Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Week of January 18, 2009

There were six major events and some minor ones. I hope you enjoy the new direction the blog is taking.


This week, the House Science and Technology Committee introduced H.R. 554, National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2009. It is much too early to see what effect this resolution will have since there are many more hoops. The community is watching whether there will be an increase in funding for EHS research and some others are waiting to see if a societal guru is part of the package. Selecting someone for that short list will be nearly impossible though watching some of my colleagues jockeying for position could be highly entertaining.


Another set of big stories related to the poor track record for the EPA’s voluntary reporting scheme. The interim report does not bode well for the voluntary systems staving off harder regulatory options. Richard Denison goes a step further claiming the EPA “squandered precious time” with the voluntary scheme. See his blog entry for more - http://blogs.edf.org/nanotechnology/2009/01/12/62/.
While I wouldn’t go as far as Richard, there seems to be a mixed bag of success and shortcomings associated with the scheme though the successes are harder to discern than the shortcomings.


This article was anticipated. What happens when an NGO, like FOE Australia, spreads misinformation about the risks of nanoparticle infused sunscreens in a country with the highest sun exposure melanoma rates in the world? Well, people stop using it and the melanoma rates increase claiming health and lives along the way. There is little evidence this has happened but apprehension was voiced by New South Wales Cancer Council this could be happening. You will definitely hear more about this since I have folks trying to determine how to generate data on this effect. If you want to read the article, it is archived at the Sydney Morning Herald and ran on January 11. (http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/smear-campaign-against-suncream-is-risking-lives/2009/01/10/1231004355070.html).


I am going to try to learn more about this reported conclusion for the National University of Singapore team led by chemist Suresh Valiyaveetil. This involved some human cell and zebra fish research and was reported at a Cochin conference in Kerala, India. This was reported on January 9. For more information, check ExpressBuzz (http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/default.aspx).


Here was a small story with a potentially large impact. This report comes from a Melbourne team headed by Frank Caruso. Caruso claims these capsules might be highly effective in stimulating immune responses. This could represent a significant development in vaccine research and we should keep tabs on this work. This was reported by Nanowerk on January 13 (http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=8863.php).


A Korean team led by Won Seok Han and Jong Hwa Jung reported this finding. Magnetic nanoparticles can presumably eliminate up to 96% from the bloodstream and this does not involve the chelation method and would work more like dialysis. The results were reported in Angewandte Chemie. This was reported in AtoZ Nano on January 15. (http://www.azonano.com/news.asp?newsID=9430).


GREEN CONCRETE in NanoWerk (http://www.nanowerk.com/news/newsid=8868.php).

NANOTUBE SUPERBATTERIES in Technology Review (http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/21938/?a=f).

BIODEGRADABLE PLASTICS in Tahnhnien News (http://www.thanhniennews.com/print.php?catid=4&newsid=45235).

PEN REPORT ON NANO AND VITAMINS. See a Hard Pill to Swallow at the WWI site. See http://www.nanotechproject.org/publications/archive/pen17/.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I know I have been hardly focused on my blog these days. The new job at NCSU and the new grant has been keeping me very busy. I apologize. However, I have been given full release from all teaching duties at NCSU by a great dean and department chairman. I am writing some books, speaking at conferences, and working on my grant as well as writing some new proposals.

As you are aware, I have a small staff of graduate students and we have been working on a NIRT as well as some other projects. When I came to NCSU the goal was for me to create a project (soon to become a center) associated with the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCOST). This is well on its way and I have met with architects who are designing our suite of offices in a building on NCSU's Centennial Campus. More on this later (http://communication.chass.ncsu.edu/pcost/index.html).

One of these projects are Citizen's Guides to Nanotechnology (CGN).

What are CGNs?

CGNs are written in a registry (term used in journalism to describe writing styles usually designed hierarchically against different types of audiences) appropriate for public consumption. CGNs do not cover the subject material exhaustively. Instead, they expose the reader to a sense of the subject material. In addition, they are electronic and will be edited. Hence, the first posted edition is 1.0 and we expect many subsequent posted editions.

Where are CGNs


Why CGNs?

There are many reasons. First and foremost has been the dismal failure on the part of the social science and societal researchers to provide a true clearinghouse for the general public. At best, we get a spattering of offerings and extensive digital libraries of technical papers and reports. Second we have a tendency on the part of media to exaggerate findings and concerns to increase viewership and readership. This often leads to fear appeals of all sorts. (I have a major piece on fear and nanoscience forthcoming). Third, my graduate students needed to learn how to communicate to a broad collection of audiences beyond the traditional academic ones that dominate their publishing outlets. As a scholar in public sphere discussions, I was drawn to move them toward learning to speak in a public registry. Finally, we have generated one of the most complete libraries of nanoscience and nanotechnology materials we feel exists. It includes nearly every government report and nearly every publication in the popular literature on nanoscience and nanotechnology. This file is huge and occupies six shelves, four file drawers, and a multi-gig digital library as well. Every article we felt was important and many that were not that appeared on the WWW was printed as a pdf into our electronic library so nothing has been lost. In addition, one of my students is converting hard copy to digital copy and we are posting our library on a university website so all researchers involved in our program can access the material (more on this later).

The first issue is on Nano and Cosmetics and was driven by the work I did for my recent articles in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research in December 2008. [ “Rhetorical gamesmanship in the nano debates over sunscreens and nanoparticles,” Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 10. December 2008, 23-37. DOI 10.1007/s11051-008-9362-7 and “Reply from David Berube, NCSU,” Journal of Nanoparticle Research. 10. December 2008, 265-266. DOI 10.1007/s11051-008-9442-8.]

The second and third issue are being prepared. We have one on food products and another on food production. Others as you can see from our website (above) are in preparation.

So what is up with the blog?

I decided the best thing I can do is write about the state of nano on a weekly basis. Each week as we archive the week's articles in our virtual library, I will take notes and report what is happening and why what is reported as happening might be important. Unlike all other sites, we will not simply link you to article you can read on your own, we will digest the material and try to explain why it is or is not important, highlighting hyperbole and questioning focus.

Hope you enjoy the new direction for the blog. And expect weekly blogs (nothing like a promise to get me back to the keyboard).