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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 ‘Manufactured Animals’

  • tarpans bucking

    Inventing an Extinct Horse

    Along with the Heck cattle and Scottish Highlanders, another reconstructed species roams the Dutch dunes. The sturdy Konik horse, also known as the Polish primitive, is the result of an attempt to ‘breed back’ the tarpan, an extinct subspecies of wild horse. A forest-dwelling horse with a distinctive silver-gray coat, tarpans once roamed Western Europe through Russia. The endangered Przewalski’s horse is the only surviving subspecies of the wild horse, Equus ferus, found only in zoos and in wild herds that have been reintroduced to places like Mongolia and Chernobyl.

    The last wild tarpans were extirpated between the 1820s and 1890s, while the last captive tarpans died out somewhere between 1910 and 1920. Sources are unclear whether the final herds were true tarpans, tarpan mixes, or domestic horses that happened to look a lot like their wild relatives. It may be extinct, but the tarpan still clings to existence via cultural memory and scattered genes. The fact that many “primitive” breeds of domestic horse still graze the world’s meadows has tempted hopeful breeders to resurrect the tarpan on at least three occasions.

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  • chapulines tacos

    Want Ketchup with those Flies?

    Industrial-scale in vitro meat may be a long way off, but for meat-lovers looking for a cheap, eco-friendly source of protein, there’s no need to wait. We just have to swear off creatures with four legs and a backbone and look to tasty livestock with an exoskeleton and six, eight, or a hundred legs.

    Bugs Originals, based near Amsterdam, is trying to introduce arthropods as the food of the future. Originally associated with primitive lifestyles or times of famine, entomophagy- the eating of insects- may be an ideal solution for growing world with an appetite for protein.  Crickets are five times as efficient as cattle when it comes to turning feed into edible mass, while mealworms produce 10 to 100 times less greenhouse gases as pigs.

    Bugs Originals has already produced nuggets, muesli and meatballs infused with mealworms.  The company’s only barrier to mainstream entry is figuring out how to produce purified bug protein, since the bug’s innards are proving difficult to separate from their inedible exoskeletons.  They have had some success grinding up the live insects and centrifuging the resulting mixture.  It might sound icky, but meat slurry and grinding live animals are already accepted practices in the production of “conventional” meat.  Call me species-ist, but I’d eat a cricket over a chicken any day.

    Story via The Atlantic.  Image via Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste.

  • multicolored ant ass

    The Amazing Technicolor Dream Ant

    A scientist in Mysore, India has figured out how to color-code his backyard ants. Mohamed Babu’s wife noticed that the ants’ abdomens turned white after drinking milk, so it was only a short step to filling the ants with more vibrant colors. The insects were picky, preferring yellow and green sugar water over blue and red.  The experiment goes to show that for ants, at least, those extra calories really do go right to the ass.

    Via the Daily Mail. Thanks Trendbeheer.

  • 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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  • evolution_of_the_chicken

    Evolution of the Chicken

    From Dinosaur to primitive bird to supermarket discount. Although chickens thrive as a species – in the sense that billions of them roam the earth bio-industry – we doubt if the decision of the chicken-species to involve itself in a co-evolutionary relation with people, was a wise one. Lesson learned: always be very concise on what or who you get into a co-evolutionary relationship with. Chickens have limited abilities in this regard, but people should do better.

    Via NRC charity Awards. Thanks René Pare.

  • YouTube Preview Image

    YouTube preserves unmediated Nature

    On Youtube, there’s a whole sub-genera of safari videos that show, in gruesome detail, what exactly it means to live and die in Old Nature. The above film is a particularly stomach-churning example, depicting African hunting dogs that eviscerate and devour a kudu while the antelope is still very much alive.  It’s the sort of material that winds up on the editing floor during the production of a typical nature documentary. Wildlife films sanitize the predator-prey relationship. Death occurs off-screen; if it is shown, it’s bloodless and quick.  Amateur nature videos remove a layer of artistic interpretation between the audience and “authentic” nature. Without a sound track or a narrator contextualizing the hunt, death becomes neither triumphant nor tragic. It doesn’t impart any moral lessons. In nature, as in YouTube, death just happens.

    Amateur videos like “Survival of the Fittest” compete for page views, and so still maintain the entertainment edict of traditional wildlife filmmaking. Web cams trained on nesting birds or savannah waterholes offer an even more immediate experience. They’re instantaneous, unedited, and usually unrecorded. In other words, wildlife web cams are the next best thing to being there. It used to be that professionally produced films, articles, and books were the main means for city-dwellers and office-workers to experience any wildlife more threatening than a pigeon.  Advanced digital technologies have helped to restore some ‘truth in advertising’ to the workings of wild ecosystems. In some sense, YouTube and other websites have become unintentional parks that uphold the conservation of unmediated nature.

