Tag: Plastic Planet

protei test
Plastic Planet

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.

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h and m computer models

Who Needs Real Humans? Not H&M

Clothing giant H&M no longer uses real humans in its online catalog. The company has admitted that it pastes real models’ heads on computer-generated bodies. At least there’s a “racially diverse” example thrown in with the caucasian cyborgs. CGI humanity: For when even Photoshop can’t invent a perfect body.

Thanks to Stefan. Story and image via Jezebel.

Manufactured Animals

Birds Change Along with Us

A ‘treasure in the trees’ reveals the exchange of materials between man and animal. This beautiful house finch nest, made of natural resources and manmade garbage, demonstrates how ‘bird architecture’ is able to make use of materials which are useless to us. For some people it might be art, but from another perspective this nest is a pure representation of how humans contribute to nature’s development. Certain bird species use their nests to compete for mates. High-tech-garbage, which contains materials like plastics, textiles or wires, might take their mating rituals to the next level (and to the next nature).

Image from Sharon Beal’s Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them


Next Nature Services

Intentionality separates culture from nature. A dog is intentional, a fox is not; a park is intentional, a forest is not. Since trash, ruined buildings, and automated computer programs are unintentional, they are also a type of nature. Nature provides human society with valuable ‘ecosystem services’ such as water purification or erosion control. Next nature provides ecosystem services of its own, although they might not be what we expect.

2010 was the International Year of Biodiversity. The United Nations introduced the concept as a way to draw attention to the decline of nature. Advocating on nature’s behalf, a relatively new argument emerged, ‘ecosystem services’: useful things nature does, unbeknownst to us. Forests filter dust from the air, scrub prevents erosion, and insects pollinate our crops. Incidentally, nature provides us with services that would otherwise have cost a fortune. Leaving aside the question of where they could be purchased. Is it conceivable that one day there will be next nature services, delivered in passing and unintentionally by new, future ecologies?

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Mapping the Utilisphere

Earth has had a geosphere, atmosphere and biosphere for a few billion years. Only within the last several thousand years has earth gained a global noosphere, the intangible ‘sphere’ of human thought and communication on earth. Now, anthropologist Félix Pharand has mapped an even newer addition to the Anthropocene’s profusion of next natural spheres.

The utilisphere consists of the planet’s utilities and transportation networks: highways, railroads, pipelines and fiber optic cables. By making his animation without labels or city names, Pharand invites us to view the spiderweb shape of the utilisphere as something more organic, approaching the freshwater hydrosphere in complexity.

Via Gizmodo



Looking for a new kitchen counter-top, but can’t decide between a natural or an artificial material? Soon you might be getting both.

Designer Hironori Yoshida is pioneering hybrids of wood and plastic – to be used in interior, furniture and product design. His ‘woodplastic’ is created by scanning & laser-cutting the grain patterns in a piece of wood to subsequently replace the gaps with a polyester resin. The result is a marriage of the made & the born.

Back to the Tribe

The Nauga’s Hyde

Sometimes new technology has to bio-mimic old nature to be accepted. In the late 1960s and early 70s, Uniroyal Engineered Products invented the ‘nauga’ a beast that gives its name to naugahyde. The nauga is fictional; it breathes as much as polyvinyl fabric does. Since the new, cheap material could be perceived as off-putting and artificial, the critter was presented as friendly and cuddly. The species is a vegan dream, willingly shedding their hides several times a year. The last of the naugas live free-range on a ranch in Wisconsin. Though the nauga isn’t real, we can still rest assured that chocolate milk comes from chocolate cows.

Via Snopes.  Image via Hyde Park Blvd.

gowanus canal toxic mud

Evolutionary Janitors

We normally think of polluted water as the source of disease, not the cure for it. The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, affectionately known as the Super Fun Superfund, is one of the most polluted bodies of water in America. Most of the water is too low in oxygen to support plant or animal life. Worse still is the toxic mud at the bottom of the canal, rich in lead, dioxins, and mercury from decades of unchecked dumping from heavy industry.

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Plastic Planet

Plastic Planet

We tend to think of plastic as a cheap, inferior and ugly material used to make children’s toys, garden furniture and throwaway bottles. But as an experiment, imagine for a moment a world in which plastic was extremely rare, like gold or platinum, and plastic objects were devastatingly expensive to produce. One would encounter plastic objects only at special occasions; one would see and touch very few plastic objects throughout one’s lifetime. I know it’s a challenge, but try to imagine, for the sake of our experiment, that plastic was scarce, available only to the happy few, and the masses lived in a world of wood, pottery and metals. Ready?

Now look around you and grab the first plastic object in your surroundings. Look at the object. Study the object. It doesn’t matter whether it is a coffee cup, a cigarette lighter, a pen or a plastic bag. This is a special moment. You are now holding one of the few, delicate pieces of plastic you will ever get to touch. Feel how durable it is. Feel how light it is considering its volume. Feel how strong and rigid it is, or how very flexible. Get a sense of how easy it must have been to mold. Understand that it could be molded into something else again. If plastic weren’t such an omnipresent material, we would realize that it is beautiful. We would realize what a disgrace it is that we throw away so much of it.

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