A native Minnesotan, Paul Bogard loves night’s natural darkness. So much so that he wrote two successful books about it. He is the author of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, and the editor of Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark. He also likes to walk through the woods, surrounded by the trees and birds and hidden animals. For fifteen years he had a dog who would come with him on these walks. Her name was Luna, like the moon. He misses her a lot. He loves coffee in the morning and red wine at night. Paul is now an assistant professor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he teaches creative writing and environmental literature. He has a new book coming out in 2017. Find him at paul-bogard.com.
I read a fantastic longread about light pollution and I have been thinking about this topic ever since. I also had a personal experience with this issue last year when I had to fight a local gambling club that placed a large blinking neon sign right across our windows. Paul has been talking about this issue for several years now, and he wrote two successful books about it. It is not well known, but both light and darkness are essential for life. Maybe you do not even realise how much. (Dana Retová)
Michaela is one of few people who has experienced what it is like to be an astronaut living on Mars. Michaela experienced a simulated mission at the Martian desert research station in the United States. Her scientific focus is on astrobiology, and specifically extremophiles – organisms living in extreme conditions. Such organisms can be found only on other planetary bodies in our solar system. Michaela did her research at the California Institute of Technology, University College London, and the University of Bristol. Despite many achievements and job offers abroad, she has recently returned to Slovakia. Along with SOSA, she wants to help develop aerospace research and the industry in Slovakia. Michaela’s big dream in the future is to work on a space mission, perhaps with the involvement of Slovakia, aiming to find extra-terrestrial life in space.
When I read an interview with Miška, I could not believe that someone her age could have that much behind her. It is nice that she can explain things in a simple and understandable way. I really liked what she said once: “We are looking for life on Mars and we could have brought it there ourselves already.” I am sure her lecture will be an eye-catching way to the future. (Monika Pohlová)
activist and designer
Bjørn Ihler is an activist, writer, designer and filmmaker who promotes peace, human rights, and the fight against extremism. His work is influenced by his experience as a survivor of the attack on Utøya Island in Norway on 22 July 2011. Ihler started his work as an activist against violent extremism with a series of opinion pieces following the attack, writing on topics related to the state of the nation, public debate, and how to remain true to the principles of human rights and democracy in the face of terror. In 2013 he graduated with a BA in Theatre and Performance Design and Technology from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. His work in theatre has been part of stage performances in the Barbican Theatre in London and the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo. He is currently studying Peace and Conflict Studies at Hacettepe University in Ankara. Bjørn is taking part in an international project called The Forgiveness Project.
When I saw a cover page of Nota Bene magazine with the headline “The Man who Survived Breivik’s Attack”, it instantly caught my eye. Despite the fact that many of his friends became victims of extremism, he is not embittered and he has decided to fight it using what he knows best – the arts. At the end of the day, we are all humans. I believe this is a very current topic, and it is important to listen to the voice of a man who has survived extremism. (Karolína Chromíková)
Marek is 20 years old. Currently he is a student of Financial Management at the University of Hradec Kralove. He only recently graduated from J. K. Tyl High school in the same town. He loves sports. He has been an active climber ever since his childhood; in winter he prefers downhill skiing. While studying at high school, he realised how ineffable and complicated the mathematics textbooks were. He saw that it was difficult to understand the topics without further explanation, or see why they were important. He discovered that they were unable to motivate students to do further exploration. So he and his friend Marek Liska decided to change it.
