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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 ‘Designed-by-Evolution’

  • Revisiting Jurassic Park

    Revisiting Jurassic Park

    When searching for Next Nature in the world around us, one does not necessarily have to look at the present. The science fiction novel Jurassic Park, written in 1990 by the recently deceased Michael Crichton and later turned into a big blockbuster movie by Steven Spielberg, already discusses the fusion between the born and the made.

    Halfway through the book, there is a chapter where Dr. Wu, the chief scientist, tries to convince Hammond, the CEO, to go over to a next version of dinosaurs.

    Hammond sighed. “Now, Henry, are we going to have another of those abstract discussions? You know I like to keep it simple. The dinosaurs we have now are real, and -”
    “Well, not exactly,” Wu said. He paced the living room, pointed to the monitors. “I don’t think we should kid ourselves. We haven’t re-created the past here. The past is gone. It can never be re-created. What we’ve done is reconstruct the past – or at least a version of the past. And I’m saying we can make a better version.”

    “Better than real?”
    “Why not?” Wu said. “After all, these animals are already modified. We’ve inserted genes to make them patentable, and to make them lysine dependent. And we’ve done everything we can to promote growth, and accelerate development into adulthood.”
    Hammond shrugged. That was inevitable. We didn’t want to wait. We have investors to consider.”

    “Of course. But I’m just saying, why stop there? Why not push ahead to make exactly the kind of dinosaur that we’d like to see? One that is more acceptable to visitors, and one that is easier for us to handle? A slower, more docile version for our park?”

    Remarkable is how these topics, which were science fiction when written two decades ago, are still very much up-to-date and even more relevant today than before. Gene modification for patent purposes is a subject that was covered recently. How far can, and perhaps more importantly should, mankind go ?

  • FluDOC – Glowing Bacteria show if you have Influenza

    FluDOC – Glowing Bacteria show if you have Influenza

    Bacteria are traditionally perceived as infectious and unhealthy, but that is about to change. This week designer Jan van der Asdonk graduated from the Next Nature Lab at the TU/e Industrial Design Masters with a speculative yet full fledged product proposal called the FluDOC, which uses glowing bacteria to detect human influenza.

    The product uses genetically modified bioluminescent bacteria which are sensitive to influenza as a detector, somewhat similar to the canaries that were once used in coalmines to detect potentially dangerous gasses.

    The FluDOC consists of a casing and a small stick which the user can use to collect salivia from the mouth, after which an liquid capsule of the bioluminescent bacteria is entered. If the saliva contains an influenza virus the bacteria will die within 15 minutes and stop emitting their continuous flow of light, which the user can simply read of the display.

    The personal influenza test would typically be used if you don’t feel well but are unsure if you have influenza or merely a cold. Such self diagnosis could contribute to an early detection and containment of infectious influenza viruses.

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  • Rare mutation: Razorius Gilletus Vectrus

    Rare mutation: Razorius Gilletus Vectrus

    If you haven’t read the recently posted essay “Razorius Gilletus – On the Origin of a Next Species?”, you probably won’t understand much of the following. Anyhow, I’d want to share my find of the Razorius Gilletus Vectrus, a variation on an extinct razor species I recently bumped into while traveling in Asia.

    The Gillette Vector is a two bladed razor, introduced on Azian markets some years ago, with a design very similar to the ancient Gillette Atra, which was introduced in the late seventies. Production of the original Atra halted more than a decade ago, as not many people are buying two bladed razors anymore.

    Apparently the Gillete corporation felt their ancient Atra razor could still thrive in Asian countries like India and Thailand, where the budgets for buying razors are a less and the razors of the Gillette brand have to compete with cheaper local models. Hence they decided this would be the perfect habitat for a revival of the almost extinct Atra razor, which is now called Vector.

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  • Innovation_Challenge_Terra_bionet

    Let the Bacteria do the Cleaning

    Dusting furniture and floors should be history in forty years time, as special bacteria in a yet to develop cleaning product will be eating the dirt.

    The speculative cleaning product Terra BioNet, developed by Tim Brüggemann and Matthias Mittelsten Scheid of the Mannheim Universiteit, won the international innovation challenge organized by the German brand Henkel – creator of products Persil washing powder, Pritt-glue and Schwarzkopf shampoo.

    Terra Bionet is a biologically degradable cleaning product, which includes genetically modified bacteria that feed on dirt. It is the dream of every cleaner and yet another step in the fusing of the made & the born.

    Pity the technology is expected to hit the shelves only in 2050. If only this product was a bit more feasible it would nicely fit in our upcoming Nano Supermarket, of which submissions are still welcome until May 31th 2010.

