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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’

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    Augmented Ecologies

    It might take a while before this goes mainstream, if ever, but there is a certain luster in being a plant VJ.

    Augmented Ecologies is an installation by Guido Maciocci, who rigged up plants with sensors to create a kinesthetic user experience with movement, touch, sound and light. When the user touches the plants or pressure sensitive moss they create different types of musical notes.

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    Fly Paper Clock

    Bionic horror by designers James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau, who have created a clock that traps insects on flypaper before depositing them into a vat of bacteria. The resulting chemical reaction – a form of digestion – results into electric power that keeps the roller rolling and the clock ticking.

    At first sight the Fly Paper Clock seems odious and prosperous, however, we must applaud its self-sustaining quality. Will we one day have our houses crowded of insect catching domestic robots? NPR has an article on more meat eating furniture, including a table that consumes mice.

    Thanks Roy van den Heuvel.

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    Playing with Microbes – Biotic Games

    Stanford researchers are developing ‘biotic games’ involving paramecia and other living organisms. So far, they have created three games that mimic classic video games.

    The “biotic games” involve a variety of basic biological processes and some simple single-celled organisms. One game in which players guide paramecia – the single-celled organisms used in countless biology experiments from grade school classes to university research labs – to “gobble up” little balls, a la PacMan, was named PAC-mecium. They’ve also created Biotic Pinball, POND PONG and Ciliaball, named after the tiny hairs, called cilia, that paramecia use in a flipper-like fashion to swim around – and in the game enables kicking a virtual soccer ball.

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    The Roots of Plant Intelligence

    Plants behave in some oddly intelligent ways: fighting predators, maximizing food opportunities … But can we think of them as actually having a form of intelligence of their own? Italian botanist Stefano Mancuso presents intriguing evidence in his talk at TED. Obviously, next nature observers will appreciate his comparisons between the networked nature of plant roots and the internet.

  • Policing Genes

    The genetics of the plants in your garden could become a police matter. Pharmaceutical companies are experimenting with genetically engineering plants to produce useful and valuable drugs. However, the techniques employed to insert genes into plants are within reach of the amateur… and the criminal. Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals.

    A project by Thomas Thwaites – On show at Wellcome Trust in London until March 29th

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    Amber Case: We are all Cyborgs Now

    Technology is evolving us, says cyborg anthropologist Amber Case in her 8 minutes of TED. We become a screen-staring, button-clicking new version of homo sapiens, relying on “external brains” (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives. But will these machines ultimately connect or conquer us? Buckle up for some surprising insight into our cyborg selves.

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    Biomodd at work

    Modding is the act of adapting hardware/software to have it do what you want it to do, which does not always correlate with what it is originally built to do. Biomodd(ding) is inserting a living ecosystem inside a computer system, varying from plants that grow and develop with the use of the waste heat of the computer to algae that function to cool a processor; “living cooling liquid”. In an almost symbiosis-like state nature and machine living together. Even though it, of what I’ve seen so far, ends up being quite interesting sculpture-like installations, the main importance is that they’re meant to be actually used.

    In one set-up in the Phillipines they developed a multi-player game and used this structure as the server. Which resulted in: “social meeting getting translated through a sequence of events into biological growth and development.” And this is where the different levels appear; Biomodd is about the game-element, it is about the social aspect and it is about the biological aspect. And it is really cool to look at, have a look for yourself:

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    via: Kritische Massa: kunstkritiek en digitale kunst (Critical Mass: art-criticism and digital art), organized by Virtueel Platform.

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    Computer versus Bacteria: Round Two

    Last year, scientists managed to use the bacteria Escherichia coli to solve a mathematical problem, described in this research. This year, the building blocks of a computer are made.

    Researchers at the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, led by Christopher A. Voigt have just published a paper which promises to get your circuits moving. This team has been working with the same bacteria to build logic gates like the ones found in computers directly into cells, making it possible to rewire and program them. The simple logic gates used in the experiment were built into genes then inserted into E. coli cells. The logic gates then acted as the communicator between the separate strains, allowing them to be connected together. Via engadget.com

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    Remote Control Mouse

    Mind control for beginners: A mouse expressing ChR2 channels in its neurons starts running when it receives blue light in its motor cortex. Unsure what applications the researchers expect to come out of their achievement – if you have any suggestions do share them in the comment box.

    The experiment was conducted by Karl Deisseroth and colleagues at Stanford University. Thanks Arjen Boender.

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    Acoustic Botany

    With his speculative ‘acoustic garden’ David Benqué tries to explore our cultural and aesthetic relationship to nature. He states that the current debate around Genetic Engineering is centred around subjects like food and healthcare but that the altering of nature is no new development. Mankind altered nature for hundreds of years. Think of flowers and mind altering weeds. Benqué wants to question the role of our aesthetic relationship to nature in this age of synthetic biology.

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    Nomadic Plants

    Nomadic Plants are a species assembled from a group of robotic-electronic-biological organisms living in symbiosis in order to survive in habitats affected by human activity.

