What was worrying us about nanotechnology safety seven years ago?

August 9, 2011

In 2004, the first International Symposium on Occupational Health Implications of Nanomaterials was held in Buxton in the UK.  Seven years later, I’m preparing for a discussion panel at the fifth meeting in this very successful community-led series (being held this week in Boston MA), and looking through the research ...

Would You Lick Jam Off An Old Man’s Foot? and other important science questions

August 8, 2011

Would You Lick Jam Off An Old Man’s Foot Or Drink Toilet Water For An Hour? Can you explain how gravitons can escape a black hole?  Or do you have a good answer to the question “why are people annoying?” This is just a sampling of some of the more entertaining ...

Frying your brains on information overload: Old perspectives on a new issue

August 3, 2011

Living online is changing our brains – at least according to Baroness Greenfield in an interview posted today by New Scientist. Leaving aside questions over the extent to which Greenfield’s concerns are driven by misapprehension or plausibility, the interview put me in mind of a rather wicked quote that appeared in ...

The science of VidCon – Connecting with Science & Engineering through YouTube

August 1, 2011

Where I cover science at this year’s VidCon YouTube convention, take a look at science and engineering more broadly on YouTube, and suggest that for next year’s VidCon the organizers should bring together some of the leading science projects on YouTube with grass-roots science-advocates like Charlie McDonnell and Hank Green.  ...

I’m a scientist… what the heck am I doing at VidCon?!

July 26, 2011

This week my teenage kids are dragging me of to the premier YouTube event of the year – VidCon.  I was foolish enough to agree to chaperone them, and now I have two days in LA immersed in a sea of one thousand YouTube celebs, fans and wannabe’s. But not ...

Seven challenges to regulating “sophisticated materials”

July 22, 2011

The materials that most current regulations were designed to handle are pretty simple by today’s standards. Sure they can do some nasty things to the environment or your body if handled inappropriately. And without a doubt some of the risks associated with these “simple” materials are not yet well understood ...

Radiation-Crazed Zombies in Anti-Vaccine Hand-Washing Health Scare – Possibly

July 10, 2011

OK so it’s a slightly misleading title, but I did want to draw your attention to the rather splendiferous Risk Science Blog. When I took over as Director of the University of Michigan Risk Science last year, I wanted to find ways of connecting researchers and students here with a broader ...

Nanotechnology – has the UK dropped the nano-ball?

July 8, 2011

I must confess to being rather saddened this morning to read Roger Highfield’s New Scientist blog on the state of nanotechnology in the UK.  Hot on the heels of reports that the company Nanoco is threatening to leave Britain for more fertile grounds, it left me wondering what has happened ...

Don’t define nanomaterials – new commentary in Nature and an early draft

July 6, 2011

One of the problems with publishing in journals like Nature is that it can get a little pricey for people to read your work if they (or their organization) don’t subscribe.  For instance, if you want to read the commentary I’ve just had published on defining engineered nanomaterials for regulatory ...

A nanotechnology regulation hat trick from the US federal government

June 10, 2011

It must be Nanotechnology Regulation week in Washington DC.  Yesterday, two federal agencies and the White House released documents that grapple with the effective regulation of products that depend on engineered nanomaterials. In a joint memorandum, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget and the ...

Responsible development of… Unobtanium?

June 4, 2011

I thought I’d post this spoof presentation for the fun of it on the responsible development of “unobtainium”, which seems to have some remarkable similarities with some other emerging technologies: If you’re a little mystified, blame David Berube – who encouraged the initial idea, and embellished it in his own presentation ...

The ultimate rules list for accepting speaking engagements

May 30, 2011

I think I might have just accepted one speaking engagement too many!  After years of patiently bearing the brunt of my grueling travel schedule, my wife Clare has finally put her foot down.  Sorry folks – if you want me to speak at your meeting, these are the new rules! After ...

International Standards Organization guidelines for evaluating nanomaterial risks – are they any good?

May 26, 2011

In June 2005, the chairman and CEO of DuPont, together with the President of the Environmental Defense Fund, co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “Let’s Get nanotech Right”.  The piece called for broad multi-stakeholder collaborations to help identify and address potential health, safety and environmental issues arising ...

Australian Education Union advises against using nanoparticle-based sunscreens in schools

May 22, 2011

Last week, the Victoria branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU) passed a resolution recommending that “workplaces use only nanoparticle-free sunscreen” and that sunscreens used by members on children are selected from those “highlighted in the Safe Sunshine Guide produced by Friends of the Earth” as being nano-free.  The AEU ...

A new look for the US National Nanotechnology Initiative

May 16, 2011

A few weeks ago, the US National Nanotechnology Initiative website – www.nano.gov – underwent a much-needed facelift.  The NNI’s web portal was creaky when I was part of the Initiative several years ago now.  And it’s somewhat ironic that the world’s leading interagency initiative on one of the most prominent ...

Optogenetics and mind control – on the borders of the plausible?

May 8, 2011

Tomorrow, I will be speaking at the Marshal M. Weinberg Seminar on Optogenetic Manipulation of the Brain at the University of Michigan – not a subject I must admit that I am that familiar with.  Fortunately, there are other speakers who will be doing much of the heavy-lifting, including Karl ...

Peer review in a pool of one

May 2, 2011

Exploring new ideas, messing around with disciplinary boundaries, making unusual and innovative connections – surely that’s what cutting edge research is supposed to be about these days?  Certainly it’s something many researchers aspire to – at least on those grant proposals where “interdisciplinary”, “Multidisciplinary” and even “transdisciplinary” are essential buzz-words.  ...

Social media and science communication – the backup video!

April 27, 2011

Yesterday I have the rather odd experience of opening the media140 meeting on the impact of social technologies on science communication in Brisbane Australia – from my basement in Michigan, USA.  Skyping into the meeting, it was hard to tell whether I was making sense, or just taking the title ...

Regulating emerging technologies – Science & Public Participation top a new White House set of principles

April 16, 2011

Cross-posted from The Risk Science Blog: Back in 2007 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a set of “Principles for Nanotechnology Environmental, Health and Safety Oversight” (no longer available on the OSTP website it seems, but you can read them in this Nanowerk article). At the ...

James Gleick’s Chaos – the enhanced edition

April 9, 2011

In 1987 I got my Bachelor of Science in physics, Prozac was launched in the US, and James Gleick published Chaos.  I don’t think the middle one has any bearing on the other two.  But the first and last are tentatively linked because, despite being completely jazzed on physics, I ...