Showing posts with label biotechnology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label biotechnology. Show all posts

Saturday, September 26, 2009

This one really got my attention.

The DNA Mystery: Scientists Stumped By "Telepathic" Abilities

In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences. No one knows how individual DNA strands could possibly be communicating in this way, yet somehow they do. The "telepathic" effect is a source of wonder and amazement for scientists.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

A breakthrough to warm one's posthuman heart

Remote Control Cyborg Insects Now A Reality

The awesome part is that this implant only steers the insect, and only when necessary. Once the bug is pointing in the right direction, the steering signal cuts out, and the bug self-stabilizes and gets back to the tricky business of flying, which it was just fine at before some roboticist stuck a bunch of wires into its optic lobe, thank you very much. As you can see from the video, the insect has no trouble landing itself on a vertical surface, a maneuver which would be, uh, a little bit difficult to code.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

A ribofunk moment

Nepalese Teen Invents Cheap Solar Panel Using Human Hair

Did you know that melanin, the pigment in hair, is light sensitive and can be used as a conductor? Well, that's what an 18 year old in Nepal recently discovered, and is now using human hair to replace silicon in solar panels.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Biological printing

Watching this video, I felt a small but perceptible sense of wonder.

(Tip of the hat to Beyond the Beyond.)

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Heidi Taillefer: redefining "fembots"

Thanks to Sentient Developments for introducing me to the work of Monreal-based artist Heidi Taillefer, whose paintings explore the implications of biotechnology with disquieting visions of chimeric organisms and anatomically precise representations of the human form besieged by machinery.

Like J.G. Ballard, Taillefer offers chilling yet irresistible perspectives on the tenuous barrier between "organic" and "artificial."

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Hey, isn't this the set-up for "I Am Legend"?

'Tamed' virus wipes out cancer cells safely

The research team modified a common virus - called an adenovirus - so that it could deliver genetic therapy to destroy tumours without poisoning the liver. The changes enabled the virus to keeps its natural 'infectious' characteristics to replicate in, and kill, cancer cells in mice. But for the first time the virus is also recognised and destroyed by healthy mouse liver cells, so it is no longer toxic.

(Via Futurismic.)

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The unchecked rise of DIY ribofunk

In Attics and Closets, 'Biohackers' Discover Their Inner Frankenstein

The easy availability of synthetic DNA is at the heart of some scientists' concerns. The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, a government body, has recommended that companies selling DNA be required to screen all orders for signs that the buyers might have nefarious intent. Some biologists argue that anyone wishing to custom-make new organisms, even if it's just glow-in-the-dark bacteria (a popular trick among biohackers), should have to get a license first.

Currently, regulation of labs like these is murky. It's unclear what agency, if any, is responsible.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Under the knife

From: Next Nature:

Designer Laura Boffi envisions a future in which human instincts will leap behind on technological progress. For example, once the 'disease called mortality' is cured with regenerative medicine, man may start to see death not as a biological event in his life, but as something that may occur to the 'unlucky on call'. What would be the implications for our instincts for death?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Don't wear your jewelry. Be your jewelry!

Marta Lwin explains:

epiSkin jewelry extends biological identity by combining technology and design into a new decorative body surface. This project is an exploration into the decorative technological control over biology to create an artifact which is a hybrid of both. Cultured in a lab, this biological jewelry is made of epithelia cells which grow to create an artificial skin. The cells are grown into custom designed forms, controlled by the artist. The cells are incubated for a period of time, following which they are stained with a custom dye. The skin is then visibly sealed into a wearable object.

(Via Grinding.)

No words necessary

Image by Mondolithic Studios.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The abolition of suffering

A World Without Suffering? (David Pearce)

Smart neurostimulation, long-acting mood-enhancers, genetically re-engineering our hedonic "set-point" (etc) aren't therapeutic strategies associated with Buddhist tradition. Yet if we are morally serious about securing the well-being of all sentient life, then we have to exploit advanced technology to the fullest possible extent. Nothing else will work (short of some exotic metaphysics that is hard to reconcile with the scientific world-picture). Non-biological strategies to enrich psychological well-being have been tried on a personal level over thousands of years - and proved inadequate at best.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The art of Dominic Elvin

You can find more of Dominic Elvin's futuristic imagery here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What cloning isn't

Framing cloning - the media and genetic science (Paul Raven)

To some extent, science fiction can be blamed for misconceptions about cloning. The more serious and thoughtful books on the subject have been somewhat overshadowed by sensationalist TV and movie plots or the technophobia of writers in the Michael Crichton mould.

But that's not for want of the facts being available; as the known sf geek in my local social circle, people ask me about topics like cloning quite a bit, and I try to give them the most realistic overview of the topic I can. It rarely works. The truth is not as compelling a story as a rogue-science thriller or a riff plucked out on the heart-strings. Perhaps I'm just not a good enough storyteller.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Epidermits, meet LoveLump.

