Monthly Archives: December 2011

First lawsuit on risks of nanotechnology?

I got this Dec. 21, 2011 news release this morning,

Consumer Safety Groups File First Lawsuit on Risks of Nanotechnology

San Francisco, CA – Concerned by the growing body of scientific reports cautioning against the unregulated use of nanotechnology in consumer products, a coalition of nonprofit consumer safety and environmental groups sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today.  The case is the first lawsuit over the health and environmental risks of nanotechnology and nanomaterials.

Nanotechnology is a powerful platform technology for taking apart and reconstructing nature at the atomic and molecular level.  Just as the size and chemical characteristics of manufactured nanomaterials give them unique properties, those same properties – tiny size, vastly increased surface area to volume ratio, and high reactivity – can also create unique and unpredictable health and environmental risks.

The lawsuit demands FDA respond to a petition the public interest organizations filed with the agency in 2006, nearly six years ago.  The coalition is led by the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA), on behalf of fellow plaintiffs Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch, the Center for Environmental Health, the ETC Group, and the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy.

“Nano means more than tiny; it means materials that have the capacity to be fundamentally different.  Yet more and more novel nanomaterials are being sold infused into new consumer products every day, while FDA sits idly by,” said George Kimbrell, ICTA Attorney.  “The agency’s unlawful delay unnecessarily places consumers and the environment at risk.”

The eighty-page petition documents the scientific evidence of nanomaterial risks stemming from their unpredictable toxicity and seemingly unlimited mobility.  The 2006 petition [] requested FDA take several regulatory actions, including requiring nano-specific product labeling and health and safety testing, and undertaking an analysis of the environmental and health impacts of nanomaterials in products approved by the agency.

Nanomaterials in sunscreens, one of the largest sectors of the nano-consumer product market, were also a focus of the action.  The petitioners called on the agency to regulate nano-sunscreens to account for their novel ingredients rather than assume their safety, and to pull such sunscreens from the market until and unless the agency approves them as new drug products.

“Year after year goes by but we have yet to see the FDA do the bare minimum and require nanosunscreens to be labeled as such. This is a basic consumer right,” said Ian Illuminato of Friends of the Earth.  “We’re well past the 1800s — nobody likes or should be forced to use mystery chemicals anymore.”

Since 2006, numerous studies and reports, including agency publications by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of the Inspector General, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, acknowledge significant data gaps concerning nanomaterials’ potential effects on human health and the environment.  Most troubling are studies using mice that show that nano-titanium dioxide when inhaled and when eaten can cause changes in DNA that affect the brain function and may cause tumors and developmental problems in offspring.  One study found titanium dioxide nanoparticles were found in the placenta, fetal liver and fetal brain.

“It is unacceptable that the FDA continues to allow unregulated and unlabeled nanomaterials to be used in products consumers use every day,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It is past time for this agency to live up to its mission and protect public health by assessing the health and environmental risks of nanomaterials, and to require labeling so that consumers know where these new materials are being used.”

“The scientific consensus is that nanomaterials require specific testing to account for their novel capacities and potential risks.  The FDA must do such testing as part of a pre-market safety assessment in a broader regulatory initiative to protect public health,” said Steve Suppan of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

For more, see generally (

Despite the headline ICTA gave this news release, I found a 2008 news release for another nanotechnology law suit where they were suing the US Environmental Protection Agency,  GROUPS DEMAND EPA STOP SALE OF 200+ POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS NANO-SILVER PRODUCTS; Nanotech Watchdog Launches First-Ever Legal Challenge To EPA Over Unregulated Nanotech Pesticide Pollution.

If I understand this rightly, the ICTA along with its coalition partners is suing the FDA for not responding to its petition, which would have made for a much less compelling headline. I didn’t have much luck accessing the 2006 petition (clicking on the link brought up an error page) but will try again later.

I notice that sunscreens with with nanoscale titanium dioxide are used as an example of the use of dangerous nanomaterials in consumer products. It seems the general consensus is that nanoscale titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide used in nanosunscreens are relatively safe. You can read more about this on the Cancer Council of Australia or the Environmental Working Group (EWG) websites. From the EWG,

EWG reviewed the scientific literature on hazards and efficacy (UVB and UVA protection) for all active ingredients approved in the U.S. Though no ingredient is without hazard or perfectly effective, on balance our ratings tend to favor mineral sunscreens because of their low capacity to penetrate the skin and the superior UVA protection they offer.

