Tag Archives: Philip Shapira

A transatlantic report highlighting the risks and opportunities associated with synthetic biology and bioengineering

I love e-Life, the open access journal where its editors noted that a submitted synthetic biology and bioengineering report was replete with US and UK experts (along with a European or two) but no expert input from other parts of the world. In response the authors added ‘transatlantic’ to the title. It was a good decision since it was too late to add any new experts if the authors planned to have their paper published in the foreseeable future.

I’ve commented many times here when panels of experts include only Canadian, US, UK, and, sometimes, European or Commonwealth (Australia/New Zealand) experts that we need to broaden our perspectives and now I can add: or at least acknowledge (e.g. transatlantic) that the perspectives taken are reflective of a rather narrow range of countries.

Now getting to the report, here’s more from a November 21, 2017 University of Cambridge press release,

Human genome editing, 3D-printed replacement organs and artificial photosynthesis – the field of bioengineering offers great promise for tackling the major challenges that face our society. But as a new article out today highlights, these developments provide both opportunities and risks in the short and long term.

Rapid developments in the field of synthetic biology and its associated tools and methods, including more widely available gene editing techniques, have substantially increased our capabilities for bioengineering – the application of principles and techniques from engineering to biological systems, often with the goal of addressing ‘real-world’ problems.

In a feature article published in the open access journal eLife, an international team of experts led by Dr Bonnie Wintle and Dr Christian R. Boehm from the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, capture perspectives of industry, innovators, scholars, and the security community in the UK and US on what they view as the major emerging issues in the field.

Dr Wintle says: “The growth of the bio-based economy offers the promise of addressing global environmental and societal challenges, but as our paper shows, it can also present new kinds of challenges and risks. The sector needs to proceed with caution to ensure we can reap the benefits safely and securely.”

The report is intended as a summary and launching point for policy makers across a range of sectors to further explore those issues that may be relevant to them.

Among the issues highlighted by the report as being most relevant over the next five years are:

Artificial photosynthesis and carbon capture for producing biofuels

If technical hurdles can be overcome, such developments might contribute to the future adoption of carbon capture systems, and provide sustainable sources of commodity chemicals and fuel.

Enhanced photosynthesis for agricultural productivity

Synthetic biology may hold the key to increasing yields on currently farmed land – and hence helping address food security – by enhancing photosynthesis and reducing pre-harvest losses, as well as reducing post-harvest and post-consumer waste.

Synthetic gene drives

Gene drives promote the inheritance of preferred genetic traits throughout a species, for example to prevent malaria-transmitting mosquitoes from breeding. However, this technology raises questions about whether it may alter ecosystems [emphasis mine], potentially even creating niches where a new disease-carrying species or new disease organism may take hold.

Human genome editing

Genome engineering technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 offer the possibility to improve human lifespans and health. However, their implementation poses major ethical dilemmas. It is feasible that individuals or states with the financial and technological means may elect to provide strategic advantages to future generations.

Defence agency research in biological engineering

The areas of synthetic biology in which some defence agencies invest raise the risk of ‘dual-use’. For example, one programme intends to use insects to disseminate engineered plant viruses that confer traits to the target plants they feed on, with the aim of protecting crops from potential plant pathogens – but such technologies could plausibly also be used by others to harm targets.

In the next five to ten years, the authors identified areas of interest including:

Regenerative medicine: 3D printing body parts and tissue engineering

While this technology will undoubtedly ease suffering caused by traumatic injuries and a myriad of illnesses, reversing the decay associated with age is still fraught with ethical, social and economic concerns. Healthcare systems would rapidly become overburdened by the cost of replenishing body parts of citizens as they age and could lead new socioeconomic classes, as only those who can pay for such care themselves can extend their healthy years.

Microbiome-based therapies

The human microbiome is implicated in a large number of human disorders, from Parkinson’s to colon cancer, as well as metabolic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Synthetic biology approaches could greatly accelerate the development of more effective microbiota-based therapeutics. However, there is a risk that DNA from genetically engineered microbes may spread to other microbiota in the human microbiome or into the wider environment.

