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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 ‘Guided Growth’

  • biolum bacteria

    City Planning with Bright Bacteria

    Renegade architect and futurist Rachel Armstrong has proposed that our cities, currently constructed of dead trees, baked mud, and refined ore, need to be coated in a layer of glowing, hungry bio-goo. Bioluminescent bacteria could be “painted” on walls, billboards, and sidewalks to provide a low-energy means to bathe city streets in a peaceful blue-green light.

    Wild bioluminescent bacteria like Vibrio phosphoreum (pictured above) aren’t bright enough to provide light to read by, but it’s possible that they could be genetically engineered to produce more vibrant light. Of course, delivering nutrients to an entire city of blueish bacteria, especially ones that currently live only in water, could prove more of a challenge.

    Armstrong also suggests that building surfaces could be fortified with carbon-hungry bacteria to soak up local C02 emissions. Even if hers is a decidedly sci-fi vision, it’s vital to our planet’s health (and our own) to push for over-the-top solutions. Breaking out of a 12,000 year old architectural paradigm will require thinking outside of the steel-and-concrete box.

    Rachel Armstrong has previously been featured on Next Nature for her proposal to save Venice using protocells that grow and accrete like a coral reef. She will be presenting her views on synthetic biology at the Next Nature Power Show on November 5.

    Via The Times. Image of a researcher via Hunter Cole.

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  • venus_5

    Growing a Crystal Chair

    Japanese artist Tokujin Yoshioka does not sculpt his work, but grows it. His Venus chair was created by immersing a plastic mesh substrate into a tank filled with a chemical solution. Gradually crystals precipitate onto the substrate and give structure to the chair. It might not be the most comfortable place to take a seat, but it’s a great example of guided growth. Yoshioka has experimented with various other crystalline structures ranging from Greek sculptures to entire rooms. Maybe a scale replica of the Fortress of Solitude isn’t too far off.

    More images after the jump.

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  • birdssss.jpg

    Birdfeeders spit Blackcaps in two species

    Until now, most people have likely regarded bird-feeders as merely a pleasant addition to their gardens. But scientists have now discovered that bird-feeders in the UK are actually having a serious long term impact on bird life – they’ve found that the feeders have brought about the first evolutionary step in the creation of a brand new species.

    Historically, European Blackcap birds migrate to Spain to spend their winters, where they feed on fruit and berries. While in the past the part of the population that accidentally flew to the UK had a hard time surviving, since the rise of bird–feeders in the UK things changed.

    The food supplied by animal-loving Brits, along with the luxury of not flying over the Alps, have made Britain an increasingly popular holiday destination for wintering blackcaps. And that has set them down the path towards becoming two separate species, Gregor Rolshausen from the University of Freiborg and colleagues write in the journal Current Biology.

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  • typewriter animals

    Typing Out Evolution

    From the exhibit “What Machines Dream Of” in Berlin comes Life Writer, a work by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau. As the participant types, letters are projected on a scroll of paper. After pushing the return bar, the letters are transformed into animated, typographic creatures that bob and skitter across the paper. The ravenous insects then proceed to gobble up the words as fast as they’re typed. When the paper is scrolled, the creatures reproduce, birthing offspring that looks slightly different from the parent. An algorithm determines the shape and behavior of the organisms, and controls how they evolve with each generation.

    Sommer and Mignonneau use an obsolete technology to bring up very current questions about the autonomy of technological systems, and what ‘life’ means when humans can create convincing facsimiles of it. “What Machines Dream Of” is on display until August 28. It’s free, fun, and full of  next natural goodness.

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  • cellularisedscaffoldforpatient_530

    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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  • pigmeat_530-1

    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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  • A bacteria of a different color

    In 2009, undergraduates at the University of Cambridge worked with scientists and artists to engineer E. coli into E. chromi, a new type of bacteria that secretes a range of colorful pigments.  The genetic ‘BioBricks’ responsible for color can be combined with other custom DNA sequences to achieve various useful effects.  For instance, E. chromi could color feces blue in the presence of an intestinal disease, or turn red in response to arsenic in groundwater.

    In future scenarios, the altered bacteria give rise to a new profession of chromonauts who search the earth for new organic pigments. The Orange Liberation Front, an imaginary Dutch terrorist organization, might even demand an end to patents on orange-generating genes.  The above video, which won the Bio:Fiction prize for documentaries, is a fun look into some plausible (and less so) applications for a new piece of biotech.  The technology used for E. chromi bacteria may open new areas for information decoration on a living canvas.  Maybe transgenic humans will someday flush blue when they’re feeling down, or cover up an actual yellow belly when they’re being cowardly.  I feel less enthusiastic, however, about rainbow-hued poop that marks every stomach bug.

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  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind

    Live a happy life!

    Remember the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where Jim Carrey removes his memories of a relationship with Kate Winslet? According to researchers at the University of Montreal, it is now possible to reduce the brain’s ability to record negative emotions using the drug metyrapone. Just like in the movie, metyrapone blocks the brain from recalling bad memories.

