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TEDxFIU 2013 – Reimagine Possible


So, this week was the week that TEDxFIU happened November 7th in the Wertheim Performing Arts Center, and it was so BEAST.

Those who have been following the blog will recall my excitement of both attaining a ticket to the sold-out main venue as well as how excited I was when I found out who the speakers were.

Here are some pictures that I took of some speakers and thoughts I had about their presentations (I’m doing them in order of their listing on the TEDxFIU blog, not necessarily in the order they spoke):

Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester – Musician / Composer

Kevin is an FIU alumni and talked about how music opened several doors for him, specifically with his band the Black Violin. He grew up with band mate Wilner “Wil B” Baptiste in South Florida. You should listen to some of the stuff they have, here’s one of the songs that they played for us at the TEDxFIU talk, it’s called Brandenburg. The band has gotten several amazing opportunities to play their music which is a fusion of hip hop and classical violin/viola.

They played this past January at the President’s Inaugural Ball (freaking awesome) and slew of other places. They have collaborated with Fort Minor, Fat Joe, Akon, the Wu-Tang Clan, P. Diddy, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, The Eagles, Lupe Fiasco,  John Legend, Rick Ross and Nas. They even dabbled in Broadway. So talented. It was great hearing Kev talk about what inspires him and what he hopes to inspire in others.

Mike Heithaus and James Fourqurean – Shark Expert and Marine Ecologist (respectively)

Mike Heithaus presenting, live, underwater in the FIU Aquarius Reef Base.
Image Credit – TEDxFIU Twitter

This was a really great presentation. FIU’s Jim Fourqurean explained the FIU Aquarius Reef Base – the first of its kind, in the world! It is the first and only under water research lab. Fourqurean is the director of Marine Education and Research Initiative for the Florida Keys.

Photo Credit – FIU

The underwater lab is also livable! Its 63 feet under water and contains a habitat that scientists can hang out and sleep while doing research and all sorts of marine biology investigations.  There was even a NASA training mission that took place utilizing the underwater sea station, named “Sea Test II,” so amazing! There are more astronauts than there are seanauts – think about it!

Photo Credit – FIU

While living underwater the scientists are required to undergo 17 hours of decompression to counter balance their body’s nitrogen reserves; making the trip back to the surface possible without body pressure issues. During the second half of the TED presentation, we were introduced to Mike Heithaus, who is the director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society at FIU. He’s also a big deal worldwide because of his research background and shark research. Did I mention that he presented, live, from the actual underwater site? Because he did. Pretty bad ass. He explained the facility a bit more and left us with an exciting view of the future.

Aileen Marty – Biowarfare Expert

Dr. Aileen M. Marty has a long and very impressive resume. She’s a professor at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, a pathologist with a certificate in forensic medicine, a Navy vet who specialized in tropical medicine, infectious disease pathology, disaster medicine, and in the science, medical response and policy involving weapons of mass destruction. Oh and she is also trained in strategic studies, diplomacy, joint military operations and the art of war. “Marty is one of only 403 people listed in the international roster as a member of the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Team for Weapons of Mass Destruction” (TEDxFIU). 

Yeah, she’s kind of a big deal. People know her. She gave a great talk about biowarefare weapons – focusing on their history, current usage and alternative usages.

I learned a lot about Sarin – the chemical agent that was used in Syria; a horrible and inconceivable attack on civilians. That chemical agent is so potent that just a small amount, less than a teaspoon, leads to the death of 50% who are exposed. As unfathomable as that is, the Botulinum toxin known as Agent X, is actually 100,000 times more potent than Sarin. And guess what, Agent X is used cosmetically – as Botox. Dr. Marty discussed how it is her job to ensure that these agents are not being used maliciously, though several are illegal in a variety of countries.

Tudor Parfitt – “British Indiana Jones” / FIU research professor in the School of International and Public Affairs

Image Credit – FIUSM

Tudor Parfitt is an FIU research professor in the School of International and Public Affairs. Parfitt led an educational mission to Papua New Guinea with four FIU students where they visited the Gogodala tribe to receive a gift. Parfitt had performed DNA tests on the Gogodala tribe and discovered that there were similarities with a Jewish tribe who traveled to Africa.

“Parfitt has spent his career studying the Sephardi/Mizrahi communities of the Muslim world, Jewish-Muslim relations, Judaising movements, Jewish genetic identity and attitudes toward Jews and Zionism.” (TEDxFIU)

Parfitt is also the only presenter that my mom knew when I told her about the event afterwards. She was pretty excited about it. Apparently Parfitt has written a crazy number of books (26) and his research has been in several television documentaries (that aired on BBC, PBS, Channel Four and the History Channel).

It was exciting to hear him talk about his travels and how he interacted with the tribes that he came across. He was referred to, several times, as the British Indiana Jones.

Maria Pia Celestino – EyeTalker Co-Creator

Shit. Just. Got. Real.

