Living communication technologies help us understand ourselves and change our definitions of community.
The living world communicates warnings, invitations, and calls for cooperation in many ways—through, color, sound, scent, and other chemical signals. Scientists have begun exploring how we might harness these modes of communication.
Such modes might change the way we create art, fashion, and other ways we signal each other. They also introduce a degree of uncertainty. Unlike machines, living things have an agency of their own.
Malus ecclesia, Joe Davis
Playing on the “bad apple” from the Biblical Tree of Knowledge, artist Joe Davis is working on a project to insert the entire text of Wikipedia into the genome of an apple tree. The text will be coded in the nucleotides (“letters”) of DNA—A, T, C, and G. This is not the first time coded messages have been inserted into the genomes of reproducing organisms. Scientist Craig Venter, for example, inserted a number of messages into a Mycoplasma bacterium whose DNA he had synthesized. Among them was a quote from James Joyce’s Ulysses: “To live to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.” LEARN MORE
Plant Sentinels, June Medford, Colorado State University
Medford’s lab is bioengineering plants to sense toxins and even chemicals found in explosives in the air and then report these by turning white. She envisions plants one day acting as greener versions of TSA scanners in airports. LEARN MORE
E. CHROMI, DAISY GINSBERG, JAMES KING, 2009 CAMBRIDGE IGEM TEAm
A team of artists and scientists envisioned a probiotic yogurt drink that would change colors depending on what the yogurt bacteria encountered while passing through the drinker’s body. Using such a product, patients of the future might analyze their gastrointestinal health by examining the rainbow colors of their stool samples. Interestingly, a study published a few years later at Harvard University Medical School proved that such a test might one day work. LEARN MORE
Banner image: Allison Kudla, Growth Pattern.