The Daily Lamp: Mike Thompson’s BLOOD LAMP – Would You BLEED for Light?

Blood_Lamp4

Today’s Daily Lamp is a bit off-norm, if you will — artist Mike Thompson has posed a simple question:

Will you bleed for illumination?  

Blood Lamp from miket on Vimeo.

From Mike Thompson’s page on the Blood Lamp:

What if power came at a cost to the individual?

The average American consumes 3383kwh of energy per year. That’s equivalent to leaving the light on in 4 rooms for a whole year. The simple flick of a switch allows us to power appliances and gadgets 24/7 without a thought to where it comes from and the cost to the environment.

For the lamp to work one breaks the top off, dissolves the powder, and uses their own blood to power a simple light. By creating a lamp that can only be used once, the user must consider when light is needed the most, forcing them to rethink how wasteful they are with energy, and how precious it is.

Mike raises a great point — one my parents instilled in me at an early age — shut the lights off when you’re not in a room!

Mike’s lamp is a fairly simple design, but definitely ingenius.  The design is basically a sealed glass envelope that includes an amount of Luminol powder that, when dissolved and mixed with human blood, creates a bioluminescent light source.  Now is it bright enough to provide any real usable illumination?  Probably not.  But regardless, this isn’t Mike’s point.  The point is to help you make better choices as to when you really need light.

Step one, the unbroken envelope:

Blood_Lamp1

Step two, remove the stopper with the Luminol powder:

Blood_Lamp2

Step three, bust the top off of the envelope so that there are lots of nice little jaggeties for you to bleed from:

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Step four, cut yourself on the glass envelope and bleed into the Luminol:

Blood_Lamp4Game, set, match.  The Blood Lamp.

 

What If We Used Trees to Light Our Streets Instead of Electric Lamps?

glowing_plant

That’s the question that a core team of people on a Kickstarter campaign meant to create illuminating plant life want to know, and they want to know NOW!

So what exactly is going on here? From the Kickstarter campaign website on the Glowing Plants:

We are using Synthetic Biology techniques and Genome Compiler’s software to insert bioluminescence genes into Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant and member of the mustard family, to make a plant that visibly glows in the dark (it is inedible).

Funds raised will be used to print the DNA sequences we have designed using Genome Compiler and to transform the plants by inserting these sequences into the plant and then growing the resultant plant in the lab.

Printing DNA costs a minimum of 25 cents per base pair and our sequences are about 10,000 base pairs long. We plan to print a number of sequences so that we can test the results of trying different promoters – this will allow us to optimize the result. We will be printing our DNA with Cambrian Genomics who have developed a revolutionary laser printing system that massively reduces the cost of DNA synthesis.

Transforming the plant will initially be done using the Agrobacterium method.  Our printed DNA will be inserted into a special type of bacteria which can insert its DNA into the plant.  Flowers of the plant are then dipped into a solution containing the transformed bacteria. The bacteria injects our DNA into the cell nucleus of the flowers which pass it onto their seeds which we can grow until they glow!  You can see this process in action in our video.

Once we have proven the designs work we will then insert the same gene sequence into the plant using a gene gun.  This is more complicated, as there’s a risk the gene sequence gets scrambled, but the result will be unregulated by the USDA and thus suitable for release.

Funds raised will also be used to support our work to develop an open policy framework for DIY Bio work involving recombinant DNA.  This framework will provide guidelines to help others  who are inspired by this project navigate the regulatory and social challenges inherent in community based synthetic biology.  The framework will include recommendations for what kinds of projects are safe for DIY Bio enthusiasts and recommendations for the processes which should be put in place (such as getting experts to review the plans).

So far, as of writing this post, the campaign has raised over 700% of their goal.  The campaign stops tomorrow, June 7, 2013, but they’ve already raised almost $500,000 dollars!  The initial startup campaign?  Only $65,000.

Some commentary I found interesting – from the Glowing Plant website (at www.glowingplant.com) – what do you think of a GMO plant type like this?  They plainly state that the plant is not edible and not made for food:

Aren’t GMOs evil?  Luckily, that’s one question we don’t typically tend to get – although some people have definitely told us as much.

Like it or not, biology is the science of the 21st century, the way the steam engine dominated the first half of the 20th century. And just as there was a backlash against steam technology – it was going to put everybody out of work, and cows were going to drop dead in fright at the sight of a 20 mph steam train – there is a lot of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt about genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms. To the point that creations like the vitamin fortified “Golden Rice” are now banned from countries where they could be saving thousands of lives. I’m sure that the first humans to discover fire were feared and reviled by their neighbors. And I’m sure those fire makers were concerned that their invention might “fall in the wrong hands”.

