Late last week I wrote about a new report, Nanotechnology in Australia: Trends, Applications and Collaborative Opportunities, that was supposed to be launched today. The news article which originated the story was by Cheryl Jones of The Australian, who noted,
THE number of Australian companies in a nanotechnology market likely to be worth trillions of dollars within a decade has plummeted, according to an Australian Academy of Science report.
Federal government reports previously put at about 80 the number of companies engaged in the technology underlying a burgeoning global market.
But now there are only 55 to 60, say nanotechnology experts cited in the academy report, to be released next week.
Little work has moved from the benchtop to the market, the report says, and one obstacle to commercialisation is “often dysfunctional” university intellectual property services.
I checked and this item from the Government of Australia was announced instead (from the Azo Materials site),
The Rudd Government is introducing a comprehensive national framework to guide the safe development of new technologies such as nanotechnology and biotechnology as part of a $38.2 million National Enabling Technologies Strategy released today.
“Technologies like nanotechnology and biotechnology have enormous potential, but we can only realise that potential with the community’s support,” said Innovation Minister, Senator Kim Carr.
“Health, safety and environmental protection are paramount for the Government. This strategy is about ensuring we meet the highest standards while at the same time maximising opportunities to develop these cutting-edge technologies.
I’m not sure what happened to the report but this announcement was a bit of a surprise. Given the material cited in Jones’ story, I would have expected the government to pull back rather than invest more heavily. It seems the government has recognized the barriers noted in the report (which has yet to be released or even seen by anyone other than Cheryl Jones [see my posting here] ETA: my apologies to Ms. Jones, I did find the report days later here at a location I failed to check, for penance I will leave my original wrong-headed and now embarrassing comment) and decided to address the issues head on.
Meanwhile, the ‘Olympics of Science’ is finishing today in San Diego (Feb. 18-22, 2010), the 176th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). From the AAAS site,
The 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting is coming to San Diego for the first time, bringing cutting-edge research and a host of free events for the public in its role as the United States’ largest general scientific conference.
Described in The Times Higher Education Supplement as “the Olympics of science conferences,” the Annual Meeting has long been known as the premier multidisciplinary science gathering in the United States. This year, it will continue its evolution to a prime international affair: When the 176th meeting of the society convenes from 18-22 February, scientists, journalists, and educators from more than 50 nations will be there.
Under the banner “Bridging Science and Society,” top researchers will discuss their findings in the context of global challenges in the environment, economy, health, and education. Attendees can explore research in the neurosciences, energy, astrobiology, public health, and environmental change, and learn how these advances directly affect courtroom trials, care for the elderly, sustainable cities, border security, and other public concerns.
As part of an unprecedented effort to share the excitement of scientific discovery with the public, AAAS’s Family Science Days and other free events offer a chance at hands-on learning for students of all ages.
I mention it not just because I’m currently experiencing Vancouver’s Winter Olympics but because, in 2012, the AAAS will be hosting its annual meeting in Vancouver. To get a better idea of what this means, I’ve excerpted parts of a story by Maggie Koerth-Baker on Boing, Boing about attending some of the presentations at the AAAS 2010 San Diego Meeting. First an excerpt from a nanotechnology presentation,
[David] Cahill [University of Illinois] is part of a team working to improve thermal insulation with nanotechnology. His goal: Create some kind of new material that will disrupt the transfer of heat energy between two objects. Getting it right would have big implications. For instance, we could drastically improve our ability to capture the waste heat from electrical generation and put it to use in other ways.One possible solution is silicon nanowires. These structures are normally baby-butt smooth, but as you make their surfaces more and more rough, the nanowires conduct less and less thermal energy. Right now, it’s not exactly clear why that trick works. But understanding it could put Cahill’s team on the right path.
He’s not the only one taking energy technology nano. Another researcher on the same panel, Yi Cui, Ph.D., of Stanford, is applying nanostructures to energy storage, in hopes of developing smaller batteries that can hold more power.
In fact, according to Cui, nanotech is absolutely essential to any future progress with batteries. Storage capacity for size has plateaued, he explained. To go further, we have to start making electrodes out of completely different—and probably completely new—materials.
Note: I’ve mentioned Cui and his work at Stanford University here. More from Koerth-Baker, this time it’s from a science history presentation on measurements and averages,
Before that , obviously, scientists still made mistakes. Multiple measurements or experiments still yielded varying results. But they dealt with the variation in a very different way—they picked the answer they thought represented their best work.
To modern ears, that sounds like cheating—”You just randomly decided on the number you liked best? That’s science?” But, at the time, it was perfectly logical. Historically, scientists viewed themselves as craftsmen,[Jeff] Buchwald said. If you were building a piece of fine furniture, you wouldn’t make a bunch and pick the average to display. You’d choose the finished version that was the best, and best displayed your woodworking skill.
Intriguing, eh? If you want to find out who introduced the concept of averaging scientific measurements and why he was too embarrassed to publish this in his first research, do read Koerth-Baker’s piece.
For my last bit, I’m back on the copyright trail and thanks to Techdirt for alerting me to this essay on file-sharing and morality written by a grade 12 student at Balmoral Hall School (all girls) in Winnipeg,Manitoba. Kamal Dhillon won the 2010 Glassen Ethics competition,
This year’s essay topic was: “Is it OK to download music, movies and games without paying?” There were about 80 entries from high schools in Winnipeg and across the province. The contest, held annually since 2007, is jointly sponsored by The Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics and The Department of Philosophy at the University of Manitoba. The winner receives $1,000. The Winnipeg Free Press publishes the winning essay.
From the Winnipeg Free Press (Feb.13, 2010 edition), an excerpt from Dhillon’s essay,
MILLIONS of people, mostly but not all young, engage in file sharing.
The multinational corporations who make and sell the material are not happy with this development. Their profits are threatened and they, in turn, are threatening to sue, for huge amounts of money, individuals who engage in file sharing.
I support the act of file sharing and argue that the free sharing of these forms of intellectual property would likely produce, overall, more good than harm for society.
It’s a thoughtful piece and well worth reading.