Monthly Archives: February 2011

Visceral Art

The semi-living dolls will be killed at the end of the exhibition. Image: Patrick Bolger, Science Gallery

I am truly disappointed that I have only just been made aware of an art exhibition that closes today in Trinity College, Dublin before I have had a chance to go and visit.

“Visceral: The Living Art Experiment” is series of exhibits that challenge us to consider the boundaries between art and biotechnology.

SymbioticA, a leading art-science lab based in Perth at The University of Western Australia led by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, has become internationally celebrated for its pioneering and provocative experiments in art and science based on a deep understanding of the scientific processes and ethical issues involved.

You can get a sense of the diversity of inspiring displays here in the video of the exhibit.

My favourite would have been the Semi-Living Worry Dolls – inspired by the Guatemalan tradition of giving children “worry dolls” to whisper their fears and concerns to, the curators hand crafted dolls out of degradable polymers (PGA and P4HB) and surgical sutures. The dolls were seeded with living cells that throughout the exhibition, eventually replaced the polymers to form a living body. Visitors were invited to whisper their worries to the dolls. At the end of the exhibit today, the worry dolls will effectively die as the display is disassembled!

According to Dr Zurr, the exhibits focus on many ethical, philosophical, and political issues, such as the reduction of life to raw material that can be engineered, reducing life to information, the respect of humans and other animals, and environmental ethics.

I also think that these exhibits encapsulate many of the visceral responses we experience when we encounter violations of our intuitive biological and psychological reasoning that I described in SuperSense.

Thank you to Kylie Sturgess (Podblack) for bringing this wonderful exhibit to my attention.

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Woo Bombdetector Crooks Finally Getting Their Just Deserts

The woo bomb detector story is hotting up as we learn that the Iraqi authorities have arrested Major General Jihad al-Jabiri,the man responsible for signing contracts with ATSC Ltd for the supply of the dowsing rod ADE651 in a £75 million scandal of corruption. Major General Jihad al-Jabiri was the jolly chap who rigorously defended the ADE651 when he and our old friend Jim McCormick, managing director of ATSC Ltd were called into account following several devastating suicide attacks in late 2009 which killed hundreds of Iraqis.

Major Frank Spencer With the Equally Ludicrous ADE651

If you remember, he organized a press conference where he demonstrated the remarkable abilities of the ADE651 dowsing rod to point towards a grenade in full view. I repeated the demonstration with a coat hanger and an invisible grenade for the BBC. I have since got my hands on a real grenade (disarmed) and use it to show the ideomotor effect which is the principle behind all dowsing.

The ADE651 also Detects Immoral Crooks

We learn that not content with placing his fellow countrymen at risk (and eventually the loss of over a thousand lives), Major General Jihad al-Jabiri sought fit to fleece as much as possible. Jabiri recommended that Iraq sign five contracts to supply security forces with the detectors for between £23,000 pounds and £35,000 each even though the real cost of the devices is no more than £60, and most of that went on the nice traveling case.

I would imagine that Jabiri, will have to grease as many palms as possible to get him out of this situation. Meanwhile we wait in anticipation to see the fate of those in the UK who so eagerly supplied these bogus devices – and that includes both the makers as well as the Department of Trade and Industry who recently defended their involvement in promoting the sale of the devices to the Mexican Government in one of the most shameful excuses to emerge – “if we didn’t make them, someone else would.” Let’s hope that decency and moral sense prevails. Thanks again to the tireless Techowiz in bringing this to our attention. Thank you also to diohuni who has just posted a comment on this.

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Chinese Like to Play With their Food

The Chinese have some bizarre attitudes towards their food. We all know that nothing is off the menu and that many foods are believed to have magical powers. In SuperSense, I talked about the essentialism of eating various animal penises and the claims of rejuvenating potions made from fetuses. Here I thought I would share some videos and images of other Chinese practices which upset many Westerners. Take for example, the fish dish which is only half deep-fried so that it is still alive when eaten.

Or consider these goldfish that magically swim in formation (orig. in Japanese).  I expect that they have been fed a large dose of iron fillings.

But the last example, is not entirely the fault of the Chinese but rather a Belgian tattoo artist who has been inking up porkers in Beijing.

inky & Porky

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Crematorium Heat Rises as Swimming Pool Warms

Last night, Redditch Borough Council voted in favour of a planning application to re-direct heat from the town’s crematorium to warm a new swimming pool at the Abbey Stadium leisure centre. This is not only a more environmentally-friendly way of dealing with emissions but it will also save around £14,560 in heating costs. You might think that this is a win-win situation but the local labour union, Unison have called the plans, “sick and an insult to local residents.”

This does seem an odd attitude to take but I guess they think that it must be sacrilegious. Maybe there is some notion that the fumes of the fire contain the essence of the individual and  should rise towards heaven or some supernatural belief like that rather than circulating round heating ducts. Not surprisingly, I heard a Reverend on Radio 4 criticising the plans. I expect that the more practical we treat the disposal of the dead, the less room there is for religious ceremony.

Apparently, the council received overwhelming support from residents. But how far can we go with this utilitarian approach. When you consider the fossil fuel required for cremating bodies in the US is equivalent to the amount to send a car to the moon and back again – 84 times a year! then it does seem very wasteful. Burial seems so much more eco-friendly but according to this site, burial is also an environmental disaster.

Sky burials are probably the most eco-friendly way of disposing of bodies but somehow I don’t think we will see this in the parks across Britiain (BEWARE images are not suitable for the squeamish). I don’t think that pigeons would be so efficient as vultures.

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QED is over

Just a brief post as I am super busy. I kicked off the opening of QED in Manchester at the weekend which was such a blast after a week of intense teaching. It had a really good turnout and I think the talk went down well. Certainly there was enough laughter at dog’s butts, blowing up teddy bears, Fawlty Towers, the joy of left hand love and all the other crowd pleasers. Even dowsing for the hand grenade worked really well. As you can see I had an enforcer to make sure that they laughed and applauded at the right bits.

Laugh or you will be exterminated

I must admit that I was pretty exhausted after my stint but I did manage to catch other talks including a great one on the problems of time travel by Jim Al-Khalili. I got a chance to talk to Jim who was lovely. Finally got to meet Kylie Sturgess (Podblack) in person. Also spent time talking to George Hrab who did a superb job as host for the event. George introduced me to Milton Mermikides who wrote the music for the video promo in the last post. Milton is a fascinating guy who knows first hand the importance of science and medicine – but that’s another story. I caught up with the usual suspects on the bill and generally had a great time.

Anyway, back to the real world and that huge pile of work that needs addressing.

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QED Promo

This week is a nightmare for teaching but I have the QED conference to look forward to this weekend. Here is the promotional video put together by Dave Fregon, Kylie Sturgess and Mike Hall with music by Milton Mermikides – cute

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