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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’

  • A+picture+released+on+July+22,+2012+shows+an+artificial+jellyfish+replica+made+from+silicone+polymer+and+rat+heart+cells

    Jellyfish built from Rat Cells

    Another step in the fusion of the made & the born: Researchers at Harvard University managed to make an artificial jellyfish using a sheet of silicone and rat heart cells. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart.

    “Morphologically, we’ve built a jellyfish. Functionally, we’ve built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat,” biophysicist and project leader Kit Parker told Nature Magazine. The long term goal of the scientists is to create artificial models of human heart tissues for regenerating organs and drug testing purposes.

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    Hypernature ahoy! Thanks Jeffrey, Marco.

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  • PigsBladder

    Bio-engineered Football

    With the knowledge that footballs were once made of pig’s bladder and that in 2006 the first artificial bladder was transplanted into a patient, artist John O’Shea designed the first bio-engineered football made of lab grown pig’s bladder.

    He harvested animal cells from abattoir waste, used rapid prototyping and very precise tissue engineering to create a modern version of the medieval football.

    O’Shea hopes his ‘super-football,’ will encourage audiences to consider the importance science plays in our daily lives. Pig’s Bladder Football will be presented at the Abandon Normal Devices festival between 30 August – 7 September.

    Via DesignWeek

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    Enjoy Udder Milk

    Infomercial on the hypernatural Udder Cows, optimized for utmost milk production. The video was created by Amir Admoni for the very first next nature power show in 2005, however we probably have to wait until 2050 before the Udder Cows will be grazing the meadows near you, if ever.

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  • Mandy Barker Plastic Ocean

    Plastic Junk Helps Ocean Animals (Sometimes)

    While the Pacific garbage patch is often characterized as a dense, Texas-sized island of plastic, in reality it’s an area of 2,736 square km scattered with tiny, floating bits of plastic. Popular conception holds that the worst effect of this junk is that it strangles animals, or accumulates in their stomachs, leading to slow, painful deaths either way.

    In reality, it’s much harder to suss out plastic’s impact on oceanic organisms. Fish and birds do eat plastic, and in large quantities. Bottle shards and cigarette lighters were found in the bellies of dead albatross chicks. However, it may be that for most animals, nurdles more or less harmlessly pass through their digestive systems. Scientists just don’t know. On the flip side of the plastic coin are ocean-faring creatures that are clearly thriving thanks to this novel material.

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    Featured Page #01: Hypernature

    During the coming weeks, we will present a selection of our favourite pages from the Next Nature book. To kick the series off, we’ll start with a spread about hypernature; the enhanced version of nature.

    Much of the so-called ‘nature’ in our lives has taken on an artificial authenticity. Engineered tomatoes are redder, rounder, and larger than the ones from our gardens. Domestic pets could not survive in the wild, but prosper by triggering our empathy. We have made fluorescent fish, rainbow tulips and botanical gardens that contain species from every corner of the globe.

    Human design has turned nature into hypernature, an exaggerated simulation of a nature that never existed. It’s better than the original, a little bit prettier and slicker, safer and more convenient. Hypernature emerges where the born and the made meet. It presents itself as nature, yet arguably, it is culture in disguise.

    Note from the editor: This spread is a perfect example of the relation between this website and our Next Nature book. Over the years, we have posted several stories about hypernature, but we never really pinned the term down. The editing process of the book allowed us to study it much better and come to a better understanding of what it is, and how it should be described. Which in return resulted in the thematic sections you can find on this website, like this one about hypernature.

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Featured here are pages 124-125 from the book Next Nature: Nature Changes Along with Us. More information about the book can be found here.

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    How To Grow Your Own Sneaker

    Bioengineer Raymond Ong remixes the beauty & variety of nature into something nature could not have imagined. By transferring the DNA of existing animal patterns on the skin of stingray fishes, his company creates uniquely customized fish leather. This leather is then used to produce highly personalized sneakers.

    Grow your own fish sneaker at Rayfish.com.

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  • cat being measured with tape

    Rotund Rats, Fat Cats and Chubby Chimps

    It’s nothing new that humanity is getting chubbier by the day. What’s surprising is that we’re bringing our animals along for the ride. A meta-analysis of animal weight has revealed that, over the last several decades, creatures as diverse as feral rats and laboratory primates have been getting fatter.