    The nomadic plant automatically moves towards water when its bacteria require nourishment. It contains vegetation and microorganisms living symbiotically inside the body of the apparatus. The robot draws water from a contaminated river, decomposes its elements, helps to create energy to feed its brain circuits, and the surplus is then used to create life, maintaining plants that, at once, complete their own life cycle.

    Gilberto Esparza created these Nomadic Plants as a metaphor for the supposed alienation of the human condition and the impact its activity has on its environment. By creating these plants nomadic plants, which obviously haven’t evolved by themselves, its creator hopes to instigate critical reflections on the ambiguity of the force wielded by technology.

    Seen at HAIP Festival – New Nature.

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    MANKO & Vacuum [#2]

    I should tell you the story of how Manko lost a leg. You need to know about this incident to understand his recent works. So please forgive me, I first have to go back to that unfortunate day, before I continuing where we left off last month.

    Manko was 23 years old, and studied sculpture at the time. He was quite impulsive and loved to do things differently than others, just for the sake of it. An example: one day he threw himself through the window of a bus stop, just to know what that would be like, but also because he would know that he had done something than none of his friends would ever do. And he did not do it for them either. He did it to feel special. The consequence of having to pick a hundred tiny splinters of glass from his face only made it more memorable.

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  • Nanoparticles in Sunscreen Damage Microbes

    Nanoparticles in Sunscreen Damage Microbes

    Nanotechnology has been hailed for its benefits because of the potential ability to create drugs that could cure cancer and radiation poisoning, make miniature pollutant filters resulting in healthier air and even produce better tasting food. Excitement over these benefits has led to corporations heavily investing in the technology for their products.

    However, the same properties that allow nanotechnology to be valuable give it the potential to cause unforeseen consequences for ecological and human health. To date, it’s unclear whether the benefits of nanotech outweigh the risks associated with environmental release and exposure to nanoparticles.

    Environmental Health News reports that nanoparticles in sunscreens, cosmetics and hundreds of other consumer products may pose risks to the environment by damaging beneficial microbes.

    Researchers Cyndee Gruden and Olga Mileyeva-Biebesheimer from the University of Toledo added varying amounts of nanoparticles to water containing bacteria. The bacteria were grown in a lab and stained with a green fluorescent. It turned out the nano-titanium dioxide – also used in personal care products – reduced biological roles of bacteria after less than an hour of exposure. The findings suggest that these particles, which end up at municipal sewage treatment plants after being washed off in showers, could eliminate microbes that play vital roles in ecosystems and help treat wastewater. Oops!

    Nanotechnology is yet another example of mankind playing with fire: It requires enormous care and restraint, yet on the other hand, playing with fire is perhaps one of the very special abilities that defines us as humans.

    Via: Environmental Health News.

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    Join the Designers & Artists 4 Genomics Award

    So, you are well aware that biotech will drive our evolution, you took the crash course on synthetic genomics, you’ve got your map of the DNA world in your backpack and are now eager to redesign some microbes that turn waste into energy, eat plastic, detect flu, or build a better being altogether? You have a brilliant project plan already, but only need some – let say– euro 25.000 and a bit of help from a genomic center to turn your vision into reality? We have cake for you.

    The Designers & Artists 4 Genomics Award (DA4GA) aims to explore the hybrid practice between design, art and genomics on contemporary society. If you are graduated no longer than five years ago you are eligible to submit a project plan and take a chance on winning a euro 25.000,- to realize you project in collaboration with one of the participating Genomic centers.

    If we are going to mutate the made & the born, let us at least do this creatively. The application deadline is September 8th 2010.

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    BioPong II

    This time no technological enhanced roosters, dogs, cats or wood lice, but sheep! The famous viral Extreme Shepherding by The Baaa-Studs.

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    Injured Cat gets Bambi-style prosthetics

    A cat that had its back feet severed by a combine harvester has been given two prosthetic limbs in a pioneering operation by a UK vet. The custom-made implants that “peg” the ankle to the foot are bio-engineered to mimic the way deer antler bone grows through the skin.

    The ground breaking operation was carried out by veterinary surgeon Noel Fitzpatrick. The cat, named Oscar, was struck by the combine harvester whilst dozing in the sun.

    The prosthetic pegs, called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics (Itaps) were developed by a team from University College London led by Professor Gordon Blunn, who is head of UCL’s Centre for Biomedical Engineering.

    Professor Blunn and his team have worked in partnership with Mr Fitzpatrick to develop these weight-bearing implants, combining engineering mechanics with biology. Mr Fitzpatrick explained: “The real revolution with Oscar is that we have put a piece of metal and a flange into which skin grows into an extremely tight bone.”

    “We have managed to get the bone and skin to grow into the implant and we have developed an ‘exoprosthesis’ that allows this implant to work as a see-saw on the bottom of an animal’s limbs to give him effectively normal gait.”

    Professor Blunn told BBC News the idea was initially developed for patients with amputations who have a stump socket. “This means they fix their artificial limb with a sock, which fits over the stump. In a lot of cases this is successful, but you [often] get rubbing and pressure sores.”

    It remains to be seen what the psychological ramifications of having bambi-style prosthetics will be for Oscar.

    Via: BBC News.

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