Maria Pia Celestino is a published author and FIU alumna as of this year as well as the founder of Crea7ive.com (a South Florida marketing agency). During a 2012 social entrepreneurship competition, she co-founded the Eye Talker. She discussed how social entrepreneurship is important and drives her career goals.

So this was absolutely insane. Celestino was part of a group of FIU students who created the Eye Talker – a devise that is able to use drone technology to give the blind a chance to read. How it works is that the glasses take a picture of the page that the user wishes to read, it could be anything really, but I’m giving the example from the live preview we saw. Next it is analyzed and after a brief waiting period, the devise verbally announces the words that it interprets as having been on the page. This device has been getting a lot of buzz, and rightfully so.

The eye talker demonstration was very profound and inspirational.

Alexa Chavarry – Student Self-help Leader

Okay, so, I don’t have a picture of Alexa. Mostly because she did a talk about her battle with bulimia, self-harm, and suicide –  I think it is hard to pull out my camera when someone is confessing those types of things. But she had A LOT of support at TED, several of her (I’m assuming) sorority/fraternity people were whistling and standing up.

It was a story that I heard, sadly far too much, before where a young girl turns to dangerous methods of coping with depression or for a sense of control. Alexa took the time to talk about the anonymous tumblr that she started called The Butterfly Project.

Now, I want to take the time to mention – because  I was confused as to why the focus was on the tumblr – that there already was a butterfly project. Recover Your Life is a large online community support forum that is dedicated to providing a safe space for people to discuss and learn about mental health issues, suicide, substance abuse, and eating disorders. It provides resources for anyone who may be seeking professional help or simply seeking support. I would highly recommend sharing this with loved ones – regardless if they have or haven’t experienced these hardships before (knowledge and education is powerful and contagious).

Recover your life created the Butterfly Project. They developed the concept and rules for the Butterfly Project. These rules are as follows – draw a butterfly on yourself or a friend who is going through hardship and name it after someone they care about (this symbolizes that person being with the self-harmer in their time of need), the person who received the butterfly drawing cannot remove the drawing – it must come off naturally, while the butterfly is on a person they are unable to engage in self-harming behavior.

Alexa uses these same rules on the tumblr – although there is no linking back or mention of the Recover Your Life website. I did not know this at the time of the presentation, but now that I was able to go home and do the research, this bothered me. For one, people going to the tumblr are able to share their stories but there are no resources provided should they or someone they know want to seek help or education on the topic. That being said, mental health and self-harm are issues that are not often discussed and I am happy to see that someone took positive steps to spread this therapeutic idea via social media. Alexa’s story is really unfortunate but she did talk about how she is seeking clinical/professional help now and had the confidence to get a tattoo of a butterfly, named hope. Signifying that she would not harm herself anymore.

Aneysi Fernandez – Taiko Drumme

I really enjoyed Aneysi’s talk about Japanese Wadaiko or Taiko. This was not my first time hearing a performance by taiko drummers, however, it was the first time that the history of the drums themselves were explained to me. Aneysi describes how every piece of the taiko drum is symbolic and unique. The wood is selected from a specific tree, only the cowhide of a family cow is selected to cover the drum and it is bolted with pieces of metal that came from a deconstructed samurai sword. Absolutely fascinating! We were graced with the performance by students of a Taiko drum academy located in Miami.

Pete Markowitz
 and Xavier Cortada – Physicist and FIU Artist-in-Residence (respectively)

So Pete Markowitz (the physicist) and Xavior Cortata (the artist) did a really cute presentation, I don’t mean that the subject matter reminded me of puppies or kittens, but the two of them had great chemistry and you can tell they have a great friendship. Markowitz talked about the artistic aspect of the Higgs boson particle, though he worked on the research in discovering the particle itself. While Cortata talked about the science behind finding the Higgs boson particle’s existence, though he worked on art instillation for the CERN project itself. They emphasized how they found inspiration and interest in each others’ fields of study.

Markowitz is a physicist with a specialization in electromagnetic production of quarks and exotic forms of matter and physics at the limits of the standard model. Markowitz worked on the Jefferson Lab and CERN accelerator in Switzerland where he leads a FIU research team. Some of you may know the Higgs boson particle as the “God particle” – which was confirmed to exist after years of researching.

Cortata is a FIU artist, who has been commissioned to work on a variety of projects around the world. Cortata was asked to create five art installation pieces to commemorate the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, they are displayed above the Large Hadron Collider.

This is a close up of one of the art installation banners that Cortata created – you can make out that there are lines and lines of text in the background. What Cortata did was he took hundreds of pages from research journals that were published articles about the Higgs boson particle and used them as the background for his pieces. This way, it was explained, you can see all of the work that was placed into the discovery of the particle and the people who published the findings are immortalized in the art piece. Cortata used theoretical and concept images of the Higgs boson particle to create his pieces, which are absolutely amazing.

I strongly suggest you check out the five art pieces here in this link. Here’s one as an example, look how gorgeous!!