I really wish they would stop using the nanosunscreens as their ‘go to’ concern as I think it damages these groups’ credibility.

Still, the FDA should respond to a petition and six years seems like a long time to wait.

Abracadabra! A new material!

A Nov. 3, 2011 news release from the US Dept. of Energy (DOE) announced the Materials Project,

Researchers from the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) jointly launched today a groundbreaking new online tool called the Materials Project, which operates like a “Google” of material properties, enabling scientists and engineers from universities, national laboratories and private industry to accelerate the development of new materials, including critical materials.

Discovering new materials and strengthening the properties of existing materials are key to improving just about everything humans use – from buildings and highways to modern necessities. For example, advances in a group of materials called “critical materials” are more important to America’s competitiveness than ever before – particularly in the clean energy field.  Cell phones, wind turbines, solar panels and a variety of military technologies depend on these roughly fourteen elements (including nine “rare earth” elements).  With about 90 percent coming from China, there are growing concerns about potential supply shortages and disruptions.

The Dec. 20, 2011 news item on Nanowerk provides more detail,

The project is a direct outgrowth of MIT’s Materials Genome Project, initiated in 2006 by Gerbrand Ceder, the Richard P. Simmons (1953) Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. The idea, he says, is that the site “would become the Google of material properties,” making available data previously scattered in many different places, most of them not even searchable.

For example, it used to require months of work — consulting tables of data, performing calculations and carrying out precise lab tests — to create a single phase diagram showing when compounds incorporating several different elements would be solid, liquid or gas. Now, such a diagram can be generated in a matter of minutes, Ceder says.

The new tool could revolutionize product development in fields from energy to electronics to biochemistry, its developers say, much as search engines have transformed the ability to search for arcane bits of knowledge.

Already, more than 500 researchers from universities, research labs and companies have used the new system to seek new materials for lithium-ion batteries, photovoltaic cells and new lightweight alloys for use in cars, trucks and airplanes. The Materials Project is available for use by anyone, although users must register (free of charge) in order to spend more than a few minutes, or to use the most advanced features.

Interestingly, the Materials Project could have an impact on education too,

The tools could also make a big difference in education, Ceder says: When professors set up experiments to help students learn specific principles, “it used to be that we had to pick easy examples” with known outcomes, he says. Now, it’s possible to set much more challenging exercises.

I wasn’t expecting to find a quote from a Canadian academic but here goes,

Mark Obrovac, an associate professor of chemistry and physics at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, says, “The Materials Project has made complex computational techniques available to materials researchers at a click of a mouse. This is a major innovation in materials science, enabling researchers to rapidly predict the structure and properties of materials before they make them, and even of materials that cannot be made. This can significantly accelerate materials development in many important areas, including advanced batteries, microelectronics and telecommunications.”

You can find the Materials Project here.

Femtosecond laser writing and lenses

I’m highlighting this because I found a great new word in this Dec. 16, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

Whether it’s right under our nose or far away, when we observe an object we see it—provided we have healthy eyes and normal vision or suitable glasses—in focus. For this to work, muscles deform the lenses of our eyes and adjust them to a suitable focal distance. For miniaturized technical devices, microscale lenses with a similar adaptable focus could be an advantage.

In this case scientist Hong Bo Bun and a team from Jilin University (China) have devised a new technique for creating microlenses. From the news item (here’s the new word),

The Chinese researchers have now met this challenge: They used a laser to “write” the desired micrometer-sized lens shape out of a solution of bovine serum albumin, a protein. Methylene blue acts as a photosensitizer, which captures the light energy like an antenna and triggers a crosslinking reaction of the protein molecules. Driven by a computer, the laser cuts out the desired three-dimensional form voxel by voxel. A voxel is a three-dimensional pixel, a tiny segment of volume. The irradiation used is in femtosecond pulses, which lasts on the order of 10-13 seconds. The crosslinking reaction only takes place in the locations that are irradiated. After the reaction, the protein molecules that have not reacted can simply be rinsed away. What stays behind is a cross-linked, aqueous protein gel in the shapes of micrometer-sized lenses.

