After the traditional Final Countdown singalong and introductions from Russell, we were all very much in the mood for an interesting day.
- MJ Hibbett performed Hey Hey 16K, Theme From Dinosaur Planet and Do The Indie Kid, all with audience participation.
- Sarah Angliss (musician, engineer and writer) played the theramin and a motorised disembodied ventriloquist doll head called Hugo [“Hugo was rescued from the attic of a dead magician.”]
- Nine Owls in a Baguette performed on a massive modular snyth and a large Programmable Musical Pig.
- Meanwhile, Timmy Print Face (a Microprinter) was running all day, printing tweets about interesting including a rather lovely ASCII representation of Twitpics. (I was delighted to learn that it uses my Ruby microprinter library. Hurrah for sharing code).
- Something else happening all day, and nicely timed to finish just as the event was wrapping up, was Sandy Noble’s Polargraph printer, busily printing Russell’s face. [Watch this great video from Nick]
- And there’s more. The National Museum of Computing bought along some things from their BBC Domesday collection, plus an ASR-33 Teletype and Elite running on on a BBC Micro. What more could a geek possibly want?
After the Hack Circus, there followed a short period of making and doing, including Words and Pictures who helped us make a comic, and Oli Shaw and Lynda Lorraine who set up a plasticine creature creation workshop / stall [here are the results while Matthew Solle + friends allowed people tro try out their collection of circuit bent toys and other musical instruments.
To get us in the mood for lunch, Chris Heathcote led us in an amazing hands on session of molecular gastronomy. First, to see if we were ‘supertasters’ we all tried sodium benzoate (which I couldn’t really taste), phenylthiocarbamide (which tasted bitter and unpleasant. I think that means I tend towards liking sweet flavours. Which is true). Next we sampled dried tomato powder, pop rocks and monosodium glutamate before making tomato caviar (spherised tomato passata) and lastly trying miracle fruit (active ingredient: miraculin!) which confuses the taste buds normally receptive to sweet flavours to also be excited by sour ones. Lemons taste amazingly sweet, but the flavours in grapefruit and lime are what it’s really all about. If you’ve never tried it you really must. [More info and links for further reading via Chris here]
After lunch, Alby Reid (possibly the best science teacher in the world) used 1000 Mousetraps and 2000 ping pong balls to demonstrate nuclear fission. Serious fun.
[Alternatively, a much more lovely mouse-eye-view video from Paul Downey here.]
A massive, massive thank you to Russell and everyone involved in making it such a brilliant day.
- Tom Loosemore on the race to sail faster than 50 knots.
- Jessica Greenwood on why the least interesting things about sport is the score (football, with all its attendant drama, is a $500B industry).
- Robert Brook spoke on being a gentleman (by birth, costume or behaviour).
- Toby Barnes on a brief history of cheating in video-games (cheating, when it involves other people, is wrong).
- Leila Johnston read some snippets from her very funny book, ‘The Enemy of Chaos‘
- Cait Hurley talked about Arthur Jefferson (Stan Laurel’s dad and an awesome guy).
- Alby Reid told us that everything we knew about nuclear power was wrong (How many people died as a result of Chernobyl? 56.)
- Katy Lindemann enthused about robots (Tweenbots are especially adorable).
- The very cute Bubblino made an appearance on stage (blowing bubbles across the stage every time ‘interesting’ was mentioned on twitter).
- Dominic Tinley explained why we don’t see the colour violet on our computers and cameras, as well as what Radio 4 would look like if we could see sound.
- Andy Huntington took us on a tour of keyboard instruments and explained ‘equal temperament’.
- Alice Taylor talked about ‘merchants vs craftants’ (give some love back to the crafters).
- Tim Duckett kindly taught us morse code in 10 minutes. For example: Z = Zinc Zoo kee-per = - – . .
- Michal Migurski talked about maps and paper and a much-photocopied intersection map of San Francisco (paper wiki).
- Josie Fraser talked about psychological violence in UK 1970s and 80s girls comics (‘it can be dangerous to mock a monkey’).
- Dan Maier talked about Sir Francis Galton (I now really want to read Galton’s book ‘The Art of Travel‘, and to a lesser extent his thoughts on ‘Africa for the Chinese’ (“one of the 5 most racist things I’ve ever read”, according to Dan) and ‘Arithmetic by Smell‘).
- Asi Sharabi showed us 6-8 year old children’s ideas of interestingness (which centered around technology, friends, motors and animals).
- Meg Pickard taught us about drinking rituals and associated customs (toast, cheers, your good health, chin chin, rule of thumb).
- Alex Deschamps-Sonsino got us to make a very complicated origami box.
- Tuur Van Balen talked about yoghurt and DNA synthesis (“I’ve never done bio-technology under such time pressure!”)
- Jon Gisby taught us how to conduct a symphony orchestra (“It’s like riding a horse at speed; fun, but with a significant risk of abject and public failure”).
