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Nano Safety Worries Scientists More Than Public 167

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the what-aren't-they-telling-us dept.
Nanotech Coward writes "The unknown human health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology are a bigger worry for scientists than for the public, according to a new report in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The new report was based on a national telephone survey of American households and a sampling of 363 leading U.S. nanotechnology scientists and engineers. It reveals that those with the most insight into a technology with enormous potential — and that is already emerging in hundreds of products — are unsure what health and environmental problems might be posed by the technology."
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Nano Safety Worries Scientists More Than Public

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  • not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by leomekenkamp (566309) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:02AM (#21479021)
    Well informed scientist see more possible causes for harm than the non-informed general public. This hardly comes as a surprise to me.
    • Re:not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:12AM (#21479125) Homepage Journal

      Well informed scientist see more possible causes for harm than the non-informed general public. This hardly comes as a surprise to me.
      Not always. Many times it's the other way around. Take, for example, genetically modified food. Most scientists working in this area see no harmful effects from GM food, yet many in the general public think GM food is going to kill them, cause cancer, or other such nonsense. Or human cloning. Many people in the general public are absolutely terrified of human cloning, yet I'd bet most scientists see no problem with this from a biotech standpoint, except for a few ethical considerations.

      It cuts both ways.
      • Re:not surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Feyr (449684) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:29AM (#21479357) Journal
        so uninformed public overreact/dont overreact to a piece of technology based on just how much dollar is out there instilling or not instilling fear in them (ie, greenpeace).

        this is news how? sheeps will be sheeps
        • by digitig (1056110)

          I don't think it's just the publicity $. For most of the general public (by which, according to /. custom, I really mean me) nanotechnology is the stuff that keeps Jack Harkness alive and heals Ratchet. Ok, it went a bit wrong in The Empty Child, but The Doctor sorted it out.

          Unless you think that it's all product placement, and it's the publicity $ that has made it a beneficial sci-fi staple...

        • Most scientists working in GM, or any other field for that matter, have a vested interest to keep their mouths shut. The day of independent scientists is long gone. Even University scientists are funded my MegaCorp and that funding coerces scientists into keeping quiet.

          Even apart from funding, it is very difficult for someone to acknowledge the downside to the work they are doing. After 5 years in the lab would you like to acknowledge that your developments could be a Bad Idea? Scientists are human too, wel

      • Re:not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:40AM (#21479471) Journal
        If people really cared that much about GM food, it'd have to be, you know, labeled. Thanks to the GM lobby, most people have already been eating GM foods for years. I have a problem with GM foods, but it's more about the problem with the modified plants cross-pollenating with unmodified plants, and corrupting unmodified seed lines, as well as the crappy business policies of companies like Monsanto.

        I don't have any particular opinion about human cloning, except for the fact that I don't see any actual point in it. Animal cloning is done to strengthen the breed, technically, so either we're advocating some kind of eugenics, which is just inherently a bad idea, or we're catering to people's mistaken desire to have a genetic duplicate of a dead person, which is also a pretty bad idea.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by foobsr (693224)
          Where I live, it has to be labelled:

          The EU recognises the consumers' right to information and labelling as a tool for making an informed choice. Since 1997 Community legislation has made labelling of GM food mandatory for:
          * products that consist of GMO or contain GMO;
          * products derived from GMO but no longer containing GMO if there is still DNA or protein resulting from the genetic modification present;
          http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/gmfood/labelling_en.htm [europa.eu]

          However, I am not s
        • Re:not surprising (Score:4, Informative)

          by Ajehals (947354) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:04PM (#21479803) Homepage Journal
          My prime concern with GM foods is the copyright / patent element, although this extends beyond GM foods into conventionally modified varieties as well. The fact that in many areas it is now a requirement that the crops grown come from licensed seed types and those types are owned by the suppliers not the grower may cause fairly large problems down the road.

          The main issues I see (other than the ones you already pointed out) are the fact that 'heritage' varieties are being lost, simply because the new GM replacements have better guarantee's as to the end product, biodiversity is reduced which in turn makes large scale crop failures more likely (i.e. there is a single point of failure as all the plants are genetically similar, a single biological or environmental threat could destroy an entire crop). I would also suspect that monetizing this seed IP could well lead to higher seed prices (you get a higher yield after all) which may be an issue for smaller farmers, especially subsistence farmers.

