September programme of the VivoArts School for Transgenic Aesthetics

Posted by on September 2nd, 2009

We touched on the same program in March of 2008, and now they are back with a new one this month, via

You might remember that back in May i was throwing seedballs all over Amsterdam along with Adam Zaretsky, the Waag society and other eco-enthusiast.

The VivoArts School for Transgenic Aesthetics Ltd. comes back to town in September and this time the focus will be biology and bacterial transformation. VASTAL is a temporary research and education institute that Zaretsky has created in Amsterdam following an invitation by the Waag Society. The lectures and workshops aim to show the public what it means to work both artistically and scientifically with living organisms and materials. VASTAL also aims to make this form of art-science accessible for a broader audience and invite them to discuss the ethical and aesthetic issues at stake.

Topics include:

    • Alt-Biology: Solar Transgenics, Synthetic Biology, Nanotech Biomimicry, Post-Natural History and Green Biofuel

    • Tissue Culture Lab

    • Growing Politics: Tissue Culture and Art meets Urbanibalism

    • (De)Mystified DNA: Sequencing Lab

RIBA, aka Robot for Interactive Body Assistance

Posted by on August 28th, 2009

The Japanese are gearing up for a time when there are more elderly folks needing assistance than there are young whippersnappers available to do the choirs. The RIBA, or Robot for Interactive Body Assistance, is a 400 pound (180 kilos) device designed by engineers at the RIKEN institute and Tokai Rubber Industries to carry people up to 135 pounds (61 kilos) between hospital beds, wheelchairs, and even toilets. The device is full of tactile sensors to make carrying safe and comfortable for patients, and it can even recognize faces and be commanded via voice to perform basic tasks.

Creepy. Cute bear ears aside, I’d like a different nurse, thank you.

Link and photo via

Novacem Develops Carbon Eating Green Cement

Posted by on August 10th, 2009

Novacem, the brain child of Imperial College London, has changed the age old recipe of Portland cement. Their green cement system is based on magnesium oxide and special mineral additives, removing the typical heavy CO2 producing bases such as limestone and calcium carbonate from the mix. This new generation of green cement systems aims to combat global warming by locking atmospheric CO2 into construction materials.

Compared to Portland cement, the manufacturing of this new brew causes minimal CO2 emissions as it requires lower temperature processing. Even in application, the cement hardens by absorbing greenhouse gas, and continues to do so as it ages. Given that cement is such an integral part of construction, this new technology offers the potential to develop a range of ‘carbon negative’ construction products. The company estimates that for every ton of Portland cement replaced by their product, around three-quarters of a ton of CO2 will be saved.

Novacem recently received a sizeable cash investment to the tune of 1.7 million dollars from Imperial Innovations, the Royal Society Enterprise Fund and the London Technology Fund. The money is expected to help fund a pilot plant anticipated to be up and running in northern England in 2011.

Link and photo via

Liquid Wood Is Plastic of Tomorrow

Posted by on July 29th, 2009

Norbert Eisenreich, a senior researcher and deputy of directors at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) in Pfinztal, Germany, said his team of scientists have come up with a substance that could replace plastic: Arboform — basically, liquid wood.

It is derived from wood pulp-based lignin and can be mixed with a number of other materials to create a strong, non-toxic alternative to petroleum-based plastics, Eisenreich said, as reported by DPA news agency.

Car parts and other durable items made of this bio-plastic already exist, but the chemical hadn’t been suitable for household use until now, due to the high content of sulphurous substances used in separating the lignin from the cell fibers.

The German researchers were able to reduce the sulphur content in Arborform by about 90 percent, making it much safer for use in everyday items.

Bolstering Arboform’s environmental credentials, Eisenreich’s team also discovered that the substance was highly recyclable.

“To find that out, we produced components, broke them up into small pieces, and re-processed the broken pieces — 10 times in all. We did not detect any change in the material properties of the low-sulphur bio-plastic, so that means it can be recycled,” said Inone-Kauffmann.

From, via

I like to watch…

Posted by on July 29th, 2009

Straight from etsy, that window-shopper’s whorehouse, GrinderMonkeyStudios brings us ‘Salome’

This piece is a life-size cast bronze bust with steel for the arms, crosspiece and tray. The back is finished pressboard and the mounting system is wood. The video display is a b+w security monitor and the video loop (that i created specially for this piece) is ran with a dvd player(included) that is hidden in the back.

For $7,179.00 USD (plus postage) it can be yours. I want it to be mine. I would suggest looking at the other stuff available in the store.

US Air Force says decision-making attack drones will be here by 2047

Posted by on July 28th, 2009

Leave it to the military to dream big. In its recently released “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047″ report, the US Air Force details a drone that could fly over a target and then make the decision whether or not to launch an attack, all without human intervention. The Air Force says that increasingly, humans will monitor situations, rather than be deciders or participants, and that “advances in AI will enable systems to make combat decisions and act within legal and policy constraints without necessarily requiring human input.” Programming of the drone will be based on “human intent,” with real actual humans monitoring the execution, while retaining the authority and ability to override the system. It’s all still extremely vague, with literally no details on exactly how this drone will come into existence, but we do know this: the Air Force plans to have these dudes operational by 2047.


