Is 3D printing an artificial brain plausible? And what are the risks?

December 11, 2014

Could we one day 3D print Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brain?  Before you ask, yes, this is a post about risk.  And no, I’m not talking about the dangers of immortalizing the star of Terminator Genisys‘ real-life biological brain. But to begin somewhere near the beginning: 3D Printing 3D printing – and additive manufacturing more broadly – are ...

Researchers should take more responsibility for exaggeration in press releases

December 10, 2014

According to a new paper in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), exaggerated claims in health-related news stories — including advice that isn’t supported by evidence — may often have their roots in academic press releases and the scientists that sanction them.   The paper highlights conflicting interests in the flow of information from ...

Has anyone heard of BPA?

December 1, 2014

While writing a recent article on BPA-free labeling, I happened to mention the topic of bisphenol-A to a couple of smart people I know.  “bis-what?” came the response.  Thinking they just weren’t familiar with the chemical’s full name, I went on “you know, BPA – the chemical that all the fuss was about in ...

New study shows “BPA-free” labels may increase risky behavior

December 1, 2014

Products with the label “BPA-free” have become ubiquitous on store shelves in recent years.  It’s a trend that has been driven by consumer concerns that the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA, may be harmful at low doses.  Yet a recent study suggests that the label may mislead consumers into thinking that “free” means “safer” — even when ...

Why don’t more people get flu shots?

November 29, 2014

A few weeks ago I talked with Katie Wells at Michigan Radio about why some people are reluctant to get flu shots – myself included up to last year. The interview was rebroadcast on Marketplace this last week, and can be heard here: The prompt for the story was this video I ...

Will calorie labels counter cancer?

November 26, 2014

Two related news items caught my eye this morning: First, the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has just published a new study in The Lancet claiming that in 2012, between 3% – 6% of all cancers around the world were attributable to high Body Mass Index ...

The low-down on vaping and health

November 19, 2014

Vaping has come of age it seems – at least according to the Oxford Dictionaries.  The word “vape”, which is synonymous with electronic cigarette use, has been selected as the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2014. So what is vaping, and what are the health risks?  Vaping does after all mimic cigarette smoking, and ...

A decade of uncertainty in nanoscale science and engineering

November 18, 2014

First published in Nature Nanotechnology, 5 March 2014.  Nature Nanotechnology 9, 159–160 (2014) doi:10.1038/nnano.2014.43  Ten years after the publication of an influential report on the uncertainties in nanoscale science and engineering, are we in danger of creating a new metaphorical grey goo? In 2004, the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering ...

A Scientist’s Manifesto

November 16, 2014

Four years ago I posted Professor Robert Winston’s “Scientist’s Manifesto” on 2020 Science.  Having just gone back and read this, it still resonate deeply with me – so I’m reposting it in the hope that it will also resonate with others: 1.  We should try to communicate our work as effectively as possible, because ...

Mapping global risks and opportunities in 2015

November 7, 2014

Over the next few days, I’ll be joining experts from around the world to address emerging global trends and challenges at the World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda.  Framing our discussions will be the just-released Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015 – a synthesis of leading expertise from around ...

Risk Bites: Five awesome reasons to subscribe

November 3, 2014

Between now and the end of the year, we’re aiming to reach 10,000 subscribers on the Risk Bites YouTube channel, and we need your help.  To find out how, click here or check out the #RiskBites10k hashtag on Twitter  Otherwise, keep on reading to find out more. Almost two years ago we launched Risk ...

Framing Emerging Technologies

November 2, 2014

How do we chart a path forward toward the effective and responsible development and use of new technologies?  For the next two years, the World Economic Forum Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies will be tackling this and other questions as it develops ways of supporting informed decisions on technology innovation in ...

Google goes all Polio and Public Health

October 28, 2014

If you hadn’t noticed, today’s Google doodle celebrates the 100 year anniversary of Jonas Salk’s birth – Salk pioneered the first successful inactivated virus based vaccine for Polio. As The Guardian reminds us, it’s a good reminder of the power of vaccines.  It’s also a timely reminder of the importance of public ...

BPA and cash register receipts: should you be worried?

October 26, 2014

I’m a bit of a cash register receipt junkie.  I obsessively stuff my wallet with those little slips of thermal paper telling me how much I’ve spent.  And it has to be paper – none of this e-receipt nonsense.  But an article published last week in the journal PLOS One gave me ...

Combatting Ebola: Moving beyond the hype

October 24, 2014

As of October 19, over 9,000 cases of Ebola had been reported, with close to 5,000 deaths, almost exclusively in West Africa.  And while there have been success stories such as the elimination of Ebola infections from Nigeria and Senegal, the numbers of cases in vulnerable economies continues to grow. While Ebola is unlikely ...

Five things worth knowing about ebola

October 23, 2014

There’s something rather human about being scared of the ebola virus.  It’s a “bogeyman” virus – the stuff of nightmares; hovering in the shadows of our imagination like a half-glimpsed specter.  Like most imagined horrors though, the reality of ebola is much more mundane. The latest episode of Risk Bites takes ...

Risky tales: Talking with Seth Shostak at Big Picture Science

October 21, 2014

I had a roller coaster of an interview with Seth Shostak (Director of the Center for SETI Research and host of Big Picture Science) last week on risk and black swan events. I was poised to talk about rare but high impact events like a mega-eruption at Yellowstone National Park, or a ...

This is Environmental Health Science

October 17, 2014

We’ve just posted a new video about the University of Michigan Environmental Health Science department that I’m quite pleased with. It’s aimed at students who may be interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the environmental health sciences (and perhaps don’t know this yet!), but it’s also a great 30,000 foot introduction ...

Building trust between academics and journalists

October 13, 2014

As an academic, speaking with reporters can be nerve wracking.  The gut-wrench is palpable as you click on the article that follows, unsure of whether the person you spoke with has got it right, or created a train wreck with your name splattered all over it. Building trust Over the years, I’ve learnt ...

Ebola virus: Insights from University of Michigan Experts

October 12, 2014

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been posting articles on the ebola outbreak from University of Michigan experts. As concern continues to grow over the outbreak, we’ve collected these together on the Risk Science Center Ebola Virus Topic Page, and will continue to add to this as new articles are posted. Current articles include ...