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Broken Places & Outer Spaces

A powerful journey from star athlete to sudden paralysis to creative awakening, award-winning science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor shows that what we think are our limitations have the potential to become our greatest strengths.

Nnedi Okorafor was never supposed to be paralyzed. A college track star and budding entomologist, Nnedi’s lifelong battle with scoliosis was just a bump in her plan—something a simple operation would easily correct. But when Nnedi wakes from the surgery to find she can’t move her legs, her entire sense of self begins to waver. Confined to a hospital bed for months, unusual things begin to happen. Psychedelic bugs crawl her hospital walls; strange dreams visit her nightly. Nnedi begins to put these experiences into writing, conjuring up strange, fantastical stories. What Nnedi discovers during her confinement would prove to be the key to her life as a successful science fiction author: In science fiction, when something breaks, something greater...
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About the Authors

Zak Ebrahim
Photograph by Ryan Lash

Zak Ebrahim

Zak Ebrahim was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on March 24, 1983, the son of an Egyptian industrial engineer and an American school teacher. When Ebrahim was seven, his father shot and killed the founder of the Jewish Defense League, Rabbi Meir Kahane. From behind bars his father, El-Sayyid Nosair, co-masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Ebrahim spent the rest of his childhood moving from city to city, hiding his identity from those who knew of his father. He now dedicates his life to speaking out against terrorism and spreading his message of peace and nonviolence.

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Hannah Fry

Dr. Hannah Fry is a mathematician and complexity scientist from University College London’s Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis. Fry also regularly presents the Number Hub strand of BBC Worldwide’s YouTube channel, Headsqueeze. Her first TED talk attracted more than 500,000 views across all TED channels and evolved into her first book, The Mathematics of Love.

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Margaret Heffernan

Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur, chief executive, and author. She was born in Texas, raised in Holland, and educated at Cambridge University. She worked for the BBC and developed interactive multimedia products with Peter Lynch, Tom Peters, Standard & Poors, and The Learning Company. She has served as Chief Executive Officer for InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation, and iCAST Corporation. The author of Beyond Measure, Willful Blindness, and A Bigger Prize, among others, she blogs for the Huffington Post, CBS Moneywatch, and Inc.com.

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Pico Iyer
Photograph by Derek Shapton

Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist long based in both California and Japan. He is the author of numerous books about crossing cultures, among them Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk, and The Global Soul. An essayist for Time since 1986, he also publishes regularly in Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and many other publications across the globe.

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A. J. Jacobs
Lem Latimer

A. J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs is the author of Thanks a Thousand, It’s All RelativeDrop Dead Healthy, and the New York Times bestsellers The Know-It-All, The Year of Living Biblically, and My Life as an Experiment. He is a contributor to NPR, and has written for The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly. He lives in New York City with his wife and kids. Visit him at AJJacobs.com and follow him on Twitter @ajjacobs.

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Chip Kidd
Photo Credit:

Chip Kidd

Chip Kidd is a designer/writer in New York City. His book cover designs for Alfred A. Knopf, where he has worked nonstop since 1986, have helped create a revolution in the art of American book packaging. He is the recipient of the National Design Award for Communications, as well as the Use of Photography in Design award from the International Center of Photography. Kidd has published two novels, The Cheese Monkeys and The Learners, and is also the author of Batman: Death By Design and the coauthor and designer of True Prep, the sequel to the beloved Official Preppy Handbook. His 2012 TED Talk has been viewed 1.2 million times and is cited as one of the “funniest of the year.” He is most recently the author of the bestselling GO: A Kidd’s Guide To Graphic Design.

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Rob Knight

Rob Knight is a Professor of Pediatrics and Computer Science & Engineering and Director of the Microbiome Initiative at the University of California, San Diego. He is cofounder of the American Gut Project and the Earth Microbiome Project.

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Marc Kushner

Marc Kushner is a practicing architect who splits his time between designing buildings at HWKN, the architecture firm he cofounded, and amassing the world’s architecture on the website he runs, Architizer.com. Both have the same mission: to reconnect the public with architecture. Kushner’s core belief is that architecture touches everyone—and everyone is a fan of architecture—even if they don’t know it yet. New forms of media empower people to shape the built environment, and that means better buildings that make better cities that make a better world.

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Kenneth Lacovara

Dr. Kenneth Lacovara has unearthed some of the largest dinosaurs ever to walk our planet, including the super-massive Dreadnoughtus, which at sixty-five tons weighs more than seven T. rex. Through his work, blending exploration with the latest techniques from medicine and engineering, Lacovara portrays dinosaurs as vigorous, competent creatures—the adaptable champions of an age.

Lacovara is sought around the world for his ability to bring the wonders of science and the thrill of discovery to a wide range of audiences. “He’s got a way of illuminating the bigger picture, of somehow turning ‘why’ into wonder. It’s not just that he’s speaking about what happened way back when, but what it might mean for us today.” Says Chris Anderson, Curator of TED.

He has appeared in many television documentaries and his discoveries have landed him three times in Discover magazine’s 100 Top Science Stories of the year and in Time’s Top Stories of 2014. Lacovara was named by Men’s Journal as one of “The Next Generation of Explorers” and he is an elected fellow of the prestigious Explorers Club in New York.

Kenneth Lacovara is the founder and director of the Edelman Fossil Park of Rowan University in New Jersey. Why Dinosaurs Matter is his first book.

