June 28, 2008
Last December I highlighted the case of Benny the Bear—a soft toy using nano-silver to give it antimicrobial properties (Benny the Bear, and the case of the disappearing nanoparticles). It appeared at the time that the manufacturer was being rather coy about the use of nanotechnology, leading to me suggesting: “perhaps it’s time for Benny to come clean.”
Well, come clean he has. And the revelation: Benny really is silver-free—uncertainty over risks, regulation and public acceptance led to the manufacturer to find a non-nano alternative.
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May 8, 2008
My worst nightmare—I’m sitting at the back of a small plane (by the bathroom), my knees up round my ears (because someone else with a bigger case got to the overhead storage before me), and a small child screaming its head off two rows down. But unlike a nightmare, this is reality, and waking up to a better life is not an option! What did I do to deserve this? The polite answer—agree to speak at yet another nano-meeting! Read the rest of this entry »
April 18, 2008
The most recent estimate from the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) puts nanotechnology risk research investment at $68 million for 2006 (the only year complete figures are currently available for—apparently). Yet theProject on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) has just completed its own assessment—and could only find $13 million associated with research projects primarily focused on addressing nanotechnology risk in the same year. What gives—are the feds indulging in a bit of creative accounting; or have PEN forgotten the basic rules of arithmetic?
Let’s be honest, I’m not a great fan of bean-counting. Evaluating research in terms of dollars invested (or Pounds or Euros) is a crude tool at the best of times. But when it comes to assessing investments and returns, the fact is that bottom-line figures count. Read the rest of this entry »
March 28, 2008
The small American town of Sunnyville is a town in crisis. Against a backdrop of job losses that have decimated the local community, citizens are struggling to decide whether to welcome two major nanotech-enabled industries into the town, or whether to reject them because the new technology might create more problems than it solves.
As if this wasn’t enough, it has just come to light that local company “Happy Home Paint” has been contaminating a neighborhood beauty spot with toxic chemicals for years, and the only way of cleaning the area without destroying it is by using a developmental nanoparticle-based technology.
Will nanotechnology revitalize this town, or will it end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back? The locals are having a tough time deciding. Read the rest of this entry »
February 8, 2008
What determines your view of nanotechnology—the message, or the messenger? Most of us would like to think it is the message that governs our internal risk-benefit analysis. But research published this week suggests other factors may be at work.
Dan Kahan at Yale Law School and his colleagues are shaking up our ideas on effective communication and engagement when it comes to complex issues like emerging nanotechnologies. They have already demonstrated what many jaded science communicators have learned the hard way—that shouting louder and longer about the facts doesn’t necessarily lead to “right-minded” thinking in the general population.* In their latest study (available here) they show that when it comes to balancing possible nanotechnology benefits and risks, the messenger is quite possibly as important as the message. Read the rest of this entry »
February 1, 2008
Labeling – is there anything more contentious in the safe nanotech debate? Some are fearful that too much knowledge will confuse and worry muddle-headed consumers. Others can only see the marketing opportunities of a “nano-inside” label. Then you have the nano-doomsday merchants, who seemingly would like nothing better than to slap a bright yellow nano-hazard sticker on all things small.
And of course, we cannot forget those “magic” nano products – not the surface treatment that allegedly messed people’s lungs up (which was neither magic, nor nano) – but those items which miraculously change from “nano-enabled” to “nano-no-more” at the wave of a marketing executive’s wand. Read the rest of this entry »