          AFAIK The health elements of GM seeds have not been fully investigated, nor will they be (no one investigated the health implications of new varieties created conventionally after all) so the potential for problems exists (the BSE crisis in the UK was caused in some degree by modern and more cost effective farming practices after all).

          The biggest problem however is not with GM itself but the fact that it it now impossible to have a discussion about any remotely controversial scientific topic without it becoming a contest of marketing efforts, both sides (and there generally are only two that are heard) making false claims or overstating risks or benefits and most importantly trying to turn complex issues into soundbytes.
          • by Firethorn (177587)
            AFAIK The health elements of GM seeds have not been fully investigated, nor will they be (no one investigated the health implications of new varieties created conventionally after all) so the potential for problems exists (the BSE crisis in the UK was caused in some degree by modern and more cost effective farming practices after all).

            By the same token, couldn't you say that GM seeds have been more far more fully investigated than their conventional cousins?

            There have been cases of non-genemod crops having
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by inviolet (797804)

          I don't have any particular opinion about human cloning, except for the fact that I don't see any actual point in it. Animal cloning is done to strengthen the breed, technically, so either we're advocating some kind of eugenics, which is just inherently a bad idea, or we're catering to people's mistaken desire to have a genetic duplicate of a dead person, which is also a pretty bad idea.

          Eugenics is inherently bad?

          If eugenics is defined as "improving humans through genetic selection or modification", that

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
            Consider all the rational improvements that could be made through genetic improvements: we could increase tendencies to be smart, scientific, responsible, just, good-natured, conscientious, or whatever other characteristics are found to have genetic inputs.

            And we could increase the tendencies to be dumb, obedient, hard working, and short-lived, thereby making us into the people that governments and corporations would dream us to be.

            Do you really want to start going down that road? I don't like companies mes
            • by inviolet (797804)

              And we could increase the tendencies to be dumb, obedient, hard working, and short-lived, thereby making us into the people that governments and corporations would dream us to be. Do you really want to start going down that road? I don't like companies messing casually with plant genomes...Do you really want to jack some patented gene sequences into your kids? If they breed is it going to violate someone's copyright?

              Given the choice between the random genetic accidents of nature, and the guided decisions

              • It's easy to say enhanced IQ for everone is a good thing, but I'm not sure it is. High IQ actually tends to be destabilizing for society...Buncha damn smartasses thinking they know better than everyone else ;)

                The point is, we can't know what effect widespread adoption of even benign-seeming enhancements will have on society. It's easy to think that everyone will be smarter, healthier, prettier, and longer-lived, but the reality may make that pretty horrible.
            • This is an area where everyone is going to outlaw it while it is increasingly common in secret.

              So you want your children to be healthier than average, of good height, of good looks, and less likely to have cancer?
              Now- difficult.
              100 years from now- easy.

              (I don't think we have 100 years left in us tho-- something very bad is likely to happen before then-- the ability to kill hundreds of millions of people gets cheaper every day too).
          • by Firethorn (177587)
            Consider all the rational improvements that could be made through genetic improvements: we could increase tendencies to be smart, scientific, responsible, just, good-natured, conscientious, or whatever other characteristics are found to have genetic inputs.

            I'd settle for reducing/eliminating genetic causes of stuff like type 1 diabetes, alzheimer's, parkinson's, blindness, and deafness. There's a lot more that are even more damaging, I know, but I'd be going for the 'most bang for the buck', IE go after t
            • by inviolet (797804)

              I'd be going for the 'most bang for the buck', IE go after the most debilitating diseases first - the ones we have good tests for, can detect early in a pregnancy, or easily test embryos for artificial insemination.

              Those are good thoughts. Maybe I'm too cynical, but I see stupidity, tribalism, and free-riding as the most socially costly maladies that could be cured by genetic modifications. Diseases are a distant second, sort of like how terrorism has our attention but in reality is actually a very small

              • by Firethorn (177587)
                Unfortunately, I can't agree with you, as I've never heard of genes being found that are responsible for stupidity, tribalism, and free-riding. I'm afraid that I believe that our these traits are a very complex affair - tying into multiple genes(like skin&hair color), environment, diet, upbringing, culture, etc...

