German EPA warns against Nanoparticles

The following story will likely remain unreported in the US media:

Germany’s Umweltbundesamt (UBA) [Federal Environmental Agency] will release a new study today advising consumers to avoid products using nanoparticles, as long as their effects on the environment and human health are largely unknown. The federal agency is also calling for regulations on labeling and reporting products containing nanomaterials. This would affect the more than 800 German companies that use the new technology in their products. (via Nanopublic)

This is huge, like if the FDA were to warn against the use of cellphones because it has “been linked with cancer.”

Religion and Nanotechnology and ‘Framing Nano’ report

The Swiss think tank ‘The Innovation Society’ has released a report titled “Framing Nano” (pdf) which explores governance and regulation/legislation in nanotechnology.

Some teasers:

  • France, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, UK and some Scandinavian countries are the most active countries in Europe in addressing the issues related to nanoregulation. The report also describes the various voluntary measures currently in progress or already completed.
  • Nanoregulation must be regarded as a dynamic issue which must adapt to the evolution of the scientific knowledge, applications and public attitude. A continuous updating must be part of the governance of nanotechnology.
  • Public acceptance and public engagement are core aspects of the debate. While in the USA and some other countries, public participation is seen, in the first place, as an instrument to ensure public acceptance (or to avoid negative risk perception), European vision seems more focused on fostering the broader concept of “public engagement” in the development and governance of nanotechnologies as a way of democratic legitimisation.
  • As a general conclusion, most governments and regulatory authorities consider existing regulatory frameworks, such as REACH in Europe and TSCA in USA, appropriate in principle to deal with many of the nanomaterials currently in use. However, the many divergent positions regarding different stakeholder groups are also pointed out in the mapping study.

The bolded text speaks to a report (Religious beliefs and public attitudes toward nanotechnology in Europe and the United States) released in Dec of 08 regarding a survey of Nanotechnology’s “Moral Acceptability.” The study established a correlation between religiosity and moral acceptability of nanotechnology. The more religious respondants deemed nanotechnology more unacceptable. This is a feature of the American psyche that has affected how public institutions approach and frame Nano issues. To appear safe, new technologies must be more rigorously framed as morally ambivalent than in European (read: godless) nations. Observe the pretty graph:


So what do you make of this?

New Course at Vassar: The Societal Implications of Emergent Nanotechnology

New Course at Vassar:
STS 254-1 Molecular Coordinates: The Societal Implications of Emergent Nanotechnology
This course is designed to enable you to analyze dynamics and relationships germane to the domestic arenas of emergent nanotechnological research and development from approximately 1980-2006, and, in turn, the enmeshed ethical, societal, legal, martial, political and imaginary implications they suggest.   Our course will place a particular emphasis on tracking the traffic of science fictional concepts and discourses in the formation of nanotechnology, its public perception to date and possible future significance.  Mr. Bennett

My thesis focuses on these themes in the context of Gray Goo,   and I’m very excited that Vassar is starting a nanotechnology course!  

Dr. Bennett gave a presentation on nanotechnology as an ‘adolescent technology’ a couple weeks ago to members of the Science, Technology, and Society department. Though I’ve spent the past several months studying nanotechnology in social terms, he had new broad perspectives on the field.

If you can, take this course. Bennett is personally familiar with Eric Drexler who coined the word ‘nanotechnology’ in the English language. It’s hard to find someone who has as broad an understanding of the issues in nanotechnology as Bennett. He may be that source of nanowisdom Vassar will benefit from.

International Festival of Nanoart

Small art, but still not very good

37 nanoartists from 13 countries and 4 continents sent 121 NanoArt works to this second edition of the international competition. Public online voting is now open through March 31, 2008 at Judging is via the Internet and decided by the site visitors.

This site was founded by the artist and scientist Cris Orfescu ( to promote worldwide the NanoArt as a reflection of the technological movement. NanoArt is a more appealing and effective way to communicate with the general public and to inform people about the new technologies of the 21st Century and should raise the public’s awareness of Nanotechnology and its impact on our lives.

On the poorly designed site my favorite works are by Pran Mukherjee, Eleanor Howe, and Mark Stock

The original image was taken from nanograting research. The process used was: thermal oxidation of silicon, deposition of a thin Cr layer, spin-coating of 200nm thermal plastic resist, nanoimprinting of a grating structure into the resist, and plasma etching of the resist, Cr layer, and then silicon oxide layer. This image is a failed portion of the oxide etch step, probably caused by insufficient Cr etching. The image has been subsequently cropped and colorized to accentuate features and suggest alternate narratives.
25000x magnification

Some are pretty terrible, and resemble the artwork of the mad scientists these guys probably are.

Best of 2007 – And I still don’t know what Moneydick truly means

By a large margin, my article on the emo creature is the most popular this year, with over 50,000 hits. Second place goes to an ancient article titled ‘A scientific Approach to Myspace’s Failure.’

For some reason, most visitors to my site are based in London and Tokyo. I’m sorry if I’ve neglected any American English speakers.

It wasn’t the most exciting year for Moneydick, but here are some potent notables that received a lot of traffic and should be remembered.

The Senica Tale – A Geo Mystery: A digital novel in Google Earth I uncovered.
Serenading Gone Wrong – The Photo evidence of an unfortunate event during a traditional food fight at Vassar.
Tim and The Great Beyond – The Last in an interview series with a magical man.
Facebook Code Comments – It must have been embarassing for FB when this got out… This article was linked to by the Financial Times London.
Video Picks for December – some amazing videos that few people seem to know about. Especially Robot High School.
Nanotechnology as a Subgenre of Science Fiction – A quick post about where I’m going with my senior Science Technology and Society thesis at Vassar.

| Nanotechnology as a subgenre of science fiction, new photos, and some music to help your forget the nano |

Theoretical Model of a Nano bearing

The nano is within me and without you as I embark on my fourth month of research into the Gray Goo Scenario (an apocalyptic vision of nanotech popular from 1986-2001 wherin nanomachines self-replicate to no end, devouring the earth) for my senior thesis. Let’s just say I’ve done a lot of squinting.
In more upbeat news, Robert Hamers, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has created his school’s mascot with tiny carbon nanofiber hairs. For scale, 9,000 of these rascally teddy bears could fit on the head of a single pin.

