By the time I took my seat in the audience amidst an atmosphere befitting TED events, Rob Speekenbrink, the founder of TEDxDelft was midway through welcoming everyone. I was thankful to be indoors on this cold and gloomy morning. For many this was the first TEDx event. I certainly was bubbling with anticipation, tweeting away on the iPad that the TEDx organizers had given the Social Media Team so they could do best what was meant to be done.
A booming voice full of youthful exuberance took my eyes back to the stage. Jasper van Kuijk was to be the host for the day. It took him less than a minute to leave the audience cracking up. What earned him his most earnest response of the day yet, was his quip, “Justin Beiber is a trending topic even in the Netherlands and we should get him off it!”. It was then time for us to ‘learn to listen better’ as Julian Treasure’s impressive talk at a previous TED event was broadcast.
A couple of informative talks and one moving story later, we saw a man on stage dressed in black flowing robes, a graduate cap and a tall staff in hand. No sooner than he hit center stage, we saw several others dressed in similar attire surface behind him. There were murmurs of “Rector!” in the audience and the man at the center of the stage banged his staff a couple of times, he got the attention he sought. Then he simply walked off stage along with all the other men, but for one, to take the specially designed seats right in front of the dais. Again, there were exchanged whispers of, “Rector!”. Meanwhile, everyone in the audience was standing up. Expectation and anticipation filled the air, only to meet a woeful anti-climax when the rector simply said, “Please sit down”.
The honorable rector then introduced the first ever inauguration lecture at a TEDx event. Erik Meijer took stage and soon became a trending topic in the Netherlands. Just like that. He adopted a delicate mix of humor with adequate amounts of science to brew a potent potion, he called democratization and shed some light on cloud computing. He gave us some food for thought when he said matter-of-factually, much to the delight of a few people seated to my right, “Humans are the sex organs of technology, THEY need US to reproduce”.
The uproar with which the TTYPP-iPhone Jam team were welcomed on stage, would have made you think Heath Ledger came back from the dead. I had previously seen a few amazing iPhone Jam videos on YouTube, so I sang the song too. They started sound-checking. They did some more of it. Surely, this wasn’t their idea of a funny jape? No no, doing something as incredible as what they were about to do earned them the right to do all the sound-checking in the world. One of the microphones was being a spoilsport too, sending the seemingly harmonic tones into pitches that spelled evil. No sooner than we began to hear the sporadic bursts of what we could decipher to be “Teee-Teee-Yyyyy-Peeee-Peeee” and I started to feel like I was in a new Star Wars movie, than they appeared to have finished their performance. It was quite apparent how sudden an end it came to, when everyone in the audience started looking at their left and right to see if their friends found it as abrupt as they did! Well that was the TTYPP on the day. I’m sure they would have seen better days and will go on to see many brighter ones. This one however, FORGETTABLE.
When it was Sabine Roeser’s turn, she told the TED audience that “Emotions are a specific form of rationality and they help make concrete decisions and risk judgments”. Some nodded in agreement, some looked on.
Lodewijk van der Berg was every bit the wise scientist and endearing astronaut. His cheerful anecdotes kept the spirits high. He talked about, how the scientist ‘ended up’ becoming an astronaut and the risks that came along with it. “Being an astronaut has its risks. I might loose a finger” he said and stirred a swelling appreciative laugh from the attentive listeners. The first ever Dutch-born astronaut had easily reserved the first grand applause of the day, for himself.
If there was one talk that had the entire audience on the edges of their seats, it was that of the famous Kinetic Sculptor and artist, Theo Jansen. His teachers probably told him to think ‘out of the box’ and how well he must have listened, how deftly he adhered! With his baffling theory of how the Great Creator limited himself by choosing protein as the only basis of all creation he won one half of the audience. With the story of how he went against the laws of science and created beasts and dispatched them on beaches he won the other half too. He left everyone in the auditorium pleasantly bewildered when he began to share his ideas on how he created several mechanisms through which the beasts could ‘think and fend for themselves’. When he made one of his giant beasts run in the opposite direction as soon as it sensed water that he held in glass, it was unbelievably overwhelming. I don’t know if Aula ever had so many people clapping so hard before! This was nothing he did not garner before. Theo Jansen, the champion simply smiled and said, “ And I was not finished yet!”. The more I have to say about him, the lesser it seems to be. When he called it a day, he left us with humbling words. “I will quietly die, knowing that they (the beasts) will live on the beaches forever!”. Theo Jansen was not a mere story that afternoon. Theo Jansen was an EPIC! Needless to say he received the only standing ovation of the day when his talk came to an end.
Then came the food and the time to digest one of the most amazing mornings in a long time.
(To be continued…)