Barcodes for the rest of us

Posted by on July 28th, 2009

From MIT news:

The ubiquitous barcodes found on product packaging provide information to the scanner at the checkout counter, but that’s about all they do. Now, researchers at the Media Lab have come up with a new kind of very tiny barcode that could provide a variety of useful information to shoppers as they scan the shelves — and could even lead to new devices for classroom presentations, business meetings, videogames or motion-capture systems.

The new system, called Bokode, is based on a new way of encoding visual information, explains Media Lab Associate Professor Ramesh Raskar, who leads the lab’s Camera Culture group. Until now, there have been three approaches to communicating data optically: through ordinary imaging (using two-dimensional space), through temporal variations such as a flashing light or moving image (using the time dimension), or through variations in the wavelength of light (used in fiber-optic systems to provide multiple channels of information simultaneously through a single fiber).

House Dreams

Posted by on July 27th, 2009

The project is called “How it would be, if a house was dreaming,” designed by Urbanscreen:

Link via

Scientists mix DNA and dye to create a new form of organic lightbulb

Posted by on July 26th, 2009

From Technology Review:

By adding fluorescent dyes to DNA and then spinning the DNA strands into nanofibers, researchers at the University of Connecticut have made a new material that emits bright white light. The material absorbs energy from ultraviolet light and gives off different colors of light–from blue to orange to white–depending on the proportions of dye it contains.

The new material could be used to make a novel type of organic light bulb. The light emitters should also be longer-lasting because DNA is a very strong polymer, Sotzing says. “It’s well beyond other polymers [in strength],” he notes, adding that it lasts 50 times longer than acrylic.

The color-tunable DNA material relies on an energy-transfer mechanism between two different fluorescent dyes. The key is to keep the dye molecules separated at a distance of 2 to 10 nanometers from each other. When UV light is shined on the material, one dye absorbs the energy and produces blue light. If the other dye molecule is at the right distance, it will absorb part of that blue-light energy and emit orange light.

To make the fibers, Sotzing and his colleagues make a solution of salmon DNA and mix in the two types of dye. The solution is pumped slowly out from a fine needle, and a voltage is applied between the needle tip and a grounded copper plate covered with a glass slide. As the liquid jet comes out, it dries and forms long nanofibers that are deposited on the glass slide as a mat. The researchers then spin this nanofiber mat directly on the surface of an ultraviolet LED to make a white-light emitter.

Amazon Secretly Removes “1984″ From the Kindle

Posted by on July 19th, 2009

The people who think the Kindle is the way of the future have gotten a very public wake-up call this week:

Thousands of people last week discovered that Amazon had quietly removed electronic copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from their Kindle e-book readers. In the process, Amazon revealed how easy censorship will be in the Kindle age.

In this case, the mass e-book removals were motivated by copyright . A company called MobileReference, who did not own the copyrights to the books 1984 and Animal Farm, uploaded both books to the Kindle store and started selling them. When the rights owner heard about this, they contacted Amazon and asked that the e-books be removed. And Amazon decided to erase them not just from the store, but from all the Kindles where they’d been downloaded. Amazon operators used the Kindle wireless network, called WhisperNet, to quietly delete the books from people’s devices and refund them the money they’d paid.

An uproar followed, with outraged customers pointing out the irony that Amazon was deleting copies of a novel about a fascist media state that constantly alters history by changing digital records of what has happened. Amazon’s action flies in the face of what people expect when they purchase a book. Under the “right of first sale” in the U.S., people can do whatever they like with a book after purchasing it, including giving it to a friend or reselling it. There is no option for a bookseller to take that book back once it’s sold.

Now that the public is up in arms over the Kindle deletions, Amazon is once again promising good behavior. Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener told reporters:

We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances.

That “in these circumstances” bit doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Sounds like books will be removed again under other (undefined) circumstances.

Regardless of whether you believe Amazon’s promise to leave your Kindle alone, the company has tipped its hand and shown us the dark side of a culture where books are only available in electronic form. If the WhisperNet service from Kindle allows the company to delete books silently from your device, what other information might they have access to? Can the company monitor what you’re reading and when – and then hand that over to law enforcement? Can it replace a book file with a different file whose content is changed?

Perhaps more than anything else, this mass deletion of 1984 has made it clear that collecting e-books is going to require some technical know-how. No e-book is truly yours unless you can get it off your Kindle and onto your computer – hopefully a computer that isn’t connected to the internet.

Photo and words via

Inkjet Printer Recruited to Print Toxin Detecting Paper Biosensors

Posted by on July 16th, 2009

A quick, easy and cheap method of detecting pathogens, viruses and toxins? The printed technology looks promising:

Scientists at McMaster University have come up with a new methodology to create cheap biosensors using an inkjet printer. By applying a “lateral flow” sensing paradigm commonly seen in pregnancy test strips, the developers showed how one can implement a FujiFilm Dimatix Materials Printer to create sensors that can detect the presence of toxins, specifically acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors such as paraoxon and aflatoxin B1.