As always, research into the production of very small things requires a tip of the hat to Robert Feynman who got all excited in 1959 over the inevitable miniaturization of technology. He would shit a pin-sized brick today if he knew what we were doing with nanotech (and if he were alive).

Luckily for us, the field hasn’t been moving forward as quickly as people have hoped. We haven’t written his speech on the head of a pin (his challenge within his 1959 speech). But most importantly we don’t have a number of the things nanoethicists have been saying were just a few nanotech breakthroughs away.

nano-blood-robotThere’s no robotic submarines that swim around our blood, repairing our every ill, and we also don’t have fly-sized assasins capable of injecting sarin gas into the jugular of the nearest Russian Mob boss.

These silly predictions make it an exciting field filled with utterly confusing consequences for man and bear. To cope with this technological insecurity, the field depends on a heavy component of mythology and imaginative futurism. Everything theoretical is possible simply by virtue of it’s ability to be imagined. Confused on how to deal with it? Me too. Nanotech has convinced a lot of people that we will have ultimate control over matter. Anything made of matter can be produced. If technology = matter and we can imagine any technology, then anything = possible. We just need to work out the kinks of about ten trillion problems before our godlike control of matter becomes a reality. Think 40-60 years.


99% of scientists
have read this book

What I’m dealing with specifically in my thesis is the notion that nanotechnology writing has taken too many liberties with futurism. As a socio-political lubricant of technology transparency (vital for democracy), science journalism (or any link between public and scientific spheres) has failed the public, jamming up the works. The allure of juxtaposing apocalyptic consequences of theoretical technologies with their utopian counterparts is partly to blame. The field has not yet learned to temper its deterministic narrative. It’s for this reason that Nanotech writing has been called a “subgenre of science fiction.” The whole world makes for interesting reading on a cold night such as tonight [24F].

All the systems (NGOs, civil society organizations) employed to respond to the news of outlandish and theoretical nanotech fears have expended energy on a distant and uncertain threats and failed to address current nanotech issues like nanoparticle stability in the environment and the effects of nanotech inhalation. The extremely high surface areas of nanomaterials is believed to complicate particle toxicity. As a result of the lazy NGO action, we now have nanotech in 300 products and still no function to regulate them. The FDA response was to assign approximately 3.2 monkeys to whack repeatedly at small banana-shaped joysticks.

In response to many many many calls to enforce the labelling of nano-containing products for consumption, the FDA responded with this conclusion:

Recommendations for Consideration

Because the current science does not support a finding that classes of products with nanoscale materials necessarily present greater safety concerns than classes of products without nanoscale materials, the Task Force does not believe there is a basis for saying that, as a general matter, a product containing nanoscale materials must be labeled as such. Therefore the Task Force is not recommending that the agency require such labeling at this time. Instead, the Task Force recommends that the agency take the following action:

* Address on a case-by-case basis whether labeling must or may contain information on the use of nanoscale materials.

Nano lacks compelling regulatory efforts by either the epa or the fda. The EPA was about to team up with a major corporation to create an environmental risk asessment but there was too much of a holler in the academic halls.

And get this: A bloody “nano-silver” clothes washer just came out, promising to soak your clothes in a soapy-silver dust (an anti-bacterial agent):

silver%20washer%20samsungThe Silver Nano Health System is a comprehensive system developed by Samsung to improve your quality of life by eliminating bacteria from the places that count most. Despite our hopes, the appliances we rely on often become breeding grounds for very bacteria and odors we hope to remove. Just as a dirty washer never truly cleans clothes, only clean air conditioners and purifiers can supply clean air, and a clean, bacteria free refrigerator keeps food fresh longer. Samsung has found a solution in the safety of silver, ionizing silver into ions for an effective coating that lets your home appliances remain remarkably free of bacteria and odors. We���re creating a zone of protection for the health and safety of your family���s future. It���s here, it���s clear and it���s silver. [link]

Busy days

On a personal note, I’ll be working feverishly over the next two weeks on a

  • Latin History final paper
  • Biological and Chemical Weapons Arms Control Research Paper (I’m writing on Nanotech Arms Control)
  • A bioethics research paper on the moral distinction between ‘enhancement’ and ‘treatment’ in regards to Genetic Medicine and Genetic Therapy
  • And last but not least, working on my thesis. A rough draft is due January 28th. I can’t tell you about it because it’s secret.

New Photos

The Dirty Projectors, Video Hippos, and Ponytail came to vassar Nov 30th. I took whipped out the soul catchercam: Jump into a slideshow or view the set here.

And Here’s some tunes like I promised ya:
Continue reading “| Nanotechnology as a subgenre of science fiction, new photos, and some music to help your forget the nano |”

Nano-Hazard Design Contest

I’m writing my thesis on an aspect of the ethics of nanotechnology, so I’ll probably be tempted to post things relating to the topic. Here are the 16 finalists for the Nano-Hazard design contest. The three winners are last. nanohazard%20etc%20group
The Winners are….
I think the first one is pretty cartoonish, the last could be “Beware the dust” but the middle one is just perfect. Simple and direct. The things to beware are small, and this is a warning sign. What are you gonna do? Go hunting with your electron microscope? Or just run?