Intersection of information security and bio-automation

Advancements in automation technology combined with faster and more reliable engineering techniques have resulted in the emergence of robotic ‘cloud labs’ where digital information is transformed into DNA then expressed in some target organisms. This opens the possibility of new kinds of information security threats, which could include tampering with digital DNA sequences leading to the production of harmful organisms, and sabotaging vaccine and drug production through attacks on critical DNA sequence databases or equipment.

Over the longer term, issues identified include:

New makers disrupt pharmaceutical markets

Community bio-labs and entrepreneurial startups are customizing and sharing methods and tools for biological experiments and engineering. Combined with open business models and open source technologies, this could herald opportunities for manufacturing therapies tailored to regional diseases that multinational pharmaceutical companies might not find profitable. But this raises concerns around the potential disruption of existing manufacturing markets and raw material supply chains as well as fears about inadequate regulation, less rigorous product quality control and misuse.

Platform technologies to address emerging disease pandemics

Emerging infectious diseases—such as recent Ebola and Zika virus disease outbreaks—and potential biological weapons attacks require scalable, flexible diagnosis and treatment. New technologies could enable the rapid identification and development of vaccine candidates, and plant-based antibody production systems.

Shifting ownership models in biotechnology

The rise of off-patent, generic tools and the lowering of technical barriers for engineering biology has the potential to help those in low-resource settings, benefit from developing a sustainable bioeconomy based on local needs and priorities, particularly where new advances are made open for others to build on.

Dr Jenny Molloy comments: “One theme that emerged repeatedly was that of inequality of access to the technology and its benefits. The rise of open source, off-patent tools could enable widespread sharing of knowledge within the biological engineering field and increase access to benefits for those in developing countries.”

Professor Johnathan Napier from Rothamsted Research adds: “The challenges embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals will require all manner of ideas and innovations to deliver significant outcomes. In agriculture, we are on the cusp of new paradigms for how and what we grow, and where. Demonstrating the fairness and usefulness of such approaches is crucial to ensure public acceptance and also to delivering impact in a meaningful way.”

Dr Christian R. Boehm concludes: “As these technologies emerge and develop, we must ensure public trust and acceptance. People may be willing to accept some of the benefits, such as the shift in ownership away from big business and towards more open science, and the ability to address problems that disproportionately affect the developing world, such as food security and disease. But proceeding without the appropriate safety precautions and societal consensus—whatever the public health benefits—could damage the field for many years to come.”

The research was made possible by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, the Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative (both at the University of Cambridge), and the Future of Humanity Institute (University of Oxford). It was based on a workshop co-funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation and the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

A transatlantic perspective on 20 emerging issues in biological engineering by Bonnie C Wintle, Christian R Boehm, Catherine Rhodes, Jennifer C Molloy, Piers Millett, Laura Adam, Rainer Breitling, Rob Carlson, Rocco Casagrande, Malcolm Dando, Robert Doubleday, Eric Drexler, Brett Edwards, Tom Ellis, Nicholas G Evans, Richard Hammond, Jim Haseloff, Linda Kahl, Todd Kuiken, Benjamin R Lichman, Colette A Matthewman, Johnathan A Napier, Seán S ÓhÉigeartaigh, Nicola J Patron, Edward Perello, Philip Shapira, Joyce Tait, Eriko Takano, William J Sutherland. eLife; 14 Nov 2017; DOI: 10.7554/eLife.30247

This paper is open access and the editors have included their notes to the authors and the authors’ response.

You may have noticed that I highlighted a portion of the text concerning synthetic gene drives. Coincidentally I ran across a November 16, 2017 article by Ed Yong for The Atlantic where the topic is discussed within the context of a project in New Zealand, ‘Predator Free 2050’ (Note: A link has been removed),

Until the 13th century, the only land mammals in New Zealand were bats. In this furless world, local birds evolved a docile temperament. Many of them, like the iconic kiwi and the giant kakapo parrot, lost their powers of flight. Gentle and grounded, they were easy prey for the rats, dogs, cats, stoats, weasels, and possums that were later introduced by humans. Between them, these predators devour more than 26 million chicks and eggs every year. They have already driven a quarter of the nation’s unique birds to extinction.

Many species now persist only in offshore islands where rats and their ilk have been successfully eradicated, or in small mainland sites like Zealandia where they are encircled by predator-proof fences. The songs in those sanctuaries are echoes of the New Zealand that was.