I find Marek’s story fascinating. I have always enjoyed maths, but I was honestly bothered by the way it was taught to us, and I completely understood my classmates who were not able to find anything to like about it. In fact, there was no way to do this: the educational system did not really make any effort. But it has never occurred to me that something could be done about it. That a textbook could be written in a different way. That somebody could start a project that would produce a textbook addressing you informally, explaining how particular phenomena can be used in real life, a textbook that could actually make you understand mathematics. I believe this story will inspire others as well. (Michal Tonder)
urban well-being engineer
Pekka, the Vice President of the Winter Cycling Federation, just loves the outdoors, especially a proper winter, and bikes. Be it cause or consequence, he resides in the winter cycling capital of the world: Oulu, northern Finland. Located almost in the Arctic Circle, the city enjoys long, snowy, harsh winters, which, even though you might think the opposite, make winter cycling just a normal everyday activity in the city when paired with good maintenance. In addition to bicycles, he has a huge interest in transportation history, vintage pianos, adventures of all sorts, and ice cream. Being capable of moving around by one’s own muscle power is what Pekka says is smart mobility. His main areas of expertise are about how walking and cycling can make our transport system work more efficiently, how they can improve our lives, health and economy, and all in all make our communities have a better quality. You can contact him at www.navico.fi
Anyone who has ever visited the Nordic countries has certainly noticed how everything works perfectly there. But what intrigued me the most is that people go cycling there whatever the weather. For me, a journey to work by bike in the morning equals a kamikaze mission. My question always is: why can’t we have the same comfort when travelling by bike, and why is the city of Bratislava built for cars and not for people? Pekka will bring us not only the answers but solutions on how to return the city to pedestrians and cyclists. (Monika Pohlová)
Carl Cederström is an associate professor at the Stockholm Business School, and, together with André Spicer, the co-author of The Wellness Syndrome, which has been translated into six languages and sparked fierce debate around the world. The book looks at the downsides of our obsession with health and happiness. Cederström’s writing has been published in The New York Times, the Guardian, The Atlantic and the Harvard Business Review. André Spicer is a Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Cass Business School, City University of London. Spicer’s most recent book is The Stupidity Paradox. You can follow him on Twitter: @andre_spicer. On 1 January 2016, Carl and André started a new self-experiment. For each month, they will optimise one new thing seeking to find their inner fantasies and dreams, which they will then visually illustrate.
Selecting speakers for TEDxBratislava is an unpredictable journey. When searching for a speaker who could speak on the six-hour working day in Sweden, I stumbled upon Carl and André. Their opinions are provocative and without precedent. They are not afraid to go into the depth of a problem through experimentation. Currently, they are trying to answer the question whether total happiness can be achieved. They examine how our fixation on achieving happiness and faith in our uniqueness eventually causes anxiety and isolation. (Monika Pohlová)
Jana Kirschner does not need much introduction in Slovakia. She became popular back in 1999 after the release of her album V cudzom meste (In a Strange City). Although she is well known as a pop singer, she did not become a part of the mainstream. Her music is full of originality and is appreciated not only by the audience, but also by critics and artists. In 2005 she moved to London and performed mostly abroad. After a few years she returned to her mother language. The symbol of this is the title track for the movie Pokoj v duši (Soul at Peace). Her latest successful project – the albums Moruša čierna (Black mulberry) and Moruša biela (White mulberry) – has been described as the most courageous musical act on the Slovak scene.
Jana means to me a personification of authenticity, sincerity and the ability to go your own way. Formerly known as the “first lady of Slovak pop”, she is not only able to resist the pressure of expectations, leave the mainstream or a large record label and head to a completely new world, but she is also able to carry her listeners with her. Her two “mulberry” albums are incredibly colourful and playful. Thanks to Jana, we can be more responsive, more curious and more able to accept diversity, whether in music or other areas of life. (Rasťo Geschwandtner)
Moshe Szyf is one of the pioneers in the field of epigenetics. Szyf’s lab proposed three decades ago that DNA methylation was a prime therapeutic target in cancer and other diseases, and has postulated and provided the first set of evidence that the “social environment” early in life can alter DNA methylation, launching the emerging field of “social epigenetics”. Szyf’s lab is interested in understanding basic epigenetic mechanisms and their broad implications in human behaviour, health and disease as well as in developing epigenetics-based therapeutics and diagnostics.
