Author: Allison Guy

body heat powered clothing
Calm-technology

Clothes that Turn Heat into Electricity

With rising energy costs and our growing arsenal of iPads, smart phones, and wearable monitors, we’re always on the lookout for new ways to power our devices. Perpetua Power, an Oregon-based startup,…

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mossy keyboard
Biomimicmarketing

A Touchable, Moss-Covered Keyboard

Designer Robbie Tilton’s keyboard replaces the impersonal metal of a keyboard with lush imitation moss and wooden keys. Though it’s a good example of fake nature, Tilton’s keyboard is about more than…

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cigarette-butt-bird-nest
Manufactured Animals

Cigarettes: Bad for You, Good for Birds

Birds use whatever they can get their beaks on to build nests, including cigarette butts. Surprising new research from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México shows that instead of giving baby birds…

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Screen shot 2012-12-12 at 12.26.40 PM
Hypernature

Genetic Screening for Christmas Trees

If you’ve turned to plastic Christmas trees because the real ones leave piles of needles behind, science is working to bring live conifers back into your holidays. A $1.3 million project in…

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diatom circle
Bionics

Nanotech Diatoms

No, those aren’t plastic trinkets or beads from a craft store. They’re diatoms, a group of single-celled algae, and unlike almost all of our current technologies, they can rapidly and reliably synthesize  …

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shit golden glitter
Fitness Boosters

A Pill for Golden Poop

Sure, there’s a pill to make your sweat smell like roses, but what about a pill that makes your poop look sparkly? Part of a high/low culture collaboration with Tobias Wong and…

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Microbial Factories

New Robot Turns Poo into Energy

Though disgusting, sewage is an abundant, nutrient-rich resource. Researchers at the University of West England have taken advantage of this fact by creating a robot that turns human poo into energy. The…

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traditional chinese medicine
Biomimicmarketing

When Biomimicmarketing Kills

Loosely regulated and largely untested in clinical trials, herbal medicines nonetheless do big business based on their image of being wholesome, natural, and backed by millennia of tradition. Common sense tells us that it’s healthier to swallow a flower than a pill, and wiser to consult with a kindly herbalist than with a white-coated doctor.

Biomimicmarketing is so persuasive that it can sell poison, so long as the poison is “natural”. Aristolochia, a mottled purple flower, was a common medicine in ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt, and is still an ingredient in traditional chinese remedies and in certain weight-loss supplements. Prescribed for ailments as wide-ranging as childbirth, arthritis and snakebites, for thousands of years doctors and patients managed to miss the flower’s most potent property: It will kill you.

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chicken coop
Back to the Tribe

A €1,174 Chicken Coop for the Bourgeois Farmer

Long for farm-fresh eggs on the table? Dream about going to bed each night worrying about racoons, rats and foxes? Like the feeling of scraping chicken shit off your hands? For the low price of €1,174, upscale cooking supplier Williams-Sonoma will furnish you with a rustic chicken coop for your backyard flock.

Like children’s playhouses, the complete line of Williams-Sonoma chicken coops enable suburbanites and weekend warriors to enact deeply emotional fantasies – except here, they’re not fantasies of princely wealth or futuristic space exploration, but of preindustrial simplicity. Most fantasies are aggrandizing. The bourgeois farmer’s fantasy is one of humility, of dirt and labor. And as with all fantasies, this one is only loosely grounded in fact.

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beyond meat fake chicken strips
Food Technology

Four Objections to Lab-Grown Meat

In vitro meat has been billed as a way to end animal suffering, put a stop to global warming, and solve the world’s insatiable demand for animal protein. There’s no doubt that our hunger for meat is driving cataclysmic climate change, habitat loss, and overfishing. Things need to change, and change fast. But is meat cultured from animal cells, grown in a lab, and exercised with electric pulses the change we need?

Earlier this year, Mark Post of Maastrict University announced his plan to produce a €250,000 burger. While the cost is astronomical, Post promised that economies of scale would eventually make the lab meat cost-competitive with conventional flesh. However, like jetpacks, underwater cities and orbiting colonies, many scientific breakthroughs that once seemed inevitable have proven to be possible, but economically unfeasible.

We can do it. We just can’t afford it. Below are the top four reasons to believe that in vitro meat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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anheuser busch drinking water
Brand Territory

Budweiser Cans Water for Storm Victims

In more next natural news from Hurricane Sandy, Anheuser-Busch, parent company of the American beer brand Budweiser, has been canning water for victims of the disaster. The company temporarily converted one of…

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brooklyn survivalists
Back to the Tribe

Charging Phones by (and with) Camp Fire

With areas of New York still without electricity, BioLite recently came to the rescue of Brooklynites by  setting up a charging station with camping stoves that convert excess heat to electricity. As…

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ethiopian tablet hackers
Back to the Tribe

Illiterate Kids Learn to Hack Tablet Computers with No Outside Help

The One Laptop Per Child program is experimenting with what at first seems to be the lazy way to philanthropy: dropping off tablet computers in remote Ethiopian villages and then simply leaving. Could illiterate children learn not only how to operate the Motorola Zooms, but teach themselves to read? According to  Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop Per Child, the results were astonishing:

“We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.”

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modern stone age tools
Augmented-Bodies

Modern Flint Tools

Stone tools are the most ancient evidence of our ancestor’s ingenuity, proof that we’ve been augmenting our bodies for millions of years. These flint tools by Ami Drach and Dov Ganchrow update…

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happiness counter
Anthropomorphobia

Robot Fridge Forces You to Smile for Food

Feeling grumpy and hungry? Unfortunately, the University of Tokyo’s Happiness Counter refrigerator won’t open up until you give it a big smile. The concept is based on the fact that smiling releases…

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