    Metyrapone is not a new drug. It is often used to diagnose adrenal insufficiency, but researchers have now discovered its effect on the stress hormone cortisol. Metyrapone decreases the levels of cortisol at the time of a stressful event. Decreasing these levels, as trials suggest, impairs the formation of memories of that event. These tests are in their early stage, but show serious promise. Can we still cherish our happy memories if we do not have any negative ones?

    Via Pyschcentral

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  • maple_of_ratibor_530

    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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  • Botnet Storm

    Botnet Storm

    No, this is not some solar system far, far away. Closer than you think, this is is a visualization of a botnet storm. For all you know this malicious virus, or one of its siblings, is controlling your computer – spamming thousands of innocent internet users on your behalf – at this moment. Feeling paranoid already? Yes, next nature can be harsh sometimes.

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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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  • Newspaper Wood

    Newspaper Wood

    How to upcycle old newspapers? Mieke Meijer (a.o.) from Vij5 took a jar of glue and started imitating tree rings. “The product surprisingly mimics the quality of real wood” she states. Read more »

  • Whether or not we should engineer the Weather

    “Owning the Weather” is a documentary about geo-engineering by Robert Greene.  It’s about whether or not we should engineer the weather and the different impacts that this has. And not only because we can, but also because actually we are already doing so.

    “There are more than fifty active weather modification programs in the United States alone. Through the eyes of key individuals on the front lines of a crucial but largely unknown debate, the film introduces the cloud seeders struggling for mainstream recognition, the ‘legitimate’ scientists who doubt them, and the activists who decry any attempts to mess with Mother Nature.”
    -Source: www.owningtheweather.com

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  • Learning to build Superman’s House

    Learning to build Superman’s House

    Superman already knew it: Steered growth is the future of architecture.

    The lower picture was taken at the Industrias Peñoles nano-chrystal architecture lab in Chihuahuan, Mexico where researchers are growing giant crystals. No seriously, the Cave of Crystals isn’t man made. It was discovered by Industrias Peñoles miners a thousand feet (300 meters) below Naica mountain in the Chihuahuan Desert.

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  • naturalfuse2

    Social Networking with Plants

    Using energy is not a social activity. Every electrical device we use has its own carbon “foorpint” which, in excess, can harm other living beings. How and to what extent you’ve just killed a tree at the other side of the world by forgetting to switch off that electric heating, largely remains invisible. What if we could directly experience our electricity use?

    With Natural Fuse, you can. Natural Fuse – by London based design studio Haque Design – creates a city-wide network of electronically-assisted plants that act both as energy providers and as circuit breakers. Natural Fuse is a system that harnesses the carbon-sinking capabilities of plants. It creates a community that adds a real social dimension to our energy-use. Natural Fuses are being distributed in London, New York and San Sebastian.

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  • 991_Venice_Rev_credit_architects_GMJ_530-1

    Essay: Self–Repairing Architecture

    All buildings today have something in common: They are made using Victorian technologies. This involves blueprints, industrial manufacturing and construction using teams of workers. All this effort results in an inert object, which means there is a one–way transfer of energy from our environment into our homes and cities. This is not sustainable. I believe that the only possible way for us to construct genuinely sustainable homes and cities is by placing them in a constant conversation with their surroundings. In order to do this, we need to find the right language.

    By Rachel Armstrong

    Metabolic materials are a technology that acts as a chemical interface or language through which artificial structures such as, architecture, can connect with natural systems. I am developing this technology in collaboration with scientists working in the field of synthetic biology and origins of life sciences whose model systems of investigation are materials that belong to a new group of technologies being described as ‘living technology’ (Bedau, 2009), which possess some of the properties of living systems but are not considered ‘alive’.

    The characteristic of metabolic materials is that they possess the living property of metabolism, which is a set of chemical interactions that transform one group of substances into another with the absorption or production of energy. This transfer of energy through chemical exchange directly couples the environment to the living technology and embeds it within an ecosystem. Metabolic materials work with the energy flow of matter and systems using a bottom up approach to the construction of architecture.

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    Craig Venter unveils ‘Synthetic Life’

    Craig Venter announces what might be a historic milestone in the nature caused by people. For 15 years, Craig Venter and his team of scientists have tried to synthesize life from scratch. This week, he publicized their success.

    A chromosome was designed in digital code on the computer and then transplanted into a bacterial cell, transforming that cell into a new bacterial species. Apart from the usual blueprint for proteins, the DNA also carried the names of the key contributors and even its own email address.

    “This is the first self-replicating species on the planet, whose parent is a computer”

    Venter already mentions some potential practical applications for his discovery: a vaccine for HIV and a new strain of algae that can significantly decrease CO2-levels and provide a source for gasoline.

    Though great things can be done with this new technique, it also raises a lot of questions. Is man now some kind of god? Will we be able to design our own pets? Will we save our mp3-files on a flower instead of a USB-stick?

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  • Hydrogel heals injured Brain & Bone-tissue

    Hydrogel heals injured Brain & Bone-tissue

    A new nano-particle-infused hydrogel, developed by scientists from Clemson University, should be able to heal scrambled brains and broken bones. The gel creates new blood vessels and in a later stage encourages the body to make its own stem cells to replace dead bone and/or brain cells.

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