                So we have to work with what we've got. Please note that I pointed out syndromes that can be traced, normally, to a single defective gene - resulting in traceable defective metabolic paths.

                Th
              • by LKM (227954)
                That's a dangerous precedent to set. If you're going to elliminate personal trait, why not make everyone obedient? Wow, perfection achieved!
          • Of course eugenics is inherently bad. Its goal is to "improve" people -- and without their permission, since you're doing it before they're even born. It applies your standards of what constitutes "improvement".

            we could increase tendencies to be smart, scientific, responsible, just, good-natured, conscientious

            • Scientific? Tell that to the Amish, or to Fundamentalist Christians. They may not WANT their children to grow up to be skeptical and ultra-rational.
            • Good-natured? Not everyone thinks that being
        • by Telvin_3d (855514)
          Most of the time when human cloning is talked about in a serious way, what is really being discussed is cloaned organs. Now, you never hear that in the news because someone making a copy of their speen is less newsworthy than some mad scientist trying to copy whole people. Almost all of the serious reserch is geared towards specific parts, ont whole people.
        • Emphasis mine:

          I don't have any particular opinion about human cloning, except for the fact that I don't see any actual point in it. Animal cloning is done to strengthen the breed, technically, so either we're advocating some kind of eugenics

          What?

          Animal cloning is not done to strengthen a breed -- it does nothing to the genome at all.

          Animal cloning is used to preserve a bloodline or even to propagate it, but I don't see how you could claim it's done to strengthen a breed -- do you have any examples of this

          • Ideally, those strong stock that you've preserved would then be bred to other stock in an attempt to pass favorable traits among living animals...You wouldn't (hopefully) just breed up a herd of identical animals...That would leave you in a bad position in a lot of ways.

            Therefore, to strengthen the species.
            • My point is, by extension, that any kind of selective breeding leads to eugenics if you follow that logic to its conclusion. If selective breeding is OK for livestock, why would a tool that makes it more efficient be bad?

              People selecting mates based on race, based on appearance, based on income, etc., all should be considered as steps on the slippery slope to eugenics if you follow your logic to its conclusion.

              Eugenics is widely derided, for lots of reasons. Mostly because it's viewed as state control o
      • Yes, not many scientists have jumped on the bandwagon to rid the world of dihydrogen oxide.
      • Re:not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

        by itsdapead (734413) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:17PM (#21479945)

        Most scientists working in this area see no harmful effects from GM food, yet many in the general public think GM food is going to kill them, cause cancer, or other such nonsense.

        Problem is, most members of the general public (at least here in the UK) remember the little debacle a few years back when

        1. most scientists working in the area saw no danger in feeding animals on the bovine equivalent of Soylent Green
        2. Whups, the cows are getting BSE, but most scientists saw no danger of it passing to humans
        3. Ah, perhaps there was some danger of it passing to humans after all, but despite CJD having a long, indeterminate incubation period and there not being any test for it, most scientists see no danger of a mass epidemic of horrible lingering deaths (fingers crossed...)

        Consequently, the general public can be forgiven for suspecting that "most scientists" get altogether too much funding from Big Agrobusiness to have an impartial view on the matter. This is rather unfair to "most scientists" and probably more due to politicians not understanding the difference between conclusive scientific proof and risk/benefit analysis (when the only benefit is to the coffers of Big Agrobusiness; the starving third world can't afford GM seed and the overfed first world has no particular need for more efficient agriculture).

        • most scientists working in the area saw no danger in feeding animals on the bovine equivalent of Soylent Green

          Quite sure about that? Studying nuclear physics I often hear people say things along the lines of "well everyone said chernobyl was safe" which is of course complete nonsense. It is very common for people who do not like what scientists say to try to discredit the scientific process based on straw man arguments. Have a look at the global warming debate for a plethora of examples. I think you will fi

          • by itsdapead (734413)

            Sorry, I did mean to put quotes around "most scientists" in each of those sentences - sadly, these hypothetical "most scientists" are heavily discredited in the public eye and I did go on to point out that the real problem was politicians "cherry picking" the uncertainties.