But perhaps, they also represent the New Zealand that could be.

In recent years, many of the country’s conservationists and residents have rallied behind Predator-Free 2050, an extraordinarily ambitious plan to save the country’s birds by eradicating its invasive predators. Native birds of prey will be unharmed, but Predator-Free 2050’s research strategy, which is released today, spells doom for rats, possums, and stoats (a large weasel). They are to die, every last one of them. No country, anywhere in the world, has managed such a task in an area that big. The largest island ever cleared of rats, Australia’s Macquarie Island, is just 50 square miles in size. New Zealand is 2,000 times bigger. But, the country has committed to fulfilling its ecological moonshot within three decades.

In 2014, Kevin Esvelt, a biologist at MIT, drew a Venn diagram that troubles him to this day. In it, he and his colleagues laid out several possible uses for gene drives—a nascent technology for spreading designer genes through groups of wild animals. Typically, a given gene has a 50-50 chance of being passed to the next generation. But gene drives turn that coin toss into a guarantee, allowing traits to zoom through populations in just a few generations. There are a few natural examples, but with CRISPR, scientists can deliberately engineer such drives.

Suppose you have a population of rats, roughly half of which are brown, and the other half white. Now, imagine there is a gene that affects each rat’s color. It comes in two forms, one leading to brown fur, and the other leading to white fur. A male with two brown copies mates with a female with two white copies, and all their offspring inherit one of each. Those offspring breed themselves, and the brown and white genes continue cascading through the generations in a 50-50 split. This is the usual story of inheritance. But you can subvert it with CRISPR, by programming the brown gene to cut its counterpart and replace it with another copy of itself. Now, the rats’ children are all brown-furred, as are their grandchildren, and soon the whole population is brown.

Forget fur. The same technique could spread an antimalarial gene through a mosquito population, or drought-resistance through crop plants. The applications are vast, but so are the risks. In theory, gene drives spread so quickly and relentlessly that they could rewrite an entire wild population, and once released, they would be hard to contain. If the concept of modifying the genes of organisms is already distasteful to some, gene drives magnify that distaste across national, continental, and perhaps even global scales.

These excerpts don’t do justice to this thought-provoking article. If you have time, I recommend reading it in its entirety  as it provides some insight into gene drives and, with some imagination on the reader’s part, the potential for the other technologies discussed in the report.

One last comment, I notice that Eric Drexler is cited as on the report’s authors. He’s familiar to me as K. Eric Drexler, the author of the book that popularized nanotechnology in the US and other countries, Engines of Creation (1986) .

Nanotechnology for Green Innovation report, Canada, and the OECD’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials

I will get to the report in a moment but since it led me on a magical mystery tour through the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and its new website and assorted organizational confusions, I thought I’d share those first.

February 2012 marks the last report from the OECD’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials that I can find. As well, the OECD appears to have changed its website recently (since Feb. 2012) and I find searching it less rewarding.

There’s more, it seems that the Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials either no longer exists or has been subsumed as part of the Working Party on Nanotechnology. I mourn the old nanomaterials working party as I found much valuable information there about the Canadian situation that was available nowhere else. Oddly, Industry Canada still has a webpage devoted to the OECD’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials but the OECD link on the Industry Canada leads you to a database,

The OECD Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN ) was established in September, 2006 in order to foster international co-operation in health and environmental safety-related aspects of manufactured nanomaterials. Environment Canada represents the Government of Canada at the WPMN, supported by other interested federal departments and agencies, including Industry Canada, and stakeholders. For more information on the work of the WPMN, please visit the WPMN website or contact Environment Canada.

Nostalgia buffs can find all 37 of the Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials reports here on the Nanotechnology Industries Association website (save one) or here on the OECD’s Publications in the Series on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials webpage.

