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The NANO Supermarket’s (speculative) Nano Slim-Fast Diet uses a tasty cocktail of leptin, peptide YY, and other hormones to naturally control your appetite. Researchers have now concocted a similar diet aid in the form of an implantable “circuit” made from synthetic genes. The circuit, consisting of several genes that govern satiety, monitors the fat levels in blood. When the circuit detects excess fat, it releases a chemical telling the brain that it’s no longer hungry.
With the help of these slimming implants, obese rats lost a significant amount of body weight, despite having unrestricted access to a high-fat diet. Least you worry about the circuit going into overdrive and the now-slender rats wasting away, the genes are assembled to allow hunger to return once blood fat levels are back to normal. With the holiday season coming up, maybe the best present you can get your family is a pill full of Slim-Fast genes.
Before the advent of broadcast sports or animal rights legislation, a night at the pub used to mean one thing: watching small terriers snap the spines of dozens, if not hundreds, of rats. Sporting men placed bets on how many rats a dog could kill in a set period of time. Nowadays, dog breeds bred to hunt rats, rabbits, badgers don’t get much of a chance to exercise their killer instincts. The Ryders Alley Trencher-fed Society (RATS) in New York, however, have figured out how to harness their dog’s inborn talents in order to make a (small) dent in the city’s rodent problem.
Before the 1940s, the most simple, everyday maladies – a bug bite, a broken bone, a sore throat – could result in swift and sudden death, cutting down people even in the prime of their lives. This was the era before antibiotics became a cornerstone of modern medicine. Now, thanks to overprescription of antibiotics, the massive overuse of antibiotics in factory-style farming, and stalled antibiotic research, we’re rapidly returning to the pre-penicillin era. Bacteria have evolved resistance to our best and, right now, our only, weapons.
Have you always wanted to experience poverty, but never felt like going through the hassle of interacting with an actual poor person? Emoya Luxury Hotel in South Africa offers vacationers an empathy-free way to experience an “authentic” life of hardship – if your definition of hardship includes free WiFi. According to the site:
A Shanty usually consists of old corrugated iron sheets or any other waterproof material which is constructed in such a way to form a small “house” or shelter where they make a normal living. A paraffin lamp, candles, a battery operated radio, an outside toilet (also referred to as a long drop) and a drum where they make fire for cooking is normally part of this lifestyle.
Just like stamp collecting or golf, grinding, abject poverty with limited access to electricity and sanitation is a ‘lifestyle’ to which anyone can aspire. Hold your next corporate retreat in this ersatz slum and wonder with your colleagues why poor people are always so miserable if they’ve got under-floor heating and optional breakfast.
Gather mushroom spores, grow them in a mold with agricultural waste, and you’ve just created the newest alternative to toxic styrofoam packing. The mushroom enthusiasts over at Ecovative have figured out a way to harness the abilities of mushroom root systems, called mycelium, to bind together organic substrates. By drying these mushroomy matrixes, Ecovative can create a material that’s strong, lightweight, and most importantly, cost-competitive with petroleum-based packaging. The company hopes to branch out into shoes, surfboards, furniture and building materials. A house that sprouts shiitakes and chanterelles is just a nice side benefit.
Read the full story over at Architect’s Newspaper.
The world is polluted, overcrowded, and in economic trouble. Why bring a baby into this mess? If your mothering instinct is still too strong to resist the lure of pregnancy, artist Ai Hase-Gawa has a solution: give birth to an endangered species. Rather than creating another human in a world that already has 7 billion of them, Hase-Gawa suggests that aspiring mothers get pregnant with a shark, salmon, bluefin tuna or a conveniently baby-sized Maui’s dolphin. Would you be less likely to crave a plate of sushi if it were made with your own offspring?
