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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 ‘Wetware’

  • plasticized human lungs

    Chrysler Looks to Human Lungs for a Better Gas Tank

    Compressed Natural Gas  (CNG) has one major benefit over traditional gasoline – it’s cheap. About 1/3 of the cost, to be exact. Unfortunately, it also has to be kept under very high pressure, which means that traditional gas tanks simply can’t stand up to it. Until now, the only way to store CNG fuel has been in reinforced plain geometric cylinders. Used for their strength, they also take up valuable space and weigh quite a lot. Chrysler is trying to find a better way, using human lungs as inspiration. Enrico Pisino, Chrysler’s senior manager of innovation, explains that human lungs store oxygen in numerous small sacs called alveoli, and that his researchers are using this method to design new, stronger storage tanks.

    Story via Ciprian Florea at Autoevolution.com. Image via The Courier.

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  • Leprosy 7

    Is the Human Body Redundant?

    The increasing ‘liveliness’ of machines and accessibility to the virtual world has raised questions about whether it is possible to uncouple the mind from the body in through a host of different strategies. The basic idea is that if we are able to escape the ties of our own flesh then we can upgrade them and even replace them with immortal ones. Performance artist Stelarc has made some of the most extreme and enduring work on this subject. The artist characteristically depersonalises his anatomy and claims that it is not only an object that can be subjected to re-designing but is also ‘obsolete’. During his performances, Stelarc mentally ‘vacates’ his own body to prove its obsolescence, and claims that his body is no more than a site for redesigning and re-engineering the human form.

    In my view, Stelarc’s work paradoxically highlights the profound importance that embodiment holds for being human. When Stelarc dissociates his mind from his body he demonstrates its sheer plasticity and robustness. The artist then recolonizes the body with robots, communications technologies and soft prostheses as proof of this inbuilt physical redundancy. Yet the machines he hosts are given context by the presence of a body – for in its absence, they are just a collection of machines devoid of meaning. Moreover, redundancy is a characteristic of complex systems, which are a form of organization that does not obey the Cartesian, dualistic laws that govern machines. The artist’s rejection of these qualities simply highlights that the human body is not a machine.

    There is nothing liberating about having an anesthetized body, nor one that is functionally redundant. While Stelarc’s suspensions and performances demonstrate that we can temporarily ‘forget’ our bodies in order to explore a transcendent state of being, there are those who live in a permanent state of disconnection.

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    How to grow an Organ

    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.

  • 3D Bioprinter promises tissue on demand

    3D Bioprinter promises tissue on demand

    Behold “the world’s first production model 3D bio-printer.” A machine capable of arranging human cells and artificial scaffolds into complex three-dimensional structures, which result in such wonderful things as printed design meat, replacement organ tissue, or perhaps artificially grown teeth.

    “Scientists and engineers can use the 3D bio printers to enable placing cells of almost any type into a desired pattern in 3D,” says Keith Murphy, CEO of Organovo – the San Diego based company who will supply the devices institutions investigating human tissue repair and organ replacement.

    “Researchers can place liver cells on a preformed scaffold, support kidney cells with a co-printed scaffold, or form adjacent layers of epithelial and stromal soft tissue that grow into a mature tooth. Ultimately the idea would be for surgeons to have tissue on demand for various uses, and the best way to do that is get a number of bio-printers into the hands of researchers and give them the ability to make three dimensional tissues on demand.”

    Building human organs cell-by-cell was considered science fiction not that long ago, but now rapidly becomes science faction. Yet another step in the blending of the ‘made’ and the ‘born’.

    Via: Livescience.com.

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  • Computer versus bacteria

    Computer versus bacteria

    Are bacteria faster than a computer? According a group of biological engineers they are. The scientists have done a research in which they have used the well-known bacteria Escherichia coli to solve a mathematical problem.

    The Hamiltonian path is the shortest route between city A to city B along several other cities and at which every city is visited only once. This sounds easy, however this has caused a lot of problems to the navigation systems. If you want to go from Amsterdam to Rome and visit some other European cities, there are millions of possible routes and the system will have to calculate all the separate routes to come to the final solution of the Hamiltonian path. Now the researchers have used bacteria to get a direct overview, in which the bacteria consider all the routes simultaneously.

