Archive for the 'bio' Category

diversity maintenance

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

“Dreimäckriges Blauquallendrachengespenst verwandelt sich in einen Kugelblitz um die ausgecyborgte, zweigebeinigte “Jeanne die Arge”, zu töten”. Artwork by Hugo Buster, acrylic paint and pencil

Just a quick link to what seems to be an interesting study about biodiversity with the title Experiment gives insight into how species maintain diversity (via In the study it was investigated how biodiversity could be maintained despite dominance. Experiments with male voles, ordered by testesterone level, were performed:

when they released just a few of the high testosterone males and lots of low testosterone males into the same area, the males once again reigned supreme with the ladies. But when they released lots of high testosterone males with lots of lots of low testosterone males, the males with the lower levels actually did better than those with the high levels, indicating that there was something clearly at play. The researchers suggest that such results came about because the high testosterone level males spent more time fighting or showing off than mating, which gave the low testosterone males more of a chance to mate.

Holograms Reveal Brain’s Inner Workings

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

“HirniKoppic”, Copic Markers on paper, by artist “nettwürg” on the occasion of the rumors about the possibility of closing the Medizinhistorisches Museum (Berlin Medical Historical Museum) of the Charité.

Using Digital Holographic Microscopy (DHM) researchers of EPFL gathered quite some interesting images from inside the brain:

->Holograms Reveal Brain’s Inner Workings.

When do we get to see brain images from image imaginations? and when can others recognize these?

plastic surgery

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Photography: Pal Lindlund

This post is like the previous post a comment to the discussion about human-machine hybrids in the recently uploaded game-scheme article.
In a passage from human to a human-machine hybrid the tolerance towards body modifications plays an important role.
There was recently an interesting interview in the english newspaper “The Guardian” wether cosmetic surgery does help or damage people.
The interview however didn’t really touch the issue of how strongly plastic surgery (and other body modifications) is influenced by cultural predispositions (which are of course often influenced by economic considerations, but not only by these). In particular it also didn’t touch upon the question in how far the design of the human outer appearance via cosmetic surgery (especially its current boom) etc. might be seen as a step in a human-machine-hybrid transition.

New economic schemes in games

Friday, March 25th, 2011

In the blogpost on the return of investments I proposed to use games for testing new economical scenarious. I currently try to make an article out of that.
In the draft I sofar have given an overview about games and roughly motivated why I think that it may be a good idea to introduce new economical schemes. In particular I talk about the limitations of this planet, design and in particular about something that I dubbed “recycling-run-away effect”.

Amongst others I also try to line out why I think that the nuclear waste problem may be a worse problem than the safety of reactors (see also the first post on Fukushima).

Comments are appreciated, here is the draft:
update (06072015) :
It currently looks as if an article format is rather not suited for the writings and findings made within the context of the game draft article. It is also still not clear wether this project will ever be finished and if in which form. You may though still find on and off some informations in this context, likethis blog post is an example.

update (06072011) : This blog post is now used as a referrer URL for the game scheme article, thus newer versions of the article and comments will be uploaded more or less regularily. Please note that this offer to our randform readers costs our private money. Since randform is currently purely financed by Tim Hoffmanns income as a math professor, we may eventually be forced to reduce or close this offer, depending on download rate, inflation, etc. Most of the content of the article is also spread on the Azimuth project like the section about the Game environment. The Azimuth updates are usually more current.

->version July 06, 2011

The most essential content article of the article was presented on July 1st at the open knowledge conference 2011 in Berlin:

Talk: “Testing new toy economies/political structures in MMOGs” at

older versions of the article:

->version May 25, 2011

->version april 26, 2011

-> New economical schemes in games, version march 25, 2011

about competition, part III

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011


around teufelsee

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

On the occasion of the current convention on biodiversity some images from a green part of Berlin, called Teufelsee (the “satanic lake”) in the district of Köpenick.


phytoplankton decline

Thursday, July 29th, 2010


In todays nature magazine there was an article about the “Global phytoplankton decline over the past century”. I have no access to the article however in an article by Markus Becker – a reporter from the german news magazine Spiegel Online – it was reported that since 1950 on average the mass of phytoplankton declined globally by 40%. Since phytoplankton are amongst others a major food source for food webs this affects e.g. the abundance of fish. Moreover phytoplankton are responsible for much of the oxygen present in the earth’s atmosphere. A main reason for the decline of phytoplankton is climate change.