In a story that’s best taken with a grain of artisanal Himalayan sea salt, one Redditor claims that herds of sous-chefs in Portland, Oregon have been tearing up his property in their quest for wild edibles:
“It was fine when they were just harvesting pineapple weed and mallow from the alley and the parking strip, although it was admittedly a little off-putting. I’m also totally cool with them picking the crab apples because some of the branches are in the public right of way. But yesterday my neighbor called to let me know she had to help a sous chef who got stuck on top of my fence holding a baggie full of chicory leaves.”
Replace the word ‘chef’ with ‘raccoon’ or ‘deer’ and, funnily enough, the story loses no coherence. Are locavores newest urban pest? Perhaps blasting mainstream music and sprinkling the property with processed foods will keep the chefs at bay.
A recent New York Times article describes the wild and lawless landscape of China’s burgeoning art collecting scene. Massive demand from the country’s newly wealthy, coupled with poor regulatory oversight, have lead to a staggering influx of forgeries. These expert fakes have created some comically bizarre scenarios:
“In one case, three years ago, an oil painting attributed to the 20th-century artist Xu Beihong, which sold at auction for more than $10 million, turned out to have been produced 30 years after the artist’s death by a student during a class exercise at one of China’s leading arts academies… Even more embarrassing was the government’s decision last July to close a private museum in Hebei because of suspicions that nearly everything in it — all 40,000 artifacts, including a Tang dynasty porcelain vase — were fake.”
You walk into a shopping mall, your intentions firmly focused on finding a sensible pair of shoes or a replacement t-shirt. You glance around, suddenly disorientated by the visual cacophony of stores, carts, water fountains and crowds. Hours later, you leave the mall laden with bags of stuff you didn’t plan on buying. What happened?
The Jerde transfer refers to shopping center design that is intentionally confusing and overstimulating. According to the sociologist Giandomenico Amendola, “Amplification, bombardment of the senses, entertainment, are the means by which City Walk or Fremont Street change the modern flaneur into an addicted consumer… Design principles [of the Jerde transfer] are chaos and incoherence…” Commercial structures that might seem designed for utility or convenience are actually created in order to manipulate us into opening our wallets. Welcome to the natural habitat of capitalism.
Image via The Daily Mail.
Many people find the idea of eating in vitro meat – animal muscle tissue grown in a lab – to be creepy, unnatural or downright disgusting. Maybe it’s the association with medical science, or maybe it’s the fact that a happy cow in a grassy meadow seems far more friendly that something scraped from a bioreactor. It turns out, however, that in vitro meat is a lot less unnatural than we think it is, and that “normal” food is far more bizarre than it seems. Here’s the top seven reasons why you shouldn’t be grossed out by lab-grown meat:
The secret ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine? Ground-up cockroach. Many farmers in China are turning to one of the world’s most reviled bugs to make big bucks. They’re cheap to feed (they live on rotting vegetables), easy to kill (dunk them in boiling water) and easy to store (dry them in the sun). Farmers are making a healthy profit selling the roaches to researchers studying whether the pulverized insects can be used to cure baldness, AIDS and cancer. They also wind up as fish food and even, sometimes, as deep-fried snacks for humans.
Read more about roach ranching at the LA Times.
A team of plaid-clad butchers have spotted a mature meat tree deep within the bacon-scented woods. Armed with hatchets and bone saws, the men chop the tree into logs. Back at the slaughter-mill, a quick bath in scalding water removes the tree’s dense layer of fur. Its bark is cured for leather. Its central supporting bone is cleaned and shipped out for use in construction and plumbing. The meat tree, however, is most prized for its succulent flesh. Meat tree logs can be seen rotating in the windows of many shawarma and döner kebab cafes. In the image above, a bûche de Noël has been sliced into bone-in ribeye steaks for a delicious, sustainable holiday dinner.
Image via Vancouver Fine Arts.