    In the research, they have modified the DNA of the bacteria and let them find the shortest route between three cities. Each city has its own combination of genes, which causes the bacteria to glow red of green. The possible routes between the cities were explored by the random shuffling of DNA. The bacteria that had found the best route fluoresced green and red, resulting in yellow colonies.

    Problem solved! Althought this is just a small test and it will be difficult to program a complex computer this way, the researchers are convinced this a proof that demonstrates the possibilities of using bacteria to solve these kind of mathematical problems. According to the researchers their results validate synthetic biology as a valuable approach to biological engineering. Having a computer infected with a virus will not quite be the same anymore.

    The study was published in the Journal of Biological Engineering. Related: Crash course on synthetic genomics, Bacteria that eat waste & shit petrol, Bacteria that turn CO2 into energyGoogle tracks flue spread via sick searchers, Conversations at the doctor.

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  • Ear on your arm? Why not?!

    Ear on your arm? Why not?!

    For over 40 years Australian artist Stelios Arcadious Stelarc has made art with medical instruments, prosthetics, robots, virtual reality systems and biotechnology to investigate alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body. In one of the interviews he says: The assumption being that if the body was altered it might mean adjusting its awareness.

    His ‘Ear on the Arm‘ piece is a full sized ear constructed of the living cells permanently placed under the skin of Stelarc’s forearm – a clear homage to the famous tissue engineered ear mouse. The microphone and sound transmitter were supposed to be inserted inside his body within the ear shaped scaffold. This ended up to be not feasible yet due to infections that electronics caused.

    The vision behind the project was to generate an alternative electronically enhanced organ to better interact and operate within the World. At the same time it provokes a debate about a desire to redesign and alternate human’s body evolutionary structure.

    Stelarc points out: Now we can engineer additional and external organs to better function in the technological and media terrain we now inhabit. All very well, allthough it’s perhaps a better strategy to redesign our technological environment so that it fits our existing human physique.

    Related: Phone Tooth, USB finger, High Heels, How biotech will drive our evolution, Homo desktopus, Humans are the sex organs of technology.

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    Craig Venter – Catalyst of evolution

    If the six hour crash course on synthetic genomics is a bit too much for you, there is always a more snappy TED lecture in which Craig Venter ponders on whether we can create new life out of our digital universe. Needles to ask what his answer is.

    Dr. Venter now has a database now with about 20 million genes and thinks of them as the design components of the future. In little over half an hour the audience is walked through the latest endevours in synthetic genomics.

    His talk covers topics like: How to boot up a chromosome. How he plans to replace the petrochemical energy with bacteria that turn CO2 into energy. How to take security measures. Why people who think of evolution as just one gene changing at the time have missed much of biology. And why it is a mistake to think they are trying to create life from scratch, as they are merely playin on one of the key principles of nature: all life derives from other life.

    Nature changes along with us and it is changing fast. Buckle up for a catalyst of evolution.

    Related: Build a better being, DNA Synthesizer, Top 10 new organisms, Mapping the DNA world, Google DNA, Poetry of Genetics, Crash course on synthetic genomics, How biotech will drive our evolution, Human genetic DNA sequencing soon child play?.

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  • Crash course on synthetic genomics

    Crash course on synthetic genomics

    Next Monday when your colleagues ask you what you have been doing for the weekend, you might answer you something default like you went out with friends, danced, biked to the beach, etc… Or you could answer you took Edge’s crash course on synthetic genomics.

    It’s only six hours of video and deals with questions like “What is life, origins of life, in vitro synthetic life, mirror-life, metabolic engineering for hydrocarbons & pharmaceuticals, computational tools, electronic-biological interfaces, nanotech-molecular-manufacturing, biosensors, accelerated lab evolution, engineered personal stem cells, multi-virus-resistant cells, humanized-mice, bringing back extinct species, safety/security policy.”

    The masterclass is guided by George Church and Craig Venter. Participants include scientists, entrepreneurs, cultural impresarios, journalists and architects of the some of the leading companies of our time including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and PayPal – yes, good company indeed.