            Have a look at the global warming debate for a plethora of examples.

            That's also a good example of my point about scientific proof vs. risk analysis - there's more than enough evidence to justify "doing something" about it on a risk an

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Most scientists working in this area see no harmful effects from GM food, yet many in the general public think GM food is going to kill them, cause cancer, or other such nonsense. Or human cloning. Many people in the general public are absolutely terrified of human cloning, yet I'd bet most scientists see no problem with this from a biotech standpoint, except for a few ethical considerations.

        That is a straw man. The issues with GM have to do with labelling (so you know you're not getting what the term "tomato" usually stands for, whether or not you like the alleged improvements) and stuff escaping and destroying ecosystems.

        We already have a problem with BT corn escaping and contaminating crops of small/poor farmers. Surprise, surprise, the pollen gets blown into other fields. Fortunately, most people aren't highly allergic to the toxin, but then Monsanto might come along and sue them to

      • The scientists are infact concerned about GM food.
        Real stuff like preventing the plants from overtaking the unmodified plants that is.

        Stuff like cancer is nonsense and scientists dont lose sleep over idiots.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by JeffSchwab (1159723) *
        GMO-related concerns aren't "nonsense." You might want to do a little research on that topic before you go spouting off about it. For starters, watch this documentary: http://www.thefutureoffood.com/ [thefutureoffood.com] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qU8XrioF4CE [youtube.com] Then, read this (enjoyable) book: http://www.michaelpollan.com/omnivore.php [michaelpollan.com] Beyond the immediate (human lifespan) health concerns, there are patent nightmares aplenty. GMO plants are treated as IP. Seed from the GMO plants contaminates traditional f
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iangoldby (552781)
      What is more usual is for the public to vastly over-estimate the risks. This often occurs when scientists cannot say with 100% certainty that a certain thing is safe, and is largely a result of the public's generally poor understanding of risk and probability.

      It could be said that the public's opposition to nuclear power, GM crops, etc, is largely an irrational reaction to the impossibility of scientists and policy-makers giving cast-iron guarantees that accidents can never and will never happen (not a view
      • Well, yes, but is this not because there has been no significant issue with nanotech yet? I mean, we all know about radioactivity since Hiroshima/Nagasaki. On the other hand, people were afraid to get on the first trains, because they thought their internal organs would be mashed up because of the 'enormous' speeds.

        Add to this the more apathic 'politicians know what is best for us' mentality there seems to be nowadays; it would come as no surprise that something has to go wrong first before the general pub

        • but is this not because there has been no significant issue with nanotech yet
          Wrong. One word: asbestos.

          Asbestos' danger stems from the fact that its fibers are so small that they get into the lungs unhindered where they wreak their havoc. Even if it's natural, it's still nanotech in a way.

          • You are absolutely right; I had not thought of that one. Asbestos off course stems form an era when the word nanotech was (probably) not yet thought up, so most of the general public (and even probably here on /.) would not connect the two (saving my face here :-).

            So all it takes now is for the media to connect asbestos and nanotech; that might convince politicians to disregard brib^H^H^H^H campaign contributions to make sure the proper safeguards will be incorporated in laws.

      • by jav1231 (539129)
        "It could be said that the public's opposition to nuclear power"
        The issue with nuclear power isn't that its without risk. Rather, that our containment capabilities mitigate those risks to the point that the benefits far outweigh the probability of an accident. This is different that GM and possibly nanotech. We're not turning radiation out into our landfills and waterways. With GM we're consuming it. And since so much of what happens in our bodies happens over time its easy to see no issue within say a yea
    • Well this sounds like a serious problem, because the public are actually more of a threat to scientists than any nano-tecnology whatnot.
    • Re:not surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kebes (861706) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:20AM (#21479227) Journal
      Disclosure: I do research in the (overly-broad) field of "nanotechnology."

      I went to a talk recently discussing the safety issues surrounding nanotechnology (health effects of nanoparticles, in particular). Several possible problems were identified, and there is vigorous ongoing research to determine the full health and environmental implications of this technology.

