week 3 - lunar new years, botanical garden, kombucha, & plasma

During Week 3 we learned about a variety of different kinds of topics including Professor Vesna's collaborative lunar new year project with artist and scientists worldwide, a tour of the botanical garden, a weird living organism called SCOBY (a starter for kombucha), and a tour of a machine that creates plasma for research purposes studying atomic bombs.

To start, we learned about the interesting projects celebrating the rabbit for the new year. Each individual artist or scientist shared their own art-science collaborative mutating genetics, animals, culture and to honor animals as pets, companions, experimental projects, and food. Like a Scotland delicacy called haggis that is a kind of pudding comprised of the liver, heart, lungs, blood and then is mixed in the inside of the stomach boiled.

Image result for scottish haggis
Further investigation, reveals that is has been around since the mid 18th century and was popularized in a book called The English Huswide (1615). However, its origin can be traced even earlier on and can be found in the 15th century. Even so, the derivation of term haggis is still unknown. I found it interesting that Professor Gizewski shared haggis as a delicacy because it reminded me of a Chinese dish called century egg. Where traditionally, it was made by preserving chicken or duck eggs in a mixture of lime, salt, and ash, where it would be wrapped in rice husks for weeks. While the century egg has been made by farmers and villager for hundreds of years, it started appearing as a dish in Hong Kong during 1940. Similarly with the reaction of Professor Gizewski's shared haggis, people also are disgusted by the process of the century egg. Where in fact, both dishes are considered a delicacy.
Assortment of food for Lunar New Years
We also visited the botanical garden to celebrate the new years and have a taste of kombucha and discuss a variety of food that was brought by the class. One of the snacks that was brought was comprised of seasame seeds and traditionally cooked with honey that is a dessert consumed on the New Year in Korea. Also spotted while in the garden was turtles resting along the shores of the pond.
On Thursday, Professor Vesna showed her starter SCOBY for her kombucha. These disks can be grown to be a thin film or eventually something thicker. She also explained that some of her previous students has made artwork with the starter. Kombucha is tea fermented and is a combination of the three: alcoholic, lactic, and acetic, where several yeast and bacteria co-exist. The stench made me and the shape also reminded me of deli meat and since I am vegetarian it seemed even more gross. However, I do respect the science behind it.
We also learned about a scientist that can make leather out of mushrooms for something more sustainable instead of relying on the meat industry for their hide. Explained in the YouTube video we watched, a type of mushroom called mycelium would eat away at wood chips, straws, corn, sawdust, or any material mushrooms can grow on. Mycelium is a network of filament that is formed underground in thread-like structures of fungi. It is a branching system comprised of billion of cells. Instead of working against each other, nature chooses to co-exist and work together to provide certain nutrients to each other. There are many benefits to using leather made out of mushrooms including the time it take to manufacture, cost to make, no killing of animals, ability to reuse and recycle, and level of quality. Even the waste from mushroom leather can be reused for organic crop fertilizer. It is environmentally friendly and can be grown/produced without any polluting substances. Could it be a start of something that would take over the industry?
I found it interesting because I've had a friend in high school who was a mushroom expert and would be able to identify the mushroom scientific name and its properties. I didn't even realize how it could be used by science or fashion to produce wonderful pieces of false leather. Mycelium can even be used to make a chairs. I would want to do further research about mushrooms because I find it very fascinating on how much one can do. Mushrooms belong to the kingdom Fungi and are made of cells, gaining energy in order to live and are unable to undergo photosynthesis. Mushrooms have been used in the past for medicine or even for research purposes to discover way to cure cancer. Overall, mushrooms can have a large impact and are extremely versatile. 
Additionally, we learned about Anastasia Pistofidou an artist who works with textile dyeing chemical processes that significantly contributes to pollution and results in waste. She uses her own local raw materials to create these different kinds of textiles like algae, wood, potato starch, coffee beans, and any other material that can be melted. Students from her class even create shoes from materials. The class she offers explores the role of eco-pioneers and material designers bringing craftsmanship knowledge with technology. There is an array of techniques used for more friendly eco alternatives.
We then walked over to Westwood where we were given a tour at the Plasma Research Lab. I learned that all chips are made out of plasma and without it we would not have any phones. The plasma machine contains purple and yellow magnets surrounding the machine, where plasma is filled inside compared to outer space. According to the scientist, every 3 seconds plasma is made. Gas is injected on one side and is pumped out due to crystals that can be formed. We also learned that there were probes measuring the magnetic fields to ensure that it was working properly. Pro-rings also seal the machine so air doesn't enter or escape.