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What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.

Posts Tagged ‘Bionics’

  • mcdonalds-come-as-you-are

    The First Recorded Attack on a Cyborg

    By his own account Steve Mann, also known as “the father of wearable computing” and “the first cyborg,” was attacked by McDonald’s employees for wearing his “EyeTap” digital eye glass last July in Paris. Still far away from the intelligence gathering “gargoyles” described in Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk novel “Snow Crash” the EyeTap allows Mann to improve sight and film his surroundings while projecting the captured image with an added layer of augmented reality to his eye.

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  • Bionic Protein

    Researcher Create Fully Artificial Proteins

    Though not yet as functional as biological proteins, these artificial proteins created by physicists at the University of Vienna are the first versatile and modular examples of a fully artificial protein. Their method involves the self-assembly of simple particles into polymer chains. By controlling the interaction between the beginning and end of the polymer chain they are able to “lock” the folded end result.

    Proteins are the molecular machines that form the building blocks of all living organisms, and underlie complex bio-molecular processes within our bodies. From muscle contraction to DNA replication, proteins are involved in uncountable biological activities. This research presents a foundation on which novel applications can be built, from material sciences to new forms of drug delivery. One day, these bionic proteins might very well be integrated into our own biology.

    Via Medienportal

  • Super Mario bros

    Computer Teaches Itself to Play Games

    Computer games were originally designed to be fun for humans, not for algorithms. Programmer Tom Murphy challenged himself to create a computer algorithm that could learn to play (and beat) Super Mario Bros.

    During a human-played session, the algorithm observes the player, mapping events to buttons used. This allows the algorithm to complete levels of the games which were not even ‘learned’ during the input session. This is different from normal artificial intelligence algorithms that are trained to do a specific task.

    Murphy’s program teaches itself to play rather than it being programmed to take certain actions on specific events. Even though the algorithm was made for Super Mario bros, it works well with any older, side-scrolling game.

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    The “Actroid” Lives in the Uncanny Valley

    Deep, Deep in the uncanny valley lives this Japanese humanoid robot, aptly called an ‘actroid’. She can function autonomously, talking and gesturing while interacting with people. While her appearance may not be as hyper-realistic as her cousin Geminoid F, her interaction is autonomous instead of tele-operated. This makes her at the same time more effective and a bit creepier.

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  • http://phys.org/news/2013-04-team-solar-powered-proteins-filter-antibiotics.html

    Toss the Brita: Bacteria Can Filter Antibiotics from Water

    We use antibiotics for medical treatment, but the presence of antibiotics in drinking water is harmful to us and to our environment. Currently, activated carbon is used to filter out harmful antibiotics, but the effect is not perfect. A team at the University of Cincinnati has now developed and tested a new filter made of two bacterial proteins which can remove almost twice as much antibiotics as activated carbon, using only water and direct sunlight.

    Compared with activated carbon filters, the bacterial protein system offers several improvements. Firstly, the new protein filter can selectively absorb antibiotics. It employs a protein pump called AcrB, a selective “garbage disposal” for the bacteria that cannot get clogged with organic matter. Secondly, direct sunlight powers the bacterial protein system. A light-driven bacterial protein called Delta-rhodopsin supplies power for the AcrB. Moreover, these bacteria can even be used to extract antibiotics for recycling, and may even eventually be used to filter our heavy metals and hormones.

    Story via Phys.org and Nano Letters

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  • ElizaSecondSightRetinalimplantMasterandLead-1360942862868

    Bionic Eye: Limited Vision to the Blind

    On Valentine’s day, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first treatment that can restore (limited) eyesight to (some) blind people. This means that the first “bionic eye” will come to the American market next year! This milestone device allows users to see “crosswalks on the street, the presence of people or cars, and sometimes even large numbers or letters.

    The treatment involves sheets of electrodes implanted behind the eye, glasses with an attached camera and a video processer. With this system, the device bypasses the damaged retina and transmits images directly to the brain. According to the company which produces the implants, they could also be beneficial for elderly people with bad eyesight.

