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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 ‘Food Technology’

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    Meet the New Meat

    What do you think of lab-grown meat? “Yuck” might be your first reaction. One day, however, it could become the environmentally friendly alternative for breeding cows and pigs for meat consumption. Professor Mark Post argues in his talk at TEDxBrainport that it is relatively simple to take stem cells from an animal and grow them to produce new muscle tissue. Simply add sugar, proteins and fat and get it into shape with a bit of exercise to created edible meat. The only problem then is to find a new role for our livestock…

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    Animal-free Meat could put a hold on Global Warming

    Growing meat in the lab, rather than slaughtering animals, could become a viable alternative for people who want to cut the environmental impact of their food consumption, but cannot bear a vegetarian lifestyle.

    According to scientists from Oxford University and Amsterdam University, lab-grown meat could help feed the world, while reducing the impact on the environment. It would generate only a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional livestock production.

    The procedure of growing meat without an animal would require between 7% and 45% less energy than the same volume of conventionally produced meat such as pork, beef, or lamb. The meat labs would use only 1% of the land and 4% of the water associated with conventional meat and Greenhouse gases would be reduced by up to 96% in comparison to raising animals.

    The scientists predict that if more resources are directed towards their research, the first lab-grown burger could be available in five years. It is their plan to start with mincemeat, while hoping to be able to produce steaks in ten years time.

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    Typically Dubai

    Presumably the only place on Earth where burkas & protein supplements coincide in jolly harmony. Peculiar image of the week. Photo by me.

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  • double muscled cattle

    Blue, Belgian and Beefy

    The Belgian Blue is a unique cattle breed that was developed quite accidentally in the late 1800s. An chance mutation lead the cattle to develop ‘double muscling,’ which occurs when the body does not produce sufficient myostatin to regulate the growth of muscles. These body-builder animals typically have 40% more muscle mass than the typical cow or bull. Double muscling is an extremely rare occurrence. Outside of carefully selected breeds like the Belgian Blue or the Texel sheep, it has occurred only a handful of other times in animals like dogs and humans.

    Animal rights activists contend that the breed is inherently cruel. Calves are usually delivered by cesarean section, as they are too large to be born naturally. Due to its massive size, the breed suffers from heart and joint problems, and can have difficulty even moving around. Both Denmark and Sweden have both attempted to ban Belgian Blues on grounds of cruelty. From turkeys that can only reproduce via artificial insemination and bulldogs that must be born by c-section, we’ve created a catalogue of organisms that could never survive outside of the human environment. Think of it as triumph of co-dependence.

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  • shrink-wrapped dinosaur leg

    Raptor in a Wrapper

    The appliance company Bosch claims that its new technology keeps food so fresh that meat from the Ice Age (and presumably the Cretaceous as well) can be stored without incident for millennia. From a next nature perspective, we’re less interested in refrigerator advertisements than where we can find a freshly cloned deinonychus ’wing.’ If we doused it in enough spicy barbeque sauce, it might even taste like chicken. Peculiar image of the week.

    Via ScaryIdeas.

  • orange hippo roller

    Humane Technology #3: Take Human Values as a Cornerstone

    The third principle of humane technology: It should take human values as a cornerstone of its development.

    Technology doesn’t have to be expensive or electronic to be humane. Think of it as the Occam’s Razor of humane technology. The simpler the solution, the better the outcome. For instance, the Hippo Water Roller makes it significantly easier for poor, rural communities to haul water from a lake or river back to their homes. Rolling water, rather than carrying it, reduces stress on the body and frees up time for other tasks. Taking human values into consideration for technology goes beyond basic humanitarian aims.  The development of humane tech should consider the fact that any new device will be nested within a rich network of social actors. Designers needs to keep an eye on the societal and environmental ramifications of novel technologies and act accordingly.

    See also the LifeStraw, Adaptive Eyewear and the dubiously world-changing One Laptop Per Child. These might not be the most Next Nature-esque technologies we’re featured here, but they’re certainly worth a ponder.

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    Manko & Life [#8]

    Manko sighed.

    Nada: ‘Did you like it?’

    Manko: ‘I have to admit that if this is the starter, I’m not sure I’ll survive the main course.’

    Everyone at the table laughed.

    Manko: ‘Let me ask you, how is this considered dinner? I did not eat anything.’

    Bessy: ‘That’s a good question. We do not really need to feed ourselves anymore. In fact, the soup you ate contained more than enough energy and body-repairing particles to keep you up and running for the next week.’

    Now Manko understood why he had felt so energetic after the soup.

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  • egg-sausage

    Egg Sausage

    Our food production is much more technological than we typically realize. My appologies for disturbing your trance; I realize that sometimes you’d rather linger in the illusion. At least, next time when you’re having a salad in a hotel, you don’t have to wonder where the edges of the egg went. Peculiar image of the week.

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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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  • manko9

    Manko & Dinner [#7]

    Manko blinked. Then blinked again, and again and again. While he did, he went through various layers at once and he was dazzled and amazed, his jaw dropped at all that he saw. He started blinking faster and faster. It didn’t take a long time before he started getting dizzy.

    Nada: ‘You better stop blinking, or pretty soon you’ll be throwing up. Bokor, please help him.’

    As he blinked, Manko saw all kinds of layers pop out of Bokor’s head. Bokor smiled.

    Bokor: ‘Close your eyes. Relax. Do not open your eyes until you feel you are ready for your maiden voyage. It will take patience and skill to navigate these layers properly. Start by exploring them one at a time and enjoy the discovery. It is a magical feeling that you can only experience once in your life. After a while it will just become part of your routine. It will become part of you, part of your nature. Now, when you open your eyes, blink fast three times and slow one time.’