As with all technology, genetic engineering is not inherently good or bad – it all depends how you apply it. Science fiction stories are full of the hypothetical abuses of genetic engineering. Then again, they are also full of Midichlorians, and nobody takes those serious. More down-to-earth: yes, genetic engineering has been used to create quasi-monopolies on seeds and herbicides. But it is also being used to produce insulin and hundreds of other lifesaving drugs, develop cures for inherited diseases through gene therapy, and to make sure the next billion members of humanity will have enough to eat.

Monoculture and loss of crop diversity may be a really bad idea, ecologically speaking. And depriving farmers of the right to save and replant seed could arguably be called evil. But those are the products of a screwed up agroindustrial system, not the inevitable consequence of GMOs. As for the health concerns with GMOs – well, we’re not creating a food crop here, but as a scientist I would rate eating a tomato with fish genes about as dangerous as eating a fish-and-tomato dinner – and far less risky than eating a new tropical fruit I’ve never seen before.

When it comes to synthetic biology and DIYbio, I feel we’re standing alongside those early fire makers, discussing whether only the village elders should be allowed to handle fire, or whether we should teach everyone how to deal with it safely. Luckily, we know how that decision turned out…

The team:

glowing_plants_team

What do you think of this Kickstarter?  Is it a good thing?  Is it a bad thing?  How do you feel about GMOs that aren’t food based?  Leave a reply below!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For those of you like yours truly, who will be spending this holiday of sickeningly sweet romance working hard to fill the world with more light, I got you a little something…

These are Galassia Flowers, the first product designed by an Australian company, Bionconst, known for its plant research and development. Bioconst hopes to further its technologies and create a range of plants that emit light.

Galassia Flowers are treated with a special luminous formula, visible with the aid of some UV. The glow lasts many months, much longer than the lifespan of the flowers. Check out the gallery below and see not just more of their flowers, but how they add UV sources in to bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres:

Images from galassiaflowers.com.au

Au-WHOA-ras!

Arctic Photo, Tromsø, Norway

Seeing an aurora has been on my bucket list since as soon as I could brag to my childhood friends the name of the Disney princess was actually a  freaking awesome astronomical phenomena.

Auroras form from energized particles (predominantly electrons) accelerate across Earth’s magnetic fields, colliding with our gasses and creating photons! Their colors of the aurora are determined by which gas atoms and molecules the particles collide with. Check out the graph below, which shows how the gas dispersal in our atmosphere at different altitudes creates the different colors of auroras. The colors of their lines relate to the predominant color the particle collision with these gasses create.  WICKED, huh?!

They start as still east-west bands, until they suddenly “dance” across the sky in waves. Then the aurora will break in to numerous arcs and continue its dance travelling towards the south

Recently we experienced the largest solar flare in 6 years, which triggered beautiful auroras in even lower altitudes than they usually lie, and at intensities that staggered seasoned aurora scientists. Below is a SPECTACULAR video that shows the truly unbelievable range of movement and speed of a recent auroral substorm… but most importantly which most aurora time lapses don’t show–humans! Marvel at the sheer scale and speed of movement of these phenomena! What’s even more exciting is, the sun is likely to become even more active with solar storms in the next few months and years! BRING IT, YOU HOT, MASSIVE SPHERE OF PLASMA AND MAGNETIC FEILDS.

Lights Over Lapland Photo Expedition video of CME impact on 1-24-2012 from Lights Over Lapland on Vimeo.

 

The photo above was taken by Bjørn Jørgensen. It and many more shots of the recent flares can be seen here.

Learn about NASA’s Themis mission which studies auroral substorms and other space weather here.

Jim posted another aurora time lapse video almost a year ago that is QUALITY.

Graph via the Geophysical Institute at University of Alaska.

 

Peace, love, and photons!

The SEL – Sustainable Emergency Light

Jonathan Janke has created an emergency light source that is pretty cool – it’s chemically luminescent, creates no heat, is not affected by wind, and has the packaging material integrated into the design.  Meet the Sustainable Emergency Light:

The SEL is about as large as a large coffee mug, and creates about 24 hours of light.  From the image above you might notice the four capsule-looking things on the top – those are the chemical activators.  Once pushed, they add liquid to the lower container and create light.  One of my favorite aspects of this fixture is that once it’s reacted completely and no longer gives off light, you can mail it back to the manufacturer who will fill it again and mail it back.  The SEL uses a non-toxic chemical, and never expires if stored properly.  Pretty cool.

The green color of the chemical light emitted from the SEL reminds me of that scene in The Abyss with Ed Harris when he’s in the liquid breathing suit using light from a green chemical light trying to diffuse a nuclear warhead, trying to tell apart the difference between a white and yellow wire in the green light!

More of the Sustainable Emergency Light:

Thanks, Design Blog!