- Jessica Bigarel discussed, and beautifully presented, her meta meta data data (capturing each flight of stairs travelled up or down was “an arduous dataset and it was very disruptive to my life”).
- Craig Smith talked about his dad (“he sharpens a drill bit better than any man in Huddersfield”) and showed us the types of water wheels (under shot, breast shot, over shot and pitch back).
- Tom Fishburne talked about innovation and cartoons.
- Anab Jain talked about her Indian superpowers.
- Naomi Alderman talked about greek tragedy and goats.
- Gavin Bell talked about the writing of his new ‘Social Web Applications’ book (wifi is a blessing and a curse).
- Emma Marsland shared the ponies she has loved, real and imagined, from since 1970
- Nick Hand shared his ongoing journey around the coast of mainland Britain (5000 miles in 100 days).
- We heard about the ‘BIL‘ unconference in Oxford next summer (BIL is to TED as Bar camp is to Foo camp).
- Mark Earls and his Darwinian Display Team demonstrated random drift.
- Robert Thomas demonstrated RjDj (‘Music as Software’).
- Gem Spear talked about electric trains and underground creeks (GM’s inglorious part in killing off the inter-urban railway systems in the US, and a rather nice discussion of running surface runoff water through gardens rather then through underground culverts).
- Paul Hammond showed us how to win at Monopoly (if you can buy it, buy it; trade up to a full colour group asap; go for the oranges (stats!); unless it’s early in the game, stay in jail; create a housing shortage; don’t play house rules, as they’ll only make the game take too long; don’t play it at all, it’s a rubbish game. Instead, play German board games, which are not all German and not all board games).
- David Smith gave a touching and powerful talk about teaching (you can’t teach children well unless you love children).
- Richard Reynolds mentioned his Guerilla Gardening book and told a lovely story about planting sunflowers opposite Parliament.
- We watched Jim Le Fevre‘s beautiful astrotagging film.
- Claire Margetts told us about the ‘Do’ lectures.
- Matt Ward showed us why frivolity is important by showing his plans for watching a bullet reach the top of its trajectory (“Understanding comes through doing”).
- Dan Germain talked about sunsets (“basically, when the sun disappears”, by which time it has apparently already happened) and asked why we persist in taking bad photos of them, pondering whether it’s because they remind us of death).
This time last year I made a list of thirty interesting things at Interesting 2007. Let’s try that again.
- After an amazing welcome (including a singalong) from Russell I kicked things off by claiming that LEGO is full of WIN. [slides] [video]
- Gemma Teed told us about horses’ blind spots. [video]
- Collyn Ahart Chipperfield talked about nostalgia and fantasy (nostalgia is dead, let’s not limit ourselves to reality).
- Steve Hardy shared his thoughts on the importance of creative generalists (curious about everything, experts at nothing. They balance and feed the specialists). [slides]
- Daniel Raven-Ellison talked about guerilla geography.
- Michael Johnson gave a history of guitar music and graphic design.
- Phil Gyford talked about acting and masks. [clips]
- James Wallis presented a geographical survey of the World of Warcraft. [video] [video] [theory]
- Matt Dent talked about how he designed the backs of the new UK coins (which are stunningly cool, and fit together to form one large image).
- Matt Webb shared an alternative history of Patagonian telecoms networks and the Conquistadors. [slides]
- Andrew Webb gave a heartwarming account of the making of channel4.com/foodmap.
- Andrew Walkingshaw talked about informatics and the naming of things (a computer, like a cat, has three names).
- Andrew Dick shared his tales of insomnia, and how bad story tapes help him overcome it.
- Jenny Owen told us her favourite things about Churchill.
- Matthew Irvine Brown conducted a 30-strong impromptu Guardian-sponsored orchestra of recorders (Russell: “You wouldn’t get that at TED”) [video]
- Lloyd Davis played two songs on the ukulele and led us in mountain medidation
- Beeker directed a mexican wave.
- Simon and Curtis James accompanied Ken Hollings reading an extract from Welcome To Mars. [audio]
- Anna Pickard shared her favourite words (including biscuit, duck and flange. Plosives are funny)
- Younghee Jung talked about her ambient interest in the toilets of the world
- James Bridle instructed us on the relationship between booze and civilization [essay]
- Kim Plowright presented a cultural history of the vacuum cleaner
- James Houston showed his ‘Big Ideas (don’t get any)’ video which has been Big On The Internet in recent weeks, and was his final year Graphic Design project. He graduated yesterday with a first. Congratulations James.
- Jim Le Fevre got lots of wows with his Technics Zoetrope. [video]
- Gavin Starks talked about acoustic cosmology and the application of music to the cosmological theories of n-dimensional space. Oh yes.
- Joel Gethin Lewis taught us about the meaning of the word ‘Hiraeth’, which might be a cross between a longing for home and knowing that you belong there.
- George Oates talked about ‘the raw material of social engineering’, especially crappy Flickr groups.
- Lea Becker talked about scribbles.