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    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.

  • bears dumpster diving

    A Savannah Inside the Dumpster

    For most of us, obtaining food is easy.  We go to the grocery store, where fruits are labeled and meats arranged by species.  We go to a restaurant, sit, and wait for our food to be delivered to us.  The disparities between the modern, industrialized food system and the savannah ecosystem of our ancestors is stunning – and responsible, of course, for ‘new’ diseases like obesity and diabetes.  Yet modern agricultural technology is also responsible for the rise of a new tribe of hunter-gathers: Dumpster divers.

    ‘Freegans’ operate according to notions of seasonality and safety for food that have long since become non-issues for most of the developed world.  Like foraging groups, their food is temporally bound. Fruiting trees and moving herds are replaced with bakeries’ closing times and the days when the corner store dumps its lettuce.

    Shopping at the store is low-stress, but for dumpster divers, gathering dinner can be fraught with peril.  There might not be lions lurking around the garbage bins, but urban foragers must learn to avoid angry store owners and suspicious cops.   Real peril lies not just in spoiled food, but in injuries from actually scrambling into the dumpster.  No one wants a puncture wound with their lunch.

    Dumpster diving re-privileges ancient senses.  Because the grocery store is a sterile zone, the eye has become the primary organ of selection.  The eye perceives brands. It picks our the most vibrantly red tomato.  For dumpster divers, the nose and fingers are once again put into service as vital organs of the food gathering experience, sniffing to see which meats are past date, prodding apples to find the rotten ones.

    The industrialized food system divorces us from nature, but for modern foragers, it brings them closer to the tribe.


  • Nano Product: Pharmaceutical Sushi

    Nano Product: Pharmaceutical Sushi

    Are we creating the penicillin or the asbestos of the 21st century? Prior to the arrival of the Nano Supermarket, we share some speculative nanotech products with you. Here’s the first in the Nano Supermarket Products series: Pharmaceutical Sushi. Taking medicine becomes a social activity. And it tastes pretty good!

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    You are what you eat, taken seriously. Shrink is a work by the artist Lawrence Malstaf. Visitors place themselves between two large, transparent plastic sheets. The air gets sucked out between them to leave the body vacuum-packed and vertically suspended. The transparent tube inserted between the two surfaces allows the person inside the installation to regulate the flow of air.

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  • future grocery shopping

    Shopping in 2015?

    A panacea Yoghurt? Cures athlete’s foot, acne and dandruff! Triple irradiated Spinach? Three-week shelf life! Funa sushu? Asian carp fresh from Lake Superior! Minority Report sequel? Fake or Real? Neither. It’s futuristic shopping as seen through the eyes of Wired magazine readers. The title’s editorial team, tongue in cheek, cobbles together readers’ submissions as inspiration for their “What’s Next?” page (past themes include Dive Bars and Retirement Homes of the future). The January issue features The Grocery Store of the Future. Wonder how long we’ll have to wait for the Jiffy Pop Corn Grenade?

    For another take on the future of supermarkets see the Nano Supermarket event in Amsterdam (27 Jan – 2 Feb 2011).

    Image courtesy Wired magazine

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    Next Nature Movie #1: Quest for Fire

    The Quest for Fire (1981) shows the Next Nature of 80.000 BC. Set in a world without highways, supermarkets, airports, Internet, television, farming, money or written language, the film depicts a group of Neanderthalers who are able to control fire, but cannot create it. Similar to our habit of carrying a mobile phone, these Neanderthalers consequentially wonder around with a mobile fire.

    When one day their fire is tragically smothered, the three bravest men leave the tribe and set out in a quest for fire. Throughout their journey they meet with various other humanoid species, of which the most outlandish is undoubtedly the Homo Sapiens, who impress not by their size or posture but even more by their ability to domesticate their surroundings through the use of tools and technique.

    While the Neanderthaler men are accustomed to a life in caves, the geeky Homo Sapiens amazes them with technological gadgets like pottery, an artificial cave created from animal skins, advanced weaponry and, most of all, their astonishing ability to create fire – which in its time was at least equally if not more impressive than any nano-, bio-, or digital technology of today.

    The Quest of Fire is a honest attempt to look at the origins of the species and the development of humanity through loss, tragedy, hardship, hostile elements and the beginnings of laughter, morality, community service, leadership, friendship and of course, love. A wondrous feat of body language performances as there is no truly discernible spoken dialogue.

    The film can be thought of as the first five minutes of Space Odyssey 2001 (1968) stretched up to a feature film length. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud manages to capture the essence of the human condition as ‘natural born cultural beings’. Which deepens our understanding of the ever-changing relation nature and makes us see some of the contemporary technological ‘upgrades’ in a different light.

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    Passed: 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968), The Gods must be Crazy (1980), Surplus – Terrorized into Being Consumers (2003).

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  • In Pursuit of Artificial Flavoring

    Following in the footsteps of a Marco Polo-esque spice trade, next nature explorers Jon Cohrs and Ryan Van Luit travel by canoe past massive cargo ships and factories in search of the numerous artificial flavoring factories of New Jersey, the flavoring capital of the U.S. During a two-week industrial wilderness trip, they interview factory employees, document our campsites and adventures, and cook with various artificial flavors in an attempt to bridge our understanding of the natural and artificial.

    More at www.thespicetradeexpedition.com. Thanks Jon Moolaem.

  • Self Catching Fish

    Self Catching Fish

    Researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts, are testing a plan to train fish to catch themselves by using a sound broadcast to attract them into a net. If it works, the system could eventually allow black sea bass to be released into the open ocean, where they would grow to market size, then swim into an underwater cage to be harvested when they hear the signal.

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