Peculiar image of the week by Martin Denker.
Peculiar image of the week by Martin Denker.
The Discovery series ‘Ways to save the planet’ the episode ‘Wrapping Greenland‘ shows how Dr. Jason Box uses reflective blankets to cover glaciers in Greenland. Due to global warming glaciers start melting causing land to flood. Dr. Jason Box argues that it is expensive to use blankets to cover all glaciers, but that it is more expensive to reorganize all coast lines.
Maybe we should make the expenses, as we ourselves have caused global warming. Maybe we should take another leap in evolution, just as our ancestors the Sapiens did to survive in constant changing conditions. But should we then focus on preventing the changes, or should we focus on adapting flexibly to them?
Related: If the implications of global warming were fair, Fight climate change, hack the planet, Doggerland – Mapping a lost world, Artificial ‘trees’ should stop climate change, Diesels global warming ready campaign, Let the Dutch bury the carbon, Humans to blame for global warming.
Are bacteria faster than a computer? According a group of biological engineers they are. The scientists have done a research in which they have used the well-known bacteria Escherichia coli to solve a mathematical problem.
The Hamiltonian path is the shortest route between city A to city B along several other cities and at which every city is visited only once. This sounds easy, however this has caused a lot of problems to the navigation systems. If you want to go from Amsterdam to Rome and visit some other European cities, there are millions of possible routes and the system will have to calculate all the separate routes to come to the final solution of the Hamiltonian path. Now the researchers have used bacteria to get a direct overview, in which the bacteria consider all the routes simultaneously.
In the research, they have modified the DNA of the bacteria and let them find the shortest route between three cities. Each city has its own combination of genes, which causes the bacteria to glow red of green. The possible routes between the cities were explored by the random shuffling of DNA. The bacteria that had found the best route fluoresced green and red, resulting in yellow colonies.
Problem solved! Althought this is just a small test and it will be difficult to program a complex computer this way, the researchers are convinced this a proof that demonstrates the possibilities of using bacteria to solve these kind of mathematical problems. According to the researchers their results validate synthetic biology as a valuable approach to biological engineering. Having a computer infected with a virus will not quite be the same anymore.
The study was published in the Journal of Biological Engineering. Related: Crash course on synthetic genomics, Bacteria that eat waste & shit petrol, Bacteria that turn CO2 into energy, Google tracks flue spread via sick searchers, Conversations at the doctor.
Bird spotting is not a typical activity for us next nature explorers, yet occasionally we bump into some birds worth mentioning (remember the amazing copy-paste bird, rubber duck XL, the wild birds illegally immigrating into city Zoo, or the plastic flamingos that almost became extinct?)
Undoubtedly these ‘plastic’ birds spotted by photographer Chris Jordan are the most macabre thus far. One wonders what Darwin would have thought of these Albatross babies fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. According to the photographer thousands of chicks a year, kick the bucket from starvation, toxicity, and choking from their diet of human trash.
Feeding your babies plastic is definitely not a good survival strategy for these poor birds. On the other hand, plastic seems to be thriving as a new material all over our planet, with no living organism able to break it down or consume it. Nietzsche already learned us that every second nature typically stresses a first nature, which in effect deteriorates, after which the victorious second nature becomes the first.
Are we ready for a plastic planet? Surely that bit of mindful recycling you are urging yourself to turn into a habit, won’t undo the effect. How long should we wait for the microbes to evolve that are able to digest plastic? Certainly there is more than enough ‘food’ for them available within the ecosystem by now. Somebody please call one of these synthetic biologists to fix us a microbe that eats plastic.
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Will we in the future still buy several needs according food in shops, or will we grow M&M’s ourselves? There is a lot happening on in the field of food technology, think for example of special cloned cow species or ‘extremely tasteful’ designers vegetables. We are radically intervening with Darwin’s survival of the fittest, since society strives to select and process the ‘best’ and ‘strongest’ species and types themselves – often based on commercial values.
According the magazine cover of Food & Wine in October 2105 the process of ‘creating’ food in factories will be outdated; next nature will grow the hyperfood itself. With a little help of technology the food/culture that society created will be combined with what we traditionally consider as nature. Think for example of the extensive use of photosynthesis to increase production of food, as they will become little factories. But also about processing design food via a biological way that for the present can only happen via complex chemical processes, e.g. the production of M&M’s through the genetic manipulating of beans. Furthermore, the special 22nd-century edition of Food & Wine explains that food will become more effective, healthy and ‘powerful’ by the integration of new developed vitamins and medicines. These will not only give us extra energy but will also power the electronic devices we use, since these will become a part of our body we’ll have to feed them as well.