A new ‘green’ nanotechnology and innovation report was announced in a June 18, 2013 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

A new paper by the OECD Working Party on Nanotechnology (“Nanotechnology for Green Innovation”; pdf) brings together information collected through discussions and projects undertaken relevant to the development and use of nanotechnology for green innovation. It relies in particular on preliminary results from the WPN project on the Responsible Development of Nanotechnology and on conclusions from a symposium, organised by the OECD WPN together with the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative, which took place in March 2012 in Washington DC, United States, on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology. [emphases mine]  It also draws on material from the four background papers that were developed for the symposium. The background papers were:

“Challenges for Governments in Evaluating the Return on Investment from Nanotechnology and its Broader Economic Impact” by Eleanor O’Rourke and Mark Morrison of the Institute of Nanotechnology, United Kingdom;

“Finance and Investor Models in Nanotechnology” by Tom Crawley, Pekka Koponen, Lauri Tolvas and Terhi Marttila of Spinverse, Finland;

“The Economic Contributions of Nanotechnology to Green and Sustainable Growth” by Philip Shapira and Jan Youtie, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, United States; and

“Models, Tool and Metrics Available to Assess the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology” by Katherine Bojczuk and Ben Walsh of Oakdene Hollins, United Kingdom.

The purpose of the paper is to provide background information for future work by the WPN on the application of nanotechnology to green innovation.

I wrote about the March 2012 symposium in a March 29, 2012 posting,

I was hoping for a bit more detail about how one would go about including nanotechnology-enabled products in this type of economic impact assessment but this is all I could find (from the news release),

In their paper, Youtie and Shapira cite several examples of green nanotechnology, discuss the potential impacts of the technology, and review forecasts that have been made.

I checked both Philip Shapira‘s webpage and Jan Youtie‘s at Georgia Tech to find that neither lists this latest work, which hopefully includes additional detail. I’m hopeful there’ll be a document published in the proceedings for this symposium and access will be possible.

So, I’m very happy to see this 2013 report and  I have three different ways to access it,

  1. OECD library page for Nanotechnology for Green Innovation
  2. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/5k450q9j8p8q.pdf?expires=1371578116&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=F308B436A883BF6533E66C19182ECF17 which features a title page identifying this is as  an OECD Science, Technology and Industry Policy Papers No. 5 (this one lists 35 pp)
  3. http://search.oecd.org/officialdocuments/displaydocumentpdf/?cote=DSTI/STP/NANO%282013%293/FINAL&docLanguage=En which is identified with this Unclassified DSTI/STP/NANO(2013)3/FINAL and a publication date of June 13, 2013 (this one lists 34 pp)

The following comments are based on a very quick read through the report. Pulling together four papers and trying to create a cohesive and coherent single report after the fact is difficult and this report shows some of the stresses. One  of the problems is that 34 or 35 pp., depending on which version you’re reading, isn’t enough to cover the very broad topic indicated by the report’s title. I couldn’t find a clear general statement about government policies. For example, there are various countries with policies and there are trade blocks such as the European Union which also has policies. Additionally, there may be other jurisdictions. All of which contribute an environment which makes ‘green’ innovation nano or otherwise a challenge but no mention is made of this challenge. Further, I don’t recall seeing any mention of patents, which I’d expect would be a major talking point in a paper with innovation in its title. If there was mention of intellectual property, it made no impact on me, odd, especially where nanotechnology is concerned.

The report does have some good specifics and  it is worthwhile reading. For example, I found the section on lithium-ion batteries quite informative.

In any event, I’m not really the audience for this document, the “purpose of the paper is to provide background information for future work by the WPN on the application of nanotechnology to green innovation.”

ETA June 18, 2013 6:00 pm PDT: Here’s a link to the new OECD nanotechnology page, STInano

Nanotechnology scene in China

There was a Dec. 5, 2012 Nanowerk Spotlight article by Michael Berger which focused on a review (Engineering Small Worlds in a Big Society: Assessing the Early Impacts of Nanotechnology in China [behind a paywall]) in a special issue of the Wiley journal, Policy Review. It seems timely given today’s (Dec. 10, 2012) earlier posting (Wanxiang America wins bid for most of A123 Systems’ assets) about a China-based company’s successful bid for a bankrupt US company that produced Li-ion (lithium-ion) batteries.

From Berger’s Dec. 5, 2012 article (Note: I have removed links),

A recent review (“Engineering Small Worlds in a Big Society: Assessing the Early Impacts of Nanotechnology in China”) analyzes the early impacts of nanotechnology on China’s economic and innovation development in six key areas. It concludes that the country’s effort to join the world leaders in nanoscale R&D has made significant progress. Although several effects are difficult to capture, cross-country and cross-regional collaborations, institutional development, regional spread, industrial and enterprise development, as well as research and education capabilities, have been influenced positively by the new programs in China’s nanotechnology initiative.