  • Robosaurus eats Cars for Breakfast

    Robosaurus eats Cars for Breakfast

    The Robosaurus is the only airplane eating, fire breathing robot on the planet. Pity the thing is merely build for entertainment purposes. Perhaps this thing could finally solve our traffic congestion problem? No seriously, there is truth in pop-culture.

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  • Highlanders in the Lowlands: Re-enactment of an extinct Cow

    Highlanders in the Lowlands: Re-enactment of an extinct Cow

    At the end of every cold winter there is a debate in the Netherlands on whether the forestry service should feed the oxes, horses and deers grazing the Dutch nature resorts. The official policy of the Dutch forestry service is to let the ecosystem manage itself, which causes the weaker animals – 24% of the population – to parish because of lack of food: a sight too natural for most ‘nature’ lovers.

    In response to the protests, the initiators of the Dutch ‘hands-off’ landscape management argue that the protests of hikers, bikers and other tourists merely exemplify how alienated people have become from nature. However, are the premises of these policy makers really valid? Is it defendable to leave the animals in the hands of the elements or is this game getting out of hand?

    Recreation in the Netherlands: Tourist meets Highland Cow (image: P. Villerius)


    Since the last few decades the policy for nature resorts in the Netherlands has been geared at regenerating the original landscape, as it existed in prehistoric times. In practice this means that land is gained from the ocean or bought from farmers and transformed into the landscape we think existed 8.000 years ago, long before man placed its footprint on it.

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  • Recycled Island

    Recycled Island

    Recycled island is a research project on the potential of realizing a habitable floating island in the Pacific Ocean made from all the plastic waste that is momentarily floating around in the ocean.

    The idea is as simple as it is ambitious: recycle the great pacific garbage patch – a concentration of plastic litter in the central North Pacific about the size of France – on the spot and turn it into a floating island at the size of Hawai.

    Although the project is still highly speculative the people of WHIM architecture deserve kudos for their nextnatural view on plastic as a basic material in the Earths ecosystem that can be mined and used for better purposes than polluting birds.

    We are keen on how the project will develop further. In cause it turns out to be too difficult we can always return our focus on designing microbes that eat plastic.

    Related posts: Designing bugs that eat plastic, Plastic Birds, It came out of the sea.

  • Engineering Mosquitoes into Flying Vaccinators

    Engineering Mosquitoes into Flying Vaccinators

    Scientists have developed a mosquito that spreads vaccine instead of disease. The researchers, led by molecular geneticist Shigeto Yoshida of Jichi Medical University in Tochigi Japan, transformed mosquitoes into vaccine-carrying syringes by genetically engineering the insects to express the vaccine for leishmaniasis – a parasitic disease transmitted by the sandfly – in their saliva. According to their article in Insect Molecular Biology, mice bitten by these mosquitoes produced antibodies against the parasite.

    “Following bites, protective immune responses are induced, just like a conventional vaccination but with no pain and no cost,” said lead researcher Shigeto Yoshida in a press release from the journal. “What’s more continuous exposure to bites will maintain high levels of protective immunity, through natural boosting, for a life time. So the insect shifts from being a pest to being beneficial.”

    It’s still unclear whether the immune response was strong enough to protect against infection. The project is considered more of a proof of principle experiment than a viable public health option, at least for now.

    Via Techreview, via ScienceNow.

  • Shell logo evolution

    Shell logo evolution

    Corporate logos constantly have to adapt in order to survive. In the case of the Shell oil company this results in an image that ironically resembles the ones we know from the biology classes.

    Still one wonders how the biomimicmarketing of the seashell came into existence. The reason is rather straightforward: “The word ‘Shell’ first appeared in 1891, as the trade mark for kerosene being shipped to the Far East by Marcus Samuel and Company. This small London business dealt originally in antiques, curios and oriental seashells.”

    Perhaps in due time, when all the oil is gone, the multinational could return to selling antiques, curios and oriental seashells again. No?

    Via Shell History. Related posts: Razorius Gilletus, Coke Mutation, Survival of the Bankrupt companies, Fata Morgana.

  • Cultivating the Money-verse

    Cultivating the Money-verse

    Alright, we were mistaken. Money isn’t virtual after all.  A recent TV commercial of a Greek bank shed light on the issue. Your money lives, is anthropomorphic and inhabits an earth-like world. And if you trust this particular bank’s services, your money’s environment will be turned into a ‘green’, sustainable and safe paradise, and the money will mate thoughtfully and reproduce optimally thus creating a happy family. Eventually, all this process will fill you with pride as a new age farmer of your personal money-verse.

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  • Razorius Gilletus – On the Origin of a Next Species

    Razorius Gilletus – On the Origin of a Next Species

    Is the evolution of the single bladed razor into an exorbitant five–bladed vibrating gizmo the outcome of human needs, or is there another force in play? Say hello to Razorius Gillettus, one of the new species emerging from our technoeconomic ecology. Proof that evolution should be understood as a universal principle rather than a DNA-specific process. Yet if this is the case, how can we become responsible stewards of these new, non-genetic forms of life?


