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Greek and Roman writings are filled with accounts of people doing the dirty with statues – a sexual fetish so common that it had its own term, agalmatophilia. The scholars Alex Scobie and Tony Taylor argued in 1975 that these sculptures were
… representational in appearance, coloring and size. The statues were placed on street level rather than high up on pedestals. Hence the statues were life-size, life-like and so conveniently accessible as to enable the populace to form personal relationships with them.
Despite its prevalence in ancient times, agalmatophilia is all but unknown today. Over at Scientific American, author Jesse Bering theorizes that the disappearance of this sexual paraphilia is due to changing technology. People who might have been statute-lovers now own RealDolls and robots. According to Bering, “advances in technology mean that we’ve since gained everything from latex fetishism to mechanophilic arousal by automobiles to the electrophile’s sexual dependence on electric currents.” Our sexual natures change along with us.
You’re looking at the madidi titi, also know as the Goldenpalace.com titi – the first species whose name is also an ad. Discovered in 2004, the honor of naming this new monkey was auctioned off to raise funds for the national park it calls home. Since its christening as Callicebus aureipalatii, however, there’s no evidence that the titi enjoys online gambling any more than it used it.
Image via Nova Taxa.
Want to justify the amount of time you spend on your online dating profile? It turns out that monogamy (along with language, booze, cooking, and bipedalism) may be one of those unique traits that “made us human”. While primates as a whole are an unusually monogamous for mammals, our closest relatives, the great apes, are all into promiscuous free-love. Though the benefits of the human pair bond are obvious now – it’s helpful for rearing big-brained, energy-intensive offspring – scientists are still split on why human monogamy evolved in the first place.
Remember the Twitter tooth implant, the handy little (speculative) device that spied on your drinking, eating and smoking habits? The implant made its first debut in real life with a “tattoo” consisting of electrical sensors. Now, a team of Taiwanese researchers have gone beyond surface electronics to create a whole implantable tooth, complete with a tiny accelerometer.
Because everything we do with our mouths, from chatting to chewing, produces a unique motion profile, the team was able to predict what participants’ mouths were getting up to with close to 95% accuracy. Future prototypes of the “wearable oral sensory system” will include Bluetooth (no pun intended) to wirelessly transmit data to a cell phone or computer. Just imagine waking up to a chiding letter from your parents when they find out you’ve been smoking, or a worried note from your doctor if she suspects you’re coming down with a cold. Of course, you can always talk to yourself if you want to fake a healthy dose of social interaction.
The apocalypse is on its way – at least for oranges. Citrus greening, a disease that kills citrus trees and makes their fruit green, shrunken and inedibly bitter, is racing across the globe. The disease, which is transmitted from tree to tree by a tiny insect called a psyllid, was first reported in China in 1943. Since then, it’s spread across the globe, finally making its way to Florida’s famous orange groves in 2005.
There is no known cure. A worldwide search failed to turn up a naturally immune tree. Measures like burning infected trees and dousing the psyllids with insecticide slow but do not stop the disease. With such seemingly bleak odds, does this mean the end of oranges, lemons and grapefruits?
After leaving our stomachs growling for two whole years, Professor Mark Post has announced that the world’s first in vitro hamburger is finally here. The burger, grown from 3,000 rice-sized strips of lab-grown muscle tissue, will be cooked and consumed before a London audience this Monday. The 150 gram burger cost a whopping €300,000, making it far and away the most expensive hamburger ever produced. We don’t envy the chef in charge of grilling it.
Japanese artist Aki Inomata is lending a helping hand to homeless hermit crabs. Armed with a 3D printer and a CAT-scan of actual snail shells, Inomata has created a series of surreal, gorgeous shells adorned with famous cityscapes. Though the artist’s pet crab preferred to make its home in a model of the Moroccan city Ait-Ben-Haddou, we (of course) have a soft spot for the version covered in Dutch windmills.
Via The Guardian.
A gorgeously uncanny school of discus fish cluster in an aquarium, all of them captive breeds. Though there’s nothing unusual about artificially selecting animals for flamboyant or bizarre traits, it’s still compelling to see such a lovely display of manmade biodiversity. Some of these discus strains are the result of “natural” hybridization between fish from different geographic locations, while others are the result of random mutations and intense inbreeding.
Photo via Practical Fish Keeping.
Food mimics try to look and taste like whatever they’re replacing. Veggie burgers, veggie sausages, even the dreaded vegan bacon, all exist to comfort the nostalgic vegetarian. These meat-mimics imply that a change in diet doesn’t mean a loss of deep-seated cultural rituals. You can still barbecue and eat a full English breakfast. Sort of.