    It is especially sweet how all the ‘students’ introduce themselves in the beginning – “I am Larry Page, of Google, I am waiting for the fully designed synthetic pets.” – and continuously intervene with witty questions and remarks throughout the lectures. Well done Edge! Next time you might want to add a few artists and designers in the mix as well.

    Via Beyond the Beyond. See als: How biotech will drive our evolution, DNA Synthesizer, Epidermits – the tissue engineered toy.

  • Reprogramming Skin Cells into Stem Cells

    Reprogramming Skin Cells into Stem Cells

    A major breakthrough in the world of genetics: Researchers have successfully reprogrammed skin cells into stem cells. Using a technique called iPS cell reprogramming (developed in Japan 2006) they were able to modify skin cells from mice and grow embryos:

    “The mice seem to have a high death rate, with some dying after just two days, and others displaying physical abnormalities, details of which the team would not reveal. But some of their mice passed one of the most fundamental tests of health: all 12 mice that were mated produced offspring, and the offspring showed no abnormalities. The team says it now has hundreds of second-generation, and more than 100 third-generation, mice.

    iPS mouse

    “Unlike embryonic stem cells, iPS cells can be generated without the destruction of a human embryo and thus circumvent the ethical issues that have mired much of stem cell research. While iPS cells have been shown to be capable of developing into many different cell types, they had not been shown to be equal to embryonic stem cells — until today.” 

    It was 1993 that Spielberg directed Jurassic Park in which he envisioned the possibility of reviving the dinosaur through cell-cloning. Less than twenty years later science gives the beginning of an answer. It will probably take another twenty years to even speak of reviving the dodo or mammoth, but the way things are looking now; in the Next Nature life will be programming itself.

    Via: technologyreview.com | see also: nature.com | whitehead.mit.edu | image credits: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research & Nature | Related: Green Glowing Monkeys | Forefather Ox Cloned to Revive Delicious Steak

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  • Wetware [definition]

    Wetware [definition]

    Though its exact definition has shifted over time, the term “wetware” and its fundamental reference to “the physical mind” has been around from the mid-1950s. In its original, intended meaning, wetware is the underlying generative code for an organism, as found in the genetic material, in the biochemistry of the cells and in the architecture of the body’s tissues. It is further used to describe the embodiment of the concepts of the physical construct known as the central nervous system (CNS) and the mental construct known as the human mind. Wetware is a two-part abstraction drawn from the computer-related idea of hardware or software.

    Many posts on NextNature could have been tagged wetware, and because technology seems to be shifting from “production” to “growing”, I think it is a term we will be tagging quite often from now on.

    via: vastal.eu | see also: wikipedia.org

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  • Green Glowing Monkeys

    Green Glowing Monkeys

    Japanese researchers of the Central Institute for Experimental Animals, took a green fluorescent protein gene of a jellyfish, wove it into the DNA of a few marmosets embryos, then let the monkeys mate. Five of 91 baby monkeys carried the gene. This was done before to mice, pigs, cats and dogs, but the marmosets are a particularly big breakthrough for a few reasons:

    Monkeys are more genetically similar to humans than any other creature engineered to shine green; Their blood, hair roots and skin give off a glow, not just one body tissue (as with previous experiments); Monkey brains are bigger and more similar to human thinking caps that those of mice, which makes them better to study for neurological disorders, like Parkinsons disease.

    News about green-reflecting monkeys is cute, but at NextNature we are waiting for the first human baby to see the green light.

    Via: wired.com | Related: Brainbow Mice | No Transparent Frog | New Organisms 2007

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  • Liberate the Breast Cancer Genes

    Liberate the Breast Cancer Genes

    On May 12, 2009 the ACLU and the (not-for-profit) Public Patent Foundation, filed a lawsuit, charging that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer are unconstitutional and invalid. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four scientific organizations representing more than 150,000 geneticists, pathologists, and laboratory professionals, as well as individual researchers, breast cancer and women’s health groups, genetic counselors and individual women.

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has granted thousands of patents on human genes – in fact, about 20 percent of our genes are patented. A gene patent holder has the right to prevent anyone from studying, testing or even looking at a gene. As a result, scientific research and genetic testing has been delayed, limited or even shut down due to concerns about gene patents.

