In all the goings on I missed an item about a nano-sized salute to Olympics 2010 created by professors Alireza Nojeh (carbon nanotubes expert) and Kenichi Takahata (micropatterning expert) and their graduate students Masoud Dahmardeh, Parham Yaghoobi and Mohamed Sultan Mohamed Ali. From the news item (scroll down to find it) on the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Applied Sciences website,
The area on which this image [Olympics 2010 logo] was created is smaller than a snowflake, yet it contains over 100 million carbon nanotubes. Nanotubes are not just tiny as their name suggests: Each is around 10 thousand times thinner than human hair and highly flexible. They also posses many other amazing properties: They are almost as light as air, better conductors of electricity and heat than copper, stronger than steel and tougher than diamond.
The item goes on to discuss in clear and simple terms the difficulties of bending and fixing the carbon nanotubes into place.
Nokia recently announced the publication of a book about their research into nanotechnology as applied to mobile phones. Not least of these projects is the Morph, a mobile phone that could be wrapped around your wrist and worn like a cuff when not in use. In 2008, the Morph was featured at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of a show titled Design and the Elastic Mind.
Actually, the Morph itself did not exist at the time of the show and as far as I can tell there’s still not a prototype. It was an animation project that was featured. It took me a lot longer to realize than I like to admit that the Morph exists largely as an idea that’s being worked on in a laboratory in Cambridge. With the publication of the book my interest was renewed but it seems that there hasn’t been that much progress. Dexter Johnson, Nanoclast blog, features a posting and a video about Nokia’s research in the Cambridge Laboratory. Personally, I’d like to wear a phone around my wrist but Dexter has other interests, specifically batteries.
Labelling products that have nanomaterials
I got an interesting question in this blog’s comments section in part 1 of the Peter Julian interview (Canadian MP introduces first Canadian nanotechnology legislation) about labeling. From BaxDoc’s response,
I am curious as to why – after we have done the defining of nanotech as Mr. Julian points out (and which would seem to be basic) – the notion of labeling did not come up. … if we could manage to communicate a bit more than just the ‘magic’ of nanotechnology (which currently seems to be the case) perhaps people could simply decide whether or not to use products with nanotech.
Thanks for pointing this out. I believe that Julian’s bill reflects some of the thinking that’s taking place in the European Union (EU). For example, both the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s report on nanotechnologies and food and the government’s response to the report explicitly state that there will not be any labeling about nanomaterials in food products. Here’s recommendatiion no. 30 from the House of Lords report,
Recommendation 30. Consumers can expect to have access to information about the food they eat. But blanket labelling of nanomaterials on packages is not, in our view, the right approach to providing information about the application of nanotechnologies. We believe the primary mechanism should be a public register of foods containing nanomaterials, as we have recommended in Chapter 6 above. We urge also that the Government, along with consumer groups, should consider other means through which this information can be made available and accessible to consumers (paragraph 7.24).
The government’s response,
The Government accepts this recommendation, which will be taken forward by the Food Standards Agency and the discussion group (see recommendation 32), in the light of the future decision on establishment of a permanent consumer focussed site about nanotechnologies (see recommendation 28).
Interesting, yes? I’m assuming that this decision against labeling food is part of a larger decision not to label any products with nanomaterials. (If someone knows better please do let me know.) Meanwhile, I’ll try to find time to discover why it was felt that labeling is not a good idea. Meanwhile there’s Richard Jones’ (Soft Machines blog) posting about the government’s response to the Nanotechnologies and Food report and a little bit about his own role as someone who presented evidence (spoken and written) to the Committee on Science and Technology. (Jones is the author of Soft Machines: nanotechnology and life, a book about nanotechnology. He is a Professor of Physics at the University of Sheffield. As per the description on his blog)
CETA (Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement) and Canada’s Intellectual Property Law
I do cover intellectual property issues from time to time and I’ve been meaning to mention this issue which Michael Geist is following with some vigour. From Geist’s eponymous blog,
Late last year, a draft of the European Union proposal for the intellectual property chapter of the Canada – EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement leaked online. The leak revealed that the EU was seeking some significant changes to Canadian IP laws. Negotiations have continued and I have now received an updated copy of the draft chapter, complete with proposals from both the EU and Canada. The breadth of the demands are stunning – the EU is demanding nothing less than a complete overhaul of Canadian IP laws including copyright, trademark, databases, patent, geographic indications, and even plant variety rights.
Do check out Geist’s posting on this current negotiation as he provides stunning details from the latest version of the documents the EU has presented. (I can now better understand the reluctance the Irish had about signing the EU’s Lisbon Treaty. They voted no initially and then yes in October 2009, some 16 months later. From the BBC news item,
In last year’s  vote, 46.6% of Irish voted “Yes” and 53.4% “No”, and the rejection of the treaty plunged the EU into political gridlock.)
Meanwhile Mike Masnick at Techdirt had something to say about CETA too.
Getting back to Geist’s blog, I was particularly struck by this comment (in the Comments section),
Makes me wonder In the news last week, the EU lowered its environmental standards in order for Canada’s “oil sands” to acceptable. Makes me wonder if there is some sort of give & take going on here between Canada and the EU. Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours type thing that shouldn’t be overlooked.
That is a rather interesting tidbit, isn’t it? Especially when you remember that Stephen Harper, our Prime Minister, is an Albertan who was elected in a riding based in Alberta, the province whose economic fate for the near future, at least, is dependent on the ‘oil sands’.
Harvard University cooks
Ferran Adrià, the chef credited with founding the school of molecular gastronomy (he doesn’t like to use the term molecular gastronomy), will be teaching in an undergraduate course at Harvard University in September 2010. From the news release,
“Cooking provides an ideal framework to study a variety of complex phenomena—from basic chemistry to materials science to applied physics—through something familiar to all students: food,” says one of the Harvard course organizers, David A. Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics in SEAS and the Department of Physics at Harvard. “In fact, much of what we do in the lab is what chefs like Ferran Adrià are now doing in their kitchens.”
Adrià is considered a pioneer of exploiting scientific principles to push the limits of modern cuisine, manipulating the physical and chemical processes of cooking by using substances such as hydrocolloids, or “gums” that enable a delicate fruit puree to be transformed into a dense gel, and deconstruction techniques like spherification, creating a resistant skin of liquid (as in a pea soup held in a pod of nothing more than itself).
I’ve often thought that nanotechnology is going be popularized indirectly through entertainment (pop culture) and cooking. This item is more grist for my mill (pun intended).