Geoengineering the planet with nanotechnology ice-cream?

July 5, 2009

Scientists and engineers have their moments. But it they are hard pressed to beat art students when it comes to sheer audacious creativity. Earlier this year I received an email so intriguing I couldn’t help but follow up on it. The email was from Zoe Papadopoulou, an MA student ...

Industry critics give nanotechnology sunscreens the thumbs up

July 3, 2009

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) – a US-based non-profit organization committed to using public information to protect public health and the environment – has just released what is probably the most comprehensive evaluation to date of the safety and effectiveness of using titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens.  ...

Nanotechnology on Twit TV’s Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour

July 2, 2009

Just a quick post (at least, as far as the text goes). Last week, I had the pleasure of appearing on Twit TV’s Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour with Kristen Sanford and Leo Laporte. The conversation covered nanotechnology from every conceivable angle. I should have known with Leo’s ...

Can innovation tunneling help organizations survive disruptive change?

July 1, 2009

A couple of days ago, @michael_nielsen posted a thoughtful article on his blog tackling rapid and disruptive changes in the scientific publishing business – especially the challenge of overcoming organizational immune systems that actively obstruct change and adaptation. Reading through the piece, I was particularly struck by his conceptualization of ...

Celebrity scientists – it takes more than stardust

June 27, 2009

It’s been a few weeks now since the men’s style magazine GQ launched the “Rock Stars of Science” campaign.  I’m a staunch advocate of raising science’s profile, but the whole campaign has had me on edge, and I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on why.  Was it ...

Confluence: Where communication, coupling and control collide

June 26, 2009

Part 7 of a series on rethinking science and technology for the 21st century Yesterday, I listened to respected economists discussing geoengineering; gave a Skype interview on nanotechnology from the comfort of my own home; and watched as reactions to Michael Jackson’s death spread through virtual web-based communities.  Twenty years ago, ...

Science influence on Twitter – June update

June 23, 2009

Back in April I posted data on three indicators of “influence” for ~400 science-focused Twitter users – based on David Bradley’s list of “Scientific Twitter Friends.” Intrigued to see how these Tweeps’ influence evolves over time, I will be updating these data periodically. In this first update (aided and abetted by ...

Would you use mental ability-enhancing drugs? Take the (anonymous) poll:

June 19, 2009

Poll closed 26 June – see the results below.  I’ll be writing on this in a week or so Would you – or do you – use drugs like Ritalin, donepezil or modafinil to improve your mental ability? I’m interested in getting a sense of current use and attitudes, and would love ...

A cautious thumbs up for synthetic biology from the UK public

June 18, 2009

According to a new public opinion survey from the UK Royal Academy of Engineering, the great British public is cautiously enthusiastic about the emerging field of synthetic biology. Last summer, the  Washington DC-based Synthetic Biology Project published a survey of US awareness and attitudes towards synbio.  The new  study builds on ...

Nanotechnology: Ensuring success through safety

June 16, 2009

This month’s issue of the magazine Science & Technology takes a closer look at some of the controversies, dilemmas and decisions that will impact on the future development of the science and technology of working at the nanoscale.  Amongst the commentaries is a short piece I wrote about the importance ...

Geoengineering: Are we grown up enough to handle it?

June 14, 2009

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to unite global warming “denialists” on both sides of the aisle, it’s geoengineering – the intentional planet-wide manipulation of the environment.  At least, you might be left with that impression after reading the comments following a thoughtful piece in Monday’s Wall Street Journal by ...

Science minister’s question time

June 9, 2009

This afternoon, a riveting and possibly ground-breaking conversation evolved in real time on the social media platform Twitter.  Yesterday, writer and broadcaster Colin Stuart (@skyponderer on Twitter) raised concerns about the new dual-role of UK Science Minister Lord Drayson – Drayson has just been made Minister of Defense Procurement as ...

To tweet or not to tweet – social media and the scientific meeting

June 3, 2009

Should live tweeting and blogging from scientific meetings be controlled? Back in May, Daniel MacArthur – a researcher and blogger – wrote a number of on-the-spot blogs on the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Biology of Genomes meeting.  By all accounts a number of people were tweeting and blogging from the ...

Nanoscale control: Leveraging biology

June 1, 2009

Part 6 of a series on rethinking science and technology for the 21st century The story so far: We are facing an unprecedented confluence of three factors that are forcing us to rethink how we develop and use science and technology to the benefit of society.  Coupling between our action’s and ...

Steve Chu’s White Revolution

May 27, 2009

It feels good to be ahead of the curve sometimes. About this time last year, I was slaving away painting my roof white – much to the bemusement of my Northern Virginia neighbors and friends. So I couldn’t help feeling just a little smug this morning as I ...

Nanotechnology: From nano-novice to nano-genius in 13 steps

May 26, 2009

Back in April, the folks at the PBS station THIRTEEN asked me to answer 13 questions on nanotechnology and the environment for their website feature Green Thirteen.   The questions ended up covering most of nanotechnology – what it is, what it’s good for, what the downsides might be, and how ...

Nanotechnology safety research funding on the up

May 21, 2009

The unthinkable has happened!  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is poised to get $5 million in crisp new dollars for researching possible workplace risks arising from nanotechnology.  It may not sound like a big deal.  But believe me—it is… Back in 2005, NIOSH spent $3 million on ...

Roll over nanotechnology, synthetic biology is coming!

May 18, 2009

So you’re looking for a new technology concept—something that will stimulate research funding, make a buck or two, and maybe save the world—at least for another year or so.  What do you need? Here’s a quick checklist: Something that’s revolutionary. Evolutionary change doesn’t hack it these days I’m afraid—your new technology needs ...

The long shout

May 13, 2009

In the long run, does art trump science? Lateral communication—sending information from point to point around the world—is so fast and efficient these days that we tend to take it for granted.  But how good are we at passing information forward in time—what you might call longitudinal communication?  If we wanted ...

Cultural smokescreens

May 6, 2009

50 years on, have we missed the point of C.P. Snow’s “Two-cultures?” 50 years ago, long before Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme,” the British scientist, public figure and novelist Charles Percy Snow planted an idea into the collective consciousness that has since grown to have a profound influence on science ...