    “Patenting human genes is counter to common sense, patent law and the Constitution,” said Daniel B. Ravicher, Executive Director of PUBPAT and co-counsel in the lawsuit. “Genes are identified, not invented, and patenting genetic sequences is like patenting blood, air or e=mc2.”

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    How biotech will drive our evolution

    Are you ready for some techno-optimism? Buckle up and enjoy the ride with bio-tech evangelist Gregory Stock.

    Some quotes from his prophetic TED talk:

    “We are seizing control of our evolutionary future. We are using technology to jam evolution into fast forward, and it is not at all clear where it is gonna take us.”

    “We are taking the sand at our feet, the silicone at our feet, and are breathing a level of complexity into it, that may even surpass us.”

    “What is we could unravel aging? Begin to retard the process or even revert it? It would change absolutely everything and it is obvious to everyone that if we can do this we absolutely will do this, whatever the consequences are.”

    “Modifying our emotions: Ritalin, Viagra, etc. These are just absolutely baby steps.”

    “Who would want to pass on to their children the archaic enhancement modules that they got 25 years ago from their parents? It’s a joke! Of course they wouldn’t want to do that! They would want the new release!”

    “Now not everything that can be done, should be done. And it won’t be done. But when something is feasible in thousands of laboratories around the world, which is going to be the case with these new technologies. When there are large numbers of people that see them as beneficial, which is already the case. And when they are almost impossible to police, it is not a matter of if this is gonna happen. It is when, and where and how it is gonna happen.”

    “Humanity is going to go down this path… because we are human.”

    “The lines are going to blur, between therapy and enhancement. Between treatment and prevention and between need and desire.”

    “We should not kid ourselves and think we are going to reach a consensus about these things. That is not going to happen. They touch us too deeply and they depend too much upon history, upon philosophy, upon culture, upon politics. And some people are going to see this a an abomination, as the worst thing, as awful. And other people are going to say: This is great, this is the flowering of human endeavor.”

    “We are not just observing this, we are the architects of this. I think we should be proud of it. What is so difficult and challenging is that we are also the objects of these changes.”

    “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, both glory and danger alike. And yet notwithstanding they go out and they meet it.”

    Seems like a brave new world out there, although one wonders, if the cave men – in their own time – organized something similar to TED conferences where they discussed the opportunities & threats of their newly gained ability to ‘play with fire’.

    Gregory Stock’s position regarding human enhancements also reminded me of Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, written by Marquis de Condorcet (1743 – 1794) at the beginning of the enlightenment period, although I recon Gregory Stock is less naive than De Condorcet, so that is progress.

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  • Turning Brain Waves into Tweets

    Turning Brain Waves into Tweets

    Are you using Twitter and looking for faster ways to update your followers with your utterly mundane status on what you are thinking? Adam Wilson from the University of Wisconsin has now created a brain-twitter interface – you think it, you tweet it.

    Alright, the brainwave control interface used is nothing fancy – we have seen that one before – and it allows you to write only an average of ten characters a minute. So what is the point here? Should we interpret this work as an emerging technology that is currently in its infancy but will soon reach total world domination? Or rather as a social-cultural reflection on the phenomenon of Twitter and the re-tribalizing functioning it undoubtedly has? My guess is the latter. It might just because of my nextnature mindset, but as far as I can understand it, tweeting is all about we.

    Related post: Me, Friending, ancient or otherwiseBrain scan replaces job interview in 5 years?, Tribal communication technology, Want privacy? Use pigeon messaging.

  • Brain Scan replaces Job Interview in 5 years?

    Brain Scan replaces Job Interview in 5 years?

    Forget about palmistry! MRI scans for candidates in top jobs such as bank directors could soon become part of the job-application package, says Erasmus University researcher Prof Willem Verbeke of Rotterdam, He’s confident brain scans will replace job interviews within 5 years.

    Prof. Verbeke heads the department of neuro-economics, (NSIM), at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He predicts in an interview with Good Morning Netherlands radio station that employers demanding compulsory brain scans from their job applicants will soon become the most normal thing in the world – in fact within five years’ time’, he believes.

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