Will in 2105 all factories where they produce food become redundant? And how will the physical status of future humans react upon the extra healthy food they will consume, shall it improve lifestyle in a way illness can be prevented? Fortunately or not, this cover is still merely a fantasy, hence we still have some degrees of freedom in what direction we want food design to develop.
Related: Food design in the 21th century, The meat of tomorrow, a square fishstick, dinosaur nuggets, organic coca-cola, hyper fruit, cloned meat, potato-free potato chips, frankenwein, vegetarian hamburgers, hypernatural tomatoes, Who designed the banana?, How to grow an Orangina Bottle.
For over 40 years Australian artist Stelios Arcadious Stelarc has made art with medical instruments, prosthetics, robots, virtual reality systems and biotechnology to investigate alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body. In one of the interviews he says: The assumption being that if the body was altered it might mean adjusting its awareness.
His ‘Ear on the Arm‘ piece is a full sized ear constructed of the living cells permanently placed under the skin of Stelarc’s forearm – a clear homage to the famous tissue engineered ear mouse. The microphone and sound transmitter were supposed to be inserted inside his body within the ear shaped scaffold. This ended up to be not feasible yet due to infections that electronics caused.
The vision behind the project was to generate an alternative electronically enhanced organ to better interact and operate within the World. At the same time it provokes a debate about a desire to redesign and alternate human’s body evolutionary structure.
Stelarc points out: Now we can engineer additional and external organs to better function in the technological and media terrain we now inhabit. All very well, allthough it’s perhaps a better strategy to redesign our technological environment so that it fits our existing human physique.
I remember the smoke the most. That pungent smell permeating the camps of tribal people. Everything they touch is infused with the lingering perfume of smoke — their food, shelter, tools, and art. Everything. Even the skin of the youngest tribal child emits smokiness when they pass by. I can hold a memento from my visits decades later and still get a whiff of that primeval scent. Anywhere in the world, no matter the tribe, steady wafts of smoke drift in from the central fire. If things are done properly, the flame never goes out. It smolders to roast bits of meat, and its embers warm bodies at night. The fire’s ever-billowing clouds of smoke dry out sleeping mats overhead, preserve hanging strips of meat, and drive away bugs at night. Fire is a universal tool, good for so many things, and it leaves an indelible mark of smoke on a society with scant other technology.
Besides the smoke I remember the immediacy of experience that opens up when the mediation of technology is removed in a rough camp. Living close to the land as hunter-gatherers do, I got colder often, hotter more frequently, soaking wet a lot, bitten by insects faster, more synchronized to rhythm of the day and seasons. Time seemed abundant. I was shocked at how quickly I could dump the cloud of technology in my modern life for a cloud of smoke.
But I was only visiting. Living in a world without technology was a refreshing vacation, but the idea of spending my whole life there was, and is, unappealing. Like you, or almost anyone else with a job today, I could sell my car this morning and with the sale proceeds instantly buy a plane ticket to a remote point on earth in the afternoon. A string of very bumpy bus rides from the airport would take me to a drop-off where within a day or two of hiking I could settle in with a technologically simple tribe. I could choose a hundred sanctuaries of hunter-gatherer tribes that still quietly thrive all around the world. At first a visitor would be completely useless, but within three months even a novice could at least pull their own weight and survive. No electricity, no woven clothes, no money, no farm crops, no media of any type — only a handful of hand-made tools. Every adult living on earth today has the resources to relocate to such a world in less than 48 hours. But no one does.
If the six hour crash course on synthetic genomics is a bit too much for you, there is always a more snappy TED lecture in which Craig Venter ponders on whether we can create new life out of our digital universe. Needles to ask what his answer is.
Dr. Venter now has a database now with about 20 million genes and thinks of them as the design components of the future. In little over half an hour the audience is walked through the latest endevours in synthetic genomics.
His talk covers topics like: How to boot up a chromosome. How he plans to replace the petrochemical energy with bacteria that turn CO2 into energy. How to take security measures. Why people who think of evolution as just one gene changing at the time have missed much of biology. And why it is a mistake to think they are trying to create life from scratch, as they are merely playin on one of the key principles of nature: all life derives from other life.
Nature changes along with us and it is changing fast. Buckle up for a catalyst of evolution.
Related: Build a better being, DNA Synthesizer, Top 10 new organisms, Mapping the DNA world, Google DNA, Poetry of Genetics, Crash course on synthetic genomics, How biotech will drive our evolution, Human genetic DNA sequencing soon child play?.
We want a printed steak, square fishsticks, dinosaur nuggets, organic coca-cola, hyper fruit, cloned meat, potato-free potato chips, frankenwein, vegetarian hamburgers and hypernatural tomatoes. We want vitamine+Q10 yoghurt that makes you loose weight. We want to hear the sound of a sausage when we bite it – we want notice how well designed that sausage sound really is.