      In short, I get the impression that scientists are trying to "get it right this time." That is, we are all keenly aware that numerous scientific breakthroughs had unintended health side-effects (e.g. the originally unknown effects of radiation, carcinogens, etc.). So the scientific community is determined to identify the safety concerns as quickly as possible, before these technologies become widespread. This is, obviously, a good thing. Though possibly overly-cautious, this strategy should minimize the risk of public health concerns and evironmental damage.

      In any case, as you said it's hardly surprising that the people most intimately familiar with the technology are best able to predict its problems/shortcomings. Also worth noting is that the scientists working with these technologies/materials have a vested self-interest in identifying health problems, since they are the ones being exposed to these materials.
    • Then you should RTFA (Score:3, Informative)

      by mangu (126918)

      Well informed scientist see more possible causes for harm than the non-informed general public. This hardly comes as a surprise to me.

      If you had taken time to read the article instead of rushing to get the first post, you would know that what's causing surprise is not that scientists see possible causes for harm, but that "The new findings are in stark contrast to controversies sparked by the advent of technologies of the past such as nuclear power and genetically modified foods, which scientists perceived

      • The new findings are in stark contrast to controversies sparked by the advent of technologies of the past such as nuclear power and genetically modified foods, which scientists perceived as having lower risks than did the public

        I think that's revisionist history.

        At a similar point in time (don't forget, we're a long way from real nanotech), the public was similarly clueless and complacent about both of these. It was scientists, like these ones, who first started talking about dangers, and it wasn't until a
    • Re:not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:24AM (#21479285) Homepage Journal
      I'm sure the public will be able to grossy overestimate the risk once a movie comes out where people die from breathing nanoparticles or something.

      The craziest thing is that with the average Joe the most common concern I've heard about nanotech is fear of the "grey goo" scenario, which in my mind is probably the least likely way we're going to destroy all life as we know it. The practical considerations of that scenario are enormous and we'd be lucky to get within 5 orders of magnitude of having to even worry about it.

      The bigger concern in my book is the stuff that acts like asbestos in your lungs and gives you cancer or just makes a mess of cell walls.
      • check out 'byssinosis'. Most people wouldn't think yarn is a health danger, but it is to textile workers. http://lungdiseases.about.com/od/byssinosis/a/byssinosis.htm [about.com]
      • by vertinox (846076)
        The craziest thing is that with the average Joe the most common concern I've heard about nanotech is fear of the "grey goo" scenario

        Speaking of which... If you noticed the slashdot tags, there appears to be two types of nanobots. A British and an American ;)
        • by gardyloo (512791)

          The craziest thing is that with the average Joe the most common concern I've heard about nanotech is fear of the "grey goo" scenario
          Speaking of which... If you noticed the slashdot tags, there appears to be two types of nanobots. A British and an American ;)
          One of those is Earl Grey Goo, the afternoon goo.

                (Giggigty giggity, of course)
    • We should already know how dangerous the natural nano-technology is (virus, bacteria, etc, etc), like we need to start releasing shit that automatically lives which we can't see into the system without really grasping it's implications.

      I'm all for technology, but stuff you can't see that can get inside you and do serious damage without your knowledge and companies being questionable guardians of the public good, I don't see how companies should not be strictly observed by everyone, period.
      • by compro01 (777531)
        We should already know how dangerous the natural nanotechnology is (virus, bacteria, etc, etc)

        to extend your analogy, we also already know how beneficial it is/can be with the example of all the bacteria in your gut that allow digestion of various things.

        as usual, technology is a double-edged blade. the same tech that can get a chemotherapy drug through the blood-brain barrier can also move something less friendly, intentionally or not.

        not a whole lot you can do about the intentionally bit as far as scienc
        • "as usual, technology is a double-edged blade."

