I got notification (thank you to the folks at the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies) that the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will have a live webcast of a March 12, 2010 (this Friday) meeting. The National Nanotechnology Initiative is due to be reviewed at 2 pm EST on the proposed agenda. You can find the agenda (in the text on the page) and click through to the webcast (on the menu to the left of the page text) on this page. As a consequence of this announcement, tomorrow’s posting will be brief as I make time for the webcast (even though I suspect this is another of those events that are of more interest to government folks).
I have a new item to add to my store of articles about making textiles that harvest energy and conduct electricity. From the news item on Azonano,
The research group of Juan Hinestroza, assistant professor of Fiber Science, in collaboration with researchers at Italian universities has developed cotton threads that can conduct electric current like metal wire, yet remain light and comfortable enough to give a whole new meaning to multi-functional garments. This technology works so well that simple knots in this specially treated thread can complete a circuit – and a solar-powered dress with this technology will be featured at the annual Cornell Design League Fashion Show on Saturday, March 13 at Cornell University’s Barton Hall.
This isn’t the first time Cornell University has featured nano textiles in their fashion show. You can go here to my wiki, The Nanotech Mysteries, to see some of their earlier work.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything about auditory nanotechnology. Most of the material has been about radio (you can go here on The Nanotech Mysteries wiki for an example) although there have been other developments as well such as this from the news item on Nanowerk,
A UT Dallas team’s study published in the Journal of Applied Physics expands the extraordinary capabilities of nanotechnology to include laser-powered acoustic speakers made from assemblies of carbon nanotubes (“Sound of carbon nanotube assemblies”).
Although prior studies demonstrated that sheets of carbon nanotubes can produce sound when heated with alternating electrical current, the UT Dallas researchers have found that striking tones can be generated by vertical arrays of nanotubes, called forests, which resemble black velvet.
I wonder if whoever wrote the item was alluding, in the last line I’ve excerpted. to the old song, Blue Velvet. While it’s not stated explicitly in the news item on Science Daily, I suspect these ‘musical’ textiles are also examples of nano-enabled technology,
In the future it may be considerably easier for orchestras to tour. Jeannine Han, who is in the second year of her master’s program in textiles and fashion design at the Swedish School of Textiles in Borås, Sweden, working together with technician Dan Riley, has developed clothing that plays music when touched.
“The outfit is made of material with integrated sensors that react when someone comes close or touches it,” says Dan Riley, who was responsible for the technology.
You can see a video of the musical textiles here. I don’t think they’re ready for prime time yet but I find the idea of musical clothing amusing.
At the risk of turning this into Andrew Maynard (2020 Science blog) week, I have to note two more of his recent postings. The first is about science, risk, and trust. It was occasioned by a new report, Starting a National Conversation about Good Science, published by the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Expert Group on Science and Trust. The report is available from here.
With regard to the report, you have to communicate in order to have trust. You cannot develop trust without it. You also can’t assume that once you’ve developed trust that it will continue to exist indefinitely without further work. That’s why I think these kinds of reports are so important.
From the Canadian perspective, I would think the UK report would be better titled as Continuing and Improving the National Conversation on Good Science, as I look upon their science communication efforts with some envy. From Andrew’s post about the report,
It comes out of a group assembled to consider new mechanisms to increase public trust in science and engineering; review the impact of the existing science-related ethical code of practice; examine how movement of knowledge and people across the different sectors can be facilitated in order to maximize the benefits and impacts of science and society activities; and think about better ways to evaluate the impacts of science and society initiatives. Despite this being a purely British affair, many of the recommendations are relevant far beyond the confines of a UK-centered “national conversation,” and will hopefully stimulate a global dialogue on what is a global challenge.
This emphasis on uncertainty is particularly welcome, and closely aligns with where I hope to be taking the University of Michigan Risk Science Center over the next few years. New technologies – or innovative ways of using existing technologies for that matter – lead to inherently uncertain futures. There is a great danger of mistaking this uncertainty for risk (risk is a reasonably well-understood chance of something bad happening; uncertainty is a poor understanding of whether good or bad will come out of a course of action) – with the result that there is a tendency to shy away from potentially beneficial technologies, simply because we don’t know how they are going to unfold.
Andrew’s comments are quite timely as I’ve just received a notice about an NDP (New Democrat Party of Canada) bill to include nanotechnology in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. From the news item on Canada Views,
Peter Julian, MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, today tabled Bill C-494 in the House of Commons that will include nanotechnology in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and require the Health and Environment Ministers to act.
“There is a need for public policy governed by the precautionary principle,” said Julian. “We need a proper balance between protecting Canadians from potential harmful consequences and allowing us to reap the benefits of nanotechnologies. This Bill fulfills that need for sound legislative guidance.”
The proposed amendments to the Act will help implement a national strategy to guide the development of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is the application of science and engineering to the design and manipulation of materials at the atomic, molecular or macromolecular scale with the view of enhancing its performance or quality.
The bill, which was seconded by New Democrat Environment Critic Linda Duncan, includes risk assessment procedures prior to a nanomaterial or nanoproduct release into the marketplace, the environment, or Canadians. A public inventory ofnanotechnology and nanomaterials in Canada will be established. The bill complements regulatory initiatives underway in the EU, Australia, the UK and the US as well as proactive provinces like Québec and Alberta.
Intriguingly, Julian is the NDP’s national critic for the International Trade, Asia-Pacific Gateway, and Olympics 2010 portfolios and their Science critic, Jim Malloway is not mentioned anywhere in the item.
I am concerned about Julian’s reference to the ‘precautionary principle’ which as far as I can tell is being gently integrated into more dynamic and progessive principles for addressing risk, uncertainties, and concerns about emerging technologies such as nanotechnology. There is also no mention of public discussion or conversation about nanotechnology or any other emerging technologies.
Getting back to Andrew Maynard week, his second posting concerns itself with public engagement. He starts off by commenting about his view of the situation in the US,
I was at a meeting a couple of weeks ago where engaging the public (or “publics” to be more accurate) in science came up. In the course of discussions, I mentioned an initiative by Research Councils UK to involve members of the public in developing a call for research proposals on the use of nanotechnology in healthcare. To which one eminent US scientist responded with words to the effect of “that sounds like a really bad idea!”
The exchange confirmed a suspicion I have had for some time that public engagement on science isn’t taken that seriously in the US. Sure, there’s lots going on at various levels to communicate science to the US public, and to make sure people put science “in its rightful place” in their lives – which to most scientists is somewhere above God and family. But strategic and coordinated action on engaging people – entering into a two-way exchange of ideas that potentially influences both sides – that’s much harder to find.
The comments are preparatory to a discussion about some reports on public engagement and why it’s not just a ‘good idea’ but a valuable idea. The reports were issued by Research Councils UK. Ordinarily I’d include links to the report but I want to encourage (a little more vigorously than usual) that you check out Andrew’s post and the comments that follow. One that particularly caught my eye was from Dexter Johnson (nanoclast) about the responsibility for engagement being dual. The public has to inform itself.
Tomorrow will feature a short posting.