I heard about epigenetics for the first time nine years ago, and the story fascinated me. What we thought of as something fixed, DNA is actually very cleverly modified according to current environmental needs. Even before a baby is born, it already knows what world to prepare itself for. I never stop wondering how perfect our organism is. Man has not built anything remotely close to the complexity of himself. Szyf is one of the pioneers in epigenetics. It is like inviting Darwin to talk about genetics. (Dana Retová)
art gallery employee
Michal has been working at the Slovak National Gallery for more than ten years. During this time, he has had an opportunity to participate in the expansion of its activities in the digital environment – from the electronic recording of art works and digitisation through to the development of websites and applications. As a graduate of Library and Information Sciences at Comenius University, he coincidentally found himself at the department that prepared the transition to a new generation of the Central Register of Art Works. Under this (at first sight unattractive) name is hidden a wealth that distils fine art in the collections of Slovak galleries in the form of metadata and digital reproductions. How can one properly use digital technologies in art galleries and museums? The opportunity to transform (big) data into an attractive appearance is a challenge that motivates him when working on various projects. Whether it is an audio guide, which guides the gallery visitors through stories accompanied by field recordings, or a sketchbook app allowing you to scroll through the artists’ notebooks for lab.SNG, his motivation is to communicate the experience of art.
The gallery is no longer a place characterised by an oppressive silence and creaky floors. After visiting the Preserving the World exhibition in the Slovak National Gallery, I realised how much digitisation extends into art and offers us opportunities to access artworks. Art does not lose its face; technology crosses the boundaries of physical space and intensifies the experience of art. What will happen to art in the digital age? (Denis Sabová)
member of co-housing group
Renáta lives in Berlin, where she initially moved to study. In this multicultural German metropolis, she eventually settled down and started her own family. Along with this came a dilemma – how would they live? New buildings or renovated old flats did not meet the individual or financial expectations of a young family, so they started building a house by themselves. With likeminded families and relatives they bought one of the last areas of communal land in the western centre of Berlin and began to plan their own multi-generational residential house within the so-called Baugruppe, or co-housing concept. This form of housing is characterised by an effort to build cheaper without paying high fees to the developers in particular, and by creating individualised sustainable housing with a strong social aspect. The aim of the joint and long-term efforts is tailor-made housing for an active neighbourhood community with common garden spaces and a hobby room.
I lived for some time in rented accommodation with friends and I really liked this lifestyle. With family it is been a little different, and now we don’t see each other much. Co-housing is the ideal way to be always close to your friends while you realise your own ideas about living and comfort. Of course, it is like long-distance running. I saw Renáta speaking at the What City? conference in the Old Market last year. She did not theorise, but instead showed her story of how the group of friends got together and started building their dream house. I hope her story will inspire some pioneers in Bratislava who will find a way to implement this form of housing in Slovakia. (Dana Retová)
neuroscientist, immunologist, and educator
Some of the greatest discoveries are born in quiet over a long period of time. When in 1989 Professor Michal Novák came up with the idea that so-called “tau proteins” may play an important role in the development and possibly also the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, this was basically unacceptable to the scientific community. In spite of that, Prof. Novák continued in his work, and this year, after nearly 30 years of slow and laborious research, his team has successfully passed phase one of clinical tests of the first active disease-modifying vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease in the world. In 1996 Prof. Novák founded the Institute of Neuroimmunology at the Slovak Academy of Sciences and later on also the Memory Foundation, the Slovak Alzheimer’s Association and the Slovak Society for Neuroscience. He spent ten years working at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge in a team with three Nobel laureates. In 1999 he co-founded a biotech company called AXON Neuroscience.
Three years ago, when I first learned about Prof. Novák’s research, I was fascinated by his perseverance and systematic approach in which he followed his own path against the mainstream opinion of the scientific community. Today, he is the world’s leading expert on Alzheimer’s disease. Since the research conducted by his team has the potential to improve the lives of millions, I am very happy that this year he has accepted our invitation. (Rastislav Geschwandtner)
Janette is a lecturer, blogger, mother and author of an autobiographical novel in which she describes her childhood, adolescence and life as a woman shuttling between two worlds. She is passionate about emotions and their impact on people, their thinking, perception and ability to understand things around them and other people with whom they meet and work. Currently she is starting an online living library with stories of people facing various obstacles in society, and she is dedicated to understanding the feelings of children who were born in a different world than the one they currently live in.