However, it seems difficult to estimate the role of particular policies in this process; in other words, what is the specific contribution of nanotechnology programs relative to the entire complex of new initiatives aimed at promoting indigenous innovation in China. The authors – Evgeny A. Klochikhin and Philip Shapira from the Manchester Institute for Innovation Research – find that nanotechnology policies are contributing to addressing existing innovation systems lock-ins and historical path dependencies in China.

In spite of that, many challenges remain, including those of separation of research and training, uneven distribution of science and technology across regions, poor mechanisms of technology transfer, and challenges for independent science-driven entrepreneurial development.

Berger’s article (illustrated with diagrams) lists six key areas assessed by Klochikhin and Shapira,

… [1] institutional development, knowledge flows, and network efficiency; [2] research and education capabilities; [3] industrial and enterprise growth; [4] regional spread; [5] cluster and network development; and [6] product innovation. They caution, though, that these areas do not cover the entire spectrum of the social and economic effects of a given technology on individual nations but can be used as a model for an initial estimate of such effects.

Berger’s and Klochikhin’s and Shapira’s articles come as no surprise given the intense interest in China. A Nov. 9, 2012 posting about the recent S.NET (Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies) 2012 conference highlighted a presentation by Denis Simon at a conference panel titled, Will China’s effort to become a high-tech innovator succeed? If you go to the conference presentations webpage and scroll down to the Weds., Oct. 24, 2012  9 am – 10:30 am slot, you can download one or all of the presentations from that session.

ETA Dec. 10, 2012 1330 PST: Philip Shapira has been mentioned here before, most recently in March 29, 2012 posting about nanotechnology’s economic impacts and lifecycle assessments.

Nanotechnology’s economic impacts and full lifecycle assessments

A paper presented at the International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology, held March 27 – 28, 2012 in Washington, D.C advises that assessments of the economic impacts of nanotechnology need to be more inclusive. From the March 28, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

“Nanotechnology promises to foster green and sustainable growth in many product and process areas,” said Shapira [Philip Shapira], a professor with Georgia Tech’s [US]  School of Public Policy and the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research at the Manchester Business School in the United Kingdom. “Although nanotechnology commercialization is still in its early phases, we need now to get a better sense of what markets will grow and how new nanotechnology products will impact sustainability. This includes balancing gains in efficiency and performance against the net energy, environmental, carbon and other costs associated with the production, use and end-of-life disposal or recycling of nanotechnology products.”

But because nanotechnology underlies many different industries, assessing and forecasting its impact won’t be easy. “Compared to information technology and biotechnology, for example, nanotechnology has more of the characteristics of a general technology such as the development of electric power,” said Youtie [Jan Youtie], director of policy research services at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “That makes it difficult to analyze the value of products and processes that are enabled by the technology. We hope that our paper will provide background information and help frame the discussion about making those assessments.”

From the March 27, 2012 Georgia Institute of Technology news release,

For their paper, co-authors Shapira and Youtie examined a subset of green nanotechnologies that aim to enable sustainable energy, improve environmental quality, and provide healthy drinking water for areas of the world that now lack it. They argue that the lifecycle of nanotechnology products must be included in the assessment.

I was hoping for a bit more detail about how one would go about including nanotechnology-enabled products in this type of economic impact assessment but this is all I could find (from the news release),

In their paper, Youtie and Shapira cite several examples of green nanotechnology, discuss the potential impacts of the technology, and review forecasts that have been made. Examples of green nanotechnology they cite include:

  • Nano-enabled solar cells that use lower-cost organic materials, as opposed to current photovoltaic technologies that require rare materials such as platinum;
  • Nanogenerators that use piezoelectric materials such as zinc oxide nanowires to convert human movement into energy;
  • Energy storage applications in which nanotechnology materials improve existing batteries and nano-enabled fuel cells;
  • Thermal energy applications, such as nano-enabled insulation;
  • Fuel catalysis in which nanoparticles improve the production and refining of fuels and reduce emissions from automobiles;
  • Technologies used to provide safe drinking water through improved water treatment, desalination and reuse.

