The Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network sent out its October newsletter weeks ago but given the hectic pace here, I haven’t had a chance till now to feature anything from it.
As consumers, we have choices some of them more nanotechnology-enabled than others. NISE Net has a new program in its catalog for museums and science centers, Would You Buy That?, that addresses that issue. Here’s the description,
This program examines and explores social and ethical issues of consumer products from the past, present and future. Audience members are asked to weigh the risks versus the benefits. The audience members are responsible for making choices on what products to buy, question, or not buy for themselves, their families, and their communities in this fun and interactive show.
Here’s an excerpt from the script (available at the Would You But That? link provided previously),
HOST: Hello everyone. Welcome! Thanks for coming to play, ‘Would You Buy That?’
So who is ready to play…everyone now, say it with me!
HOST/AUDIENCE: ‘WOULD YOU BUY THAT?’
HOST: Awesome! Raise your hand if you bought something today? Do you think that you will buy something tomorrow?
(On table: nanosized silver socks, nanosized silver toothbrush, Donny the Dog, colloidal silver, Behr paint can, non-stick pan, artificial sweetener)
(Three shopping carts are pre-set. Labeled “Buy it”, “Back it up”, and “Better not”)
HOST: I have many interesting products sitting right here on this table. Some may look familiar to you and some may not. Raise your hand if you see things on this table that you have used or bought before? We are consumers. We buy and use things everyday to help make our lives easier. People have been creating new products to help us for centuries. Innovations like the wheel, light bulbs, microwave ovens, electric toothbrushes! New products come on the market everyday that are meant to improve our lives. However, with new products, there can be risks involved with our purchases. And before we buy anything, we want to learn about these risks so we can make the best choices. Hopefully, playing ‘Would You Buy That?’ today, you can start thinking about some risks and rewards of new technologies! Are you ready to play? Say it out loud with me! WOULD. YOU. BUY. THAT?
The tone reminds me a little bit of a US television show, The Price is Right, where contestants had to guess the prices for various consumer goods. Quite popular, it was on television for many years. It’s interesting to see this approach adopted for a museum/science center program.
The newsletter mentions that the University of Michigan Risk Science Center hosted the 2011 Risk Science Symposium: Risk, Uncertainty, and Sustainable Innovation – New Perspectives on Emerging Challenges. Larry Bell who attended the symposium commented on it in his Sept. 20, 2011 NISE Net blog posting,
Here are some other ideas that I found interesting and that might have some relevance to our work in the NISE Net.
Innovations today are hard to understand compared to those of the past. With human-scale technologies the public could see the parts, and tinker with the innovations. But innovations at the molecular scale are not accessible in that way. The public can’t take a peak at the inner workings and so has to delegate authority about assessment to the experts with little opportunity for those decisions to be informed by direct experience. And that can lead to suspicion about whether the experts are judging the benefits and risks of the technologies with the same standards the public would use.
Furthermore there seem to be groups today on both the right and the left who reject the intellectual or scientific perspective and retreat to folk wisdom and philosophies that reject innovation. In this environment there is worry that it is not possible to have a rational discussion about risks and benefits.
There’s more about the symposium in Bell’s posting and here.
I’ve long suspected that definitions of what constitutes disability will need to change. This item from the Oct. 4, 2011 posting by Vrylena Olney (for Brad Herring) on the NISE Net blog suggests that day is coming soon,
In July 2011, about 150 blind high school students from all over the United States gathered for one week to learn about science and technology at the biannual Youth Slam summer camp organized by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) at the Towson University campus near Baltimore, MD. The NFB Youth Slam is a five-day STEM academy designed to engage and inspire the next generation of blind youth to consider careers falsely believed to be impossible for the blind. [emphasis mine]The participating students learned the science behind building iPod apps, used cutting-edge equipment and technology to determine chemical reactions, built robots, and learned how to use non-visual techniques to perform a real dissection on sharks.
Meanwhile, the Italians celebrated their own Nano Days, from the Sept. 12, 2011 posting on the NISE Net blog by Rashmi Nanjundaswamy,
Dozens of children participated in the second annual Nano Piccola event in Gagliato, Italy, in July, which gave kids a chance to learn about nanotechnology and nanomedicine through hands-on activities and (little) talks by researchers from The Methodist Hospital Research Institute (TMHRI) in Houston, USA. TMHRI also held an event in Houston as part of the Gagliato.
Nearly 20 scientists took part in NanoPiccola this year, including Methodist Hospital Research Institute President and CEO Mauro Ferrari, TMHRI Department of Nanomedicne Co-chair Ennio Tasciotti, and Chief of Spinal Surgery Bradley Weiner. Weiner, Tasciotti, and Ferrari are currently engaged in a nanotech project to develop bone-healing “BioNanoScaffolding” molecules.
Here’s a video of the event,
Might one day shuttle drugs around
Our blood stream, not space