-> related article on randform about oceans and climate change
->related article on randform on microorganisms and oxygen supply
-> see also here
update 30.7.10: You might also want to kick into the subject by reading
about the decline in fish occurence:
->Elizabeth Kolbert on overfishing on Azimuth
-> randform post about fish consumption and nutrition

some koi after the click

Bright Green Design

Thursday, June 24th, 2010


BerliNordik is a rather new forum for sustainable design, it is

“an international platform that brings together young talented designers from Berlin with their colleagues from the Nordic countries on the subject of sustainable design. “

The berliNordik blog informs amongst others about activities of BerliNordik. Recently BerliNordik coorganized an exhibition called “Bright green design” where I attended the opening. For the exhibition few product design objects were chosen. I actually had also sent in a proposal but unfortunately -again- it wasn’t chosen (maybe I write later about that project in product design). Below some images from the opening.

There are images from three projects in the images. One project is featuring a partially wooden bike called “Holzweg”. Here I was asking myself how good the different material components can be dissassembled. Another project is the Yellowone Needle Cap – a protective cap that turns an empty soft drink can into a safe depository for used needles, by Hân Pham. The third project is “Spot on the BUOY” by Adrian Paulsen. In this envisaged project a buoy is supplied with a paper towel for oil spills and e.g. lights so that the buoy acts as a kind of sensor for oil spills. Clearly the buoy would only be appropriate for rather “light” spills it would certainly not be addaped for the recent oil spills in the gulf of Mexico. Any paper would be totally overstrained with this spill.

(Images of the other projects from create berlin )

In the below images you can see also the discussion of jury members and organizers about “what is green design“. One key issue here was the quandary of eco-designers, which is that to a great extend the task of a designer is to communicate a product and thus in part to encourage more consumption, which is against sustainability. It is also in part the task of an eco-designer to greenwash a product. Last but not least sustainability is often in conflict with economic interests, i.e. due elaborate production methods and materials and e.g. longer durability often only small profits can be made which is a problem in our economic system. Moreover next to the demand of incorproating new green technologies, questions about certification of eco-efficiency, compliance to new standards etc. are making the design process difficult.

->Video of the opening
Interview by Lilli Green with visitors of the exhibition about “what is green design” (-> video)


Saturday, January 23rd, 2010


In an earlier randform post, the distribution of surplusses was discussed, among others it was proposed to simulate a different way of distributing surplusses in a game-like environment. There were some comments to this:
Sabrina Says:” why don’t you make a business model out of that game prototype?”
Victor Says:
“if you have these dangerous ideas to abolish banks or let them go bankrupt, this is communism!
“did you fit in all your parameters?!”

Here a reply to the comment by Victor “if you have these dangerous ideas to abolish banks or let them go bankrupt, this is communism !” :


The tragedies of marine towns

Friday, December 18th, 2009


On monday a study by the Convention on Biological Diversity in collaboration with the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre was released (->press release). The study with the title “Scientific Synthesis of the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity” is a survey on the current results in the investigation of ocean acidity. It is thus a follow-up study to studies initiated e.g. by the global network of science academies (see IAP statement on ocean acidification ) or like the ones which led to the Monaco Declaration.

A main message of these studies and statements is that Carbondioxide i.e CO2 (a major greenhouse gas) has increasingly been taken up by the worlds oceans and thus reduced the effects caused by an increased CO2 level in the athmosphere like e.g. the greenhouse effect. This may on the first sight sound good to climate sceptics since it means that there are processes which act naturally against higher CO2 levels. Unfortunately there are now plenty of measurements which indicate that the uptake of CO2 has been slowing down in the last years, i.e. that it seems that a kind of saturation has been partially/will be reached soon. Due to this the
accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere may accelerate rather soon.

