Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Zoo Observation—Como Zoo

Well I’m really-really-really late to the party but I need to at least give you guys something so I’m not a total bum.
I’m thinking back to our visit to Como Zoo and what a nice time I had. Although I’ve never been a big fan of zoos I thought the reason for our going was great. What I wish we could do is have the resources to make all of our excellent biome ideas come true. But we can dream and try to inspire the future.
One of the thoughts I had while walking around the zoo waswhat if humans were put behind glass and on display. Since our assignment was to observe people observing the animals and interacting with their environments I found this perspective to be pretty helpful.
The one aspect that really stuck out to me was how the habitats are downsized to a relatively microscopic levelcompared to the animal’s natural habitatsso that people would have the opportunity to see the creatures up close. It begged the question, are these habitats setup for our benefit as observers or the occupant’s benefit of physical safety and/or rehabilitation?
Let’s consider a hypothetical comparison. Let’s say that we as MCAD students are on display for the benefit of others to observe. We would need to be kept in a limited space (like the MCAD campus) and be given only what we need—to be what we are—and nothing more. We could never leave campus and we’d have to tolerate groups of people taking turns observing us in our “natural habitat” all day long while we studied. What a terrible existence it’d be.
Imagine getting tossed chunks of chocolate-peanut butter rice-krispy treats from the cafeteria while we pick bugs out of each other’s hair hiding from groups of little kids banging on our glass walls while their parents play youtube videos to us of students they saw on their visit to the U of M campus last month.
I know this is a pretty ridiculous mental picture I’m attempting to create for you. But realistically, it’s pretty much what I observed on our visit to the zoo at the primate habitat. I so badly wanted to wave a magic wand and expand their containment areas by 100 times or more.
But that’s not where I spent my 30 minute observation time. I actually spent that time in the “zen garden” outside of the terrarium. I walked around for a short time to find a good place to sit. At first I thought a bench would work but decided against it for fear of interfering with the natural flow of people walking and spending their own quiet time. Instead I found a small boulder off the path just a bit and found a comfortable groove to sit and watch.
People walked with one another taking photos of each other while I took my own of them. Little did they know I had caught them in my own personal pop-up human zoo.
Some people would sit for a short time on benches located to my right and left.
A family gathered to take a “group-selfie” with a shallow water fall trickling behind them. I took a quick photo of the moment.
A couple of minutes later two Japanese women take a seat on a wooden bench to my left. They certainly brought the atmosphere together for the moment. They really fit into the scene. They sat quietly—peacefully—enjoying they serine human habitat. I aim to take a couple of photos as one of the ladies looks over at me. I gesture for permission to take a photo--she agrees. I snap a couple of shots and moments later send a nod of gratitude.
I see the same family taking another group selfie off in the distance, probably with another quaint yet unremarkable backdrop.
Then to my right two other ladies sitting on the other bench. Looking at them reminded me that I was in Minnesota. They sat there gossiping while crunching on apples. I shoot a couple of photos but my exposure was off so I adjust and fire off a couple more as one of the ladies looks over in my direction.

The atmosphere is quiet for a while and I take the time to enjoy it.
The Japanese ladies make their motion to depart and I take the cue as well. I give them a subtle wave of goodbye.
I begin walking back to meet up with my group and as I pass the two apple crunching women one of them asks rather starkly; did you take a photo of us? I answered truthfully and could tell that she was irritated by me. She was very cold and stern and was adamant that I should have asked for permission first. I replied with an apology and explained that asking to take her photo would have an adverse affect on the observations I was trying to capture. I show her the preview on my camera and erase the image and gain a little approval.
After putting her mind at ease I walk away to find my group; little did she know that I actually took more than just the one photo of her and her friend.
So what did I learn from all of this?
Comparing my time in the zen garden with that of my brief observations of the primate exhibit revealed some correlations. In the primate exhibit I noticed that some of the primates seemed to enjoy the attention from human observers while others seemed to avoid interactions completely--they wanted to be left alone and unnoticed. In the zen garden by comparison I found similar mindsets between the two couples of ladies. The first couple of ladies to my left were happy to be observed and photographed while the other two seemed offended by it--like they just wanted to be in public but left unseen. The family didn’t taking selfies seem to care either way--they were in their own little world. The big difference between the primates and the humans was that the humans had a choice to stay home, the primates were home.

Monday, November 14, 2016

BIOSYSTEMS: Biomimicry Design

For this project, students researched the unique abilities of species and systems in nature, and then shared 3 different products inspired by multiple life forms and their biological problem solving with the class. Of the 3 ideas presented, a student’s final concept was decided by class vote, and finalized into a fully developed product concept using biomimicry as the method of wild invention!


“The Web Eco-City is a physical re-design of cities based off the Web of Life. It has been designed in order to create an efficient, eco-friendly city in which all parts work together in order to grow and improve.”


