The 2010 PopTech Conference wrapped up last weekend with a flurry of mind-blowing presentations by inventors, innovators, and intellectuals. This year's theme was "brilliant accidents, necessary failures, and improbable breakthroughs." Here are a few highlights from Saturday:
Simon Hauger and Azeem Hill showed off a project from West Philly, which not only teaches math and science through project-based education, but also makes some badass hybrid race cars (that beat MIT twice).
Asil Abulil, Nour Al-Arda, and Asil Shaar demonstrated a walking cane for the blind. The technology alone is impressive, but what’s even more extraordinary is that the three girls developed the technology at a UN-sponsored school for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank.
Riley Crane won the 2009 DARPA Network Challenge using the Internet and social networking to find 10 weather balloons that had been hidden around the country. He’s also applying the technology to address social problems, through projects like 1billionhungry.
Laura Poitras showed clips from her film trilogy about post-9/11 America. Then, she showed off the inexplicable slideshow that turned up on her computer after U.S. agents confiscated it for 40 days. Watch The Oath.
Chris Chabris is one the men behind the invisible gorilla experiment. He spoke about the illusion of memory and attention and how the least talented joke-tellers are the most overconfident in their joke-telling abilities.
Adrian Owen is a neurologist, who has been using fMRI to show how vegetative patients can respond to simple yes and no questions by igniting the same regions of the brain as healthy controls, which raises questions about both consciousness and end-of-life care.
Ben Goldacre covers bad science for the Guardian. He gave a very jittery and compelling presentation about the libel suit that was brought against him by a vitamin salesman, who once launched a pseudoscience campaign against antiretroviral drugs in South Africa.
David Eagleman said that people are tired of being certain about things they can't possibly be certain about—particularly when it comes to religion and science. He said one alternative (which he inadvertently invented in 2007) is possibilianism.
Photograph of Asil Abulil, Nour Al-Arda, and Asil Shaar via bkbooth.