This is the second part in a series that examines the different ways new foods become naturalized parts of our diets. For part one, click here.
Potatoes are an evil, unchristian tuber, a food so disgusting that even dogs refuse to eat it. Or, if you’re European, that’s what you might still think, if not for the aristocracy’s work to popularize the potato in the 1700s. Though we associate the celebrity endorsement with vapid talk shows and magazine spreads, in reality it’s been around for centuries, and it’s played a far more serious role than we give it credit for.
Amazon.com’s fulfillment center in Rugeley, England, is a sterile kingdom where the algorithm is king – and humans do their best to perform its bidding. Workers’ every movement is dictated by a tracking algorithm, which can send them on trips of up to 24 kilometers per day on the quest for packages. The silence is total. Workers can be fired for talking, even as smiling cardboard cutouts remind them that “this is the best job I’ve ever had!”.
With zero-hour contracts – and jobs that evaporate from one day to the next – workers are treated more like cogs than humans. According to photojournalist Ben Roberts, who chronicled the Rugeley center in Amazon Unpacked, “the only reason Amazon doesn’t actually replace them with robots is they’ve yet to find a machine that can handle so many different sized packages.” It’s dismal proof that if we don’t domesticate technology, it ends up domesticating us.
Read more at Fast Company.
While this storefront in Northern Ireland looks like it’s a merry place full of meat, it’s actually full of lies. In anticipation of the G8 conference in June, empty shops and abandoned buildings around the country were plastered in cheery faux-stores and images of local landmarks. The country’s leaders spent two million pounds to cover up signs of a crumbling economy. Presumably, their hope was that the G8 attendees, zooming past in their limos, wouldn’t see that the stores were as flat as the employment rate.
Via Atlantic Cities.
In this peculiar image, swans float down a flooded street in Worcester, UK. A jarring sight to human observers, the swan’s blithe adoption of a new habitat illustrates the fact that most creatures don’t care about the differences between nature and culture. Via The Times.
This is the first in a series of case studies that examine the different ways new foods become naturalized parts of our diets. Why is this important? Promoting the consumption of insect, plant and in-vitro protein is an increasingly vital component of addressing global food and environmental concerns. Despite this, convincing consumers to abandon steaks and chicken nuggets remains a daunting task.
When is a Patagonia toothfish not a Patagonian toothfish? When it’s a Chilean sea bass. In the first principle of food familiarization, semantic tricks are used to place strange food in a context where it feels familiar, alluring, or healthful. In the infamous example of Dissostichus eleginoides, an ugly fish with an ugly name was rebranded as the sexy-sounding Chilean sea bass.
If your prepackaged deli meat has been looking a little more “authentic” lately, it’s not because the meat is getting any tastier or the recipes any more artisanal. Food manufacturers have been hard at work giving processed meats – arguably some of the nastiest stuff in the grocery store – a “deli fresh”, “homemade” makeover.
While cream from the dairy aisle is pure white, most people would agree that cream the color is a pale shade of yellow. So why the discrepancy? It turns out that language preserves a form of dairy that has all but disappeared from our diets.
Though it’s over a decade old, Emily Green’s essay Is Milk Still Milk? is a fascinating history of how milk was transformed from a high-fat, high-protein and highly variable food into a homogenized industrial product. In regards to cream-the-color vs. cream-the-liquid, Green describes the results of a milk taste test performed with UC Davis students. While the students ranked raw milk from Jersey cows as better-tasting than supermarket milk from Holsteins, they also gave it the lowest scores for appearance. “It wasn’t white,” Green notes. “They had never seen cream-colored milk.”
Just as we’re surprised to learn the origin of the color cream, our children may be surprised to find out that the ‘ca-click’ of their smartphone’s camera is actually the sound of an analog shutter.
Read more over at the LA Times.
Normally, when we select for characteristics in fruits and vegetables, it’s to bring them closer to some modernist ideal: corn that’s sweeter, lettuce that’s crisper, cucumbers that are perfectly green and straight. However, a new strain of tomato out of the UK may soon topple the spherical red fruit from its iconic position. These purple GM tomatoes owe their unusual hue to a dark purple-blue pigment called anthocynanin. Not only does this antioxidant double the shelf life of tomatoes in the supermarkt, it also extends the lives of mice that are genetically predisposed to cancer. A tomato that cuts down on food waste and the incidence of cancer? Even if pasta and pizza will never look the same, maybe it’s time to pass the purple.
Old nature meets next nature as a pair of lions prepare for their day amidst morning traffic, while human bystanders snap photos and upload them to Facebook. As cities and suburbs infringe on lion habitat, these carnivores are increasingly becoming synanthropes – animals that, welcome or not, live in association with human habitations. Image via Naij.