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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’

  • 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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    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.

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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…

  • 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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    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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    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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  • 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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  • center for postnatural history

    Take your transgenic kids to the CPNH

    The Center for PostNatural History doesn’t house the dinosaurs or dioramas of your run-of-the-mill natural history museum. Instead, it’s the first museum dedicated exclusively to the study and preservation of ‘postnatural’ life: genetically modified organisms, lab animals, and cloned livestock. While the CPNH has been organizing traveling exhibits since 2008, its permanent exhibition space is due to open in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2011. While there have been several art shows centered on bioart and transgenic life, the Center may be the most science-minded endeavor to tackle the fuzzy boundaries between nature and culture.

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  • yellow sac spider

    Cheiracanthium drives a Mazda

    In March, Mazda recalled 65,000 cars, not because of any structural faults in the vehicle, but because the engineers had inadvertently created the perfect habitat for a tiny spider.  The yellow sac spider, capable of inflicting a painful bite, was inexorably drawn to build webs in the car’s evaporative canister vent line. The spider’s nest could restrict the line, raising pressure in the fuel tank and eventually leading to a crack.  It may be that the species is attracted to the smell of hydrogen oxide in gasoline, or it could just be that the little arachnids think Americans need to do a better job of carpooling.

    Arthropods have a distinguished history of gumming up our most precise pieces of technology. The first computer bug was a brown moth that got stuck in Harvard’s Relay Calculator in 1947.  I remember battling the ants that took up residence in my laptop in the Philippines, and a quick Google search shows that computer-nerd ants are a common complaint. Technology may be designed for humans, but it’s used by the entire ecosystem.

    Via The Consumerist.  Image via UW Madison Department of Etymology.

  • dolphin-fish

    Babel Fish

    Researchers are working on a language and a device that will help humans and dolphins talk with each other.

    Denise Herzing, a researcher and founder of the Wild Dolphin Project in Jupiter, Florida aims to meet the mammals in the middle, creating a new language that both humans and dolphins can understand.

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  • life support lamb

    Living Life Support

    Designer Revital Cohen imagines a future where life-support machines are replaced with life-support animals. In this scenario, a transgenic lamb is allowed to frolic in the fields by day.  By night, the lamb is hooked up to a renal patient to filter his blood. The artist presents a mutually beneficial relationship: the human lives as a parasite, and the lamb lives to be a medical device, not Easter dinner. While it’s an alien vision, it may be more humane than killing animals, engineered or not, for their spare parts. Read more »

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  • Blinky – Does what we want it to do

    In the short movie Blinky, on a boy and his robot, director Ruari Robinson reflects on our daily dealings with technology and its risks.

    Alex is a child growing up in a family owned by marital problems. Blinky distracts Alex from the daily rowing of his parents. But the awareness of the simplicity of Blinky, which seems to be an intelligent and emotional friend in the beginning, turns into the tipping point of the story.  It illustrates how technology can turn into a nightmare and gets out of control. In fact the word ‘control’ is an interesting issue in this story.

    Does the humanoid Blinky really run out of control or was it the naive handling of Alex? Does technology really run out of control or aren’t we not able to deal with the offered scope and consequences of technology?

    Watch the entire movie (12 minutes)

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  • Hungry Birds

    Hungry Birds

    A while ago I wrote a post about birds which tried to adapt to the city by singing louder and in different tones than before.

    Now it seems the birds have taken this adaptation to the next level and started tweeting, in the digital variant. While they already lend their image and name to this popular service, they could never use it until the people of the Latvian weekly magazine “Ir” made Birds on Twitter.

    A keyboard made of fat allows the birds to tweet while they eat. Check out the poetry of the birds @hungry_birds.
    Unfortunately we will have to wait until November before they start tweeting again, as spring is setting in, which means there is much more to do than tweeting all day long.

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