Already for thousands of years people have been food designers. How will food technology develop itself into the 21th century? The Philips Food Design Probes investigate how we will eat and source our food in the future, like in 15 to 20 years. There are 3 products we might have in our homes by then:
Have you heard the buzz on virtual money in online games? Some years ago the first virtual millionaire was announced, yet there have also been reports on people being practically enslaved to farm virtual gold. The Chinese government recently announced to limit the use of ‘virtual’ currencies. An essay on the virtuality of money.
By KOERT VAN MENSVOORT
First of all we should realize the term virtual money is a pleonasm, a redundant expression. Money is, by definition, virtual. And it always has been. Well, perhaps not in the time when people used cows and goats as barter. A cow is a living creature, and useful as well. You can drink its milk and when the creature no longer gives any milk you can always kill it and eat it. We may not think about, but it is actually a miracle that I can now at the butcher on the corner exchange a piece of paper for a rump steak.
For months she “fed” the family of coots in her environment with her own stuff (nude photo’s, old toothbrushes, etc), which the coots incorporated in their nest. The result is an artwork beyond her control.
Pity we can’t ask the coots how they feel about their new dwellings. Since they have constructed it themselves, they might be quite satisfied with their next nature building materials. It is merely our human perspective that makes the outlook of this next nest somewhat uncanny.
DNA related tools, once expensive and restricted to research and crime labs, are rapidly becoming affordable. Like GPS – once a high-tech wonder now turned into a everyday gadget – simple DNA sequencing may soon be available to almost everyone.
Undoubtedly DNA related applications will transform society as we know it: Synthetic pets, Amateur food testing, Faked DNA evidence, Genetic mapping, Genetic social networks, DNA as information storage, HumanDNA trees, Hyper Fruit… the applications are mind bubbling and seemingly infinite.
Designer Niko Vegt, master student at the Next Nature theme, has been working on an imaginary map of the DNA world. Unlike a regular map, which represents a physical territory, the DNA World map represents a conceptual territory of DNA related applications and developments. Its main continents are Science, Medical, Heath, Personal, Social, Justice and Environment – all surrounded by an ocean of Ethics.
No, the image above does not some show some collection of freshly genetically designed hypercarrots in various colors of the rainbow. This is the spectrum of colors carrots used to have – and in some regions of the world you can still find white, yellow, red and purple carrots. In most countries however, carrots tend to be orange nowadays. Why is that?
Allegedly they are orange for entirely political reasons: in the 17th century, Dutch growers are thought to have cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who led the the struggle for Dutch independence – and the color stuck. A thousand years of yellow, white and purple carrot history, was wiped out in a generation.
Although some scholars doubt if orange carrots even existed prior to the 16th century, they now form the basis of most commercial cultivators around the world. Presumably crosses between Eastern (purple), Western (white, red) and perhaps wild carrots led to the formation of the orange rooted carrot sub species. Turkey is often cited as the original birthplace of the hybrids (or mutations) of the two groups.
Whatever the origins, the Long Orange Dutch carrot, first described in writing in 1721, is the forebear of the orange Horn carrot varieties so abundant nowadays. The Horn Carrot derives from the Netherlands town of Hoorn in the neighborhood of which it was presumably bred. All our modern, western carrots ultimately descend from these varieties. Hypernature avant la lettre.
In the depths of northeastern India, one of the wettest places on earth, bridges aren’t built – they’re grown. What could 21th century architects learn from these dynamic construction principles? I would like to see this applied on highways.
Let the robots do the dirty work! This real-life Wall-E Recycling robot, part of the $3.9 million DustBot research program that is trying to improve urban hygiene, collects trash and measures atmospheric pollutants. He – or is it a she? – can also identify residents, and sort their trash into organic, recyclable, or waste.
The robot is nimble enough to navigate where conventional gas-guzzling garbage trucks cannot. The one on the picture is still in the prototype phase and robots aren’t legally allowed to roam around without human guidance in Peccioli, Italy. But who knows — some day soon you may see a friendly green robot zipping garbage down your street.
Since it is Sunday, let’s have a genetically photoshopped egg with a handy integrated eggholder. Not sure if these should be mass produced (if possible): Too painful for the chicken.
The Patricia Renick, crafted of fiberglass and built on the frame of a Vietnam era U.S. Army OH6A/Cayuse helicopter.is half Triceratops, half helicopter. If dinosaurs and technology evolved at the same time, this is what the helicopter might have look like? Built as a sculpture in 1977 by artist
The piece is now available for the discerning collector/dinopilot. Peculiar object of the week.
Miniaturization of mobile phones visualized in the style of a Russian Matroesjka doll. If this continues your phone will soon be small enough to fit into your tooth? Created by art director/animator Kyle Bean.