    For some of the species in the study, these trends have obvious causes. Dogs and cats are moving less and watching more tv, just like their owners. ‘Synanthropes’, animals like pigeons and rats that live in association with human communities, are thriving on dumpsters filled with our calorie-dense discards. Without natural predators keep them on their toes, it makes sense that city rats living on fatty, sugary foods will turn into the rodent equivalents of Howard Taft.

    It’s harder to explain weight gain in lab animals. Creatures used in research settings like chimpanzees, macaques and vervets all live in controlled environments where they’re insulted from the charms of Krispy Kreme and HBO. These zaftig animals typify the complex state of obesity science. One day obesity is reducible to maxims – “eat less, exercise more” – while the next it balloons outwards to encompass hidden factors like viruses, thrifty genes, drifty genes, and chemical obesogens.

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    Yes, There Is Now a TV Channel Just for Dogs

    DogTV, a new TV channel available in the US, offers 24/7 programming for the modern dog. There’s busy streets, computer-animated moths and frolicking, cross-breed hounds. The channel promises to relax anxious dogs and to entertain bored ones.

    DogTV may be saying more about our relationship with our dogs than it does about the dogs themselves. We’ve transfered civilization’s discontents onto our pets. Dogs have gotten depressed and fat along with their owners. They spend much of their lives indoors and inactive. And now, just like us, they can chill in front of the tube as a surrogate for ‘real life’.

    For more mutt-friendly videos, check out DogTV’s YouTube channel.

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  • svalbard

    A Space-Faring Backup for Earth’s Biota

    Elon Musk, the chief executive of spacecraft company SpaceX, believes we need to reinvigorate popular interest in space colonization, not just to boldly go where no man has gone before, but to save life from extinction. In an interview with Nature, Musk asserts that “I think we need planetary redundancy to protect against the unlikely possibility of natural or man-made Armageddon.” He joins recent pleas from physicist Steven Hawking and science journalist William Burrows, who have both argued that the only way to save Earth is to leave it.

    While it sounds far-out, there’s nothing more practical than spreading copies of Earth’s life and cultures through the universe. As meteors, global glaciations, and a certain bipedal species of ape have shown, Earth is exquisitely vulnerable to catastrophe. We already have terrestrial storage for life’s diversity, including San Diego’s Frozen Zoo, and the Svalbard Seed Vault, which has 400,000 seed samples of food crops. A backup in orbit, on the moon, or on a new planet is the next logical step.

    Image via Atlas Obscura.

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    Bioinspired Robojelly Can Swim Forever

    Scientists have developed a biomimetic robot that will be able to swim forever, since its artificial muscles are powered by water. And since Robojelly lives underwater, it will never run out of energy.

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  • SoyChickenCloseUp

    Hybrid Meat

    On society’s search to becoming a meatless one, several new kinds of ‘meat’ pop up in the food industry. From so called ‘hybrid’ meatballs, to ‘the chicken that isn’t', when will we really stop eating meat and long for substitutes?

    According to 23 producers of meat substitutes, called Het Planeet, this will actually be in the nearby future. They produce substitutes based on soy, lupins and peas, but also on proteins like insects and algae. Het Planeet claims that the biggest threshold is not the quality, but the acceptance and perception of these protein ingredients and products. That quality should no longer become an issue, became quite clear during a taste test at the castle of Woerden in January. The battle between whole meat and hybrid meatballs turned out quite tough, since the best meatball was a whole meat one, while the second best turned out to be a hybrid: a combination of meat and 30 percent plant product. Replacing 30 percent of a piece of meat by plant product will, according to Het Planeet, cause a 15 percent reduction in meat consumption per person.

    Meanwhile, in Missouri, they are less subtle in replacing a nice piece of meat. Their soy-based chicken substitute not only replicates the taste of real chicken, it also mimics the same texture and appearance  of real chicken meat. Over 20 years of research has made it possible to produce something that has nothing to do with chicken, but according to the New York Times, certainly shreds like one. Sounds like acceptance is on its way.

