Tuesday, January 31, 2006

George W. Bush: "Double nano funding"

Today's State of the Union Address promised incentives for private investment, science education, and research (as reported by the Washington Post):

"BUSH: First, I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. This funding will support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing and alternative energy sources.

Second, I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit, to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.

Third, we need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country.

Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America's children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world.

Nano products go public

Cientifica's report on "the $18 billion pair of pants" from earlier this month about the mass market prospects of nanotech products was still somewhat pessimistic:
"The big spike in nanotech funding happened in 2001 in the US and Japan, and in 2003 in Europe. Given the two to three year lag between funding being granted and a laboratory starting work, plus an average of seven years to get from R&D to a product, it is no surprise that nanotech has yet to deliver on its revolutionary promise."

But early investments seem to begin to pay off with almost half a billion dollars in venture capital investments in nanotech in December 2005 alone (for more information, see cientifica's report). It looks like the public may see the first large-scale commercial launces of nano products soon ... beyond just stain-resistant pants and nano sunscreen.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Faithfully informed about nanotech?

Recent media coverage on nanotech has zeroed in on the need for new regulations for nanotech, in part triggered by a report released this month by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars calling for better laws regarding nanotech risks.

But regulations may not be what the public is really concerned about. Here are some data from one of our national surveys on public attitudes toward nanotech that suggests that religiosity may be emerging as one of the key factors underlying public attitudes toward nanotech.

The figure suggests two interesting interpretations. First, both informed and uninformed supporters report lower levels of religiosity than the two segments of opponents. Second, and more importantly, the segment who reports the highest levels of religiosity are the informed opponents, i.e., the people who are generally opposed to nanotechnology, even though they are significantly more informed about the issue than more than half of the population.

Why may religion play such an important role? Is is the "playing god" frame? Or is it a spill-over effect from issues, such as stem cell research or therapeutic cloning, where religious arguments are at the forefront of public debate?

Center for Nanotech and Society @ ASU opens

ASU's $6.2 million NSF Center for Nanotechnology in Society will officially open with a public forum on the ASU campus tomorrow. The East Valley Tribune has an in-depth article devoted to the center in today's issue.

Nano Workshop for Journalists @ UW

March 20 and 21, 2006 at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Materials Research Science and Engineering Center on Nanostructured Interfaces and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication offer an intensive two-day course and fellowships for journalists interested in exploring the science and engineering of nanotechnology. The course is intended to provide hands-on perspective and detailed insight into the rapidly emerging field and its implications for society.

For more information, contact Ken Gentry at (608) 263-7128, kgentry@wisc.edu