Thoughts on part 3 of (PBS) Nova’s Making Stuff series

Since the title of the programme was Making Stuff Cleaner, my hopes were up. Anyone who reads me with any frequency knows that I’m obsessed with windows, especially the self-cleaning type. Sadly, my hopes for part 3 of (PBS) Nova’s Making Stuff series were frustrated as the focus was largely on cars (with Jay Leno being prominently featured) and petroleum products as they pertain to climate change and energy requirements.

Leno, for anyone who may not know, is a serious car collector and, as one could see, he’s also well informed about the history of the car and alternatives to the car’s current reliance on petroleum products.

As I’m learning to expect, they didn’t talk about the nanotechnology research for several minutes. I didn’t time it for part three but in part one it was roughly 30 minutes before they got to it.

There was a lot of discussion about the various kinds of batteries that are available and new, more environmentally clean batteries being developed, while we got to watch a lot of people driving cars.

The car companies are also working on materials to replace the plastics that are used in car interiors. Fascinatingly, one project involves growing a car part from bacteria. (This reminds of a visual artist who grows clothing from bacteria as mentioned in my Bacteria as couture and transgenic salmon? posting, July 12, 2010.)

It was a very upbeat, positive take on the work being done to find new energy sources and to deal with climate change issues. I think that someone using this programme as a primary source of information might be persuaded we are much closer to replacing our use of petroleum with more environmentally sound practices than is the case. The Friends of the Earth (FoE), civil society group, released a fairly pointed report in November 2010 titled, Nanotechnology, climate and energy: Over-heated promises and hot air?, which suggests otherwise. I’m given to understand that there is good research in this report but anything not supporting their main thesis has been omitted.

The two agendas: Making Stuff Cleaner programme and FOE’s report, curiously enough, mirror each other with their relentless insistence on interpreting the information in a light that highlights their perspective only. Let’s not discount either; let’s refer to both, judiciously.

I did miss part 2 of the series, Making Stuff Smaller and cannot view it on the PBS website since I’m  not living in the right region. Next week, the fourth and final part: Making Stuff Smarter.

ETA Feb.4.11: According my NISE Net newsletter for Feb. 2011, tonight’s episode of tv programme Jeopardy will feature Making Stuff  as a full category. (For anyone not familiar Je0pardy,  it’s a quiz show where contestants choose categories of answers for which they must determine the questions. E.g. The category ‘Whose Bob?’ might feature the clue ‘birds’ to which the contestant would reply, ‘What kind of animal are bobolinks?’)  I’m not sure how including the category ‘Making Stuff’ will work given that there’s one more episode to be broadcast. From the newsletter,

For those of you Jeopardy! fans out there, Making Stuff will be a full category on the program airing Friday, February 4th.

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