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TED 2010, Day Two

As is widely understood, good coffee isn’t exactly a ubiquity in America. But one of the best side attractions at TED is the Intelligentsia coffee bar, which makes coffee via a range of somewhat medieval looking filtration devices. My ‘wow’ moment of today wasn’t so much the speakers but the discovery of an American barista who knew how to make a flat white. A really good flat white. Are TED’s powers limitless?

The ‘wow’ moment for everybody else was ex Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, who describes himself as an ‘invention capitalist’.

Turning his imagination to more philanthropic projects, Myhrvold is currently working on a fascinating malaria prevention technology.

Malaria immunisation doesn’t exist, and the best preventative answer so far has been bed nets which prevent people being bitten in their sleep.

But with MacGyver-like cleverness, Myhrvold intends to supersede our analog panacea with a device built from parts of a common Blu-ray player, laser printer, torch and video camera.

On stage at TED 2010

With impish excitement, Myhrvold asked us the question he’s working to answer: “Can we prevent Malaria by shooting mosquitoes out of the sky with a laser beam?”

We were treated to a live demo of his amazing invention as it detected mosquitoes, judged whether or not they were malaria-carrying females by the frequency of their wing beat, and then whacked the offenders with delightfully deadly accuracy.

His vision is to have the device cheaply available to any household in a malaria-affected area. One of the world’s most difficult problems solved, with an invention of beguiling wonder and humour.

Quote of the day goes to Christopher ‘moot’ Poole, the founder of 4chan, one of the web’s most influential subcultures, who explained rule #34 of the 4chan community: “If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.”