- Website: http://cargocollective.com/pigeonandtonic
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The Namib desert gets less than a half an inch of rain per year, yet the stenocara beetle manages to survive in these punishing conditions. The beetle’s secret lies in an array of microscopic bumps and valleys on its shell. The bumps are hydrophilic (water-attracting) and the valleys are hydrophobic (water-repelling). During foggy days, tiny water droplets accumulate on the hydrophilic bumps. Once a droplet is big enough, it tumbles off the bump down into a hydrophobic trough, which funnels the water to the beetle’s mouth. Now, a company called NBD Nano is hoping to mimic stenocara’s shell to create the world’s first self-filling water bottles.
NBD Nano co-founder Deckard Sorenson says that “We see this being applicable to anything from marathon runners to people in third-world countries, because we realize that water is such a large issue in the world today, and we want to try to alleviate those problems with a cost-efficient solution.” According to him, this technology could harvest three liters per square meter per hour in an area with 75% humidity. Unfortunately, the self-filling water bottle is still years from being realized, if ever. For those of you who are impatient for a solution to the world’s water crisis, GrabCAD is holding a contest to design devices that harvest water from the air.
Story via BoingBoing. Image via GrabCAD.
In vitro meat has been billed as a way to end animal suffering, put a stop to global warming, and solve the world’s insatiable demand for animal protein. There’s no doubt that our hunger for meat is driving cataclysmic climate change, habitat loss, and overfishing. Things need to change, and change fast. But is meat cultured from animal cells, grown in a lab, and exercised with electric pulses the change we need?
Earlier this year, Mark Post of Maastrict University announced his plan to produce a €250,000 burger. While the cost is astronomical, Post promised that economies of scale would eventually make the lab meat cost-competitive with conventional flesh. However, like jetpacks, underwater cities and orbiting colonies, many scientific breakthroughs that once seemed inevitable have proven to be possible, but economically unfeasible.
We can do it. We just can’t afford it. Below are the top four reasons to believe that in vitro meat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
In more next natural news from Hurricane Sandy, Anheuser-Busch, parent company of the American beer brand Budweiser, has been canning water for victims of the disaster. The company temporarily converted one of its manufacturing facilities from churning out bland beer to life-giving water.
The result is uncanny: A beer can with the familiar eagle logo of Budweiser, now filled with essential, non-alcoholic water. In a world where corporations often have more power than governments, it is not surprising that in times of crisis they respond faster than “official” organizations, and are better equipped to do so. See also ColaLife.
With areas of New York still without electricity, BioLite recently came to the rescue of Brooklynites by setting up a charging station with camping stoves that convert excess heat to electricity. As global warming contributes to intensifying storms, perhaps hipster survivalists will turn to small-batch, artisanal electricity, just like their great-grandparents used to make.
Joking aside, the mass migration of electricity-seeking New Yorkers from neighborhood to neighborhood proves that mobile connectivity is moving down near the base of our Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. After satisfying our needs for food, water and warmth, we immediately make sure that there’s enough juice in the iPhone to call home and check the weather report.
Via Boing Boing
The One Laptop Per Child program is experimenting with what at first seems to be the lazy way to philanthropy: dropping off tablet computers in remote Ethiopian villages and then simply leaving. Could illiterate children learn not only how to operate the Motorola Zooms, but teach themselves to read? According to Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop Per Child, the results were astonishing:
“We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.”
Stone tools are the most ancient evidence of our ancestor’s ingenuity, proof that we’ve been augmenting our bodies for millions of years. These flint tools by Ami Drach and Dov Ganchrow update our prehistory with modern materials and techniques. Each knapped tool is scanned and then outfitted with a form-fitting 3D-printed handle. In marrying the most basic fabrication technique with one of the most advanced, Drach and Ganchrow’s project demonstrates how modern technologies return us to the tribe.
Via Design Boom.
Roads are a ubiquitous, even defining aspect of our urban and suburban spaces. In the United States alone, parking lots and roads cover 16,000 square kilometers. So why must roads be gray, plain and a general waste of space? Dutch designer Daan Roosegarde, inventor of the Intimacy Dress, wants to take the technology from his Sustainable Dance Floor and apply it to the highway of the future.
The vibrations of cars over the road surface will create energy for streetlights and will power electric cars and scooters at charging stations. These “smart” roads could be further equipped with sensors to report ice, rain, temperature or traffic conditions. Roosegarde’s proposal for an energy-generating highway isn’t the first: There’s been plans for solar roadways in the US, electromagnetic roadways in China, and a piezo-electric road similar to Roosegarde’s in Israel.
Feeling grumpy and hungry? Unfortunately, the University of Tokyo’s Happiness Counter refrigerator won’t open up until you give it a big smile. The concept is based on the fact that smiling releases endorphins, but it seems like the pushy fridge is a quicker route to rage than to true happiness.
Computer-controlled players in video games can usually be spotted for their repetitive, illogical or unemotional behavior. Unlike humans, non-player characters (NPCs) don’t get angry, frustrated or scared in stressful game situations, and have trouble planning ahead. In order to address this problem, 2KGames launched the BotPrize, a Turing-style Test aimed at creating more convincing artificial players.
A human audience watched players in battling their way through Unreal Tournament 2004 and rated them on their apparent “humanness”. A team from the University of Texas at Austin tied for the win, creating an NPC so realistic that it scored a humanness rating of 52%. That’s impressive, and even more so taking into account that plain-ole real humans only clocked in at 40%.
