Phoenix Arizona


NANOTECH’S HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT IMPACTS WORRY SCIENTISTS by azhttp

TEMPE, Ariz. — The unknown human health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology are a bigger worry for scientists than for the public, according to a new report published on line (November 25, 2007) in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
 
The 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.
 
Two Arizona State University researchers – Elizabeth Corley, an assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs, and David Guston, director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society and a professor of political science, are co-authors of the paper.
 
“It’s unusual for experts to see a greater risk in new technologies than for the public at large,” Guston said. “But these findings do not mean that scientists are saying that there is a problem.”
 
“Scientists are saying, ‘we don’t know,” explained the study’s lead author Dietram Scheufele, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of life sciences communication and journalism. “The research hasn’t been done.’”
 
The new findings are in stark contrast to controversies sparked by the advent of major technologies of the past, such as nuclear power and genetically modified foods, which scientists perceived as having lower risks than did the public.
 
Nanotechnology is based on science’s newfound ability to manipulate matter at the smallest scale, on the order of molecules and atoms. The field has enormous potential to develop applications ranging from new antimicrobial materials and tiny probes to sample individual cells in human patients, to vastly more powerful computers and lasers. Already, products with nanotechnology built in include such things as golf clubs, tennis rackets and antimicrobial food storage containers.
 
At the root of the information disconnect, said Elizabeth Corley, who conducted the survey with Scheufele, is that nanotechnology is only now starting to emerge on the nation’s policy agenda. Amplifying the problem is that the news media have not paid much attention to nanotechnology and its implications.  
 
“In the long run, this information disconnect could undermine public support for federal funding in certain areas of nanotechnology research, particularly in those areas that the public views as having lower levels of risk,” Corley said.            
 
While scientists were generally optimistic about the potential benefits of nanotechnology, they expressed significantly more concern about pollution and new health problems related to the technology. Potential health problems were in fact the highest rated concern among scientists, Guston said.
 
Twenty percent of the scientists responding to the survey indicated a concern that new forms of nanotechnology pollution may emerge, while only 15 percent of the public thought that might be a problem. More than 30 percent of scientists expressed concern that human health may be at risk from the technology, while just 20 percent of the public held such fears.
 
Of more concern to the American public, according to the report, are a potential loss of privacy from tiny new surveillance devices and the loss of more U.S jobs. Those fears were less of a concern for scientists.
 
While scientists wonder about the health and environmental implications of the new technology, their ability to spark public conversation seems to be limited, Corley and Guston said.
 
That’s because “scientists tend to treat communication as an afterthought,” Wisconsin’s Scheufele added. “They’re often not working with social scientists, industry or interest groups to build a channel to the public.”
 
The good news for scientist is that of all sources of nanotechnology information, they are the most trusted by the public.
 
“The public wants to know more about nanotechnology,” Guston added. “That’s why the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU is conducting additional polls of the public and of scientists, and is organizing a National Citizens’ Technology Forum to elicit informed public perspectives on nanotechnology.”
 
“The climate for having that discourse is perfect,” Scheufele added. “There is definitely a huge opportunity for scientists to communicate with a public who trusts them.”
 
In addition to ASU’s Corley and Guston and Wisconsin’s Scheufele, other authors of the Nature Nanotechnology report include Sharon Dunwoody, Tsung-Jen Shih and Elliott Hillback of University of Wisconsin-Madison. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University and the UW-Madison Graduate School.

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ASU scientists invite the community to explore Earth and space Nov. 3 by quotes
October 31, 2007, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Arizona, Arizona State University, ASU, Science | Tags: , , , , , ,


TEMPE, Ariz. – Kids of all ages, and their parents and teachers too, are invited to learn more about Earth and space through hands-on activities, experimental demonstrations and public lectures by ASU scientists from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 3, in the Bateman Physical Science Building, F-Wing, at ASU’s Tempe campus.
 
The annual Earth and Space Exploration Day, hosted by ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, provides a variety of educational activities “for kids ages 5 to 95,” says professor Tom Sharp, a mineralogist and associate director of the NASA Arizona Space Grant Consortium.
 
“The purpose of this event is to provide an up-close opportunity for the public to see some of the great science we do at ASU, while we engage students of all ages in fun, hands-on scientific learning activities,” says Sharp. “There is plenty of depth for adults too.”
 
For example, ASU planetary scientist David Williams will present a lecture on solar system exploration at 10 a.m., and give an overview of results from NASA’s and the European Space Agency’s 2007 planetary missions. Other lectures on black holes, volcanology, the Mars rovers and whether there will be an energy crisis are scheduled on the hour throughout the event.
 
In conjunction with the day of exploration, ASU’s Space Photography Laboratory is hosting an open house and will show the latest NASA planetary images.
 
There also will be special shows in the planetarium, including one on “Stars over Arizona.” Other educational activities include learning about minerals while panning for gold, examining rocks and meteorite sections under a microscope, viewing the sun with a solar telescope, and learning about volcanoes and their explosive eruptions.
 
The public can “take a tour” of Mars with the aid of a GeoWall 3-D projector. Children, and adults can bring in rocks for “Dr. Rock” to identify or water samples for “Dr. Water” to analyze. Minerals, gems, fossils from around the world, the only active seismograph in central Arizona, a six-story Foucault pendulum, and Columbian mammoth bones from Chandler, Ariz., will be on display in the Dietz Museum of Geology.
 
Also scheduled is a geology field trip to “A” Mountain (Hayden Butte) to learn about sedimentary rocks, volcanic rocks and geological structures exposed in Tempe.
 
There will be handouts and outreach information for teachers from the School of Earth and Space Exploration and other academic and research units in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including the Institute for Human Origins and the School of Geographical Sciences.
 
“We hope the event will encourage children to learn that science is fun as they learn about how the Earth works and how we study it,” Sharp says.
 
For more information, contact the School of Earth and Space Exploration at (480) 965-5081 or http://www.sese.asu.edu <http://www.sese.asu.edu/> .