    My first razor I got when I was fifteen. It consisted of two blades on a simple metal stick and I remember it gave me a really close and comfortable shave. In the twenty years that have passed since my first shave, I’ve used nine different models of razors. This morning I shaved myself with the Gillette Fusion Power Phantom, a rather heavy, yet ergonomically designed battery-powered razor that looks like a bit like vacuum cleaner and has five vibrating blades with an aloe strip for moisture. So what happened? A story about design, technology, market and evolution.

    First, a personal disclaimer (in case you were wondering): Yes, I agree shaving technology was already sufficiently developed when I got my first razor twenty years ago. Actually already in 1975, shortly after the Gillette Trac II razor – the first two-bladed men’s razor – was advertised, its excessive design was parodied on the US Television show Saturday Night Live. The creators of the satirical television program played on the notion of a two bladed razor as a sign of the emerging consumption culture and made a fake commercial parody for a fictitious razor with the ridiculous amount of three (!) blades, emphasizing the consumer is gullible enough to believe and buy everything seen on TV. Of course, the comedians of Saturday Night Live could not know a three-bladed razors would become a reality on the consumer market in the late 1990′s. Let alone that they could have anticipated I would shave myself with a five bladed razor this very morning. Welcome in the twenty-first century folks: No we don’t travel in spaceships… but we do have five bladed razors!

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  • What does Technology want?

    Technologist, environmentalist and nextnature thinker avant la lettre Kevin Kelly, muses on what technology means in our lives – from its impact at the personal level to its place in the cosmos as an evolutionary force. Seen at TEDxAmsterdam 2009.

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    Half Life

    Meet the next species. Director David Lea’s wondrous fantasy of remixed biodiversity after nuclear meltdown. Made for Greenpeace.

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  • As smart as mice.

    As smart as mice.

    When you think of solving mazes, you think of mice. Mice have been use to do science for ages. In turns out that mice are not the only beings that can solve a maze. In fact you don’t have to be intelligent at all. Even these polymers can do it. By reacting on the difference in pH levels in the fluid the polymers are able to find their way out of the maze (video).

    The project was conducted by the Self assembly and addaptive systems group at Nothwestern University.

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  • 真正的自然不是綠色的

    This translation of the essay ‘Real Nature is not Green‘ is a special treat from and for our fellow Next Nature explorers in China. We thank the people of the Microwave International New Media Festival, Hong Kong for their translation. Yes, we welcome translations in other languages as well.

    沿著高速公路近荷蘭保魯文度城 (Bloemendaal)的森林旁邊,樹立著偽裝成松樹的無線電話塔狀天線杆。

    在荷蘭,每平方米也是人造土地:自然的本質巳無處可尋。 Oostvaardersplassen自然保護區作為荷蘭自然保育區其中一個最重要的部分,曾被開墾作工業用地,後來才成為自然保育區。在荷蘭人口密度最高的地方,就連綠色核心(GreenHeart)區域事實上也是中世紀的工業用地,起初是被開墾用來剪草皮。「自然保育」其實是由人類活動塑造的「文化保育」。伏爾泰在十八世紀時說過:「神創造世界,但不包括荷蘭。荷蘭人自行創造他們的國土。」由那時開始,我們身體力行地支持他的看法。今時今日,我們甚至不斷在荷蘭設計及建構自然。政府官員選址構造史前森林:自然的形象由我們在休憩性擬態中細心構造(自然構建者稱之為「錯失遺產的重生」[1])。傳統牛隻更被安排在這所謂的「新自然」中飼養[2]。原來的野牛不幸在1627年絕種,但蘇格蘭高地(ScottishHighlander)牛隻就成為廣為接受的代替品。牠們知道應該做什麼:在山林管理隊安排下吃草。多得他們,景色得以保持明淨而非雜草叢生(我們喜歡這樣子,因為這令我們聯想到著名的十七世紀風景畫)。理論上,動物應該照顧自己,但山林管理隊卻樂意在冬天給予牠們一點額外的食物。這樣更可減少動物死屍,免得遊人看見路上有腐爛的牛隻而生厭。在我們的文化中,自然不斷被展示為一個錯失的國度。它令人聯想到原始性,卻只會在消失後才出現。我們體驗的自然是一種復古效應[3]。

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  • Favorite explorations of 2009

    Favorite explorations of 2009

    As we bid farewell to 2009, it’s a good time to look back at our explorations of the year. Here are some of our most popular and peculiar posts, in case you missed them the first time around.