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Alan Lightman
TED

Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman is a physicist, novelist, and essayist. He was educated at Princeton University and at the California Institute of Technology, where he received a PhD in theoretical physics. Lightman is the author of five novels, including the international bestseller Einstein’s Dreams, two collections of essays, a book-­length narrative poem, and several books on science. His writing has appeared in The AtlanticGranta, The New Yorker, and The New York Review of Books, among other publications. 

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Brian R. Little

Dr. Brian Little is an internationally acclaimed scholar and speaker in the field of personality and motivational psychology. He is a Fellow of the Well-Being Institute and Director of the Social Ecology Research Group in the Department of Psychology at Cambridge University. Previously, he taught at McGill, Oxford, and Harvard Universities. Dividing his time between Canada and the UK, Dr. Little is also a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at Carleton University in Ottawa, and he lectures worldwide on personality, motivation, and well-being. Who Are You, Really? is his third book. 

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Nora McInerny

Nora McInerny has a lot of jobs. She is the reluctant cofounder of the Hot Young Widows Club (a program of her nonprofit, Still Kickin), the bestselling author of the memoirs It’s Okay To Laugh, Crying Is Cool Too, and No Happy Endings and the host of the award-winning podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking. Nora is a master storyteller known for her dedication to bringing heart and levity to the difficult and uncomfortable conversations most of us try to avoid, and also for being very tall. She was voted Most Humorous by the Annunciation Catholic School Class of 1998.

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Siddhartha Mukherjee
Photograph © Deborah Feingold

Siddhartha Mukherjee

Siddhartha Mukherjee is the author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction, and The Laws of Medicine. He is the editor of Best Science Writing 2013. Mukherjee is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician and researcher. A Rhodes scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School. He has published articles in Nature, The New England Journal of MedicineThe New York Times, and Cell. He lives in New York with his wife and daughters. Visit his website at: SiddharthaMukherjee.com

 

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Carrie Nugent
Bret Hartman

Carrie Nugent

Dr. Carrie Nugent is a scientist that works on discovering and finding asteroids. She works on NASA’s NEOWISE mission, which uses a space-based infrared telescope to discover, track, and characterize asteroids. She is a 2016 TED fellow, and hosts and produces Spacepod, a podcast about space exploration. She even has an asteroid named after her: 8801 Nugent. Asteroid Hunters is her first book.

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Nnedi Okorafor
Photograph by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism. Born in the US to Nigerian immigrant parents, Okorafor is known for weaving African cultures into creative settings and memorable characters. Her book, Who Fears Death has been optioned by HBO, with Game of Thrones' George R.R. Martin as executive producer. Okorafor is a full-time professor at the University at Buffalo, New York (SUNY).

 

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Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of more than forty years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics, and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the world’s largest science magazine, Discover, the editor of The Washington Post’s magazine, founding editor and editor-in-chief of This Old House magazine for Time Inc., senior editor for science at Life Magazine, and group editor-in-chief of Weider History Group’s ten history magazines. His TED talk, 10 Ways the World Could End, has been viewed over a million times. He is now the editor of Breakthrough Technology Alert, for which he finds the investment opportunities that create true value and move the human race forward.

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David Rothkopf
Foreign Policy

David Rothkopf

David J. Rothkopf is CEO and Editor of the FP Group, where he oversees all editorial, publishing, event, and other operations of the company, publishers of Foreign Policy Magazine. He is also the President and CEO of Garten Rothkopf, an international advisory company specializing in global political risk, energy, resource, technology, and emerging markets issues based in Washington, DC. He is the author of numerous internationally acclaimed books, including The Great Questions of Tomorrow, Power, Inc., Superclass, and Running the World. He writes a weekly column for Foreign Policy, a regular column for CNN, and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, CNN, Newsweek, Time, and many others.

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Andrés Ruzo

Andrés Ruzo is a geoscientist and a National Geographic Young Explorer. The Boiling River is his first book.

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Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz is a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College and the author of Why We Work, The Paradox of Choice, and Practical Wisdom. His articles have been published in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Parade Magazine, USA TODAY, Advertising Age, Slate, Scientific American, The New Republic, Harvard Business Review, and The Guardian, and he has appeared on dozens of radio shows, including Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation, Anderson Cooper 360, and CBS Sunday Morning.

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Kio Stark
Bre Pettis

Kio Stark

Kio Stark is the author of the novel Follow Me Down, the independent learning handbook Don’t Go Back to School, and When Strangers Meet. She writes, teaches, and speaks around the world about stranger interactions, independent learning, and relational technology.

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Guy Winch

Guy Winch, PhD, is a licensed psychologist, author, and keynote speaker whose books have been translated into twenty-three languages. His first TED Talk Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid has been viewed over 5 million times and is rated as the fifth most inspiring talk of all time on TED.com. Dr. Winch's work on the science of emotional health is frequently featured in national and international media outlets. He also writes the popular Squeaky Wheel Blog for PsychologyToday.com. He maintains a private practice in Manhattan and is a member of the American Psychological Association.

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Lidia Yuknavitch

Lidia Yuknavitch is the national bestselling author of the novels The Book of Joan, The Small Backs of Children, Dora: A Headcase, and the memoir The Chronology of Water. Her acclaimed TED Talk “The Beauty of Being a
Misfit” has over 2 million views. She is the recipient of two Oregon Book Awards, a Willamette Writers Award, and was a finalist for the 2017 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize and the 2012 Pen Center Creative Nonfiction Award. She writes, teaches, and lives in Portland, Oregon.

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