Why I taught myself 20 languages — and what I learned about myself in the process

Originalmente publicado en ideas.ted.com:

During the past few years, I’ve been referred to in the media as “The World’s Youngest Hyperpolyglot” — a word that sounds like a rare illness. In a way it is: it describes someone who speaks a particularly large number of foreign languages, someone whose all-consuming passion for words and systems can lead them to spend many long hours alone with a grammar book.

But while it’s true that I can speak in 20 different languages, including English, it took me a while to understand that there’s more to language than bartering over kebabs in Arabic or ordering from a menu in Hindi. Fluency is another craft altogether.

I began my language education at age thirteen. I became interested in the Middle East and started studying Hebrew on my own. For reasons I still don’t quite understand, I was soon hooked on the Israeli funk group Hadag Nachash, and would…

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Where’s my flying car? Well, probably at TED at some point

Originalmente publicado en ideas.ted.com:

TED’s presented our share of near-misses and might-never-happen tech demos — including, depending on how you count, at least 5 flying cars.

Some big ideas are just too crazy for now, but maybe not too crazy for tomorrow. Under that heading, let’s be charitable and file the flying car. Though to the rational observer the flying car is a kind of bad idea, there’s always the dream that, perhaps when collision-sensing technology works better, and driverless piloting has matured, and we’ve found a lightweight engine that sips renewable fuel (and yet while we still have urban/suburban layouts such that a flying car is even necessary) … perhaps within that sweet spot where technology meets need, the flying car will have its day.

But it probably isn’t today, nor was it any of these other days. Enjoy:

 The Skycar, 2004

Paul Moller’s Skycar, a small vertical take-off-and-landing (VTOL) plane-like car for…

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Google Is Searching For Beautiful Minds, But So Far No M.I.T. Students Have Broken Its Code.

Originalmente publicado en TechCrunch:

It used to be that M.I.T was filled with code-breakers. Part of the movie A Beautiful Mind takes place there and in real life it’s always had close ties with the military and intelligence agencies. Tech companies also like to recruit there, and Google is no exception.

In search of some beautiful minds, Google has been putting up signs around the M.I.T campus with a code that say, “If you can figure this out, you may have a future with Google.” If they crack the code, which is a fairly simple substitution cipher (or not), it reveals a phone number where they can leave their contact information.

So far, no M.I.T. students have been able to crack the code, or at least they haven’t bothered to leave a voicemail. Maybe they need some help. The first person to crack the code gets a TechCrunch T-shirt, or maybe a job at…

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The strange history of a futuristic Soviet propaganda plane

Originalmente publicado en ideas.ted.com:

Decades before Twitter and Facebook, the Soviet state was a leader in perceptual manipulation technology. Meet the mighty flying propaganda machine of the 1930s: the Maxim Gorky.

One of Russia’s most prestigious cemeteries is set just south of downtown Moscow, adjoining a convent built in the 16th and 17th centuries. It contains the graves of Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol and even Josef Stalin’s second wife, who killed herself in 1932 and is commemorated by a wistful white sculpture. Of all the numberless monuments, headstones and columbarium plaques, among the most beguiling is an enormous relief of an airplane that is affixed to the crenellated brick walls. A tablet gives the name of this machine as the Maxim Gorky, and although I lived across the street for several years and must have seen the memorial half a dozen times, the aircraft is little-remembered in the West except among aviation and history buffs…

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The stories of a headscarf

Originalmente publicado en ideas.ted.com:

Muslim women are needed as critical agents of change in this historical transformative moment in Islamic history and the Middle East. Yet it’s tough to be a Muslim woman these days. We’ve become symbols, not individuals. And that’s in no small part thanks to the global fixation on the headscarf.

The west might ostensibly value individual identity over collective identity — but not when it comes to a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf.  Clearly in this case you must be devout, traditional, obedient, oppressed, and conservative, just a few of the adjectives frequently used. Woman plus headscarf is one thing and one thing only; a religious person who follows a very rigid path in Islam.

This isn’t just an assumption made by non-Muslims. In the Middle East, a headscarf allows people to draw instant conclusions of your religious values too. A headscarf means you have no multiplicity in beliefs. A headscarf, it seems, is never just a headscarf.

So let’s take a look at some of the stories behind the scarf, and acknowledge that…

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Goodbye, math and history: Finland wants to abandon teaching subjects at school

Originalmente publicado en Quartz:

Finland already has one of the best school education systems. It always ranks near the top in mathematics, reading, and science in the prestigious PISA rankings (the 2012 list, pdf) by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Teachers in other countries flock to its schools to learn from a country that is routinely praised as just a really, really wonderful place to live.

But the country is not resting on its laurels. Finland is considering its most radical overhaul of basic education yet—abandoning teaching by subject for teaching by phenomenon. Traditional lessons such as English Literature and Physics are already being phased out among 16-year-olds in schools in Helsinki.

Instead, the Finns are teaching phenomena—such as the European Union, which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. No more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. The idea aims to eliminate one of the biggest gripes of students…

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We need to start a new conversation about infidelity

Originalmente publicado en ideas.ted.com:

This piece is for anyone who has ever loved.

There is one simple transgression that can rob us of our relationship, our happiness, our very identity. So poorly understood, this act is nonetheless extremely common: an affair.

At this very moment, in all four corners of the world, someone is either betraying or betrayed, thinking about having an affair, listening to someone who is in the throes of one, or the lover who completes the triangle. No aspect of a couple’s life elicits more fear, gossip or fascination than an affair. Adultery has been legislated, debated, politicized and demonized throughout history. Yet it has existed forever.

For most of history, men cheated because they had the sanctioned power to do so with little consequence. The double standard is as old as adultery itself. I doubt King David considered the state of his marriage for even one moment before he seduced…

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