You can get more details from the news item on Nanowerk or (provided you can get past the paywall) from the article in the journal Angewandte Chemie (“Dynamically Tunable Protein Microlenses”) .

Mind Museum opens in the Philippines

The model for The Mind Museum at Taguig (Philippines) is gorgeous.

Philippines Mind Museum (at Taguig)

Christina Chaey’s Nov. 21, 2011 news bit about the museum for Fast Company notes a number of architectural features including one grass roof and another roof designed to prevent wind tunneling by directing gusts upward.

The Mind Museum’s About page lists five galleries,

  1. The Story of the Universe: Its Beginning and Majesty
  2. The Story of the Earth: Its Story Across the Breadth of Time
  3. The Story of Life: The Exuberant Varieties of Life
  4. The Story of the Atom: The Strange World of the Very Small
  5. The Story of Technology: The Showcase of Human Ingenuity

in an indoor exhibition area of approximately 3560 sq metres. There is also an 800 sq metre Science in the Park area immediately adjacent to the museum. (I’m betting they have some information about nanotechnology as part of the ‘Story of the Atom’.)

There were some 50 designers and scientists involved in this museum. The lead architect was Ed Calma of Lor Calma Design Inc.  The museum was scheduled to open Dec. 15, 2011 and the event was covered by Dexter R. Matilla for the Philippine Daily Enquirer in a Dec. 21, 2011 article,

For so long, the arts have been the driving force for the city of the Bonifacio Global City (BGC). Larger-than-life pieces from some of the country’s top artistic names make up BGC’s Art Walk. With the opening of The Mind Museum at Taguig, it’s safe to say that the Arts and Sciences finally have a place all their own.

The Mind Museum was made possible through private donations from corporate sponsors, family and individual donors who believe in giving the Philippines a center for the public understanding of science, in particular science at its most basic.

“Science is all about understanding how things work,” said The Mind Museum’s managing director Manny Blas. “People need to understand the basic science. What is a cell or a DNA? What makes up the universe? How do telescopes or MRI work? If you understand the principles of science, you know how to apply it. If students can come in here and then go out and consider becoming a scientist or an engineer, then we would have done our job.”

The country’s first world-class science museum is a P1 billion project that had inputs in its planning stage from international experts like Jack Rouse and Associates and the Science Centre Singapore. Its futuristic yet organic design, however, is by a team of architects from Lor Calma & Partners headed by architect Ed Calma.

I gather the Dec. 15, 2011 opening is a ‘soft’ opening as the museum website notes that it is being opened to the public in March 2012.

Bacteria that glow and light your way

It’s a light show of sorts but it involves bacteria and fluorescent protein,

Thanks to the Dec. 19, 2011 news item on Nanwerk, I was able to access both the video and some additional information,

In an example of life imitating art, biologists and bioengineers at UC [University of California] San Diego have created a living neon sign composed of millions of bacterial cells that periodically fluoresce in unison like blinking light bulbs. Their achievement, detailed in this week’s advance online issue of the journal Nature  (“A sensing array of radically coupled genetic ‘biopixels'”), involved attaching a fluorescent protein to the biological clocks of the bacteria, synchronizing the clocks of the thousands of bacteria within a colony, then synchronizing thousands of the blinking bacterial colonies to glow on and off in unison.

Here’s how scientists think this could be useful,

 Using the same method to create the flashing signs, the researchers engineered a simple bacterial sensor capable of detecting low levels of arsenic. In this biological sensor, decreases in the frequency of the oscillations of the cells’ blinking pattern indicate the presence and amount of the arsenic poison.

Because bacteria are sensitive to many kinds of environmental pollutants and organisms, the scientists believe this approach could be also used to design low cost bacterial biosensors capable of detecting an array of heavy metal pollutants and disease-causing organisms. And because the senor is composed of living organisms, it can respond to changes in the presence or amount of the toxins over time unlike many chemical sensors.

“These kinds of living sensors are intriguing as they can serve to continuously monitor a given sample over long periods of time, whereas most detection kits are used for a one-time measurement,” said Jeff Hasty, a professor of biology and bioengineering at UC San Diego who headed the research team in the university’s Division of Biological Sciences and BioCircuits Institute. “Because the bacteria respond in different ways to different concentrations by varying the frequency of their blinking pattern, they can provide a continual update on how dangerous a toxin or pathogen is at any one time.”

