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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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    What Robots dream of…

    You may think it’s a cliché, but deep down inside robots want to be birds and fly high in the sky. Hooray for the good people of Festo, that demonstrate at TED how they turn the dream into a reality.

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    First Lab-Grown Organ Transplanted

    Another step in the fusion of the made & the born: Surgeons in Sweden have successfully transplanted a fully synthetic, tissue-engineered organ – a trachea– into a man with late-stage tracheal cancer.

    The synthetic trachea was grown in a bioreactor, using a scaffold built out of a porous polymer, and tissue grown from the patient’s own stem cells. The surgery was performed last month by Paolo Macchiarini at Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, Stockholm. The patient has now made a full recovery and has been discharged from the hospital.

    The transplant of the lab grown organ is a significant moment for regenerative medicine, although a trachea is much simpler than a lung, kidney or a heart, which are still far more challenging for the scientists.

    Lab grown organs are expected to be superior to ordinary donor organs in several ways. They can be made to order more quickly than a donor organ can often be found; being grown from a patient’s own cells, they also do not require dangerous immunosuppressant drugs to prevent rejection.

    Source: Technologyreview.

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    Bare necessities

    According to a research by JWT AnxietyIndex the changing mediascape is upon us. Do to the recession people are forced to validate their luxuries and it turned out that teens and twentysomethings are willing to cut back on a lot of things, except on the internet connection and mobile phone.  Within their mediascape these are more important then traditional entertainment. Connectivity is entertainment.

    Via: We Are Organized Chaos.

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    Humane Technology #5: Empower People

    Principle number five: Humane technology doesn’t outsource people, but instead empowers them.

    How healthy or humane is it to have an escalator to the gym?  Humane technology should not aim to replace the human mind and body.  Rather, it should be used as a tool to augment existing capabilities.  The Cheetah Flex-Foot, a prosthetic foot and lower leg, integrates with a user’s existing knee and upper leg to enable comfortable walking and running.  Users are at least as fast as those with flesh-and-blood feet, and may even be faster thanks to the mechanical efficiencies of springy metal.  The initial design was closely modeled on the human foot, but evolved into a sleeker blade-like shape that’s more cheetah than person.  The Flex-Foot is therefore not an exact replacement for the human form, but a way to radically re-imagine it.

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    New steps to meld mind and machine

    Until now we’ve seen the types of brain-computer interface where the human has to put on some sort of bulky hat full of wires to control a machine. It won’t be like that for long: the future of organic electronics may already be here.  In 2009, a team of Swedish scientists created the first artificial nerve cell that communicates with nerves in their own language of neurotransmitter chemicals, rather than with electrical impulses.  More recently, another team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison scratched the surface of a new kind of brain-machine interface by wiring computer chips with living nerve cells.

    These technologies are radically shifting conventional brain-computer interfaces.  Not only can they help people with diseases such as schizophrenia or Parkinson’s, but they also present exciting possibilities for neurotypical humans.  For example, such devices could allow you to control the machines around you, and to communicate with them as well.  Yes, creepy if it gets hacked. Or here’s another idea: what if you could communicate your thoughts to another person just by thinking? Then it wouldn’t be brain-machine interfaces anymore, but brain-machine-brain interfaces.

    Photo: link

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    Think Breast is Best? Try Udder

    Scientists in China have created transgenic cows that produce ‘human’ milk.  The researchers boosted the fat content of the milk and added three types of proteins, unique to humans, that help to bolster the immune systems of infants.  Due to hit shelves in ten year’s time, the genetically modified milk would help infants whose mothers cannot or chose not to nurse – and would perhaps put predatory formula companies out of business.  As for the taste?  According to the lead researcher, it’s “stronger than normal milk.”

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    Vertical Farming

    Columbia professor Dickson Despommier imagines filling New Yorks skyscrapers with farms. As over 50% of the world population now lives in urban areas, this scenario could solve distribution problems and reconnect people with their food. Unsure if the pig skyscraper is also incorporated in the plan.

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    Tree Temple

    So we may think ‘guided growth‘ is a typically 21th century design methodology, yet apparently it was also in vogue in the 19th century.

    According the original description in the Picture magazine 1893, this century old Maple tree “has been turned into a kind of temple of two stories, each of its compartments being lighted by eight windows, and capable of containing twenty people wit ease. The floors are constructed of boughs skillfully woven together, of which the leaves make a sort of natural carpet. The walls are formed of thick leafage, in which innumerable birds build their nests”

    We are unsure if this tree ever existed or that is a 19th century design fiction.

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  • robotic-fish

    Robots Love Animals Too

    Someday robots may lead fish to safety.  At least, that’s the hope of Dr. Maurizio Porfiri, an Assistant Professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University and expert on the dynamics of schooling fish.  His knowledge has lead him to develop robotic leaders for groups of fish.  To our eyes they look distinctly un-fishy, but in the water, they are surprisingly lifelike swimmers.  It’s their action, not their appearance, that convinces living fish to accept the robots as one of their own.  Porfiri hopes that his biomimetic robots may one day lead fish away from environmental hazards such as oil spills or underwater turbines.  Robots have long borrowed from nature- Maybe it’s time they return the favor.

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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.

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  • 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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