Today TED-Ed released a fabulous new lesson by astronaut Jerry Carr: Life of an astronaut. To celebrate the lives and work of all the brave men and women who take great risks to increase our knowledge of the universe, we’ve collected 24 compelling TEDx Talks given by current and former astronauts.
Inside the full list you’ll find:
Joseph Allen walking you through daily life on the International Space Station
Lodewijk van den Berg — the first Dutchman in space — describing how a scientist becomes an astronaut
Nicole Stott sharing the stories of her heroes — the first women in the space program
Roberta Bondar — the first neurologist in space — detailing that stresses that zero-gravity puts on the human body
Paved roads are nice to look at, but they’re easily damaged and costly to repair. UV rays, weather, oxidation and constant traffic wear down paved surfaces, loosening rocks and creating dangerous potholes.
But are there better alternatives for paving roads than traditional asphalt? At TEDxDelft, civil engineer Erik Schlangen says yes. Here he demonstrates a new type of porous asphalt with an astonishing feature: When cracked, it can be “healed” by induction heating.
This “self-healing” asphalt is infused with tiny strands of steel wool (yes, that steel wool — the same used to scrub dishes), which clings to the binding of the asphalt, called bitumen. When Schlangen’s asphalt develops a crack, caretakers can use heat to melt the steel mixed in the bitumen, which then liquifies and flows into the road’s cracks, “healing” itself.
Onstage, Erik demonstrates this process by dropping a piece of his asphalt into liquid nitrogen, breaking it, and then heating it in a microwave to “heal it,” a process from which the asphalt reemerges fully formed. Out on the roadways, he and his team from the Delft University of Technology are working on a real piece of highway donated by the Dutch government, 400 meters of the A58, where they’ve discovered that this process really works, as Erik says in his talk:
“If we go on the road every four years with our healing machine — this is the big version we have made to go on the real road — if we go on the road every four years, we can double the surface life of this road, which of course saves a lot of money.”
Erik is also working with microbiologist Henk Jonkers to create a “self-healing” building concrete (pictured above, on bottom), which is infused with bacterial spores and a compound that feeds these spores — calcium lactate. “When the biomaterial is exposed to water (one of the many things known to contribute to the degradation of concrete),” says io9, “the bacteria set to work converting calcium lactate into calcite, which fills in surrounding cracks.”
We can’t wait to see what comes of these exciting new building materials, and until then, we’re crossing our fingers for self-healing smartphone screens.
(Bio-concrete photo via io9)
Much has been said about the destructive capabilities of autonomous flying robots — also known as drones — and less about their potential for good.
TEDx speaker Andreas Raptopoulos wants to start that conversation, and at TEDxHelvetia he did, by introducing Matternet — a project designed to use small, flying autonomous robots to deliver medicine to places inaccessible by typical modes of transportation.
From his talk:
One billion people do not have access to all-season roads. One-seventh of the Earth’s population are disconnected from all socioeconomic activity for some part of the year.
They cannot get medicine reliably. They cannot get goods. They cannot get their goods to market in order to find a sustainable path out of poverty.
Now mainstream thinking suggests that these nations should invest in building roads — following the lead of the developed world. It’s a pretty tall order. It’s estimated that in some countries, it may take them 50 years to catch up…
We saw that and we thought, ‘…There has to be another way.’ So we asked the question, ‘Can these countries leapfrog?’ After all, many of these nations have excellent telecommunications today, but they’ve never put copper lines in the ground. Could we do the same for transportation? We believe we can.
Imagine this scenario: You are in a maternity ward in Mali and you have a newborn in need of urgent medication. What do you do? Well…you place a request by mobile phone; somebody gets that request immediately: that part works. But the medicine may take days to arrive: that’s the part that’s broken.
We believe we can fix this. We believe we can deliver the medicine within hours — or even minutes — with an electric, autonomous, medical supply vehicle…
The beauty of this technology is its autonomy. There’s no pilot needed to fly this vehicle. They fly using GPS waypoints from one landing station to the next. Once they arrive at a landing station, they swap battery and load automatically. This is the heart of our system…
It turns out that it’s amazingly cost-effective. In order to transport two kilograms over 10 kilometers, the cost is only 24 cents…
We believe that Matternet can do for the transportation of matter what the Internet did for the flow of information.
Says TED speaker Ray Kurzweil of the project — in conversation with Fast Company, “The developed world has a huge lead over the developing world in infrastructure but our strategy should be to leapfrog these already obsolete and crumbling systems with 21st century solutions. That’s what we did with phone systems as developing societies went right to wireless and will never put in a wired land line system. Bits are already being widely distributed to emerging economies. Matternet will do that for atoms.”
Matternet photo via Electronic Products