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  • Monkeys fall into the ‘Uncanny Valley’ too

    Monkeys fall into the ‘Uncanny Valley’ too

    The uncanny valley, a phrase coined by Japanese robotic researcher Masahiro Mori nearly three decades ago, describes the uncanny feeling that occurs when people look at representations designed to be as human-like as possible – whether computer animations or androids – but somehow fall short. It turns out monkeys have that too.

    In an attempt to answer deeper questions about the evolutionary basis of communication, Princeton University researchers have found that macaque monkeys also fall into the uncanny valley, exhibiting this reaction when looking at computer-generated images of monkeys that are close but less than perfect representations.

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  • krill on finger

    Watch Out Whales, Humans Want Your Krill

    Krill, those tiny members of the ocean’s planktonic community, have an importance disproportionate to their size. They are a vital food for whales, penguins and increasingly, humans. Demand for krill-based animal feed and 0mega-3 fatty acids is leading to a “gold rush” in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica.

    Harvesting krill is the outcome of a decades-long trend of “fishing down the food web“. After humans decimated large oceanic organisms like tuna and swordfish, global fisheries have turned to smaller and less desirable species. Lobster, for instance, was once fed to prisoners, while cod was once so plentiful it was used as fertilizer. Now, fisheries are increasingly snapping up ‘bait fish’ like anchovies, mackerel and menhaden. The fact that commercial fishermen are now turning to krill, even jellyfish, indicates we may be scooping up the last and least tasty fish in the sea.

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  • blackfoot kitten

    Adorably Endangered Kitten Born to Domestic Cat Surrogate

    “Crystal”, an endangered black-footed cat, was recently born to a domestic cat surrogate at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species. The birth was achieved using a previously frozen embryo, marking the first successful implementation of this method for this species. Last year, the center also pioneered the first in-vitro fertilization of black-footed cats. First mice, now cats, maybe Neanderthals next.

    Story via the Times Picayune.

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    “That Was Then. This is Now”

    The wunderkammer – the traditional repository of natural history curiosities and cultural relics  – has been updated by the Center for PostNatural History in Pittsburgh, which opened the doors of its new museum this month. A curated microcosm populated by plant and animal specimens modified by man, this is the first synthetic history museum dedicated to documenting our Age of Anthropocene.

    The museum’s curator, artist Richard Pell, has been painstakingly collecting examples of the ‘PostNatural’: “living organisms that have been altered through processes such as selective breeding or  genetic engineering”. These organisms are not archived (unless accidentally, as Rich discovered) in natural history collections. Are genetically engineered Glo-Fish, Roundup-Ready maize and ‘biosteel’ goats post-natural organisms from the branches of the Synthetic Kingdom, or does their ‘true’ nature remain preserved?

    Pell’s research has taken him on quite a journey through the living (and taxidermied) kingdoms, from the archives of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to dealings with Monsanto. Through the PostNatural taxonomy, the collection raises vital questions of intellectual property, genetic modification, scientific objectivity and as Pell describes in this interview, how we cannot forget that “the project of science is never divorced from the cultural context”.

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  • beluga bubble ring

    Nature Ludens: The Natural World at Play

    An ingenious Russian crow that used a lid as a snowboard to slide down a snowy roof persuaded millions of YouTube viewers that animals are not merely beasts of burden – they also want to have fun. Indeed, the natural world appears to be teeming with creatures enjoying themselves in all kinds of different ways, and wildlife experts even claim that bonobos and dolphins have sex for fun.

    But how can we know this is the case? Aren’t we really just projecting our human values on to animals? After all, moods are subjective, so it’s hard enough for humans to communicate clearly enough to each other, even when they share the same language – let alone try to figure out what another species might be feeling. So, to keep things simple and empirically testable, the kinds of scientific experiments that have established the ‘feelings’ of animals have focused on responses to stimuli in which cause and effect are not at all complicated such as withdrawal from pain [1].

    Unsurprisingly, this has produced a very limited model of scientifically ‘proven’ animal behaviour, since there are still no clearly identifiable behavioural markers of conscious experience that don’t involve language. We still don’t know how to unequivocally prove what animals may be thinking. We can only claim that creatures such as these fox cubs playing on a trampoline appear to be having fun, since we cannot be objective about what we observe. However, the work of philosophers of science such as Thomas Kuhn, Stephen Toulmin and Patrick Heelan, among many others, questions the long-held view that scientific data are absolutely objective.

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