It’s no secret. At least a few of us at TED-Ed are great big #Vonnegut fans! We’re so excited to share this lesson and to recommend his books to you!
Kurt Vonnegut found the tidy, satisfying arcs of many stories at odds with reality, and he set out to explore the ambiguity between good and bad fortune in his own novels. He tried to make sense of human behavior by studying the shapes of stories — ditching straightforward chronologies and clear-cut fortunes.
To celebrate George Seurat’s birthday today, we thought we’d do a deep dive behind the scenes of one of our animated lessons, How do schools of fish swim in harmony?, which is about the concept of ‘emergence’ and whose animated style just so happens to have been largely influenced by the paintings of George Seurat and his contemporaries.
Emergence refers to the spontaneous creation of sophisticated behaviors and functions from large groups of simple elements, and can be used to explain the movements of ants, fish, and birds, as well as how the tiny cells in your brain give rise to the complex thoughts, memories, and consciousness that are you.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, George Seurat (1884–86)
It’s kind of like a pointillist painting. When you zoom in real close, it’s just a collection of chaotic brush strokes. But take a few steps back, and you’ll see that all of those brush strokes are working together to illustrate a complex and detailed scene.
Pointillism stems from Impressionism, and depending on the artist’s technique, the size of the brush strokes vary, but are always visible. For example, Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night uses larger brush strokes in the night sky. Both the above and below concept designs show the animator of this lesson testing out how different brushstrokes interact to create depth within a scene. She decided that the swirling waters would make sense as large brushstrokes, which also offered contrast to allow the small fish to stand out.
George Seurat also employed a technique called ‘divisionism’, sometimes known as ‘chromoluminarism’, in which colors were separated into individual dots or patches which interacted optically. So, rather than relying on mixing colors, painters like Seurat and Paul Signac juxtaposed contrasting colors to allow for optical mixing – which in theory would produce more vibrant and pure colors than the traditional process of mixing pigments.
Circus Sideshow (Parade de Cirque), George Seurat (1887–88)
While designing this TED-Ed lesson, George Seurat and Paul Signac’s paintings provided inspiration not just for the brushstroke technique, but also for the color palette.
This GIF of the brain and it’s neural connections draws many of its colors from Seurat’s circus series palette, while the brighter colors – such as the ones used in the title GIF above – are drawn from the more vibrant colors commonly used by Paul Signac, like in the painting below.
Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde (La Bonne-Mère), Marseilles, Paul Signac (1905-06)
Animating this lesson was an opportunity to renew a sense of wonder in our ever complex universe, whether studying it up close or from afar. We hope that watching it might do the same for you!
More than a century after first emerging into the fogbound, gaslit streets of Victorian London, Sherlock Holmes is universally recognizable. And yet many of his most recognizable features don’t appear in Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. Sherlock is a cultural text, repeatedly altered over time as each new interpretation becomes superimposed over those that proceed it. This means that Sherlock continually evolves, embodying ideas and values often far removed from those found in Conan Doyle. And after each particular story ends, Sherlock rises again, a little changed, perhaps, with a new face and fresh mannerisms or turns of phrase, but still essentially Sherlock, our Sherlock.
In 2008, something incredible happened: a man was cured of HIV. In over 70 million HIV cases, that was a first and, so far, a last. Worldwide, scientists are working to make these odds a bit better. One research approach involves using a drug to activate all cells harboring the HIV genetic information. This would both destroy those cells and flush the virus out into the open, where our current drugs are effective. Another is looking to use genetic tools to cut the HIV DNA out of cells genomes altogether. And while one cure out of 70 million cases may seem like terrible odds, one is immeasurably better than zero. We now know that a cure is possible, and that may give us what we need to beat HIV for good.
Today is World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
Globally, an estimated 34 million people have HIV. World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
Today is Red Planet Day! Red Planet Day is celebrated on November 28th of each year to commemorate the first launch of Mariner 4, the first spacecraft to obtain and transmit close range images of Mars. Here’s a fun Mars fact for you to celebrate:
Valles Marineris is the largest canyon in the Solar System. It’s so wide that from one side, the opposite rim would be below the curve of the horizon. From here, you’ll catch some spectacular blue sunsets in the normally red sky, which gets its color from the dust absorbing most of the blue light and the way sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere.
The Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC), located on the robotic arm of NASA’s InSight lander, took this picture of the Martian surface on Nov. 26, 2018, the same day the spacecraft touched down on the Red Planet. The camera’s transparent dust cover is still on in this image, to prevent particulates kicked up during landing from settling on the camera’s lens. This image was relayed from InSight to Earth via NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft, currently orbiting Mars.