Scariest Toy Concept Ever: The Epidermits Thing

Oh, this is much worse than you think. The Epidermits toy is the Karten Design firm's bizarro, conceptual end of several current trends in the toy/gadget industry, like personalization, fuel cell engineering, and animatronics. It is the scariest concept design I've ever seen.

The scariest, you say? Obviously, you've never encountered the LoveLump, pictured below.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Honda develops brain interface for robot control

The system was not demonstrated on Tuesday but Honda did release a video of experiments. It shows a controller sitting in a chair with a large hemispheric scanner over his head, like the sit-down hair dryers you find in hair salons.

Both the EEG and NIRS techniques are established but the analyzing process for the data is new. Honda said the system uses statistical processing of the complex information to distinguish brain activities with high precision without any physical motion.

Just as compelling:

The next not-so-big thing: Nanogenerators

Such generators could be used to power sensors for detecting cancer or measuring blood sugar level for diabetics, Wang says. He adds that within five to 10 years, the technology will mature to the point that these generators could be placed in the soles of shoes or the fabric of clothes so that people will be able to power their iPods and cell phones using the mechanical energy created by the rustling of their clothes or compression of their shoe insoles as they walk.

Friday, March 27, 2009


The living robot

At first, the young robot spent a lot of time crashing into things. But after a few weeks of practice, its performance began to improve as the connections between the active neurons in its brain strengthened. "This is a specific type of learning, called Hebbian learning," says Warwick, "where, by doing something habitually, you get better at doing it."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I won't be satisfied until my spleen begins using Twitter.

Body 2.0 - Continuous Monitoring Of The Human Body

In the future your doctor might call you before you have a heart attack, responding to an alarm sent out by monitoring systems in your body that have detected the precursors to a heart attack hours or days ahead of time. With body 2.0, medicine dosages could be tailored precisely to your body chemistry and metabolism. Real-time monitoring of chemical concentrations in your blood could allow for increasing or decreasing dosages accordingly.

The huge amounts of data that would be accumulated from hundreds of thousands of continuously monitored people would be nothing short of a revolution for medical research and analysis. This data could be harvested to understand the minute by minute changes in body chemistry that occur in response to medication, stress, infection, and so on.

(Via Futurismic.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

David Brin on "uplift"

Noted science fiction writer David Brin is guest-blogging at Sentient Developments. First up is an evaluation of the contentious prospect of "animal uplift," a concept that Brin's novels helped define:

Artistically, of course, it is wonderful to work with characters who come from an uplifted species. I get to stretch my imagination, and the reader's, exploring what sapient dolphins or chimps might feel and think, under the pressure of such development, tugged between both the ancient instincts of their forebears and the new template being imposed upon them by their "patrons."

I see nothing philosophically wrong with animal uplift, but the concept is freighted with some alarming anthropocentric baggage. "Uplifting" animals to function as peers might sound liberatingly utopian, but the very notion of "peer" suggests, at least to me, beings more or less like ourselves.

As a potential "patron" race, we're bound to project our own preconceptions of personhood onto the animal species in question; our future uplifted friends might very well thank us, but they'll be doing so in a singularly human-like manner (in which case we might be better off poring our energies into the development of sentient machines instead of pretending to be faithful to a given species' zoological source code).

Well-intentioned as they are, proponents of animal uplift labor under the dubious assumption that there's something innately wrong (or at least existentially limiting) about animal-hood. On the other hand, anyone who's had a close relationship with an animal is bound to question such certainty. Sure, it might be nice to jam with my cats about quantum theory, but I sense they're quite content in their feline-hood -- and who am I to deprive them of that?

I'd go so far as to propose that animals are already engaging us in a meaningful dialogue, although perhaps not the sort of dialogue depicted in Brin's canon. That we've yet to understand our fellow mammals on their own terms remains an emasculating reminder that perhaps our "patronage" is neither needed nor desired.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mutants on demand

A Machine That Speeds Up Evolution

Rather than changing the genome letter by letter, as most genetic engineering is done, George Church and his colleagues have developed a new technology that can make 50 changes to a bacterial genome nearly simultaneously -- an advance that could be used to greatly speed the creation of bacteria that are better at producing drugs, nutrients, or biofuels.

"What once took months now takes days," says Stephen del Cardayré, vice president of research and development at LS9, a biofuels company based in South San Francisco of which Church is a founder.

(Via The Keyhoe Report.)

For when you need that doomsday virus now, damnit.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Do kidney patients dream of transgenic sheep?

Introducing the strangely plausible human-animal interfaces of designer Revital Cohen:

Revital Cohen's Pecha Kucha at Design Indaba 2009 from Design Indaba on Vimeo.

There's an unacknowledged element of surrealism at work here; I find Cohen's marriage of empathy and pragmatism pleasantly disturbing and unintentionally cautionary.

Dezeen has more.