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What You're Missing at TED2012 Right Now

As you and I sit here like dopes in front of our computers, a swarm of alpha nerds are basking in the Long Beach sun and enjoying TED2012. Only two talks from the show have been released so far, and they have somewhat differing messages: Abundance is Our Future (by Peter Diamandis) and The Earth is Full (by Paul Gilding). I'll go ahead and embed the latter, as it's a bit more depressing:

But I Want More!

Well, it's a tough gig, but somebody's gotta liveblog the entire conference. No, really! The Guardian's intrepid Carole Cadwalladr is posting dispatches from the conference, including some snippets that are delightfully bonkers when taken out of context. Here, let me decontextualize some of yesterday's coverage for you:

8.48am: ...And what if we could use lightning as GPS?

9.16am: Also, I have to mention that at the opening night party last night, I stumbled on two roboticists have a conversation about teledildonics.

And, yes, I've checked. That is an actual word.

9.45am: Ah...there's some sort of crowd-sourcing dancey performance art on now. Men in bodystockings throwing beach balls.

10.04am: The drones have taken over an electric organ and a proto-xylophone. And they're playing the James Bond theme tune!

12.40pm: Right. They're singing about pigeons dying now. I'll spare you the details...

Okay, that's enough cribbing from Cadwalladr's brilliance. You really just have to read it -- this is coverage by a nerd, for nerds, of nerds -- wonderful stuff.

The Party Line

If the live blog doesn't cut it for you, check out the official TED blog, featuring still photography and summaries of the talks. This is also where you'll find video as it's posted -- and it's slowly trickling out, as we're just starting the third day of the conference now. There's also a TED2012 Conference Page that includes a feed of @TEDNews, a boon for the Twitter-addicted (though @TEDchris is slightly more exciting). You can also watch the conference via live streaming video if you have a TED Live membership (but don't go rushing to buy -- membership starts at $995, though a good chunk of that is tax-deductible).

You might also appreciate the Program Guide, which tells us that today we'll see talks from John Hodgman, Jon Ronson, Philippe Petit, and Liz Diller (among many others).

Nanocopters Perform Bond Theme

To tide you over until more session videos are posted, here's (non-TED) video of Vijay Kumar's swarm of nanocopters performing the Bond theme:

Back to the Live Blog

As it approaches 8:30am Pacific, Cadwalladr is presumably about to begin Thursday coverage. I'm getting my popcorn. Oh, breaking news! Kumar's talk on "agile aerial robots" has just been posted!

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Live Smarter
Make Spreadsheets a Whole Lot Easier With This Excel Trick
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iStock

While data nerds may love a good spreadsheet, many office workers open Microsoft Excel with a certain amount of resistance. Inputting data can be a monotonous task. But a few tricks can make it a whole lot easier. Business Insider has a new video highlighting one of those shortcuts—a way to create a range that changes with the data you input.

Dynamic named ranges change and grow with your data, so, for instance, if one column is time and another is, say, dollar value, the value can change automatically as time goes on. If you do this, it's relatively easy to create a chart using this data, by simply inserting your named ranges as your X and Y values. The chart will automatically update as your range expands.

It's easier to see in the program itself, so watch the full video on Business Insider. Microsoft also has its own instructions here, or you can check out this video from the YouTube channel Excel Tip, which also has dozens of other useful tutorials for making Microsoft Excel your hardworking assistant.

[h/t Business Insider]

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History
Marshall McLuhan, the Man Who Predicted the Internet in 1962

Futurists of the 20th century were prone to some highly optimistic predictions. Theorists thought we might be extending our life spans to 150, working fewer hours, and operating private aircrafts from our homes. No one seemed to imagine we’d be communicating with smiley faces and poop emojis in place of words.

Marshall McLuhan didn’t call that either, but he did come closer than most to imagining our current technology-led environment. In 1962, the author and media theorist (who is the subject of today's Google Doodle) predicted we’d have an internet.

That was the year McLuhan, a professor of English born in Edmonton, Canada on this day in 1911, wrote a book called The Gutenberg Galaxy. In it, he observed that human history could be partitioned into four distinct chapters: The acoustic age, the literary age, the print age, and the then-emerging electronic age. McLuhan believed this new frontier would be home to what he dubbed a “global village”—a space where technology spread information to anyone and everyone.

Computers, McLuhan said, “could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization,” and offer “speedily tailored data.”

McLuhan elaborated on the idea in his 1962 book, Understanding Media, writing:

"Since the inception of the telegraph and radio, the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village. Tribalism is our only resource since the electro-magnetic discovery. Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear."

But McLuhan didn’t concern himself solely with the advantages of a network. He cautioned that a surrender to “private manipulation” would limit the scope of our information based on what advertisers and others choose for users to see.

Marshall McLuhan died on December 31, 1980, several years before he was able to witness first-hand how his predictions were coming to fruition.

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