Author: TED-Ed - Gifs worth sharing

It’s no secret. At least a few of us at TED-Ed…

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. 

Mia Nacamulli dives into the sometimes dark, yet hopeful works of Vonnegut in Why should you read Kurt Vonnegut?

Animation by TED-Ed / Lisa LaBracio

Behind a TED-Ed Lesson: Animation + Inspiratio…


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!

From the TED-Ed Lesson How do schools of fish swim in harmony? – Nathan S. Jacobs

Animation by TED-Ed // Lisa LaBracio

Happy Birthday to George Seurat!

teded: Would the real Sherlock Holmes please s…


Would the real Sherlock Holmes please stand up?

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.

For a peek into the evolution of Sherlock, watch the TED-Ed Lesson Who IS Sherlock Holmes? – Neil McCaw

Animation by Lasse Rützou Bruntse

On this day in 1887, Sherlock Holmes appeared in print for the very first time!

teded: In 2008, something incredible happened:…


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.

For more ideas on how to get involved, visit

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why it’s so hard to cure HIV/AIDS – Janet Iwasa

Animation by Javier Saldeña

teded: Today is Red Planet Day! Red Planet Day…


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.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Could we actually live on Mars? – Mari Foroutan

Animation by Nick Hilditch

teded: On this day in 1859, ‘On the Origin of …


On this day in 1859, ‘On the Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin was published. Happy Evolution Day!

From the TED-Ed Lesson The mystery of motion sickness – Rose Eveleth

Animation by Tom Gran

teded: Yes, it’s #blackfriday, but what if ins…


Yes, it’s #blackfriday, but what if instead of the malls, we #optoutside today? It is a holiday weekend, after all!

Surely there’s somewhere near you you’ve never been before – here are some ideas.

From the TED-Ed Lesson The art of the metaphor – Jane Hirshfield

Animation by Ben Pearce

The Anniversary of the Hubble Telescope’s Firs…


On May 20, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope sent its first image back to Earth. 

Since then, the Hubble has continued to wow us with wondrous images that, if nothing more, make us feel so small…

…and inspire us to dream so so big!

We’re excited to celebrate the Hubble with these stunning images from our  TED-Ed Lesson How small are we in the scale of the universe? – Alex Hofeldt

Animation by Yukai Du

Happy Birthday to Edwin Hubble, the astronomer that the Hubble Telescope was named after!

Is it bad to hold your pee?


It begins with a bit of discomfort and soon becomes a pressing sensation that’s impossible to ignore. Finally, it’s all you can think about, and out of sheer desperation, you go on a hunt for a bathroom until “ahh.” Humans should urinate at least four to six times a day, but occasionally, the pressures of modern life forces us to clench and hold it in. How bad is this habit, and how long can our bodies withstand it? 


The answers lie in the workings of the bladder, an oval pouch that sits inside the pelvis. The bladder can stretch – to a limit – so you can keep on keepin’ on, but how do you sense your bladder’s fullness so you know when to pee? As your bladder fills, millions of stretch receptors get triggered, and they send signals along your nerves to the sacral region in your spinal cord. A reflex signal travels back to your bladder, making the muscles of the bladder wall contract slightly and increasing the bladder’s pressure so you’re aware that it’s filling up. 


With about 150 to 200 milliliters of urine inside of it, the bladder’s muscular wall is stretched enough for you to sense that there’s urine within. At about 400 to 500 milliliters, the pressure becomes uncomfortable. The bladder can go on stretching, but only to a point. Above 1,000 milliliters, it may burst. Most people would lose bladder control before this happens, but in very rare cases, such as when as a person can’t sense the need to urinate, the pouch can rupture. Eep!


But under normal circumstances, your decision to urinate stops the brain’s signal to the external urethral sphincter, causing it to relax and the bladder to empty. The external urethral sphincter is one of the muscles of the pelvic floor, and it provides support to the urethra and bladder neck. It’s lucky we have these pelvic floor muscles because placing pressure on the system by coughing, sneezing, laughing, or jumping could cause bladder leakage. Instead, the pelvic floor muscles keep the region sealed until you’re ready to go. But holding it in for too long, forcing out your urine too fast, or urinating without proper physical support may over time weaken or overwork that muscular sling. That can lead to an overactive pelvic floor, bladder pain, urgency, or urinary incontinence. So in the interest of long-term health, it’s not a great habit to hold your pee. But in the short term, at least, your body and brain have got you covered, so you can conveniently choose your moment of sweet release.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Is it bad to hold your pee? – Heba Shaheed

Animation by Artrake Studio

What’s your smartphone made of?

What’s your smartphone made of?

As of 2018, there are around 2.5 billion smartphone users in the world. If we broke open all their newest phones, which are just a fraction of the total that’ve been built, and split them into their component parts, that would produce around 85,000 kilograms of gold, 875,000 of silver, and 40 million kilograms of copper. 

Gold, silver, and copper are actually just a few of the 70 or so chemical elements that make up the average smartphone. These can be divided into different groups, two of the most critical being rare earth elements and precious metals. Rare earths are a selection of 17 elements that are actually common in Earth’s crust and are found in many areas across the world in low concentrations. These elements have a huge range of magnetic, phosphorescent, and conductive propertie that make them crucial to modern technologies. In fact, of the 17 types of rare earth metals, phones and other electronics may contain up to 16.

In smartphones, these create the screen and color display, aid conductivity, and produce the signature vibrations, amongst other things. And yet, crucial as they are, extracting these elements from the earth is linked to some disturbing environmental impacts. Rare earth elements can often be found, but in many areas, it’s not economically feasible to extract them due to low concentrations. Much of the time, extracting them requires a method called open pit mining that exposes vast areas of land. This form of mining destroys huge swaths of natural habitats, and causes air and water pollution, threatening the health of nearby communities. Another group of ingredients in smartphones comes with similar environmental risks: these are metals such as copper, silver, palladium, aluminum, platinum, tungsten, tin, lead, and gold. We also mine magnesium, lithium, silica, and potassium to make phones, and all of it is associated with vast habitat destruction, as well as air and water pollution. 

Despite this, the number of smartphones is on a steady increase; by 2019 it’s predicted that there’ll be close to 3 billion in use. This means that reclaiming the bounty within our phones is swiftly becoming a necessity. So, if you have an old phone, you might want to consider your options before throwing it away. To minimize waste, you could donate it to a charity for reuse, take it to an e-waste recycling facility, or look for a company that refurbishes old models. However, even recycling companies need our scrutiny. Just as the production of smartphones comes with social and environmental problems, dismantling them does too. E-waste is sometimes intentionally exported to countries where labor is cheap but working conditions are poor. Vast workforces, often made up of women and children, may be underpaid, lack the training to safely disassemble phones, and be exposed to elements like lead and mercury, which can permanently damage their nervous systems. Phone waste can also end up in huge dump sites, leaching toxic chemicals into the soil and water, mirroring the problems of the mines where the elements originated. 

A phone is much more than it appears to be on the surface. It’s an assemblage of elements from multiple countries, linked to impacts that are unfolding on a global scale. So, until someone invents a completely sustainable smartphone, we’ll need to come to terms with how this technology affects widespread places and people.

From the TED-Ed Lesson What’s a smartphone made of? – Kim Preshoff

Animation by Compote Collective