There are more details in the news item on Nanowerk.

Scientists have been experimenting with other uses for fluorescent bacteria, lighting. From the Nov. 28, 2011 article by Jaymi Heimbuch for Treehugger,

Here, Philips has shown off a concept for a light that runs on not grid electricity, not solar power, not even wind power. Nope, it runs on bacteria.

According to Philips, “The concept explores the use of bioluminescent bacteria, which are fed with methane and composted material (drawn from the methane digester in the Microbial Home system). Alternatively the cellular light array can be filled with fluorescent proteins that emit different frequencies of light.”

I gather the concept isn’t ready for houselighting yet but Philips does have some proposals (from the Philips Bio-light page),

 Bioluminescence produces low-intensity light, more suitable for tracing, warning, ambience and indication than functional illumination. Its speed of generation, being dependent on chemical reaction, is slower than most conventional light sources and the life form itself must be kept alive. But it needs no wires and is independent of the electricity grid. The living nature of the material provides interesting possibilities for changing, unpredictable, environmentally responsible ambient effects.

    • Night-time road markings, eg bioluminescent plants that indicate where the edge of the road is
    • Warning strips on flights of stairs, kerbsides etc
    • Informational markings in low-light settings, eg. theatres, cinemas, nightclubs
    • Diagnostic indicators, eg. a colored body health map in the home apothecary, pollution levels, local bacterial ecology etc
    • Monitoring the status of diseases like diabetes in individual patients, using bioluminescent biosensors

New genres of atmospheric interior lighting with, for example, possible therapeutic and mood-enhancing effects.

There you have it, bacteria will light the way.

Visionary (under the age of 20) needed by Dec. 31, 2011

The folks over at the Foresight Institute made note of a competition for visionaries under the age of 20 in a Dec. 16, 2011 posting,

The future will not take care of itself. Global prosperity is not inevitable. The world will only get better if visionary people are creative and relentless about solving hard problems.

The 2011 class of Thiel Fellows includes 24 people who are tackling breakthroughs in hardware and robotics, making energy plentiful, making markets more effective, challenging the notion that there is only one way to get an education, and extending the human lifespan. Several of them have already launched companies, secured financing, and won prestigious awards. As they’re demonstrating, you don’t need college to invent the future (you can read about their progress in a recent article in TechCrunch).

If you’re under twenty and love science or technology, we hope you’ll consider joining the 2012 class of fellows. Go to and apply to change the world. There’s no cost to apply, and they’re accepting applications through December 31. Fellows will be appointed this spring and begin two-year fellowships this summer.

The Thiel Foundation does invite foreign candidates to apply (from the FAQ page)

May foreign candidates apply?

Yes. We encourage candidates from around the world to apply. Foreign candidates are responsible for obtaining their own visa into the United States. If you receive a fellowship you must be up for navigating this challenge.

Here’s a bit more about the current crop of fellows. From Rip Emerson’s Dec. 8, 2011 article for TechCrunch,

In May, Thiel [Peter Thiel], along with his Foundation, put their money where their mouth is, announcing the “20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship”, a program that offers talented independent thinkers under the age of 20 $100,000 and two years free of school to pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors. The program launched with 24 Thiel Fellows, each of these wiz kids pursuing their own inspiring scientific and technical projects. …

I did a writeup about another of Peter Thiel’s (founder of Paypal), an entrepreneurial fund for scientists in my April 26, 2011 posting.

Thiel certainly seems to be interested in stimulating new prospects for the future.

Boise (Idaho) State University’s free podcasts on nano and more

I appreciate the self-deprecating humour in this Dec. 16, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

Boise State University (BSU) recently began a campaign, Beyond The Blue, to bring deserved awareness to their excellent academic programs, (as opposed to their better know football team and blue astroturf,) and is hosting a series of fascinating podcasts spotlighting some of the interesting work happening now.

The two podcasts mentioned in the Nanowerk news item were about bionanotechnology and nanomedicine, respectively.

Dr. [Will] Hughes is an assistant professor of Materials Science & Engineering at Boise State University, as well as an affiliate faculty and research council member of the Mountain States Tumor & Medical Research Institute at St Luke’s Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.

