného komunitou a odporúča pre zeleninu trochu nehy.(Natočené v slovenčine so slovenskými a anglickými titulkami.)

About hacktivism: Juraj Bednar at TEDxBratislava 2013
In this talk at TEDxBratislava, Juraj Bednar talks about the role hackers play in Slovakia as well as on a global scale. (Filmed in Slovak with Slovak and English subtitles.)

V tejto prednáške na TEDxBratislava Juraj Bednár rozpráva o úlohe, ktorú hackeri zohrávajú na Slovensku, ako aj v globále. (Natočené v slovenčine so slovenskými a anglickými titulkami.)

(R)evolution starts in heart: Ivana Sendecka at TEDxNitra

There is always room for self-improvement. With this in mind Ivana Sendecka quit her job and moved back to her home town and founded the Next Generation Leaders of Slovakia. At TEDxNitra, Sendecka stresses that it is never too late to find something to fulfill you in life.

Vždy existuje priestor na sebazlepšovanie. S touto myšlienkou Ivana Sendecká zanechala svoje zamestnanie a presťahovala sa späť do svojho rodného mesta. Tam založila „Next Generation Leaders of Slovakia“. Na TEDxNitra Sendecká zdôrazňuje, že nikdy nie je neskoro ísť za plnohodnotným životom. (Natočené v slovenčine so slovenskými a anglickými titulkami.)

A foreigner raised in Slovakia: Mengtong Duan at TEDxKošice
Mengtong Duan might not have been born in Slovakia, but after growing up there, he feels like he belongs there. At TEDxKošice, Duan discusses what growing up being marked as different has taught him and what the growing multiculturalism means for Slovakia today.

Mengtong Duan sa nenarodil na Slovensku, ale potom, čo tu vyrástol, cíti, že sem patrí. Na TEDxKošice sa Duan zaoberá tým, čo sa naučil dospievaním ako outsider a čo dnes vzostup multikulturalizmu znamená pre Slovensko.

Rats on patrol — rodents that detect landmines and tuberculosis

As a kid, Bart Weetjens was rather fond of his pet rats. Where other people saw mangy rodents, he saw potential. These oft-feared mammals can be more than just subway chasers and gourmet French chefs (Ratatouille, anyone?): in fact, rats can save lives.

Weetjens grew up to help establish APOPO, an NGO that employs African Giant Pouched Rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis. Using these rats is an affordable, inventive solution to blights that plague some of the world’s poorest countries.

Rats have more genetic material allocated to smell than any other mammal on earth. Weetjens trains them to scratch at a surface when they discover a particular smell, such as explosive materials or TB-positive sputum samples. Turns out, they’re much more effective than standard detection technologies. In standard landmine detection, four people with metal detectors can clear about 200 square meters of land every day. A rat with one trainer can clear the same amount of land in only half an hour.

They’re impressively good at screening for tuberculosis as well. A lab technician can correctly identify about 50 percent of TB-positive samples with a microscope, but adding a rat to that process bumps up the rate to 67 percent or more. Plus, they’ll work for peanuts and stay focused for hours at a time.

See how Weetjens came up with this innovation, and see his rats in action in his talk from TEDxBratislava below: