Limits of Inventions

Many good things start with the letter “I”: Ideas, imagination, inspiration, invention, innovation… Moreover, those concepts have more in common than just their initial letter – they are closely interconnected. Where do ideas come from? Why do people invent things? When does innovation happen? Inventions usually carry a strong pragmatic component in them: They address a specific problem (or a set of problems) and suggest a solution.

And since problems are nothing more than limits that prevent us from doing what we want, it takes visionary, perseverant inventors to break down these limits for us. TEDxVienna Unlimited dedicated one thematic stream to four people who couldn’t incorporate the passion of solving problems any better: A scientific fashion designer, a collector of characters, a Youtube-educator and a 16-year-old high school student led us to the “Limits of Inventions” – and beyond.

When fashion design meats chemistry

The most fascinating innovations often happen when passionate individuals peek over  the fences of their own field of expertise and bring together seemingly “unrelated” disciplines. Manel Torres is an excellent example of such a “hybrid researcher”: Originally trained as fashion designer, he found himself on the lookout for new, more flexible materials and started to experiment in a science lab. The result of his research sounds almost unbelievable: a suspension that can be sprayed directly on a person’s body and turns instantly into a perfectly fitted piece of clothing.

As if the combination of chemistry, engineering and design wasn’t interdisciplinary enough, the spray-on fabric implies potential for applications in medical treatment (think: instant cast), in the automotive industry and could even increase the ecological responsibility of the oil industry. Find out about the background of the material Fabrican and about Manel’s personal story of perseverence in his talk:

decodeunicode: An incredible collection of cultural achievement

One of the most sustainable innovations of humanity happened in many different regions of the world – several thousands of years ago. To free communication from the constraints of time, complex systems were developed to transcript spoken language in most accurate ways. In the last century, the fast-paced developments in information technology accumulated new challenges for communication: How can characters be encoded as binary numbers to be further processed? And how can keyboards take in and process texts in scripts as different as Latin, Hebrew or Chinese? The technological answer came in the shape of Unicode, and its impact for global communication and internationalization can hardly be overrated.

The German Professor for Typography, Johannes Bergerhausen, however, understood that Unicode is much more than a technology – it is a major cultural achievement. In his fascinating project decodeunicode, he collects all characters that are (or were ever) used for human communication. In his talk, he draws the connection from linguistics and cultural studies to computer sciences with highest distinction. Find out about how we can soon copy&paste from the Epic of Gilgamesh, the beauty of scripts and his plea to Apple, Google, Microsoft & Co:

Why? Why? Why? WHY?

From the 109.242 characters currently listed in Unicode, Michael Stevens uses a set of four excessively and for a living: W h y ? On his viral Youtube-channel Vsauce, he asks questions as unconventional as Why don’t any animals have wheels – and comes up with answers that are not only unexpectedly satisfying, but also packed with information that usually leaves the audience mind-blown.  In his talk at TEDxVienna, Michael dares to ask the master question “Why do we ask questions?”. In alignment with his typical style, he “abuses” the question to take his audience on a journey to the psychological fundaments of learning and motivation. Don’t miss this highly exclusive Vsaue-episode from TEDxVienna…be also prepared for some hilarious cheese-puns.

Going Bananas!

Being too shy to ask questions has most likely never been a weakness of Elif Bilgin. The 16-year-old, award-winning researcher from Istanbul has developed a method to produce bioplastic from banana peels  during two years of intensive research, not letting multiple failings jeopardize her dedication. Elif gives fascinating insights into the mindset of a true inventor, into her systematic ways of identfying problems and deriving ways to solve them. She impresses her audience at the Volkstheater with quotes by Thomas A. Edison and with the perfect closing line for a day full of epic speeches and limitless inspiration: “It is not your age that determines the potential that you have – it’s the unlimited imagination that you have that gives you the unlimited potential to create.”


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Header Image(s) from Pixabay & Gratisography

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