From a biological perspective, DNA is the language for life. But what may be less widely known is DNA’s potential as a programmable building block at the nanoscale. In this podcast, Hughes discusses DNA’s potential as an engineering material for building structural scaffolds for nanoelectronic devices and biochemical tools for diagnosing disease.

The second featured podcast,

Dr. [Cheryl] Jorcyk is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of cancer progression, including breast cancer and prostate cancer.

The statistics are sobering: 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer, a devastating disease that can metastasize to the liver, lungs, brain and bone. [emphasis mine] In this podcast, Jorcyk discusses how breast cancer develops and spreads, current therapies, the challenges involved in a finding a cure, and her research program.

That statistic is misleading. Your chances of contracting breast cancer increase significantly with age. In order to get a statistic of one in eight, they have to aggregate the statistics from a range of age groups. Your chances are much lower in your 20s than they are in your 50s or 80s, in short, your chances of contracting breast cancer depend on your age.

NanoRacks and Science Exchange

I had written about Science Exchange (a marketplace for scientists and research facilities) in my Sept. 2, 2011 piece posted about one month after the service was publicly launched. I generally wouldn’t write about them again for a while but a Dec. 14, 2011 article by David Zax for Fast Company (Need A Lab In Outer Space? Try ScienceExchange, The Airbnb Of Weird Science) caught my eye,

Let’s say you’re a scientist, and you’re running an experiment, but there’s just one pesky thing getting in your way: gravity. A few years ago, you’d pretty much have been out of luck. But now, with a startup called ScienceExchange, a marketplace for research assistance, you can send your samples up to the International Space Station in about nine months. ScienceExchange, which opened to the public in August, was originally intended to help forge much more sublunary connections within the research community. But in the few months it’s been operational, says cofounder Dan Knox, ScienceExchange has also become a marketplace for extreme and weird science, too.

“It’s been one of the most fun aspects, hearing about these amazing resources,” Knox tells Fast Company, “and realizing that at the moment there isn’t a good way for them to gain exposure outside of creating their own web presence…I love the fact that NanoRacks listed their facility.”

NanoRacks is where you turn if you want to remove gravity from your experiment. NanoRacks works together with astronauts at the International Space Station, where it maintains laboratory equipment. In 2005, Congress designated a portion of the ISS a national laboratory and directed NASA to “increase the utilization of the ISS by other Federal entities and the private sector.” NanoRacks, which has been open for business a little over a year, is a part of that.

Given my particular interest in all things nano, I felt compelled to investigate. I still don’t understand why this business calls itself NanoRacks (what makes it nano?) but I was able to find out a little more about the services that are offered (excerpted from the About us page,

NanoRacks provides the ultimate ‘Plug and Play’ microgravity research facilities allowing small standardized payloads to be plugged into any of our platforms, providing interface with the International Space Station power and data capabilities.

Our philosophy is to bring together three concepts as our driving force: low-cost, standardization of hardware, and understanding the customer. We like to believe that in space, small is the new big. …

Our company brings together entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers who have real-life experience and share a passion for space including humanity’s utilization of low-earth orbit.

I believe this organization is in Kentucky as they are affiliated with a number of agencies based in that US state. From their Vision page,

Our philosophy is to bring together three concepts as our driving force: low-cost, standardization of hardware, and understanding the customer. Our corporate structure includes a Houston team steeped in the experience of working payload development for every launch vehicle and space stations from Mir to ISS. We are seamlessly interfaced with our non-profit partner Kentucky Space –which includes University of Kentucky and Morehead University, which handle payload operations as well as having their own interest in space-based educational programs.

Here’s a video that demonstrates some of what NanoRacks is about,

Getting back to Zax’s article, there is some discussion of other projects such as imaging an entire mouse’s brain at the ‘sub-micron’ scale or needing to simulate a Category 5 hurricane. As for the reference to Airbnb, that is a business that also connects people (from the Wikipedia essay),

Airbnb is an online service that matches people seeking vacation rentals and other short-term accommodations with those with rooms to rent, generally private parties that are not professional hoteliers. The site was founded in August 2008 by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. In July 2011, the company had over 100,000 listings in 16,000 cities and 186 countries. Listings include private rooms, entire apartments, castles, boats, manors, tree houses, tipis, igloos, private islands and other properties.