    For the rest of us, we’ll just wait for implants that improve our “normal” vision.

    Via IEEE Spectrum

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    A Robot to Make Rats Depressed

    The robot in the picture above chases and attacks the living rat rights besides it. The W-3, as the robot is named, is designed to make rats seriously depressed. In fact, this robot is one of the best methods to induce depression in lab rats.

    Making a rat depressed might seem strange or even unethical, but researchers have already done it for years. After all, you can’t develop antidepressants without having depressed rats to test them on. Current methods to make rats depressed, like making them swim for hours or giving them electric shocks, do not quite mimic the day-to-day situations humans go through. Therefore, the researchers at Tokyo’s Waseda University developed a robot that more precisely mimics the social stressors that can trigger depression in humans.

    I wonder how a depression-inducing robot for humans might look.

    Story via Spectrum IEEE.

  • snail-teeth_anastasia

    The Future of Solar Power? Snail Teeth!

    Gumboot chiton is a marine snail with an appetite for algae growing on rocks. Grazing on rocks would destroy the teeth of others, but not the gumboot chiton. This snail produces the hardest biomineral yet discovered to deal with its punishing eating habits.

    This mineral, called magnetite, has inspired a new type of solar cell and a new type of lithium battery. By understanding how the snail produces this mineral, researchers could develop similar ways to make nano-materials at room temperature. This will allow researchers to develop low-cost, high-efficiency microscopic structures.

    Dr. Kisailus, of Riverside’s Bourne College of Engineering in California, believes that understanding the gumboot chiton will lead to solar cells that can capture and convert more sunlight into electricity, as well to more efficient batteries. “If we can reduce the size of particles in batteries, which at present, are massive on a nano-scale, this will reduce their recharge time and increase their power efficiency”.

    Via Elements Science

  • victimless shelter

    ‘Victimless Shelter’ Grown from Pig Cells

    It’s a self-evident truth that there’s nothing that can’t be better with bacon – including housing. While Next Nature was busy dreaming up new in vitro meat (IVM) foods, the mad scientists of Terreform ONE in New York went ahead and designed an entire dwelling made of IVM pig cells. While the prototype for the “victimless shelter” is just conventional pig leather, the real deal (if it ever exists) would be a complex structure with tissue-engineered bone for support and giant sphincters for windows. We’ll leave it up to the religious authorities to decide whether a pork house is kosher.

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    Bacterioptica

    Living lamps like Latro Algea Lamp by Mike Thompson are nothing new. But design studio MADLAB has created Bacterioptica, a lamp that contains organisms and bacteria from the family that owns it. The statement reads:

    “It is alive in a very literal sense: it cultivates, distributes and illuminates the bacterial life of its family members by way of a branching assembly of metal rods, glass petri dishes and fiber optics.

    “Bacterioptica is adaptive by design, not only in its form and mechanics, but more importantly, in the way it evolves. Step- by-step instructions guide the family through procedures to experiment with and prepare each bacterial sample for its place in the chandelier. Whether featuring bacteria from the skin, the yard or the dinner guests, Bacterioptica is continually changing in shape and luminosity.”

    With this lamp your family can literally light up your life.

    Via DesignTaxi

  • moss table creates electricity

    Moss Table Powers Its Own Lamp

    When moss photosynthesize, they release nutritious fats, carbs and proteins into their roots to feed colonies of helpful, symbiotic bacteria. In the process of breaking down these compounds, the bacteria release electrons. In other words, the create electricity. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have figured out how to harness these minute electrical charges into an emerging technology called biophotovoltiacs (BPV).

    Created by Alex Driver, Carlos Peralta, Paolo Bombelli, the prototype Moss Table produces enough electricity to power a small lamp. According to Peralta, the Moss Table “suggests a world in which self-sustaining organic-synthetic hybrid objects surround us, and supply us with our daily needs in a clean and environmentally friendly manner.” Small devices could be powered by houseplants or backyard gardens, while larger arrays of plants might hold promise as a new renewable source of energy, especially in remote or impoverished communities.