Link, photo and words via

Smart tags to reveal where our trash ends up

Posted by on July 16th, 2009

Ever wondered where your trash goes to die? New Scientist is collaborating with Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a ground-breaking experiment to electronically tag and follow ordinary trash as travels from ordinary garbage cans to landfills, recycling plants, and possibly some extraordinary destinations.

The team behind the experiment, MIT’s Senseable City lab, led by Carlo Ratti, have made a device that is about the size of a small matchbox and that works like a cell phone – without the phone bit. A SIM card inside the chip blips out its location every 15 minutes, the signal is picked up by local cell phone antennae and the chip’s location is relayed back to MIT.

Ratti’s team and New Scientist have already deployed a test run of 50 tracked items of trash ranging from paper cups to computers in Seattle. Several thousand more will be released in Seattle and New York garbage cans later this summer and we’ll chuck a batch into the London trash for good measure.


Mass Produced Artificial Skin

Posted by on July 16th, 2009

Time and money, one of the enemies of skin grafts, could soon be a thing of the past:

Now, a team from Germany’s Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft science institute have created a way to mass-produce artificial skin, complete with blood vessels, that can be used for grafts, plastic surgery, or even cosmetics testing.

The basic skin production system, which Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft hopes to start selling next year, can produce 5,000 little swatches of human skin a month, for a total of over 600 square inches of mass-produced tissue. Each 0.12-square-inch section of skin would cost around $49 to produce, far less than the current cost.

The system, which should be available in 2010, is fully automated, with computers controlling the solution that the skin grows in, monitoring the vats for infection, guiding the blade that cuts the swatches, and even testing the quality of the final product. So far, this project has generated 19 patents for Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

In addition to providing new skin to burn victims, these swatches can also take the place of animals in medical and cosmetic testing. Also, since the swatches can be made to contain blood vessels as well as skin cells, scientists can run circulatory as well as skin-related experiments on them.

Photo and words via

Thanks to LBA for the tip!

Kevin Kelly’s TED talk on how technology evolves

Posted by on July 12th, 2009

This one’s a bit old, from 2006, but I’m pretty sure we haven’t posted it before.

The first eight minutes are a brief background in the kingdoms of biology. The second half is where it’s at, pointing out that technologies never die and making a decent case for it being the seventh animal kingdom.

via futurefeed

Samsung’s OLED “light-up” ePassport

Posted by on July 12th, 2009

We never got our hologram future, but this seems to be the closest thing. I’m not sure what problem this is trying to solve, but it’s pretty damn cool.

From Mother Nature Network:

YouTube Preview Image

Samsung just released the prototype of its new flexible OLED thin film video passport. The passport contains a small “video” (really a series of images) that simulates a 360 view of the passport holder’s head. The moving image is displayed on a thin film page that contains an active matrix of pixels, each of which are independently controlled by an energy source.

In this case that energy source is simply radio frequencies. There are no batteries or cables involved. Moving the passport closer to a tuned radio source lights up the video of the passport holder.

thanks for the tip-off aboniks!

Video: Ultra-thin digital booth babe

Posted by on July 9th, 2009


Spotted at the International Stationery and Office Supply Fair, this eye-catching digital signage system consists of a 0.3-millimeter-thick high-luminance rear-projection film (Vikuiti Rear Projection Film developed by 3M) applied to a 3-millimeter-thick glass substrate cut into the shape of a woman. A rear projector beams video onto the film, whose microbead-arrayed surface produces a crisp, brilliant image viewable from any angle, even in brightly lit environments.

Osseointegrated Prosthetics

Posted by on July 9th, 2009

Representing the next phase of prosthetic technology, osseointegrated prosthetics are faux limbs that knit themselves with the person’s bone. Since the prosthetic is attached to the bone itself, it creates a more natural movement for the wearer. Last January, we reported on the first dog candidate Cassidy, to receive the new technology. This week, National Geographic is reporting that the German shepard is doing well with his new limb.

Link and photo via

See also:

Thanks to LBA for the link to the update!

Downtown View

Posted by on June 5th, 2009


Boom Cloud

Posted by on June 5th, 2009

Rings like this can form as an aircraft traveling low over the water nears the speed of sound. Pressure created by sound waves squeezes moisture from the air, creating the “artificial cloud.”

Photo and words via

Chemical ‘caterpillar’ points to electronics-free robots

Posted by on June 2nd, 2009


A chemical gel that can walk like an inchworm, or looper caterpillar has been demonstrated in a Japanese robotics lab.

Shingo Maeda and colleagues made the colour-changing, motile gel by combining polymers that change in size depending on their chemical environment. This is based on an oscillating chemical reaction called the Belousov–Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction. The result is an autonomous material that moves without electronic stimulation.

Thanks to LBA for the link!