          I'm more worried about the *cutting corners* aspect of it, not so much the technology as the idiots business people.
    • I'm not surprised at all that scientists found the iPod Nano dangerous, especially after this incident [engadget.com].
    • by samantha (68231) *
      There is no really good evidence that I am aware of that there is anything much too worry about as far as truly nano-sized particles per se. There was one ofter criticized study early on but not a lot else. So without much evidence of harm why does this keep coming up?
      • There was no evidence asbestos was dangerous. There was no evidence diethylstilbestrol (DES) was dangerous. There was no evidence that 'enginered' genes from Monsanto would spread to normal crops. There was no evidence the introduction of rabbits would cause havoc in the habitats of native species.

        There is no evidence that nanoparticles from paint can enter human cells and cause harm. Would you paint your house with such paint, or would you like to be absolutely positively sure that such particles are saf

      • Oops, hit 'reply' instead of 'preview': in the above one should read: rabbits introduced in Australia...
    • Usually, it is ignorance that breeds fear.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:05AM (#21479049)
    It's pretty easy for scientists to kill the public. Nano stuff seems a bit tougher to kill.
  • by pgillan (1043668) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:06AM (#21479061)
    How come I never get cool questions like this?
    • by LingNoi (1066278) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:10AM (#21479109)
      ...Because you would hold up the call operator for 40 minutes discussing the benefits of which OS the nanobots should run centred around some kind of car analogy?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by irtza (893217)
        What? Are you mad? There's no reason for discussion. The answer is obvious. The nanobot OS would be a monolithic unix derivative stripped down to the bare essentials with all drivers statically linked - like a custom Linux or BSD build. Tiny nanobots are like a Mini [miniusa.com]. You need something that will fit the form factor. You would need something like a a href=http://www.fordvehicles.com/trucks/f150/>Ford F150 to run Windows. Windows Doesn't even enter the nanobot market....

        more seriously though, if
  • Ok, (Score:2, Informative)

    by AltGrendel (175092)
    So they are all worried about grey goo? [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mdielmann (514750)

      So they are all worried about grey goo?

      It's probably much simpler than that. It's already known that small particles can cause lung problems up to and including cancer (from asbestos). Small particles can also cause problems for other parts of our body, such as skin irritation from fibreglass. Indications are that shape, size, and chemical composition are all factors in the toxicity of small particles. Until these risks are tested against and quantified, any responsible scientist would be concerned. No need for future possibilities like se

    • Re:Ok, (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kebes (861706) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:33AM (#21479399) Journal

      So they are all worried about grey goo? [wikipedia.org]
      No, not at all. The "grey goo" scenario (where self-replicating nano-robots consume all available resources and turn all materials into a giant amorphous glob of nanomachines) is not taken seriously both because it is unlikely to be plausible (with respect to things like complexity of design and thermodynamics of matter conversion and pattern replication); and because our current research in nanotechnology is too primitive compared to the molecular nanotechnology [wikipedia.org] that would be required for that scenario to even be remotely possible.

      No, the current concerns with nanotechnology are much more mundane: things like nanoparticles causing health concerns by passing into people's bodies and accumulating in organs. There is already some research suggesting that (some) nanoparticles can actually absorb into tissues or even pass through cell membranes. One of the reasons that nanoparticles might be great for biological applications is that they can be made to be at a size-scale that many biological processes ignore. The lack of an immune response is great in some ways, but it also means that the body may not be able to deal with possible negative side-effects.

      Other possible health, safety, and environmental concerns are just variants of what we're already worried about: carcinogens, flammability, toxicity, accumulation in the environment, etc. Associated with all this is coming up with the right procedures for filtering out dangerous materials, disposing of them safely, and so on. All these conventional concerns must be reconsidered when dealing with nanomaterials, since their behavior is different and sometimes non-intuitive.

      (Disclosure: I do research in "nanotechnology.")
      • The gray goo event already happened, though they got the color wrong. It was actually green, and involved self-replicating nanobots using sunlight to make the atmosphere toxic and kill off most life on the planet.

        Some of you might have heard of this Oxygen Catastrophe [wikipedia.org]. Sad times for our planet, indeed.
      • One of the reasons that nanoparticles might be great for biological applications...

        ...or weapons.

        Actually, I'm surprised we have not heard anything regarding nano-WMDs in the media yet. Seriously, don't people know that terrorists can make fullerene bombs from the soot of burnt wood [wikipedia.org]? And what do terrorists have abundant access to? Burnt wood!