    See also the NANO Supermarket’s speculative algae-powered Latro Lamp and the Bioelectric Bonsai.

    Story via the University of Cambridge. Image via Keetsa.

  • strawberry_noir

    Strawberry Noir

    Hypernature ahoy! Behold the Strawberry Noir, a 2050 strawberry breed with high levels of anthocyanin and Vitamin C, and black lace doilies for the fashion market.

    The speculative hyperfruit has been envisioned as part of Carole Collet’s research on how we might program plants to grow into ready-to-pick luxury textile products in the future. Should plants be genetically controlled to perform specific functions for us? And if we move further into this alley, what will be the risks, opportunities and design methods?

  • armyprotected_crops

    Army Protected Organic Foods

    Over the last few decades, the public has been – and still is – creating awareness on the values of organically produced foods. For many foodies an important value of organic foods is the pure production process, without synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

    The food industry tries to capitalize on this by increasing their yield in other ways. To minimize crop losses and thus maximize revenues, they have started to engineer killer bugs. These bugs are programmed to act as pesticides, eating and killing insects to protect the crops.

    However, an ethical question arises. Are we now relocating the chemical process of crop preservation from the crops themselves to the insects? Is it better to modify and “enhance” these bugs, so the issue shifts from the crops to a new species and thus an altered ecosystem?

    Via Businessweek. Illustration by Gerald Leung.

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  • diatom circle

    Nanotech Diatoms

    No, those aren’t plastic trinkets or beads from a craft store. They’re diatoms, a group of single-celled algae, and unlike almost all of our current technologies, they can rapidly and reliably synthesize  nanoscale structures. Diatoms produce incredibly complex silica shells that are riddled with a regular pattern of pores. As can be seen above, diatoms come in an incredible variety of shapes – around 100,000 species in all. Strong, easy and quick-growing, and virtually unlimited, diatoms are drawing the attention of scientists who are interested in nanotechnology.

    As with many nanotechnologies, research into the use of diatoms is in its infancy. These microscopic algae have been studied for their ability of synthesize novel electrical devices, including new ways to detect pollution. A chemical process that converts their silica shells into silicon creates ready-made nano electronics. Since biologically active molecules attach to the pores in their shells, they may eventually function as a “lab on a chip” for detecting antibodies, traces of diseases, and other chemicals in the body. Diatoms also show promise in the fields of optics. Solar energy cells with diatom-based coatings capture three times more electrons that standard coatings. Genetic manipulation might refine the diatom’s natural precision engineering to create bespoke parts for nanosensors and nanoscale machines from diatoms. Further proof that guided growth is the future of manufacturing.

  • nanotechnology water bottle

    Nanotech Water Bottle Harvests Water from the Air

    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.

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    Mushrooms: The New Solution for our Plastic Problem?

    You cannot look around your local environment without seeing something made out of plastic. Almost all the stuff we buy is packaged in plastic. Since recycling packaging materials is difficult and expensive, these plastics are being moved to landfills to bio-degrade. If left undisturbed, this process could take more than a thousand years for the plastic lying on the bottom, where there is hardly any oxygen. Fortunately, researchers have recently found a fungus in the Amazon rainforest which is able to degrade the plastics.

    In an expedition to discover plants and microorganisms in the Amazon, researchers discovered the first fungus species that could live on a diet of polyurethane and thrive in a climate without oxygen. This means that plastic on the bottom of a landfill might possible by broken down by Pestalotiopsis microspora or a similar species.

    The mushroom is only found in the Amazon, a place without any plastics. Will this fungus have a future outside the rainforest?

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    Spider-Man Gloves

    Imagine how much easier the job of window cleaners would be if they could simply scale walls like Spider-Man instead of using elevators, ladders and other gear. Ever since the first Spider-Man comic appeared children and adults alike have been dreaming of these particular talents. Thanks to “gecko-tape”, these dreams are no longer  science fiction. Luckily, this new method of scaling walls doesn’t involve being bit by a radioactive spider.

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