A second main message/problem with this uptake of CO2 is ocean acidification. If CO2 reacts with water this gives carbonic acid , which dissolves mostly to HCO3- and hydrogen ions H+. Thus after CO2 has been taken up by the ocean waters it will give to a smaller amount carbonic acid H2CO3 and carbonate ions CO3^2- and for the most part bicarbonite ions HCO3-. The hydrogen ions decrease the PH level – (you may sometimes find information of PH levels on your liquid soap) that is – the PH gives an indication of the concentration of hydrogen ions H+ via the concentration of Hydronium and it is thus a measure of the acidity or basicity of a solution.

Furthermore the carbonate ions CO3^2- form together with H+ again bicarbonate HCO3-. A higher concentration of H+ (“the acidity”) thus decreases the availablity of carbonate. But carbonate is necessary for producing calcium carbonate (CaCO3) which is essential for shell formation in marines organisms such as corals, shellfish and marine plankton. In other words the increasing acidification of the oceans is harmful to a lot of marine creatures. Since this process is very fast and the fast increasing acidification is clearly measurable this will lead to a rapid change in the composition of the oceans with more or less forseeable consequences. In particular it is very likely that this will have an impact on fish consumption.

update addition Jan, 28. 2017:
Here is more on how the composition of oceans may change, which indicates that at least some of the marine creatures which build shells might still keep their ability to create shells despite increasing acidification. There is a new study:
Proton pumping accompanies calcification in foraminifera (via which indicates that amongst others a species called perforate foraminifera Ammonia sp. seems to be able to do so and the amount of perforate foraminifera is not too small:

“A large portion of open ocean calcium carbonate production, between 20 and 50%, derives from perforate foraminifera. Despite its clear importance for the global carbon cycle, the physiological processes responsible for calcification in foraminifera are poorly understood. The key to understanding foraminiferal calcification centres on the relation between carbon speciation in seawater and preferential uptake of these chemical species (CO2, bicarbonate and/or carbonate ions)”

The mechanism is roughly the following. Foraminifera are massively pumping protons (i.e. H+) into their local environment and so make the surrounding waters even more acidic (i.e. lower PH values). This however means that on average less CO2 is dissolved in water, i.e. some of the protons will recombine with HCO3- to H2O and CO2:

Karbonatsystem_Meerwasser_de.svg by Wikipedia User:BeAr, public domain

It seems an enzym called V-type H+ ATPase is responsible for the proton pumping.
While the protons are pushed out, there is an “inside” location in the forminifer (the socalled site of calcification (SOC)) which is less acidic and so shell formation can take place. For this the CO2 is “sucked into the foraminifer”, i.e.: “As CO2 diffuses easily across cell membranes compared to HCO3−, the large pCO2 gradient results in a flux of carbon dioxide into the foraminifer.” And so shell formation can take place at the SOC via the in the blogpost described process.

How acidic is the corresponding pumped microenvironment? The researchers write:

The foreseen reduction in pH (from 8.1 today to ∼7.8 at the end of the twenty-first century36) by increased oceanic CO2 uptake is relatively small compared with the pH decrease in the foraminiferal microenvironment (down to 6.9 in Fig. 1) during calcification.

and so

Hence, a relatively moderate decrease in pH may not impair foraminiferal calcification, especially as DIC increases at the same time. Ocean acidification may still affect calcification indirectly (for example, through altered metabolism).

where DIC is “dissolved inorganic carbon” i.e. all those bi,di, etc. carbonates.

Hence in the abstract they conclude:

…total dissolved CO2 may not reduce calcification, thereby potentially maintaining the current global marine carbonate production.

which I find a bit too optimistic in view that only between 20 and 50% calcium carbonate production derives from perforate foraminifera and not much is known about the other species apart from the fact that some seem definitely not able to maintain shell formation:

Results from culturing experiments mimicking ocean acidification showed contrasting responses of calcification: calcification was reduced in some species, whereas others were not affected.

Moreover the proton pumping mechanism may not work if acidification levels lower beyond 6.9.