I met with Janette as a youth worker. Already at that time I found her approach and attitude towards education and her openness to new worlds and cultures very interesting, particularly in terms of how much we can learn from each other when we are open to what we initially do not understand and what we fear. With the courage to make a step into the unknown, we can truly open up brand new worlds. I do believe that together with Janette we will discover these worlds at TEDx, and we will let them inspire us. (Tomáš Haviar)
EU digital policy adviser
Margus is passionate about technology and how it can help communities evolve. His background varies from business development in the MENA region and social entrepreneurship to e-government initiatives. Now, for almost a decade, he has been dealing with e-government related projects, and currently he holds a position in the Estonian Government Office as European Union Secretariat Digital Policy Adviser. Working on many national projects on popularising e-government for citizens in Estonia as well as abroad has been a humbling experience as he has learned a lot from it. Now he can understand better how important cultural background in governance is. Margus was nominated as the Social Entrepreneur of 2006 by the Estonian Good Deed Foundation. His friends consider him a problem solver and an idea generator.
I really wanted a speaker from Estonia who would speak on how such a small country can become one of the most digitised countries in the world. E-government is a very current topic in Slovakia, so bringing an expert with an insider view who would encourage and show our audience and relevant stakeholders that it is possible is a challenge. I am sure Margus will inspire us with his experience and knowledge, and not only that. I hope people will be able to relate to this topic, as it nowadays seems like something that is very far away from our lives and does not concern us. But this cannot be further from the truth. (Monika Pohlová)
Monika was born in 1975, but she is just over sixteen. More specifically, 16 decibels = 10.log (41). She currently works at the Faculty of Engineering at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava and at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at KU Leuven in Belgium. Her great passions in life are sports and music. In her research, she deals with everything connected to sound, in particular issues concerning the building and room acoustics in interdisciplinary context. Together with her students, she is trying to at least partially retain the character of the first universities in which students with professors did not focus on producing endless publications, but jointly strived to find truthful answers to questions, and not only during working hours. All her students and colleagues know that her favourite drink is Pilsner beer and that she writes down her ideas on beer mats.
When I met Monika for the first time, she explained to me the reason behind castles being haunted and how blind people can observe the stars. I immediately knew she belonged on the TEDx stage. Apart from the fact that she is a world-renowned authority in the area of acoustics, she also impressed me with her humanity, enthusiasm, and ability to talk about expert topics in the way even kids can understand… and they want to try all those experiments immediately. (Ivona Hodasová)
WoodPack Brothers is an unorganized group of professional musicians and percussionists who have fallen for the Slovak intuitive musical instrument called WoodPack. WoodPack is rhythmic and melodic hand-made instrument from Slovakia from the high-quality resonance wood. You will not find two identical pieces with the same visual or sound as it is an original in each case. Their performance represents a form of musical art, pure improvisation, where the only rule is good humor and musical enjoyment of everybody involved. Its members include eg. Ajdži Sabo, Eddy Portella, David Juraj Raši, Boris Čellár, Daniel Griglák, Andrej Kopecky, Július Petrus … WoodPack Brothers is an organic and always different musical group, because it only associates busy professional musicians who perform in a unique cast WIF – who is free. Therefore, each performance of WoodPack Brothers is unrepeatable experience.
It may sound like a cliche, but I actually got to know WoodPack through TEDxBratislava. The path was a bit zigzag, but now I am glad to own one of the first prototypes. WoodPack got me (as an amateur percussionist) with its magical tones and simplicity which makes the tones even more interesting. Free your mind and let your hands follow the rhythm of your heart. (Peter Jančár)
Eva Kušíková is an anesthesiologist in F.D.Roosevelt Faculty Hospital in Banská Bystrica. She studied and worked in Prague, and in 2014 she returned home to Slovakia after living for 14 years abroad. During her master and doctoral studies, she participated in several study programs in Belgium, Hungary, Canada and France. Since 2012, she co-operates with renowned humanitarian organisation Médecins sans Frontières. She spent several months on missions to Haiti and Afghanistan, where she worked in Kunduz city, in the Trauma centre destroyed by US bombing attack last year. During her missions, besides treating the patients, she was involved in training of specialised medical teams of Intensive Care Units at Emergency Departments of the hospitals. She had many opportunities, in different situations and cultural contexts, to compare the behavior and approach of medical personnel and patients towards one another. She tries to translate this and other experiences into improving her work with patients, as well as inspiring systemic changes in the doctors´ work at her current department.