I checked both Philip Shapira‘s webpage and Jan Youtie‘s at Georgia Tech to find that neither lists this latest work, which hopefully includes additional detail. I’m hopeful there’ll be a document published in the proceedings for this symposium and access will be possible.

On another note, I did mention this symposium in my Jan. 27, 2012 posting where I speculated about the Canadian participation. I did get a response (March 5, 2012)  from Vanessa Clive, Nanotechnology File, Industry Sector, Industry Canada who kindly cleared up my confusion,

A colleague forwarded the extract from your blog below. Thank you for your interest in the OECD Working Party on Nanotechnology (WPN) work, and giving some additional public profile to its work is welcome. However, some correction is needed, please, to keep the record straight.

“It’s a lot to infer from a list of speakers but I’m going to do it anyway. Given that the only Canadian listed as an invited speaker for a prestigious (OECD/AAAS/NNI as hosts) symposium about nanotechnology’s economic impacts, is someone strongly associated with NCC, it would seem to confirm that Canadians do have an important R&D (research and development) lead in an area of international interest.

One thing about this symposium does surprise and that’s the absence of Vanessa Clive from Industry Canada. She co-authored the OECD’s 2010 report, The Impacts of Nanotechnology on Companies: Policy Insights from Case Studies and would seem a natural choice as one of the speakers on the economic impacts that nanotechnology might have in the future.”

I am a member of the organizing committee, on the OECD WPN side, for the Washington Symposium in March which will focus on the need and, in turn, options for development of metrics for evaluation of the economic impacts of nano. As committee member, I was actively involved in identifying potential Canadian speakers for agenda slots. Apart from the co-sponsors whose generosity made the event possible, countries were limited to one or two speakers in order to bring in experts from as many interested countries as possible. The second Canadian expert which we had invited to participate had to pull out, unfortunately.

Also, the OECD project on nano impacts on business was co-designed and co-led by me, another colleague here at the time, and our Swiss colleague, but the report itself was written by OECD staff.

I did send (March 5, 2012)  a followup email with more questions but I gather time was tight as I’ve not heard back.

In any event, I’m looking forward to hearing more about this symposium, however that occurs, in the coming weeks and months.

Is nano good for jobs?

The idea that nanotechnology might be able to help pull the US economy out of it’s current economic crisis is certainly being discussed seriously. For example, Intel CEO, Paul Otellini, announced a nanotechnology investment of $7B in February 2009.  (There’s more about this in my blog posting of Feb. 11, 2009). Now the folks at the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies have announced  a new event, Nanotechnology: Will It Drive a New Innovation Economy for the U.S.? on Monday, March 23, 2009 from 9:30 am to 10:30 am PST (if you’re on the East Coast and can attend they will serve a light lunch but you need to RSVP. More info. here.)The two speakers, Philip Shapira and Alan Porter, both have links to the Georgia (US)  Institute of Technology. I mention that because last October (2008) the Japanese government announced they were funding four research satellite projects in institutions outside of Japan. it was described as a unique collaboration and the Georgia Institute of Technology is the location for one of these research satellites. There’s more information here at Azonano. (Note: The headline focuses on the University of Cambridge so you do have to read on to find the information about the other sites.)

I attended a lecture or nanotechnology which was part of the University of British Columbia’s (Canada) research week. Professor Alireza Nojeh (electrical engineering) gave a charming presentation. I was curious about how he would deal with some of the problems you encounter when explaining nanotechnology. He focused on measurements, size, and scale at the beginning and did a better job than I do when I’m presenting. Still, I haven’t seen anyone really crack that barrier of how you describe something that’s unseen. The images help to convey scale but there’s a point at which most people are going to have to take a huge leap in imagination. Of course, we did that with germs but the ‘germ’ leap occurred before living memory so we’ll probably have to relearn that skill.

Dr. Nojeh had another problem, it’s a very big topic. I noticed that he avoided much talk of biology and medicine (I do too) and only briefly discussed potential health concerns. I think they will be webcasting this (they were recording it) but this is probably one of those talks that were better attended in person. I will try to find out where the webcast will be posted.