Future Fashion: Synthetic Symbiotic Bio-Stole


Future off-world fashions? via materialecology.com

As we explored in our podcast episode "The Werewolf Principle: Adapting Humans for Space," there are two ways of looking at humanity's long-term future on other worlds: Either we terraform alien planets to support Earth life, or we change our bodies to thrive in extraterrestrial environments.*

As seen above, and as explored by Architect and designer Neri Oxman in "Wanderers, An Astrobiological Exploration," there's another way: We engage with a genetically-engineered piece of bio-clothing.

As Oxman describes, this Al-Qamar stole essentially serves as a symbiotic organism for off-world human survival:

Wanderers explores the possibility of voyaging to the worlds beyond by visiting the worlds within. 3D printed wearable capillaries designed for interplanetary pilgrims are infused with synthetically engineered microorganisms to make the hostile habitable and the deadly alive. Each design is a codex of the animate and inanimate with an origin and a destination: the origin being engineered organisms, which multiply to create the wearable within a 3D printed skins; and the destination being a unique planet in the solar system. The setting for this exploration is the solar system where, with the exception of planet Earth, no life can exist. The series represents the classical elements understood by the ancients to sustain life (earth, water, air and fire), and offers their biological counterpart in the form of microorganisms engineered to produce life-sustaining elements. The wearables are designed to interact with a specific environment characteristic of their destination and generate sufficient quantities of biomass, water, air and light necessary for sustaining life: some photosynthesize converting daylight into energy, others bio-mineralize to strengthen and augment human bone, and some fluoresce to light the way in pitch darkness. Each wearable is designed for a specific extreme environment where it transforms elements that are found in the atmosphere to one of the classical elements supporting life: oxygen for breathing, photons for seeing, biomass for eating, biofuels for moving, and calcium for building. Design research at the core of this collection lies at the intersection of multi-material 3D printing and Synthetic Biology.

Visit Oxman's page for more images, or see it all in person at Germany's EuroMold.

* The other option, of course, is to bring artificial, enclosed environments with us, but this is generally a short-term fix. How long can an organism and its world live at odds with one another?


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.