So what is this day about? According to one of the hosts, TEDxTelAviv is about Israel as an (the) exporter of technology and ideas.
Karen Tal – “Thriving on Turmoil”
Karen Tal is the principal of the Bialik school in South Tel Aviv. Today she spoke about the students at her school – underprivileged children in the real sense of the world. They are a combination of orphans and children of foreign workers, refugees, and new immigrants. 8o of their students are refugees from Darfur. The student body is composed of 800 students from 48 different nations, multiple religions (including, but not limited to, Christians, Muslims, and Jews), and childhood traumas. The school runs for a full day, from morning to evening, providing breakfast and a hot meal lunch, two afternoon centers (for sports and homework, respectively), and Hebrew classes for the parents of the students. They maintain a database with the students needs, and have a NO tolerance policy when it comes to violence. Their staff of professional teachers and around 100 volunteers (aged 18 to 82), teach a mix of Ministry of Education curriculum as well as extra-curricular electives. Surprisingly, even though 65% of the students come from single-parent homes, parent involvement is extremely high. The result has been, over the past 5 years, an increased matriculation, IDF enrollment, and ambitions. The school has been visited by many, including the mayor of Los Angeles. The school choir sang a song which stated “Let us believe in a world that is good, and we all live in peace with each other.” It looks like a lot can be learned from this school and applied to other areas, throughout the world, with underprivileged children.
Shimon Steinberg – “Bugs are Good for your Health”
Shimon Steinberg presented “the story about good bugs and people.” Essentially, he spoke about biological pest control. This isn’t for pests like ants and termites around the house, for which you would get Kansas City Pest Control to deal with, but for crops on a farm. The idea is the use good bugs to stop the bag bugs, instead of relying on chemicals, or, as he put it, the “use of living organisms to reduce populations of noxious plant pests.” Displaying both pictures and descriptions (gross!), he gave examples of three pests, and their natural enemy which can be used to attack them and keep them under control, to stop harming plants. [For the sciencey folk out there, he spoke of the spider mite, and its enemy, the predatory mite; the aphid, and its enemy, the parasitic wasp; and the thrip, and its enemy, the minute pirate bug]. The idea is to keep plants healthy using natural enemies to attack the bad bugs. Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, in the North, mass produces the good bugs to be used in pest control. There is no genetic modification; rather, the optimum conditions are provided to allow for maximum production of the good bugs. Around 80,000 good bugs can control one acre of a field for one season. This doesn’t disrupt the balance, and the goal, in fact, is to naturally restore the balance (i.e. biological control), without chemicals. In Israel, this has reduced pesticide use up 75 – 80%. Why biocontrol with good bugs? Its safe to be around, prevents the development of pesticide-resistant bugs, and increased public demand for reduction of chemicals. The world industry, at present, has biocontrol at $250 million, whereas pesticides make $25 billion, annually. The goal is to narrow the gap by finding more good bugs, increasing public demand, and increasing farmer awareness. As Steingberg put it, “All we are saying [is] give nature a chance.”
Adina Tal – Founder, President, and Artistic Director of Nalagaat
Adina Tal created the deaf-blind theater community. Participants include those who are blind, deaf, or blind and deaf (many with Usher syndrome). The shows are performed by deaf-blind actors. Meals are served by deaf-blind waiters, and there is an option of attending their restraint, Black Out, where you eat in total darkness (I mean total! I highly recommend the experience). The members of the establishment are a mixture of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, all joined by their “disabilities” and their love of theater.
Ariel “Arik” Shamir – “The Vision of the Image”
Arik Strong shared with us the new wave of image manipulation technology. The concept: content aware resizing. It creates a “seam path” (a line of connected pixels which, when removed or added, changes the aspect ratio). In finding the seam path to remove or duplicate, the key it to find the one which contains the least content. Edges are important, so the best seam path contains the least edges. Another application he showed us was one which can create images by compiling components (i.e. from the internet). You can even insert yourself into the pictures, add text bubbles, and other forms of personalization. So, what’s the jist of the speech? Technology and math can be fun. It’s about world wide collaboration, with interaction between people and computers. His goal – to create “tools to assist human creativity.”