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TED Talks  Ideas worth spreading

This is part of the Arabic alphabet depicted using LEGO blocks. Designer Ghada Wali developed this fun, accessible method of learning Arabic as a way to preserve the language of her Egyptian homeland. Her system called “Let’s Play” uses toy blocks to create a unique representation of all 29 Arabic letters and the four different forms. Arabic is a bit tricky for non-native speakers to learn because it’s very calligraphic, doesn’t have capital letters, uses its own punctuation system, and more. But with her bilingual method, Ghada hopes to make it easier and ultimately spread the beauty of the language. “I can see a future where the barriers between people all come tumbling down,” Ghada says. “Design can change the world. All you need is for someone to catch a glimpse of your work, feel, connect.” To watch her #TEDTalk, visit go.ted.com/arabiclego
Image courtesy of @ghada_wali

“What do you do?” might be the most boring get-to-know-you question out there, but it’s almost impossible to avoid. The good news is that there’s a better way to introduce yourself so you’ll be unforgettable — and maybe even make a real friend in the process! First, go beyond your title. What is it you would like to be known for? For example, if you’re a journalist, instead of stating your position, say something like, “The world can be an overwhelming place, so I help people connect to each other by telling stories as a journalist.” Second, ask your friends and colleagues what they think you do well. It’ll give you a new perspective on your skills that you can then share with others. Third, be vulnerable. Take a chance and reveal something honest about yourself. Communicating emotion and enthusiasm primes others to respond similarly. For five more tips from Joanna Bloor, CEO of Amplify Labs, visit go.ted.com/newintro
GIF by @alex.gilbeaux

Journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas cannot show his face. He has broken dozens of stories of corruption and organized crime all over Ghana, and revealing his identity could cost him his life. Through his stealthy and often dangerous undercover reporting, he faces injustice head-on and strives to name, shame, and jail those who abuse power and cause harm to marginalized people. “Journalism is about affecting your community or your society in the most progressive way,” Anas says. To watch his #TEDTalk, visit go.ted.com/anas
Photo by James Duncan Davidson/TED

Would you ever live next to an active volcano? Photographer Cris Toala Olivares traveled all over the world to talk to people who do, and they each have a unique, deeply personal relationship with these unstable forces of nature. “Every person who lives with a volcano has some kind of connection with this phenomenon that can destroy them,” Cris says. To hear some of their stories and see more of @toalaolivares's photos, visit go.ted.com/volcanohome

This is a hand-drawn data visualization of the distribution of flu season in the US. Looks like we’re safe for a little while longer, but February will be here before we know it (so don’t forget to get your flu shot!). Data journalist Mona Chalabi set out to find a better way to communicate data to people. It’s often difficult to know which stats to trust, so she uses hand-drawn visualizations to highlight how imprecise data often can be and teach us how to look behind the numbers. In her #TEDTalk, @monachalabi shares three questions to help you spot bad statistics. Watch at go.ted.com/badstat

Not quite ready for summer to end? Take a look at these blue ghost fireflies in the Smoky Mountains. A firefly’s light is actually a chemical reaction, and it’s used to attract a mate. Unfortunately, light pollution is starting to make it difficult for these little guys to send signals to each other and partner up. “Every time a species is lost, it's like extinguishing a room full of candles one by one. You might not notice when the first few flames flicker out, but in the end, you're left sitting in darkness,” says biologist Sara Lewis. “I hope we can find a way to keep these bright lights shining.” To learn more about the magic of fireflies, visit go.ted.com/fireflies
Photo by @spencerkblack

When faced with life's toughest circumstances, how should we respond: as an optimist, a realist or something else? It’s a question that explorer Mark Pollock and human rights lawyer Simone George still grapple with to this day. When the two met and fell in love, Mark was already blind. Then, an accident left him paralyzed. In the midst of insurmountable grief and hardship, the two maneuver the tension between acceptance and hope together, and now they’re working to find a cure for paralysis. To watch their #TEDTalk, visit go.ted.com/markandsimone

This tree might have a better social life than we do. Ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered that trees use their roots to share resources and talk to each other, forming massive social networks through the forest. Mother trees even send excess carbon and messages of wisdom onto their seedlings, which helps strengthen the whole community. To learn more about how trees communicate with each other, watch Suzanne’s #TEDTalk at go.ted.com/treeroots

Halima Aden was born in Kenya's Kakuma Refugee Camp, and now she’s the first hijab-wearing model to be on the cover of Vogue. When she arrived in the US at age 7, she initially struggled with being a minority. As she got older, she began to embrace her identity as a black, Muslim, Somali-American from a Kenyan refugee camp and one day decided to compete in a pageant wearing a hijab and a burkini. “I saw it as an opportunity to be a voice for women who, like myself, had felt underrepresented,” Halima says. Now she’s an international model working to champion the power of diversity all over the world. To watch her #TEDTalk from TEDxKakumaCamp and learn more about her journey, visit go.ted.com/halima

Yeah, yeah, we get the irony of telling you to unplug while you’re reading our Instagram caption. We’re not saying you should turn off your phone at this very moment, but if you feel absolutely hypnotized by your devices and want to be more productive during your free time, here are some tips to help you out. Number one: Turn on airplane mode whenever you’re working on a major task or visiting with someone important to you. Number two: Designate a “distractions” device dedicated solely to those mindless apps. For example, delete all the games from your iPhone and commit to only playing them on your computer or another device that isn’t in your pocket 24/7. Number three: Put your most distracting apps into a “Mindless” folder on your phone. The folder name alone might shame you enough to find something else to do. For four more strategies from productivity expert Chris Bailey, visit go.ted.com/phoneaddict. Have a great, distraction-free weekend!
GIF by @raulsoria_

This is Burçin's Galaxy, and scientists have never seen anything else like it before. The discovery was made by astrophysicist and @TEDFellow Burçin Mutlu-Pakdi, and it’s challenging assumptions about how the universe works. It is already incredibly rare to come across a galaxy with an outer ring. The majority are spiral, similar to our own Milky Way, but Burçin's Galaxy has both an outer ring AND a diffused inner ring. “There is currently no known mechanism that can explain the existence of an inner ring in such a peculiar galaxy,” says Burçin. “This discovery tells us that we should keep searching for the unknown.” To watch her #TEDTalk, visit go.ted.com/raregalaxy
Image courtesy of Michael Carroll

This is “Koilos,” a steel sculpture created by Michael Christian for Burning Man in 2007. Burning Man is a week-long event where participants trek into Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to build a temporary, anti-consumerist society. Artists of all skill levels come together to create imaginative, larger-than-life installations that often seem straight out of a dream — or maybe a nightmare. No one is trying to make refined, flawless pieces. In fact, almost everything is burned to the ground at the end of the week. It’s art for the sake of art, not a price tag, and the creations spark the curiosity and wonder of people all over the world. “In these cynical times, it's comforting to know that we're still capable of great feats of imagination, and that when we search for connection, we come together and build cathedrals in the dust,” says craft curator Nora Atkinson. To watch Nora’s TED Talk and see more amazing art from #BurningMan, visit go.ted.com/burningman

Photo: © Michael Christian | rsneight designs, courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum

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