March 3, 2012 at 8:06 PM ET
The annual TED conference brings thinkers and doers from around the world to Long Beach, Calif., to mingle and take part in a cornucopia of 18-minute lectures and other audiovisual delights. The program focuses on technology, entertainment and design (hence the acronym TED) but it takes in virtually any area of deep thought you can, um, think of.
Each year, TED awards $100,000 prizes for great ideas that could use a little help. One example is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, which received support in 2009 in the form of a TED Prize to the SETI Institute's Jill Tarter. Just this week, the SETI Institute kicked off a new program called SETI Live, aimed at supplementing the 13-year-old SETI @ Home computer-based search by enlisting living, breathing humans to review radio data.
At this week's TED conference, the big winner was a concept, not a person: The City 2.0, a crowdsourcing clearinghouse that's backed by the Knight Foundation. The City 2.0 is designed to enable citizens to propose ideas to upgrade their own cities, and put them in touch with the resources that can turn those ideas into realities. The TED Prize was announced last December, but details about how the $100,000 in prize money were laid out for the first time during this week's conference. This June, the money will be awarded in $10,000 chunks to the 10 local projects that are judged "most likely to spur the creation of their City 2.0."
Video from some of the other TED events have already been posted to the Web. Check out the music-playing robo-copters that were featured during a TED talk by University of Pennsylvania roboticist Vijay Kumar, and then take a look at these other clips:
In addition to the online lectures, TED attendees were treated to a variety of treats, including a project to turn their genomes into a symphony, a "second-a-day" video project and a batch of virtual-reality cyber-illusions. To get a feel for the fun, check out this trio of videos — and for more, take a spin through the TED Blog.
Finally, here's a way-too-spooky video from the future: A clip of techno-industrialist Peter Weyland's talk at TED2023, put together to promote "Prometheus," the soon-to-be-released semi-prequel to the "Alien" movie series. Feel the hubris:
More video to while away the minutes:
Alan Boyle is msnbc.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.