    The Comeback of the ‘ugly’ fruits

    As of July 2009, the European Commission abolished more than two dozen laws that have stipulated the look of Europe’s fruit and vegetables for the past 20 years. The rules stipulated that only the most perfect-looking produce adorns supermarket shelves and caused international ridicule by stating that all bananas must be “free of abnormal curvature” and at least 14 cm in length. Perhaps in the long run, historians will consider this as the official end of modernity.

    Children’s dictionary dumps ‘nature’ words

    To make way for modern tech terms such as BlackBerry, blog, voicemail and broadband, the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary has opted to drop terms pertaining to old nature. No longer can a child check this dictionary and learn more about the blackberry, dandelion, acorn, heron, otter or willow. While words like voicemail, MP3 player, attachment, database, and chatroom are added. Nature changes along with us.

    Boomeranged Metaphors

    At the start of the digital era, metaphors from everyday life were used in order to make otherwise incomprehensible technology acceptable – think of the digital highway, windows, folders, buttons and trashcan. Nowadays, the digital environment is accepted almost everywhere and we see how proven concepts from the digital realm are gradually seeping into our physical environment. We call this phenomenon a ‘boomeranged metaphor’.

    Virtual Money – cows, coins, credit, airtime

    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.

    Michael Jacksons appearance in heaven

    michael jackson nextnature Im Memoriam: Michael Jackson 1958-2009
    Our beloved King of Pop, Michael Jackson, who died tragically this year, throughout his career, he underwent countless groundbreaking cosmetic operations. Using childhood photo’s of Michael and knowledge on basic aging trends, forensic artists constructed a portrait of how Michael would have looked at age 50, had he never undergone plastic surgery. The difference between the portraits is striking. But which is the real Michael? The man of flesh and blood, sculpted by plastic surgeons or the highly speculative forensic image? Both Michaels are virtual in their own right.

    Why are carrots orange? It is political

    For ages carrots used be white, yellow, red and purple – and in some regions of the world they still are. Yet, orange has become the dominant color in most countries. Why is that? Its political: in the 17th century, Dutch growers cultivated orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange – who lead the the struggle for Dutch independence – and the color stuck. Hypervegetables avant la lettre.

    Plastic Birds

    plasticbird_nextnature_530_5.jpgBird spotting is not a typical activity for us next nature explorers, yet 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. Are we ready for a plastic planet?

    Designing Bugs that Eat Plastic

    With the great pacific garbage patch now twice the size of Texas and over 500 billion plastic bags produced a year – which take about a 1000 years to decompose – plastic is well on its way of becoming a basic material in the Earths ecosystem. Perhaps in the long run microbes would evolve to digest plastics. But why wait for evolution? 16-year old high school student Daniel Burd already developed a microorganism that can rapidly biodegrade plastic.

    Cavemen impacted environment already

    The human environmental impact on our planet is hardly underestimated nowadays. Untouched old nature is almost nowhere to be found anymore besides perhaps some small areas on the South pole, in the deep sea or if one looks up at the stars – although the brighter ones may well be satellites. “We were here”, is written all over. So when did the writing begin? Much earlier than thought.

    Doggerland – a lost world

    doggerland – mapping a lost worldSo you think climate change is new? So you think the flooding of landmass by the oceans is a new? So you must have not heard of the times when people walked from London to Amsterdam.

    Modern Fossils

    fossil ipod
    So what happened to that old floppy drive, ipod or tape recorder? Time to dig up some of those modern fossils.

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  • The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan

    The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan

    A candid conversation with the high priest of popcult and metaphysician of media.

    From “The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan”, Playboy Magazine, March 1969. © Playboy

    In 1961, the name of Marshall McLuhan was unknown to everyone but his English students at the University of Toronto — and a coterie of academic admirers who followed his abstruse articles in small-circulation quarterlies. But then came two remarkable books — The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962) and Understanding Media (1964) — and the graying professor from Canada’s western hinterlands soon found himself characterized by the San Francisco Chronicle as “the hottest academic property around.” He has since won a world-wide following for his brilliant — and frequently baffling — theories about the impact of the media on man; and his name has entered the French language as mucluhanisme, a synonym for the world of pop culture.

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  • Designing Bugs That Eat Plastic

    Designing Bugs That Eat Plastic

    It is a well known secret that plastic hardly breaks down and almost all of the plastic ever made still floats around somewhere. With the great pacific garbage patch now twice the size of Texas and over 500 billion plastic bags produced a year – which take about a 1000 years to decompose – plastic is well on its way of becoming a basic material in the Earth’s ecosystem.

    Earlier, we’ve discussed some of the dramatic effects of this material and suggested how a future microbe able to digest plastic could thrive on the vast amount of plastic ‘food’ available in the biosphere. It might take a million years, however, for a plastic-eating microbe to evolve.

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