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Pig’s Bladder Football

Submitted by on August 30, 2012 – 10:44 pmNo Comment

Pig’s Bladder Football is a sphere, a honeycomb ball, a bit like the 1970s football that was made up of pentagons. But the pig’s bladder football is alive, it is made of living tissue. The living balls are not football size, they are various sizes, the biggest being a little bigger than a golf ball.

The balls are translucent and are displayed in a glass cuboid that has a light shining onto the balls which then projects the tissue of the ball onto a small screen so that you can actually see the living cells moving about.

The balls are alive with the cells of a pig’s bladder. The bladder balls are made by injecting the pig cells into a sticky membrane that the cells can live in and reproduce. This membrane is than squeezed through a tiny nozzle. The nozzle is computer controlled to build the living bladder ball. A projection of the process is shown on a wall in the CUBE gallery on Portland Street. You can see the living bladder ball being made and then you can see the real thing and its tiny cells all moving about and cuddling up then dashing this way and that. The life of a cell is pretty chaotic. It’s a bit like watching people at Piccadilly bus station.

John O’Shea set out about a year ago to cultivate the world’s first bio-engineered football. He worked with Professor John Hunt and Theun Van Veen. Using biological experimentation, those that went astray were sent off to support FC United, rapid prototyping, I’m assuming someone knows what that means, and an interactive design process, your guess is as good as mine, the balls were generated.

The bladder balls do look really amazing and I was excited to watch the living cells dancing about and awed at the fact that the thing I was looking at was living and had been made artificially.

It makes you think of a future where inanimate objects could be made of living cells, therefore eradicating the need for maintenance. Your house could be bio-engineered and instead of calling out a plumber you just go to B&Q to get more house plant food.

Although I can’t help thinking would it not have been easier just to use a pig’s bladder? The first footballs were pig’s bladders, I’m speculating that that was the reason John O’Shea wanted to reproduce a football using the living tissue of a pig. But then why stop at the bladder?, wouldn’t it be better to use brain tissue?, an intelligent ball would be much more interesting. Do away with primadonna footballers, just train up the ball and you’ve got the game won.

The pig bladder football exhibition is worth seeing and while you are at the CUBE gallery you could also take a look at ‘Reproductive Futures’ by the brilliantly-named artist Zoe Papadopoulou. Now she should be a footballer, think of the money that could be made with marketing her shirt. She looks at what we tell our children about how babies are made in the age of in vitro fertilisation. Although I’m not sure what she is worried about, she should do what most of us do and say ask your father or ask your mother. That’s what schools are for. However something very important happened in the history of artificial reproductive technology in 1878 but I didn’t understand what it was. You’ll have to go yourself and see. The future could see a totally artificially-created football team and football. Margy’s got a bit of spare bio tissue, we should get started on our own biologically generated team. 

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