EcoBot III: a Robot that Produces Energy Fueled by Organic Matter
There are robots that look like people, and then there are robots, like the Ecobot III, that look nothing like humans but have our same biological needs: they have to eat, digest and excrete. The EcoBot III is a product of the partnership between scientists at Wessex Water and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory. This robot works in a sewage treatment system and feeds off sewage, with an artificial stomach made ??up of fuel cells that run on human waste.
Microchips Learn to Repair Themselves
Right now, one of the reasons that robots and other artificially intelligent devices cannot qualify as living beings is their inability to self-repair. However, a recent breakthrough from the Caltech High-Speed Integrated Circuits laboratory have brought us one step closer to the reality of machines that can cure themselves after being damaged.
Toss the Brita: Bacteria Can Filter Antibiotics from Water
Filter and recover antibiotics from drinking water using only bacteria, water and sunlight.
The Prefuture of Synthetic Biology
Somewhere between a vat of expensive face cream and a baby Neanderthal lies a probable future for synthetic biology. While synbio start-ups – large and small – struggle with the reality of scaling up microscopic cellular factories into profitable business models, stories of DIY anti-cancer research, Neanderthal cloning, limitless ‘green’ kerosene, and tumor-killing bacteria are told as outcomes of a likely future where humans have full control over biology.
Over the last decade, many diverse interests have contributed to this ambition of an easy-to-manipulate biology, as the field of synthetic biology has spread around research labs all over the world. Scientists, engineers, policymakers, industrialists, space agencies, politicians, and even designers are constructing a future defined by the grand rhetoric of a world-changing, world-saving technology.
Nature through the Windshield
For more than eight years artist Koert van Mensvoort has been working on a project to redefine our concept of nature. Through his platform Next Nature he has published books, held talks, ran workshops, maintained an active blog, and even developed a hoax, all in effort to communicate that there is no absolute nature, but that technology and nature are deeply intertwined; a biosynthetic nature so to speak. Can the development of a Gillette razor be considered in Darwinian terms of evolution? Is the fake nature of an indoor ski slope any less legitimate than the Alps? By fundamentally shifting the way we conceive nature, he believes we will be better able to cope with the oncoming climatic and environmental challenges ahead.
This interview is reprinted from Volume magazine #35: Everything Under Control.
Computer Algorithms Are Already Replacing Human Journalists
Will writing software eventually replace journalists?
Next Nature saves Old Nature
Who would have thought synthetic organisms would ever be employed to save endangered species? Conservation biologist worried about the extinction of exotic frog populations are calling the help of synthetic biologists to avoid disaster.
Currently, a fungus epidemics with the eerie name batrachochytrium dendrobatidis threatens more than 2,800 amphibian species. The depicted Panamanian golden frog has already been pushed close to extinction by fungal disease, but conservationists believe the tragedy could be countered by a new generation of synthetically manipulated organisms.
“We face the prospect of losing a great deal from the natural world and we have to think of solutions that could be generated by all sorts of different techniques, including those involved in synthetic biology.” conservation biologist Kent Redford told the Guardian.
Did Booze Make Us Modern?
Psychiatrist Jeffrey P. Kahn believes that beer, far from being an agent of late-night chaos and early morning regrets, is what gave our ancestors modern civilization. Beer, he writes, triggered the leap from rule-bound hunter-gather groups into the creative, complex societies we’ve been enjoying for the last 10,000 years. Is there some truth in this statement, or is it no more solid than a foamy head of ale?