        Coincidence? I think not!

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      No. Grey goo is a stupid fear, when you get down to it. The energy budget isn't there. You can't just walk over and dissolve rocks and glass and concrete and steel by trying to eat them. There isn't a net energy gain to be had.

      Smart scientists are worried about nanoparticles getting stuck places they shouldn't and doing bad things there. Like causing cancer. Or killing fish. Or accumulating in fish and killing people who eat fish. Or getting into peoples' brains and causing... brain problem stuff.

    • by magarity (164372)
      Forget "grey goo" - that's quick and relatively painless. It's Borg nanoprobes that scare the willies out of me.
    • We are the grey goo.
  • nano safety (Score:4, Funny)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:06AM (#21479071) Homepage Journal
    For maximum nano safety, just specify the -B, -N, and -t options.

    Oh, wait, you were talking about something else!

  • I am just glad that the American administration is looking after them. What? Rumsfeld is gone?? now we are in trouble.
  • Duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:14AM (#21479155) Journal
    Scientists are more worried about a lot of things than the general public. This is not because scientists are worriers, but because the general public is hopelessly ignorant about a lot of things.

    I see all this crap about how bad reporters are at science reporting...This is mainly from people who never have to watch their work be dumbed down over the course of days to the point where joe six pack can get some glimmer of meaning from it. Trying to convey anything scientific to the masses is extremely difficult.

    The truth of it is, the public, by and large, just doesn't care. They don't want to know. They don't want to make the effort. And if you succeed in enlightening them as to the dangers, then it's all too likely they'll panic and refuse to use anything even close to it, as was the case with nuclear energy.
    • Fully agreed. The other end of this is in ten years' time when (if?) something goes horribly wrong with nanotech, the public will get in an uproar about how they weren't told about the potential problems, and lawsuits will be filed and won.
      • And everyone will freak out and start wearing all natural fiber clothing (except the Japanese).

        Yea, it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. Most people don't have a real rational sense of danger and risk...People in Montana terrified of terrorists, even though you're more likely to die of a lightning strike. Far better to have a giant coal-fired power plant spewing mercury and radiation into your neighborhood than have a relatively clean nuke plant doing less damage for more energy. Yadda ya
    • by KKlaus (1012919)
      In defense of the "ignorant" public, if I have no say in future policy, what really is the point in worrying about it? I don't hold it again Joe Public for not caring overmuch about the future health implications of emerging technology, because he really has no say in how those health issues are ultimately handled, and worrying about them really does gain him nothing. So complain about "ignorance is bliss" if you want, I just don't think your average going-to-work-at-the-plant Joe has a better option.

      And
  • by stox (131684) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:18AM (#21479195) Homepage
    Nano formulated drugs can get into places that were impossible before. For this same reason, other nano formulated materials may present a severe danger. For example, I wouldn't want particles from the paint on my house to end up crossing the blood brain barrier.
  • by Kohath (38547) on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:19AM (#21479207)
    "The public" worries about what the media tells them to worry about. Did you know everyone's children are going to die from Chinese toys with lead in them? The public does.

    Scientists worry about science-related things they think are interesting. Hence, asteroids hitting Earth and nanotech are worried about.

    This should surprise no one.

    Social scientists are probably worried about the disconnect between the publics' and scientists' thinking though.
    • I'm sorry to break this to you....but you're part of the public. As are the scientists, for that matter.

      Or did you mean to say "all those ignorant peons whom I am so much superior to" instead of "the public"?
      • by Kohath (38547)
        My children just lick the lead house paint. So I don't have to buy expensive Chinese toys.

        My post was an implied criticism of the media, not the public. The news media are corrupt and their reports are misleading such that they are useless on average. The public has no reliable sources of information. There are many sources, none can be relied on completely. It's a sad situation, and it's not the public's fault.

        It's fairly clear that scientists have different interests than the public though. If you p
  • One thing I've learned over the years is that new technology almost never gets any extensive research on safety. It's too expensive and too difficult to predict problems. There are exceptions, of course, such as planes and things that generally involve the safety of hundreds of people.

