Tag: Plastic Planet
Mushrooms: The New Solution for our Plastic Problem?
You cannot look around your local environment without seeing something made out of plastic. Almost all the stuff we buy is packaged in plastic. Since recycling packaging materials is difficult and expensive,…
Using Nanoscale Wood Pulp to Replace Metal and Plastics
Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) sounds almost too good to be true. The same microscopic particles that help trees to stand up straight are also lightweight, non-toxic, stronger than steel and just happen to…
Jewels from the Ocean
Designer and former fashion model Barbara de Vries was cleaning plastic litter off her favorite beach in the Bahamas, when she noticed the plastic fragments were all uniquely tinted and molded after years tumbling in the ocean. The beauty of the litter inspired her to create a jewelery collection.
Diamonds plastics are forever!
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.
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.
In this essay, anti-civilization, anarchist philosopher John Zerzan critiques the concept of ‘next nature.’ He argues that rather than freeing us, our self-domestication through technology has created a disconnected, depressed and over-medicated population. Phenomena from global warming to workplace shootings are all symptoms of global human “progress” gone totally awry. If we abandon ‘technology’ in favor of ‘tools’, what are the next steps for humanity?
Next Nature “refers to the nature produced by humans and their technology.” The prevailing attitude of Next Nature is “techno-optimism.”
What is the nature of this “nature” and what are the grounds for the optimism?
I’ll start by citing some recent technological phenomena and what they seem to indicate about the nature and direction of our technoculture. We’re already increasingly inhabitants of a technosphere, so let’s look at some of its actual offerings.
A virtual French-kissing machine was unveiled in 2011. The Japanese device somehow connects tongues via a plastic apparatus. There is also a type of vest with sensors that transmits virtual “hugs.” From the Senseg Corporation in Finland comes “E-Sense” technology, which replicates the feeling of texture. Simulating touch itself! Are we not losing our grounding as physical beings as these developments advance?
In some nursing homes now, the elderly are bathed in coffin-shaped washing machines. No human touch required. And as to the mourning process, it is now argued that online grieving is a better mode. Less intrusive, no need to be physically present for the bereaved! There is an iPhone application now available called the “baby cry app.” For those who wire their baby’s room to be alerted when she stirs, this invention tells parents what the baby’s cry means: hungry, wet, etc. (there are five choices). Just think, after about two million years of human parenting, at last we have a machine to tell us why our child is crying. Isn’t this all rather horrific?
Ice Cream Cones Made from Ice Cream, and Other Wikicells
Plastic is a part of the earth’s ecosystem, but it’s a part that no one wants. At Harvard, scientists are looking to replace single-use plastic bottles, plates, and cups with packaging that…
Protei, the Sail Bot that Cleans Up Oil
Protei is a sailing robot that’s designed to clean up oil spills without human assistance. After sailing upwind, the bot drifts downwind, zigg-zagging across the surface to absorb oil in its long, tail-like boom. Since Protei is self-righting, it will be able to operate even under hurricane conditions, keeping human crews out of danger from both high winds and toxic chemicals. The robots can be operated by remote control, or can be programmed to work together as an autonomous swarm.
Though it’s currently only a prototype, the eco-friendly, open-source Protei may some day radically change how we clean up the ocean. Though it was originally designed to sop up future Deepwater Horizons, modified Protei could possibly be used to gather plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
More photos after the jump.