- Leisa Riechelt presented some thoughts on the brain, including synaptic pruning.
- Max Gadney told us about his interest in World War 2.
- Flickr group
- Russell made a timelapse video
- SlideShare event (add more!)
- More discussion here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here here and yet more.
- Roundup from Russell.
- Guardian video series.
Seven-and-a-half hours, over twenty speakers, 3 facilitators, 42 photos, and eight pages of Moleskine later, I barely know where to start writing up my experience of Russell Davies‘ superb conference, interesting2007. There’s just far too much to say about it really.
To give you a flavour of it, here is a list of thirty interesting things that happened:
- Adrian Gunn Wilson shared ‘how to split a (big) log’ (“branches are bad”) [video]
- Rob Mortimer asked ‘Can video games be art?’
- Eugenie Harvey on changing the world for a fiver (“buy it from the website“)
- Richard Wilson on making TV programmes (and the idea that user generated content for TV is being reversed by TV producers making lots of pilots and taster tapes which end up on YouTube)
- Jennifer Bell’s ‘nine tips for making a better erotic film’ included “be reasonably flexible”, but it’s not what you think.
- Jack Schulze on his love of comics (hyper-time, The Filth, and more) [slides]
- Ann Ward asked, ‘Is it just me, or is everything nice?’ while sitting down and showing us a wide array of very nice things and getting us excited about the ‘nothing to see here‘ project. (“people on Flickr have good manners”) [slides]
- Tom Lewis-Reynier proved that he doesn’t really know anything about the History Of Knots, but can make up some really very funny stuff. [video]
- Sponsor plug: Folksy (who were doing cool things in the lobby, including an ambient orb from an Argos lamp for a tenner)
- Rhodri Marsden gave us a rendition of Wichita Lineman on a saw
- Lunch break (the cafe in Red Lion Square opened specially for the event)
- Lloyd Davis led us in a relaxing group meditation/breathing thingy (“om…”) [words]
- Chris Heathcote hilariously deconstructed egg, bacon, chips and beans using maltodextin to powderise the bacon fat, and calcium gluconate, calcium lactate and xanthan gum mixed with baked bean slurry and a bath of water, sodium alginate and sodium citrate to perform ‘inverse spherification’, and nitrous oxide to foam the potato. [slides, video]
- ‘I like printing’ by Tim Milne (the use of printing is being changed by digital media in the same way the purpose of painting was changed by the introduction of photography)
- Rebecca ‘Beeker‘ Northam on ‘What I have learned from Ibsen and the Muppets’ (8 things, including “be objectionable”) [video]
- ‘A series of tubes’ by Tom Armitage (on Ted Stephens: “thank you for using a metaphor that didn’t totally suck”) [slides, video]
- Seb Palmer on Skateboarding and Moving Units
- Matthew d’Ancona on ‘Orson Welles and YouTube’ (the editor of the Spectator does a great Al Pacino impression) [video]
- The discovery of Finity by Tommi Brem [video]
- Deb Kahn invited us to draw each other without looking at the paper, then draw things about our lives and tell someone about it, then remember what they told us (and consider we remembered fell into being either challenge, delivery, image, unexpected, empathy, or humour) [presentation]
- Tea and scones!
- The Electroplankton Quartet played
- Sponsor plug: King of Shaves (“while you lot were learning HTML, diddling with websites and learning to Twitter, shaving was changing…”)
- Grant McCracken‘s hilarious appendicitis/Oprah anecdote [video]
- Fiona Romeo on the Science of Spying exhibition at Science Museum (lots more behind the scenes pics on Flickr)
- Phil Gyford on acting
- Sophie Dollar on Cezanne’s fear of touching and being touched [video]
- Andrew Hovells on swimming / doing something well (he claims not to be good at anything but swimming, yet he presents charmingly) [video, presentation]
- Dave ‘funkypancake’ showed us some amusing and beautiful photos (the prog-rock sounding “Pedestrian Casualty Reduction Signal Timing Experiment” sign was a personal favourite) [video, slides]
- The Vernacular of the Spectacular (Matt ‘blackbelt‘ Jones) including the importance of play [slides, reading list, video]
I wanted to make something shorter, but that’s just the bare minimum. In addition to the scones and Yorkshire Tea and biscuits, there were also lots of Innocent smoothies and apples provided. The format, with lots of short presentations, worked brilliantly. The low ticket price of £20 had some interesting side effects; there was no sense of entitlement. People willingly volunteered to help set up and clear up afterwards. No lunch provided? Who is going to complain, especially when the cafe in the square has opened especially for us. No wifi (and I usually complain bitterly about this)? Bah, who needs it, when Matt Jones has carefully designed a slowscanningsketchbloggingsysteme, with actual in-trays and actual paper. (The scanned paper-blogged posts are already online).
In short, there was a really relaxed atmosphere, and everyone seemed equally as thrilled as I was to have been there.
This was by far the nicest and most interesting conference I’ve been to all year, and I do really hope Russell does it again.