World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers 2015 Announced

August 26, 2014

As a member of the selection committee for the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers, it’s always exciting to see which companies made the bar each year. This year’s Technology Pioneers have just been announced.  They represent 24 of the world’s most innovative and pioneering technology companies. The tech pioneers for 2015 include companies that ...

To Engineer is Human

August 26, 2014

I’ve just had my attention drawn to this inspiring 2 minute video on engineering from University of Michigan PhD student Barry Belmont:   The video’s part of the National Academy of Engineering Engineering for You Video Contest. What I like about it is the way it connects advances in engineering to our needs, hopes and ...

While the world watches Ebola, Meningitis continues to kill in West Africa

August 24, 2014

“This year alone, there have been 17,000 cases of meningitis in Nigeria, with nearly 1,000 deaths”. It’s a statement that jumped out at me watching a video from this summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival by my former University of Michigan Public Health student Utibe Effiong. With the current focus on Ebola, it’s easy to forget ...

Advanced Materials – What’s the big deal?

August 20, 2014

Why are materials important? How do they limit what we can achieve? And what can we do to change this?  (Check out the videos below). Advanced Materials Materials and how we use them are inextricably linked to the development of human society.  Yet amazing as historic achievements using stone, wood, metals and other ...

Is early development exposure to lead linked to obesity later in life?

August 8, 2014

A few of my colleagues in the University of Michigan Environmental Health Sciences Department have just published an interesting paper linking lead exposure to obesity in mice (Faulk et al. Perinatal Lead (Pb) Exposure Results in Sex-Specific Effects on Food Intake, Fat, Weight, and Insulin Response across the Murine Life-Course PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104273). While ...

Confessions of a Scientist Communicator

August 5, 2014

I consider myself to be pretty self-aware.  It’s an illusion of course, but one I am usually blissfully ignorant of. Until some insightful reporter shatters it! This was me a few days ago.  I was talking with a journalist about science communication and the perils and pitfalls faced by young scientists.  As I ...

How far should universities go in hyping research?

August 1, 2014

An article passed through my Twitter stream today from Gizmodo shouting out “Change Your Hair Color By Etching Nano-Patterns Into Each Strand”. It pretty much mirrors a press release from the University of New Mexico claiming “New technology allows hair to reflect almost any color”. Carbon-copy reporting is pretty much standard these days in science ...

Hacking the world, public health style

July 29, 2014

What has the Maker Movement got to do with public health? Quite a lot as it turns out, as I explore in the latest Risk Bites video.  This in turn was inspired by being invited to talk at the inaugural We Make Health Fest in Ann Arbor.   Tinkerers When I was a kid, ...

Q&A on Nanotech regulation in Europe

July 25, 2014

Chemistry World posted a good article yesterday on nanotech regulation in Europe (Europe mulls best way to handle nanotech by Andrew Williams).  I have a couple of quotes in the piece, along with Risk Science Center colleague Diana Bowman).  These are taken from a longer set of responses to questions from Williams, which ...

Six years of nanoparticle sunscreen safety scribblings

July 24, 2014

I was going through the 2020 Science archives the other day looking for pieces on nanoparticles and sunscreens, and was rather shocked to see that the earliest article dates back to 2008! Here they are in chronological order – surprising how little things change with time!  The 2010 exchange with Friends of ...

The antibiotics challenge

July 23, 2014

Neil Hawkins at Dow Chemical tweeted me a link to this piece in the New York Times this morning: A Dearth in Innovation for Key Drugs (Eduardo Porter) There is clearly something wrong with pharmaceutical innovation. Antibiotic-resistant infections sicken more than two million Americans every year and kill at least 23,000. The ...

When risk gets personal

July 22, 2014

When you’re facing a life or death situation, what do the odds mean – to you personally?  As Brian Zikmund-Fisher from the University of Michigan School of Public Health pointed out to Robert Siegel on NPR yesterday, “We’re never 95 percent alive. We either live or die. We experience outcomes”.  Brian’s ...

The gathering storm of lab safety

July 20, 2014

Pathogen safety in federal labs Over the past few weeks, revelations of potentially dangerous errors in US federal labs handling pathogens have placed health and safety high on the national agenda.  In June, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced as many as 75 of its staff may have been exposed to ...

Who’s afraid of carbon nanotubes?

July 18, 2014

I’ve been fascinated by the coverage of Surrey nanosystems’ carbon nanotube-based Vantablack material this week. The material’s had widespread coverage – just Google “vantablack” to see what I mean.  But in amongst all the geeked-out media excitement over the world’s darkest material, there’s been nary a word on the possible health risks ...

New York Times does nanoparticles in sunscreens

July 17, 2014

What are the risks of nanoparticles in sunscreens? The New York Times has just posted an “Ask Well” article today by Deborah Blum answering the questions What are the risks from nanoparticles of titanium in sunscreens? and I am curious about the dangers of nanoparticles in sunblocks Risk Bites As I uploaded a YouTube video recently ...

How safe is the world’s darkest material?

July 16, 2014

Vantablack – the new black? Over the past few days, the interweb’s been awash with virtual “oohs” and “ahs” over Surrey Nanosystems’ carbon nanotube-based Vantablack coating.  The material – which absorbs over 99.9% of light falling onto it and is claimed to be the world’s darkest material – is made up of ...

Nanotubes create the blackest black – Douglas Adams would be proud

July 14, 2014

If your nanotechnology stream is anything like mine today, it will have been swamped by accounts like this one of “Vantablack” fabric – supposedly the world-s blackest-ever material! The material relies on a carbon nanotube forest that absorbs 99.965% of visible light that lands on it.  Putting aside the questions of safety, ...

Nanoparticle donut math – crunching the numbers

July 14, 2014

Having written yesterday about nanoparticle titanium dioxide (TiO2) concentrations in donuts, Raphaël Lévy asked for some clarification on where I got my figures from.  I thought it easiest to post the analysis in full – it goes a little deep into particle analysis, but on the other hand it’s also a ...

Nanoparticles in Dunkin’ Donuts? Do the math!

July 12, 2014

Nanoparticles in food products Over the past couple of years a number of articles have been posted claiming that we’re eating more food products containing nanoparticles than we know (remember this piece from a couple of weeks ago?).  One of the latest appeared on The Guardian website yesterday with the headline “Activists take aim at ...

Nanojuice for GI tract imaging – is it safe?

July 11, 2014

Nanojuice: drinkable nanoparticles for studying the gut Over the past few days, my news and social media streams have been inundated by articles on “nanojuice”.  The “juice” – developed by researchers at the University of Buffalo and published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology – is a suspension of light-absorbing nanoparticles which, ...