    In most other cases, however, we learn from our own mistakes, through trial and error. If something goes wrong with a car, scientists will see this and hopefully perfect it in the next version.

    Same goes with nano technol
  • Oh, I'm Worried... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eli Gottlieb (917758) <eligottlieb@COFF ... m minus caffeine> on Monday November 26, 2007 @11:41AM (#21479481) Homepage Journal
    After all, and I quote, "It was us who scorched the sky."
  • I am a Public Health student currently, and I have been doing some research on this topic, was planning on writing a paper about it, but decided not to for the primary reason that there is little research data available on it and even less on implications from this data! The reason the general public is not concerned with the issue is two-fold.

    One, the public becomes concerned with a public health issue when it affects them directly or more commonly when the threat of HOW the issue affects them is conve
    • Also, nanotechnology is a buzzword. It is not a single material, and as such there really aren't any properties that are consistent among all the many things that are considered nanotechnology. With these new materials as with *any* material, rigorous testing is the key to safety. Period. That includes determining levels of acute as well as chronic toxicity, and delivery mechanisms of the material to key organ systems within the body.

      What we have here is failure to communicate. There is always fear of

      • by Firethorn (177587)
        Also, nanotechnology is a buzzword. It is not a single material, and as such there really aren't any properties that are consistent among all the many things that are considered nanotechnology

        Very good point. The 'public', or average person, can only handle so many risks.

        This is fairly easy for something like nuclear power - radiation is pretty much the sole considered risk. They, of course, forget about heavy metal poisoning. Asbestos, smoking? Lung cancer - many will forget about throat cancer, fire,
    • by gnalle (125916)
      That is an interesting story. I just don't understand why it is difficult to get this kind of research published. If journals are ready to publish this kind of articles with LD50 values of all sorts of chemicals, why don't they accept an article about a kind of nano-particles? Are the scentific journals really controlled that directly by the mass media? That surprises me.
      • Please don't let me confuse you! By no means is the media involved in the limited research data regarding the many types of nanomaterials. The primary reason it is limited is due to its fledgling period of discovery. As more ground is broken in developing and optimizing the usage of nanoparticles, the public health effect will follow (but always on its heels, rarely concurrently!) This because the first step is discovery; practical usage of these materials most follow. Only once they have a defined, be
  • by Bullfish (858648) on Monday November 26, 2007 @12:12PM (#21479883)
    Some guy (or woman) being nabbed at the 2026 Olympics for use of performance enhancing nanobots...
  • Nonsensical survey (Score:2, Insightful)

    by joeyblades (785896)
    This survey is bunk!

    Nanotechnology is still in it's infancy. There are a lot of things we don't know. Ask an average scientist for an opinion about the possibility of unplanned consequences in a relatively immature area of science and he will answer "I don't know". Ask any non-scientist the same question and the average non-scientist will have some sort of opinion, usually based on "If I haven't heard anything bad, it must be OK".

    This survey is comparing apples to oranges and trying to draw some infere

  • The article talks about "nanotechnology," which I assume includes both bots and materials and even manufacturing methods. That's what the word "technology" encompasses as far as I'm concerned. But they are all very very different things and the article makes absolutely no distinction. Talking about "nanotechnology safety" is like talking about "information technology safety," it's basically nonsense. Maybe you can force it if you want, but why bother when you can say "nanomaterial safety" or "nanobot safety
  • I'm currently taking a nanophysics module as part of my physics degree, and we have been required to read a UK government report on the development of nanotechnology, and there is plenty in there to worry me even as an unqualified scientist.

    Public awareness of nanotechnology is low. 29% of Britons (who, no offense, are likely to be more informed than Americans) have heard of the term and only 19% could offer a definition. Of those who knew what it was, 68% thought it would improve life whilst 4% thought i

  • All I know is nano suits kick ass.
  • Bozos worried about nuclear test fallout and anthrax and guys in caves in Afghanistan wanting to take away US "freedom" (haha) and Arabs trying to hold us hostage by keeping "America's petroleum lifeline" to themselves (GREEDY BASTARDS!!!).

    Well, you get the idea.

    Strangely. I've come back to this page after some surfing & can't remember what is about ( there is no indication on the page - try it ).

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