“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Imagine we would have an alternative monetary currency for environmental value. Would the rain forest still be destroyed if there existed an ECO–currency to express its value and pay farmers to let the trees stand? Designers of the Next Nature Lab are investigating how we can link economy with ecology. A proposal on how we can link economy with ecology.
The starting point of the ECO–currency(*) project is the hypothesis that an important factor in the ongoing environmental crisis is the disconnect between the economical ecology and the environmental ecology. With the latter we mean the ecology of plants, trees, animals, and other organic material. Whereas the economical ecology is defined by our financial system of market, money, goods and other economical exchange. Our second working hypothesis states that we could address environmental issues by linking the economical sphere and the environmental sphere in a better way than that is currently the case.
Comparing the two ecologies: The rain forest is a stable, self-sustainable and threatened ecosystem, whereas the financial system is a unstable and threatening ecosystem that feeds on the biosphere.
Are we creating the penicillin or the asbestos of the 21st century? In the months preceding our Nano Supermarket Project, we share some speculative nanotech products with you. Here’s the third one in the Nano Supermarket Products series: The Spider Silk Condom.
You are madly in love with this girl who was in your year (2020). You dated her a few times and you’re totally in love with each other. This weekend she invited you over for a romantic dinner and for some reason, you just KNOW it’s gonna happen: you will end up in her bed. But since she wasn’t exactly your first girlfriend this year, you are well aware you should take some precautions. Rubber precautions, to be exactly…
In the series of bio-printer stories this inkjet-like bio-printer seems to be the most convincing product to hit the market soon. It sprays skin cells directly onto burn victims, healing their wounds as an alternative to skin grafts. The printer is developed for military applications at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Currently they are in the ‘pig test phase’. This is one step away from tests on humans.
Such a printer is also interesting for the consumer market, especially for families with little children. The band-aids with colorful prints for children are hard to beat. But isn’t a colorful printed skin much cooler?
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)
RECREATING A PREHISTORIC LANDSCAPE
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.
“Skin paper is made of breathable microfibres that allow for temperature regulation. As with animal and human skin, Skinpaper demands a certain level of moisture. This could be introduced into the paper in form of microcapsules containing moisturizers or essential oils. When a skin sample is sent to be manufactured into paper, it is tested to reveal the adequate levels of moisture needed to produce healthy and strong paper.”
So what would you use skin paper for? As with regular papers, the ways in which it is used depends on the values people project on it. Supposedly the paper is most appropriate for a personal and intimate writings like a diaries (unsure if they still exist nowadays) or love letters.
Although most biomimicmarketing strategies are oxymoronic, it is nice to see some people take them full cycle. This Japanese Apple fan found a way to naturally grow and harvest Fuji apples with the Apple logo on them with a simple sun tanning technique.
A month before harvest Apple logo stickers were glued on the apples and voila! An apple worthy of the attention of Steve Jobs. iApple anyone?
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.
So, you are aware biotech will drive our evolution, you took the crash course on synthetic genomics, you’ve got your map of the DNA world in your backpack and are now eager to redesign some microbes that turn waste into energy, eat plastic or build a better being altogether? We have cake for you.
The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Stanford University, California are starting a joint research project on Synthetic Aesthetics, drawing together synthetic biologists, social scientists, designers and artist aiming to generate creative applications of synthetic biology.
If you happen to be in the neighborhood you might want to attend the Next Nature lecture I will be throwing at the Transnatural symposium this Saturday 13-03-2010 at the Trouw Building in Amsterdam. Among the other speakers are Elio Caccavale (UK), Tobie Kerridge (UK) and Rachel Armstrong (UK).
The Transnatural exhibition celebrates some of the more successful love affairs between the made & the born. Until March 19th you have the opportunity to see works like Bitfall, Biojewelery and Mudtub, whom you might know from the blogosphere, but are more than worth experiencing in real life. Thus recommended. Hendrik-Jan wrote a more extensive review in the local language.
Recently some scientists in Britain have recommend planetary ‘geoengineering‘ to avoid climate change. And as politicians are listening, it is time to explore the options. New Scientist published this rather lovely diagram of the effectiveness and viability of nine different geoengineering schemes, from space mirrors to planting reflective crops.
Although geoengineering might be a viable escape from an overheated planet, before we dive in the game of deliberately manipulating the Earth’s climate to counteract the effects of global warming, let us realize that maakbaarheid is never finished: Every cultivation of nature typically causes the rising of a next nature that is wild and unpredictable as ever. Just like the inventor of the fridge did not anticipate a hole in the ozon layer, we should be bracing ourselves for some serious side effects of geoengineering.
Perhaps rather than desperately attempting to stop all changes in the climate, we should as a culture gain more of a flexibility towards a constantly mutating environment. After all, change happens.
Buckle up for the state of the art in the fusion of the made & the born. Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine presented footage of his bio-engineers growing human organs at TEDMED – from muscles to blood vessels to bladders, and more. Thanks Michèle.