I gather Airbnb suffered some sort of a scandal earlier this year when someone who used the service didn’t behave well in the other person’s home. Zax asks Knox about the potential for similar problems on Science Exchange,

Yes, it’s something I worry about,” says Knox. ScienceExchange is tightly controlled, though, where Airbnb is open: “We check who a provider is, verify who they are, and that they have the ability to provide.” These concerns are independent to ScienceExchange, he adds, and exist any time a researcher entrusts another facility with her samples.

So if you’re in the market for a research facility or you’re in a research facility that wants to sell its services, you have the option of forging out on your own or going through Science Exchange.

Nintendo experiment at the Louvre

I’m not the only one who was excited about the Louvre/Nintendo announcement (from the Dec. 15, 2011 AFP [Agence France-Presse] sourced news item on,

The Louvre said Thursday it has teamed up with Nintendo to hand out 3D game consoles to guide visitors through its vast art collections, as part of a stepped up digital drive at the Paris museum.

Starting in March, the world’s most visited museum will gradually replace its traditional audio-guides — used by just four percent of its 8.5 million annual visitors — with 3DS pocket consoles.

“We are the first museum in the world to do this,” Agnes Alfandari, museum’s head of multimedia told AFP.

The Japanese giant Nintendo is supplying 5,000 of the latest-generation consoles, which offer 3D vision without the need for special glasses, as part of a partnership with the museum.

After searching online I’ve found only one source article (the one produced by AFP) which every other media source quotes from and neither the Louvre (list of press releases) nor Nintendo (list of press releases) appear to have distributed a press release about this experiment.

Leslie Horn in her Dec. 16, 2011 article for PC Magazine did note this,

The AFP said Nintendo has developed the content, but the Louvre retained “editorial control.”

This move is not just good for the Louvre; it’s a welcome boost for the 3DS as well. Nintendo’s launch of the device was disappointing, and the company lost close to $1 billion in the last six months. Between March and September, it sold just 3 million units, far below its original expectations.

The Louvre, which is the most-visited museum in the world, is making a big push toward digital, and it believes the new guides will be attractive to gamers and those who use touch-screen phones and tablets. It’s also cooking up revamped smartphone and iPad apps and it recently redesigned its Web site, the AFP said.

While the Louvre has retained editorial control, Nintendo has created some content as Chris Velazco notes in his Dec. 15, 2011 item for TechCrunch,

On top of that, Nintendo has also produced original content for the Louvre, though it’s still unclear what they have in mind. While we’ll certainly see some educational software trickle on to the devices, I’m still holding out hope for an elaborate RPG [role playing game] that takes players gallivanting up and down the Richilieu Wing. Sadly, the Louvre retains editorial control over what goes on their 3DSs, so we can probably kiss that epic boss battle atop the Pyramid goodbye.

For anyone who’s curious about this new console to be used by the Louvre’s visitors (from the Nintendo 3DS Features page),

The Nintendo 3DS system opens up a whole new world of eye-popping gameplay possibilities. The stereoscopic 3D display of the upper screen gives objects within the game world a feeling of space and depth that extends far into the back of the screen. It becomes easier to see the position of characters and obstacles in the world, making many game experiences even more intuitive for all types of players.

Portable play control reaches a new level with these amazing features, allowing for new & unique gameplay mechanics. A built-in motion sensor and gyro sensor can react to the motion and tilt of the system, so whether players are twisting their systems side to side or moving them up and down, their motion-compatible Nintendo 3DS games respond instantly.

Here’s a video (largely in French) of an event introducing Nintendo’s 3DS consoles in February 2011 that was held at the Louvre,

Mostly enthused, even this group of young gamers comments that the new console requires a period of adjustment for their eyes.

Finally, here’s a short video (1 min., 19 secs.) in English from Mashable about this experiment at the Louvre,

I would love to hear more details but I imagine we’ll have to wait until March 2012 when the new 3DS consoles come into play (pun intentional) at the Louvre. Meanwhile, this experiment provides a view into how high culture and popular (sometimes called low) culture support each other’s interests/businesses.

UK research not applying for enough patents?