“The HexoPod Housing System is inspired by multiple bio-organisms. The key feature is that the systems produce a water and energy surplus. Th structures are built as the HexoTower as the powerhouse creating the surplus, and the system is essentially a living and breathing organism which goes stronger over time.”


“The Care-Meleon bracelet is a personal health care system that is inspired by chameleons. The key feature is its ability to communicate mood through its changing ability (especially valuable in situations where communication is difficult or impossible).” 

"Duexiéme Peau (French for Second Skin) is a breast support system made from a new material called SKIN2. Its connective inner layer is inspired by cotton and mycelium, and its supportive outer layer is inspired by echinoderms and sea sponges."


Bee Happy is a re-invented aroma-therapy delivery system inspired by bees and plants with the added benefits of photo-therapy.”


Clari-Tea combines lessons from nature in the body and mind to help cure cancer.”


Vibro-Wear uses sound waves that travel through body chains to send frequencies through the body. These frequencies can shift your emotions and heal your ailments.”

“My project is the development of shrink and expand technology. People have a difficult time selecting their clothing - often our clothes won’t fit anymore - but my project allows for the creation of clothing that will shape comfortably to your changing body.”


“The Turtle Car is the ultimate all-terrain vehicle. It can go on water and land, and it is submersible for underwater use. Completely biodegradable, the Turtle Car causes no pollution or waste. Its shell makes it great for emergencies, like tornadoes, floods, etc. Powered by sound waves, the Turtle Car will last a lifetime and beyond (like a turtle)!”


No-Slip Slime prevents you from slipping on ice and snow in the winter, car accidents, and injury. When your car starts sliding, the pressure you put on the steering wheel pushes the slime button to eject slime from your tires, gripping the ground instantly.”


“The Zombean is an invention that is inspired by a dogs sense of smell, and can detect cancer cells and zombie cells in the earliest stages.” 


"Bio-Phone is the start of a new wave of biologically inspired technology! Biophone is made of all organic material that requires no outside source of energy to work! You'll never need to charge your phone, have a phone plan, worry about not having service, or running out of space on your phone again!"


Reveal-Ink - an all-natural, safe tattoo ink made of melanin with the ability to change colors from hormone signals indicating physical and emotional conditions happening in the body.


TELA - a superhydrophobic material inspired by spider webs that only certain objects will be able to cut through. TELA can be used on roadways, doubling as a handicap for traction. Future applications will include a new system of tread for tires and rubber chemistry for the soles of shoes.

Tright - biolumenescent street lighting


Incu-Blankie - an infant warming blanket inspired by the human circulatory system


Loved - a bracelet inspired by the psychological effect of the heartbeat and bioluminescence

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Zoo Observation

At the Como Zoo, I decided to observe the polar bear. When observing, I noticed that the bear kept doing the exact same motions... over and over again. I began to feel bad for it in all honesty. It would swim to the wall, push its legs against the rock, and then glide backward on its back.

After observing the mammal for half an hour, I made my way over to Lynne, a polar bear expert. Here is a list of questions and answers from the conversation I had with her (I apologize for her answers being choppy. I had to quickly record them):

Q: What is their diet?
A: "Seals/omnivores. The Zoo feeds them prepared food (dog food) 20lbs to 40lbs a day, depending on the season. Polar bears only eat the blubber off of seals, [a prime example of] ecology. One animal there for each other. If the females don't eat enough calories they cannot get pregnant."

Q: Is the habitat at the zoo good for them?
A: "It's very similar to Churchill, Canada, which is the polar capital in the world."

Q: Can you tell me more about these specific bears at Como?
A: "We have two polar bears. They are very playful, curious, and dangerous. Very unpredictable. [They are] poorly studied because of cold conditions and darkness. Very solitary animals. The ones studied the most are in Churchill, Canada. There are seven populations and ones in the Artic are more endangered."

A: What is global warming's effect on the polar bears?
Q: "The oceans warming is causing the food the seals eat to lessen, which lessens the seals, which lessens the polar bears food."

A: What are some random or fun facts about them?
Q: "They have bad eyesight so they have developed good smell through the ice. [They can smell] five to six miles away even, wow! They gain four inches of fat in the winter to keep warm. They have translucent hair, which is very sparkly. And they have black skin."

A: Are they becoming extinct for sure?
Q: "It's too early to tell."

A: Do you ever physically interact with them?
Q: "No. A person will never be in the cage with a bear. The animals are trained to do medical exams, so the zookeepers do not need to tranquilize them. [The bears literally] present a paw to have blood drawn. [If they cooperate they] get [rewarded with] frozen lard."

Sunday, November 6, 2016

You're Looking at Happiness

"What you see is a myosin protein dragging an endorphin along a filament to the inner part of the brain's parietal cortex which creates happiness. Happiness. You're looking at happiness."