The UT team was able to create their more-human-than-human bot through a process called “neuroevolution”. Using existing models of in-game human behavior, the researchers created different NPCs that were weeded out via a Darwinian process. As with mutations in genetic evolution, each new generation of the different NPCs lineages were tweaked slightly with behaviors that could either prove to be adaptive (more human) or maladaptive (less human). After five years of digital evolution, the game bot finally outperformed its human competition.
Pump yourself up the “natural” way: Muscle Milk contains no milk, and hopefully no muscles either. Just goes to show that nature is the most successful marketing trope of our time.
Deep below bustling, noisy Delancy Street in Manhattan lies the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, a building abandoned in 1948. This terminal is just one of many tunnels and stations that riddle New York, unused except by rats and albino alligators. Now, designers Dan Barasch and James Ramsey want to do for the city’s subterranean spaces what the High Line and the Brooklyn Garage did for its aerial ones: Turn them into vibrant, immaculately designed parks.
Despite the abundance of empty urban caves, Barasch and Ramsey encountered one major hurdle to making the darkness bloom: Plants can’t grow without light. The team has come up with high-tech solution to bring light underground, involving tunnels, GPS, and a parabolic system of lenses and mirrors based on the one used in the James Webb Space Telescope.
In the exhibition “Imagining the Lowline” visitors recently got their first taste of a forest floor beneath the pavement, complete with moss, ferns, and a Japanese maple. Whether Barasch and Ramsey can realize their vision of converting the trolley terminal into the world’s first underground green space depends on city bureaucracy and, of course, money. Fans can contribue cash at their website. For all us vampires, night-owls, and Poe-reading goths, let’s hope Manhattan soon gets its next great public space, far beneath the madding crowds.
For when nature’s perfect packaging is just too darn hard to get off: Pre-peeled bananas in styrofoam and cling-wrap, from the kings of convenience at Austrian supermarket Billa. Luckily for the environment/common sense/peak oil, an internet uproar has led to the company pulling this hilariously unnecessary product from the shelves.
A team of researchers from three universities have succeeded in creating the first device that boosts the brain power of primates. In the study, five rhesus macaques were trained to complete an image-matching task. Each was shown one photo, and then asked to select the same photo from a larger pool of images. Using a tiny probe inserted into the monkey’s cerebral cortex, a computer recorded and analyzed the neural signals being sent when the primate was studying the first photo and when it made the “right” decision in the game. Over the course of two years, the monkeys acquired a 75% proficiency in this task.
Fat is what makes ice cream taste rich and creamy. It’s called ice cream, after all, not ice skim milk. So how have some manufacturers managed to make reduced fat ice cream that does a decent job of matching the real stuff? The answer, it turns out, is in fish blood.
What do blueberries have in common with sugar, corn cereal, modified food starch, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, artificial flavor, cellulose gum, salt and and Blue #1, Blue #2, Red #40 and Green #3? Nothing! But that doesn’t stop food companies from marketing 100% manufactured “blueberry crunchlets” or “blueberry bits” as the real deal. Blueberry Muffin Mini-Wheat cereal? No blueberries. Total Pomegranate and Blueberry cereal? No pomegranates, no blueberries. Blueberry Pop Tarts? More corn syrup than berries.
This type of advertising rides the biomimic-marketing wave, using nature and the poorly-documented claims of “superfoods” to cast a healthy aura on junk. It allows us to feel virtuous, pure and wholesome while we eat foods largely derived from sugar, cheap grains, and chemical additives. Want to avoid these psuedo-berries? Just read the ingredients list or, better yet, buy a carton of fresh berries.
Via Food Investigations.
Foxes, coyotes, bobcats, jackals, and dozens of other generalist predators have successfully adapted to suburbia, following their prey to where the grass is green and the landscaping is tasty. At their worst, these mid-sized species will knock over a few garbage cans and make a meal of Fluffy. In Kenya, however, suburban homeowners are now facing lions, animals that exclusively specialize in killing large prey. Too bad humans fit the definition of “large”.
If human skin was made of fondant, that is, and our muscles were made of flour. With the advent of lab-grown meat, the vegetarian Slice cake reminds us that our food doesn’t need to be restricted to boring old t-bones and chicken legs. Meat can be knit like scarves, rolled into balls or, yes, grown into multi-tiered cakes. Perhaps a new wedding tradition will be to serve steak-cakes cultured from the bride and groom’s own muscle. Think that’s disgusting? Just look at what goes into normal chicken nuggets…
Image via Behance.
Is the neon green tetra GloFish soon to be the florescent, transgenic terror of America’s waterways? The internet hype machine has repeated ad infinitum the Washington Post’s recent story about the invasive potential of a new breed of GloFish. First sold to the public in 2003, the original GloFish were four brightly colored strains of zebrafish that fluoresced thanks to jellyfish and coral genes.
Last February, the biotech company Yorktown expanded their species range by introducing a transgenic, acid green version of the tetra fish. It’s this Electric Green Tetra (©) that has biologists and wetland conservationists worried. While tropical zebrafish go belly-up in cooler US waters, their argument goes, tetras are better adapted to seasonally cold conditions. Any released GloFish tetras could potentially take over lakes and rivers, their freaky genes compelling them to outcompete native species or breed with their wild cousins.
It’s a catchy argument. It’s also untrue.