  • jello marriage

    Transgenic Jell-O, more human than ever!

    The American Chemical Society has announced a new method of producing gelatin that sounds like good news for cannibals and the canni-curious. Researchers are able to create human-derived gelatin by inserting human genes for gelatin production into a strain of yeast.  This new method would produce hypoallergenic, standard-sized molecules, two traits especially important for medical applications. Since the traditional method of producing gelatin from animal sources can very from batch to batch, provoke immune responses, and potentially carry diseases like Mad Cow, human gelatin is a step up in quality. We’ll admit that the human-yeast hybrid doesn’t really fall under any definition of actual cannibalism. But with the advent of lab-grown meat, there’s now less to stand in the way of adventurous eaters who want to create a real-life version of HuFu.

    Via Discover Magazine.  Image via Death and Taxes.

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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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  • YouTube Preview Image

    What Robots dream of…

    You may think it’s a cliché, but deep down inside robots want to be birds and fly high in the sky. Hooray for the good people of Festo, that demonstrate at TED how they turn the dream into a reality.

  • YouTube Preview Image

    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…

  • 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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  • monkey pepsi

    Monkey See, Monkey Buy

    Yale researchers and advertising executives have created the first ad campaign aimed at animals.  The targets in question are a group of captive capuchin monkeys with a taste for sugary foods.  The experiment introduces two ‘brands’ of jello treats to the monkeys, identical in every way except for color.  The goal is see whether billboard advertisements placed around the cage can persuade the monkeys to prefer Color A over Color B.

    The posters are the distillation of pretty much everything us humans find appealing in advertisements: sex and power.  Previous experiments have showed that the monkeys will ‘pay’ for images of sexy female bottoms and high-ranking males, so the two ads depict the product in association with a female monkey’s exposed genitals and with the troop’s alpha male.

    We can only hope that the experiment proves a success. We already know that monkeys understand a currency-based economy, and that crows can be trained to find coins to use in peanut vending machines. Once we’ve inducted other big-brained species into the human economy, advertisers will find unlimited environments where they can induce an artificial need in a natural audience.  Maybe we can persuade dolphins to patrol off-shore oil rigs in exchange for cetacean porn, or teach elephants to willingly work on banana plantations, instead of rampaging through them.

    Via New Scientist.  Image via Monkey Brandz

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  • Mechanical Cheetah

    CopyCat

    Artist Andrew Chase creates kinetic sculptures of animals. He has studied these animals intensively. After his analysis he created copies of these animals in metal with mechanics to mimic the movements of these animals. You can see the cheetah in action. He also created an elephant and giraffe out of mechanical metal parts. A fascinating way of copying old nature – suit for yourself if there is some deeper meaning – in waste metals.

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  • 20.  Vicious Venue - 5_620x413

    Pixelated Nature

    What happens if your childhood experience of your environment has been solely through video games? According to artist Shawn Smith, “pixels became a sort of map from which to experience”. Hence he introduces old nature into next nature by transforming its imagery into 8-bit sculptures using hundreds of tiny wooden blocks.

    In an interview with Wired Smith says “I have been around the depiction of objects and nature on screens all my life and I found myself wondering what these things look like in three dimensions.” Peculiar image of the week.

    Via Wired. Thanks Bruce.

  • 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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  • YouTube Preview Image

    The Monsters We Deserve

    Recently, a video clip has been circulating the web that purportedly shows a rabbit born earless due to the radiation at Fukushima. BoingBoing has a convincing take-down of the claims of the video: earless rabbits are a fairly common mutation, mother rabbits sometimes chew off their ears of their young due to stress, and no one even knows where the video was filmed.

    More interesting than the video is the fact that we want to it to be real. Radioactivity should have immediate, visible consequences. Bodily harm should be  made manifest, and any disturbances in the natural order need to be seen to be believed. After the nuclear bomb explodes, we all head to the ocean to watch Godzilla pop out of the waves.

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  • An Entoform

    Entoforms

    Artist Dolf Veenvliet (Macouno) is creating future fossil trilobites that have yet to exist. Using generative computer models, his Entoforms are not the result of millions of years of evolving biological DNA. Instead, the system uses plain text as an input for generating the creatures, creating a wide variety that rivals the diversity we see in Old Nature’s fossile records.

    In the video below, Dolf talks about his project and invites us to join him in exploring this new world of creatures that are born through modern 3D printing manufacturing technologies.

    YouTube Preview Image

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  • gowanus canal toxic mud

    Evolutionary Janitors

    We normally think of polluted water as the source of disease, not the cure for it. The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, affectionately known as the Super Fun Superfund, is one of the most polluted bodies of water in America. Most of the water is too low in oxygen to support plant or animal life. Worse still is the toxic mud at the bottom of the canal, rich in lead, dioxins, and mercury from decades of unchecked dumping from heavy industry.

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