Just when the oceans seem to be emptying of everything except jellyfish and microbial goo, a surprising finding has emerged from the Gulf of Maine: over the last decade, lobster stocks have been booming. This formerly white-tablecloth food is now so abundant that even local convenience stores are installing lobster tanks. While the health of lobster stocks is in part due to the famously successful Maine lobster management plan, there’s other factors at work that might dampen your enthusiasm for these big red crustaceans.
Just like razors, cowboy hats, and Mickey Mouse, the treble clef has “evolved” over the centuries. It started out as a relatively simple “G”. It’s fancier form may be due to the fact that, occasionally, vocal pitch was also indicated along with instrumental pitch. The resulting “G sol” was turned to “G.S”, and then either mistakenly or carelessly transcribed into the elaborate curlicue shape we know today. Just as with genetic evolution, transcription errors in texts can lead to surprising new forms.
Read the full history of the treble clef’s evolution at Smithsonian Magazine.
Amidst all the fanfare about the first in vitro hamburger, it’s easy to forget that this is not the first time that enterprising scientists have grown and eaten cultured meat. Way back in 2003, artists Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr of the Tissue Culture & Art Project spent three months growing a “semi-living” steak made from frog cells. The tiny steak was marinated in calvados and fried with garlic and honey, then served to some (un)lucky diners. The verdict on the taste and texture? “Jellied fabric”. Part of the sad state of the steak was that, unlike the recent lab-grown burger, the frog patty hadn’t been exercised over the course of its short semi-life.
Though a disembodied frog steak might seem strange, the story gets even stranger. According to the artists, “Soon after the installation, we were approached by an animal welfare organization with a request to grow semi-living human steaks—specifically, the group’s director asked for a feast based on a steak grown from her own flesh.” Perhaps history’s very first request for auto-cannibalistic in vitro meat. Maybe not its last.
If you’re interested in cannibal cuisine, you’ll want to check out our newest project, the In Vitro Meat Cookbook. Contribute to our crowdfunding campaign today!
In light of the IPCC’s newest report that conclusively lays the blame for global warming on human activities, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time that we’ve messed around with the climate.
The idea of “disembodied” meat, whether grown from trees or in the lab, has been around for at least a century – if not way longer. The medieval notion of the “vegetable lamb of Tartary”, a live sheep that sprouts from a plant, could be thought of as the great-granddaddy of “victimless” meat. However, the idea of truly in vitro meat had to wait for the invention of cell culture. No doubt French surgeon Alexis Carrell pondered taking a nibble of an immortal drumstick when he created an “immortal” chicken heart cell line in 1912.
Perhaps the earliest explicit mentions of cultured meat comes from British statesman Frederick Edwin Smith. In 1930, Smith predicted that “it will no longer be necessary to go to the extravagant length of rearing a bullock in order to eat its steak. From one ‘parent’ steak of choice tenderness it will be possible to grow as large and as juicy a steak as can be desired.” Winston Churchill famously echoed this sentiment only two years later. According to Technovelty, in vitro meat made its first appearance in fiction in 1952. Since then, sci-fi authors have described inspiring, bizarre and uncanny speculative meat futures. Click through for some of the most evocative…
Next Nature is continuing the tradition of visionary lab-grown meat speculation: Support our crowdfunding campaign for the world’s first in vitro meat cookbook!
Leave it to our pal Werner Herzog to craft an unsettling, uncanny and unromantic view of “old” nature. Lest we think of the rainforest as a happy place full of cavorting monkeys and pretty butterflies, Herzog is here to set us straight:
“Of course we’re challenging nature and it hits back, it just hits back, that’s all, and that’s [the] grandiose [thing] about it, and we just have to accept that it’s much stronger than we are. Kinski always says it’s full of erotic elements. I don’t see it so much [as] erotic, I see it more [as] full of obscenity. It’s just… nature here is vile and base. I wouldn’t see anything erotic here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and growing and… just rotting away. Of course, there’s a lot of misery. But it’s the same misery that’s all around us. The trees here are in misery, the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain…”