Tom Shannon's mixed-material sculpture seems to levitate — often it actually does — thanks to powerful magnets and clever arrangements of suspension wire. He designed the TED Prize trophy.

Why you should listen

Artist and inventor Tom Shannon's sculpture has been exhibited in galleries and institutions all around the world, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His clever orchestrations of hidden magnets and tiny suspension cables make otherwise inert materials such as steel and wood take on a truly otherworldly quality -- bringing objects like planets, stars and atoms to a scale you can understand (and touch).

Shannon also holds the patents for the first tactile telephone, a color television projector and a synchronous world clock that is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. He is developing a spherical helium airship whose entire surface is an LED video screen.

What others say

“Tom Shannon's visually perplexing sculptures and installations allude to unseen forces better known to physics -- and to Star Trek fans -- than to conventional art.” — Art in America

Tom Shannon’s TED talks

More news and ideas from Tom Shannon


The painter and the pendulum: Tom Shannon on

February 5, 2010

TED visits Tom Shannon in his Manhattan studio for an intimate look at his science-inspired art. An eye-opening, personal conversation with John Hockenberry reveals how nature’s forces — and the onset of Parkinson’s tremors — interact in his life and craft. (TED in the Field: Recorded May 2009, New York, NY. Duration: 13:22) Watch […]

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The week in comments

May 9, 2009

This week’s comment round-up is a tribute to’s spiffy new commenting system, that lets you rate others’ statements up or down and have threaded conversations! Rather than using our own editorial tastes to select comments, today we’ve let you, the community, pick your top 5. Here are the highest rated comments on each talk […]

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Pendulum paintings of Tom Shannon

May 6, 2009

I’m a huge fan of sculptor & painter Tom Shannon, a gentle genius who turns science into art and art into science. We just posted today his 2003 TED talk showing his gorgeous science-inspired sculptures and his vision for the Air Genie video airship. In the last few months he has returned to a form of […]

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