Author: Natalie Dixon

Boomeranged Metaphors

Gamers Solve Enzyme Riddle

In a vivd example of the blur between culture and nature, players using an online game called Foldit have helped solve complex questions for researchers about enzyme models. The solution, which eluded researchers for more than 10 years was solved by gamers in only a few days, contributing towards research into anti-AIDS drugs. Giving credit where it’s due, researchers have named the gamers as co-authors in the study published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

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Schiphol Park

Parks & Planes

Along with a library and museum, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport recently added a park to its list of attractions. Officially opened by Princess Irene, the first Airport Park in the world offers a “haven of tranquillity” with a terrace, trees and wooden picnic benches.

Daylight enters the park through tube lighting and fibre optic cables, while “mixed reality” technology brings the park to life: images of famous parks are displayed on the walls, projections, and sounds of animals, bicycle bells and children playing. Travellers can also recharge their mobile phones by pedalling one of the energy generating bicycles.

The Airport Park is located behind the Schiphol Airport’s D Gates.

– Story courtesy Moa Thorssell/

Schiphol Indoor photo


Backseat Driver

There’s hardly a shortage of animal lovers following the trend site, often generating thousands of “likes” on their Facebook fan page for images of cutesy pugs and great danes frolicking in meadows. But nothing speaks louder about our fascination with animals and nature as when our furry friends behave like us. Take this image of a backseat driver.

Pic courtesy

Manufactured Animals

Is that a hamster in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

Mobile phones may be the most affective technology we own but researchers at the Design Research Lab in Berlin have taken this notion to its most outlandish limit. Their cellular prototype is more hamster than phone with a mechanical “breath” and a “heartbeat”. Both can become accelerated in response to emotion: like when a new lover calls (faster heart rate creates a kind of handset humping action) and agitation when the user misses calls (erratic breath equals more humping).  How do you calm it down?  This little tech hamster responds to patting and loving strokes. The researchers rationale? To make mobile phones more intuitive, organic and ultimately more human…

See the original TED talk.



Hallucinogenic Reindeer Moments

Can art change perceptions more than drugs? An art project which was on show in Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof allowed 12 free-roaming reindeer in the former railway station creating a seemingly bucolic Northern European scene. Except, half of the reindeer had been reportedly fed fly agaric mushrooms which turned their urine hallucinogenic. Add a few mice, flies and canaries and then feed them food sprinkled with this special urine and the scene turns interesting. Add a bed (and mini bar) for curious art fans  at € 1000 and access to the bottled urine for consumption and the scene turns bizarre (or as bizarre as your imagination allows). The work, by Belgian artist Carsten Höller, titled Soma has been labeled a science experiment meets art meets let-your-mind-run-free project.

Soma was seen at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.
Photo credit: David von Becker


Why Do We Love Pandas?

They remind us of ourselves
We love their dexterity – thanks partly to that “pseudo thumb”, which functions as a sixth digit.

It’s in the eyes
We love their big eyes because it reminds us of children (‘neoteny’ in scientific terms).

They are shy
The giant panda’s enigmatic nature is in stark contrast to its sheer bulk and striking appearance.

They are cultural symbols
The panda has been made into a symbol since the 1960s. It’s been used by the WWF to convince us about the importance of conservation.

They are rare
Giant Pandas are officially listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s list of endangered species. The official population figure is 1,596.

They are peaceful vegetarians
Although giant pandas are classified as a kind of meat-eater, in the wild they eat almost exclusively bamboo.

See full article/source
Image courtesy WWF.


Next Landscapes

Quoted in a recent interview about his work, Landscapes without Memory, artist Joan Fontcuberta asked, “Could a natural nature exist? The answer is no, or at least, not anymore: man’s presence makes nature artificial.”

Often concerned with the ambiguity of truth, reality and virtuality Fontcuberta’s latest exhibition at photogallery Foam in Amsterdam consists of an expansive series of dramatic 3D landscapes. On first glance the images resemble something like eerie, almost empty Lord of the Rings stills. These aren’t photos but rather images produced by Fontcuberta using software developed for the U.S Air Force.

Originally cartographical data was fed into the programme to produce 3D landscape images, Fontcuberta however, fed the programme visual data – images from great masters like Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Turner – producing entirely unique 3D landscapes. (The image above was originally a Pollock). “The representation of nature no longer depends on the direct experience of reality, but on the interpretation of previous images, on representations that already exist. Reality does not precede our experience, but instead it results from intellectual construction.”

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future grocery shopping
Food Technology

Shopping in 2015?

A panacea Yoghurt? Cures athlete’s foot, acne and dandruff! Triple irradiated Spinach? Three-week shelf life! Funa sushu? Asian carp fresh from Lake Superior! Minority Report sequel? Fake or Real? Neither. It’s futuristic shopping as seen through the eyes of Wired magazine readers. The title’s editorial team, tongue in cheek, cobbles together readers’ submissions as inspiration for their “What’s Next?” page (past themes include Dive Bars and Retirement Homes of the future). The January issue features The Grocery Store of the Future. Wonder how long we’ll have to wait for the Jiffy Pop Corn Grenade?

For another take on the future of supermarkets see the Nano Supermarket event in Amsterdam (27 Jan – 2 Feb 2011).

Image courtesy Wired magazine