As I understand it, patent and copyright regimes were instituted to stimulate innovation by guaranteeing that an inventor or a ‘creative’ would receive compensation for a particular piece of work during a limited period of time. It was not intended to limit competition or provide funds in perpetuity for either the corporations that happen to hold the copyright or patent or for the inventor’s or creator’s descendents as seems to be the case these days. (I wrote extensively about patents being used to limit competition in my Oct. 31, 2011 posting titled, Patents as weapons and obstacles.)

To be very clear, I am not arguing against patent and copyright regimes but I am suggesting that the excesses of today’s regimes are strangling innovation. Given my particular take on the situation, I read the Dec. 16, 2011 news item on Nanowerk with mixed feelings. From the news item,

As the UK government invests into supporting graphene research, the patent activity of UK universities lags behind that of their global peers according to research by CambridgeIP [intellectual property] published in Nature Materials (“Exploiting carbon flatland” [public access as of Dec. 17, 2011]). [emphasis mine]

“Since 2007 there has been a rapid increase in the rate of global patent filings around graphene. And patents are central to business models and business strategies in many key application sectors for graphene developments, such as semiconductors and biotech.” said Quentin Tannock (Chairman, CambridgeIP) “Despite playing host to Nobel Prize-winning graphene researchers, UK academic institutions hold far fewer graphene patents than their peers in China, South Korea and the USA. This raises the serious question of how ‘UK plc’ will reap commercial returns on its significant cash investments into academic research into graphene.” [emphasis mine]

It’s understandable that they (UK) would want to reap the rewards of their research and the investments in that research. It does, however, get a little confusing for me here (from the news item),

“One of the striking features of the graphene patent landscape is what is not present. Andre Geim, one of the two winners of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics “for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene” is not listed as an inventor on any published graphene patent application. The University of Manchester has applied for significantly fewer patents than its global peers in graphene research.” [emphases mine]

I’m not sure why only Andre Gheim is mentioned as the inventor since he shared the 2010 Nobel prize with Konstantin Novoselov. Also, does one need to mention the inventor in a patent? Is one  still required to reference Alexander Graham Bell for a patent on a phone of some sort?

I got curious about CambridgeIP since the author of the article in Nature Materials, Quentin Tannock is Chairman of the company. Here’s the company’s mission statement (from the CambridgeIP website),

CambridgeIP’s mission is to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of valuable technologies.
We achieve this by working with our clients in the public and private sectors to create and deliver winning technology and IP strategies, and by developing thought leadership in technology and innovation.
We help them build and monetize intellectual assets, develop commercial and R&D strategies and roadmaps, and deploy technologies to maximum impact. We also provide our clients with resources including global-leading access to patent data, science literature, analysis tools and evidence-based insights drawn from our extensive technology and IP strategy experience. [emphasis mine]

I gather CambridgeIP provides patent data and other resources through a company called Boliven which is possibly a CambridgeIP spinoff or affiliate. (Both CambridgeIP and Boliven are listed as sources for the news item.) The About page on the Boliven website does not make the nature of the relationship explicit although it’s existence is obvious,

Boliven is a leading online information portal for IP, R&D and business development professionals in science and technology intensive industries.

With over 100 million peer-reviewed documents spanning patents, journal articles, press releases and other data sources, Boliven enables professionals to rapidly identify novel technologies, clients, partners, commercialisation opportunities and ideas.

Boliven has developed a robust set of free search, analytics, and export tools to help you capitalize on our 100+ million public records and peer-reviewed documents.

For example, Boliven offers members access to one of the world’s largest free patent search engines, with over 60 million records from around the world. Our analytics tools help you detect patterns and relationships in the data through easy-to-understand visualizations, charts, and graphs. Our exporting tools help you take your analysis in-house, through Word of Excel or other productivity applications. Our company profiles section provides a snapshot of the latest research, business and legal activity by the world’s leading technology companies

Many of our best ideas come from our members, so feel free to offer your recommendations on things you’d like to see on Boliven. Contact us on [emphases mine]

Herein is the source of my mixed feelings regarding the news item. As I noted earlier in this posting, there should be a return on investment (ROI) but this news item and the article it refers to certainly seem self-serving given that CambridgeIP and Boliven market their services to the very people/institutions they feel should be applying for more patents.