Science, technology and the three “C’s:” Communication, Coupling and Control

March 19, 2009

Part 1 of a series on rethinking science and technology for the 21st century We live in a crowded, science and technology-dependent word.  And things aren’t getting any better!  The global population is currently around 6.8 billion.  Over the next four years it’s projected to grow to over 7 billion.  And ...

Working safely with carbon nanotubes

March 17, 2009

So you want to make or use carbon nanotubes, but you are worried about handling then safely.  What do you do?  The good news is that the UK Health and Safety Executive has just published an information sheet that addresses just this question.  Risk management of carbon nanotubes is (according ...

Rethinking science and technology for the 21st century

March 13, 2009

Like it or not, society is dependent on science and technology.  The only way we can cram 6 billion people plus onto the earth and use resources at the rate we do, is through the support of scientific discovery and technology innovation.  Take our technology-based infrastructure away and civilization as ...

Deconstructing the “Fry Event Horizon”

March 6, 2009

I’ve been intending writing about Ray Kurzweil and the technological singularity for some time now.  This isn’t that blog—it is a Friday evening after all, at the end of a long week.  But it is connected with some of the ideas behind the singularity. Instead, I’m going to write about the ...

Nanotechnology risk research, ten years on

March 2, 2009

Ten years ago to the month, one of the first research reports detailing the challenges of ensuring the safe use of engineered nanomaterials was delivered to the UK Health and Safety Executive.  The report wasn’t for general release, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a copy of it in ...

Science, society and the Second Enlightenment

February 23, 2009

It’s barely a month since Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place” and already there has been widespread discussion over what this rightful place might be—spurred on in no small part by science and technology provisions in the recently passed stimulus bill.  Not surprisingly, the role science should ...

In space, no one can hear you scream – unless you’re in a sci-flick!

February 16, 2009

If you want to annoy a scientist, show them a movie that gets the little details wrong—like the fact that sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum, or biologists always have a box of Kim Wipes within arms-reach. If you want to annoy anyone else, put them in the same room with ...

Darwin, evolution, and the genesis of intelligent design

February 11, 2009

Charles Darwin has a lot to answer for.  He saw the world with new eyes, fundamentally changed our understanding of nature, and upset a lot of people in the process.  200 years after his birth, Darwin’s work underpins modern biology.  His findings still challenge, stimulate and—amazingly—offend people the world over.  ...

Thank goodness for Sir Robert

February 5, 2009

I’ve been sitting here for over half an hour, trying to work out how to start this blog in an engaging and witty way, but have failed miserably—it’s been a long day!  Instead, let me come straight to the point, because it’s quite a simple one—please read Sir Robert Winston’s ...

Managing the small stuff – a visual nanotechnology primer

February 2, 2009

Nanotechnology: What is it, what can it do, what are the downsides, and how can we ensure it reaches its full potential? http://www.youtube.com/v/JOAZwv6UJz4 Managing the Small Stuff. Also available in High Definition on Vimeo The promise and challenges of nanotechnology is something I lecture on a lot.  And when I do, I’m inevitably ...

Revisiting the Civic Scientist

February 1, 2009

Reading through the various science and technology offerings on the web this morning, I was struck by a conversation between Houston Chronicle reporter Eric Berger and Neal Lane, former National Science Foundation director and science advisor to President Clinton.  Not surprisingly, towards the top of the conversation is President Obama’s ...

Geoengineering: Does it need a dose of geoethics?

January 28, 2009

It’s been a big week for geoengineering.  First there was the news that the world’s largest geoengineering experiment to date is about to start in the Southern Ocean.  Following close behind was a new study on how geoengineering projects could potentially impact global climate change, ranging from covering vast tracts ...

All you wanted to know about nanotechnology, from a pack of Mentos and a bottle of Coke

January 25, 2009

I spend quite a bit of my time talking to different groups about nanotechnology, including its potential and its challenges. And as a result, I’m constantly on the prowl for new ways of illustrating why nanotechnology is important. In particular, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a quick and ...

Asbestos-like nanomaterials – should we be concerned?

January 23, 2009

I’m afraid the “A” word just won’t go away.  It seems that every time people start thinking about the possible health effects of long, thin, fibrous nanomaterials, the question pops up “is this the next asbestos?”  You’d have thought that the issue would have been resolved by now—after all, nanomaterials ...

A red-letter day for science and technology

January 20, 2009

As Barack Obama takes the oath and is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States, many are anticipating a new era of socially relevant science and technology.  Having run one of the most technologically savvy campaigns in recent times—possibly ever—Obama’s transition teams continued to break new ground in ...

Nanotechnology, science and public engagement—lessons from the UK

January 13, 2009

Public engagement was a key feature in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and has been front and foremost in the transition between the old administration and the new.  You only have to check out change.gov to see how ideas are evolving on soliciting and evaluating opinions from a broad swath of ...

Scientific knowledge, and the “pay to play” culture

January 7, 2009

Here’s a bit of trivia to brighten your day:  Between 2000 and 2007, Chinese scientists published roughly one nanotoxicology paper for every ten million people in the country.  In contrast, US scientists published twenty-five nanotoxicology papers for every ten million citizens. I know this because I have just read a fascinating ...

Five more good books

December 31, 2008

Science gone right, science gone wrong, science gone social, science gone political—it’s all here in five off-beat book recommendations to kick off 2009.  Ranging from Darwin’s Origin of Species to Sir Terry Pratchett’s Nation, the one thing I think I can guarantee is that you will struggle to find an ...

Biohacking—synthetic biology for the technologically marginalized

December 26, 2008

Last June I wrote a short piece on biohacking, prompted by a UK report on the social and ethical challenges of synthetic biology.  At the time, I though the aspirations of the nascent biopunk community naively optimistic, but potentially worrying.  Six months on, biohacking is hitting the mainstream press—and gaining ...

A "manifesto" for socially-relevant science and technology

December 24, 2008

In 2003, Harvard University’s Sheila Jasanoff wrote about what she termed “Technologies of Humility.” Recognizing the growing disconnect between technological progress and its effective governance, Jasanoff explored new approaches to decision-making that “seek to integrate the ‘can-do’ orientation of science and engineering with the ‘should-do’ questions of ethical and political ...