Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Something old,
Something new,
Something borrowed,
And all of it poo!

I am quite tickled to relate a story I read in the weird news yesterday, but first a couple other tidbits on the same theme:

Something old: I mentioned the conceptual art of Piero Manzoni - in which he canned his own excrement in 1961 - in an earlier post. Nearly 40 years later and 10 years ago, Belgian artist Wim Delvoy conceived and executed his Cloaca machine, which mimics the human digestive system by taking in food and churning out poop. The original Cloaca was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, where it was fed twice a day from the museum's cafeteria and produced vacuum-packed, logo-emblazoned feces. The machine has since undergone several incarnations and refinements, including the Personal Cloaca and Cloaca Turbo, on display in Luxembourg.

Something new: An innovative low-cost, low-tech waterless toilet system has been created by industrial designer Virginia Gardiner, a student at Design London Imperial College. The LooWatt is a closed-loop management system that recycles human waste and turns it into energy, without wasting 1 to 3 gallons of water with every flush. After defecating, you turn the crank on the toilet which pushes the waste down into a receptacle that is lined with a carbon-rich biodegradable film (that competely seals in any odor). Once the container is full, it is removed and the compressed waste is taken to an anaerobic digester which produces cooking gas from the methane. Ingenious, really - watch the video.

Something borrowed: And now for the pièce de résistance... Ged Galvin of Barnsley, Yorkshire, U.K., operates his anal sphincter with a remote control! The 55-year-old man was injured in a motorcycle accident, suffering massive internal injuries and nearly dying. Surgeons did away with his colostomy bag by transplanting a muscle from above his knee into his bottom and attaching electrodes to the nerves. Now when he needs to go to the bathroom, he just presses a button to open his bowels! He calls it a miracle: “The operation changed my life and gave me back my pride and confidence. Because of the remote control I can lead a normal life again.” The only downside is that he has to have the muscles in his "bionic bottom" replaced every 5 years.

A cloaca, by the way, is a common cavity into which the intestinal, genital, and urinary tracts open in vertebrates such as fish, reptiles, birds, and some primitive mammals. It can also refer to an ancient sewer.

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