Xavier Cortada (with the participation of physicist Pete Markowitz), “In search of the Higgs boson: H -> WW,” digital art, 2013.

Kelley Peters – Explosives Researcher

Kelly Peters is already in the FIU chemistry doctoral program, where she is about to blow your mind (oh dang, did I mention she’s an explosives expert?). Peters has been researching alternative methods for on-site detection of explosives – since currently there are two options that police are using; trained dogs and a very expensive ion detection device.

Peters explained how dangerous it is for law enforcement to enter a scene and discover the laboratory of a perpetrator and not know what any of the materials or substances are. She explains how some pressure sensitive explosives look very similar to sugar and anyone who may be investigating the scene would be in danger of setting of the explosive if they so much as stepped on the white substance. Kind of like that one time Walter White threw an explosive, that looked like methamphetamine, at a drug dealer. How was that drug dealer supposed to know what that shit was?

In her doctoral program, Peters has developed an insane method of explosive material detection. It’s insane for three reasons: it’s easy to make, easy to use and extremely cheap. Actually, I’m going to go ahead and add a fourth reason – IT ANALYZES SAMPLES SUPER FAST. I wish I had taken a picture of the device or the demonstration, but I was rather mesmerized. I’m going to draw for you a recreation of the device…because you need to know how awesome this is.

Eric Bishop-von Wettberg – Biologist and Crop Pioneer

Eric Bishop-von Wettberg is a well renowned (published in 20 journals) biologist who gave a talk regarding botany, specifically “how reductions in population size and loss of genetic diversity affect tolerance of stressful soils in crops and endangered plants” (TEDxFIU). His talk was one that showed the possibilities of hope for the future of people living around the world who lose vital crops due to either environmental flooding or severe droughts. Wettberg discussed how breeding crops, so that they would have the ability to withstand harsher climates, could heavily impact the success of cultivating crops in these harsher environments.

The specific example he focused on during the talk was the chickpea – which was very interesting to see the different species of the plant that are out there. But Wettberg’s research spans farther than just chickpeas, it also included mangos, rare cacti, and pigeonpeas.

Others shown at TEDxFIU

There were two TED videos shown, that were previously aired, both of which I had already seen but I’m never one to turn down another viewing of an excellent TED talk. One of these TED videos I made a post about before – and that is Amy Cuddy’s Your Body Language Shapes who you areIf you haven’t seen this already, then I strongly encourage you to do so – CLICK THE LINK.

The other pre-recorded TED talk that was aired during TEDxFIU was Angela Lee Duckworth’s The Key to Success – Grit. CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT ON YOUTUBE.

Though I did previously see these two TED talks, I really enjoyed seeing them again at TEDxFIU.

Annnnnnnnnd that was all that I had to say about the presenters.

I have some more pics and excitement related to TEDxFIU 2013 – but I’m putting that all in a separate post. Because I feel like this was super long!


Author: imsupersaiyan

Blogging is hard. I'm just sayian.

23 thoughts on “TEDxFIU 2013 – Reimagine Possible

  1. Wow! thats sounds like it took a long time!! Nice talks! Much wow!! Glad you enjoyed it!!

  2. That explosives thing looks really cool. Also I wanna see the inside of the underwater place! I demand pictures! >:O

  3. i’m so jealous right now, i think that’s super dope you got witnesses ted talks. awesome retelling of the presentation. i loved the marine biology section.

    • i know, i was so excited to go – i knew i had to the second it was announced.
      i bet you guys have a lot of marine biologists in the islands, no? i’m just assuming, cause aquatic life over there is so unique.

      • i would assume so too. i know there’s a small island near Oahu, dedicated for university of hawaiis marine research. plus it was my favorite class in school. just going to the beach got you extra credit.

  4. I was already missing your posts!

  5. Pingback: TEDxFIU 2013 – Exploring FIU | I'm just Super Saiyan

  6. I just had a nerdgasm, I cannot believe you got to go to a TedX event.

  7. Oh, it was truly great opportunity for you to be able to attend the talks live. I also like listening many topics in TED app on my iPad. I think they are all inspiring and interesting as they open other aspects of life/world for me.

    • I know what you mean, I’ve been watching TED talks for a while now, I always get something out of them. And I can’t agree with you more, they always inspire and interest me in something new.

  8. How neat this was!! Everyone had such interesting things to talk about, I bet you’re overloaded with amazing information right now..lucky girl!! <3 Thanks for sharing your awesome time at TEDxFIU!

    • It was a mega-over-load of information, but absolutely fascinating! I’m glad you liked it Christina, because it was something I would totally recommend! Does the west coast of Florida do any of these types of talks? I had to drive all the way down to Miami for this one!

  9. I’m very interested in the body language one. I think you can learn some interesting things from it.

    • I agree, I have watched Amy Cuddy’s talk several times now and I think its the video I share the most, just because everyone can get something out of it. It’s message is universal and her presentation of the information is just so amazing. I love it.

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