Friday, September 29, 2006

Nanit®active: More Nature-Nano Frames from Europe

SusTech and Henkel just introduced Nanit®active, a nano-based treatment for sensitive teeth. Nanit®active is designed to create a protective layer that helps rebuild parts of the tooth's surface.

Click here for a short movie on
how Nanit®active works:

What’s most interesting, however, is that Henkel and SusTech follow the lead of many other European firms in framing their new product along the “nano is nature” frame. Corporations in Europe, it seems, leave nothing to chance when it comes to positioning nanotech as a natural extension of traditional research. And they are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the ag biotech debate and not to lose the framing battle this time with anti-nano non-profits and interest groups.

Analogies between lotus flowers and nano umbrellas (see nano|public blog from August 18, 2006), in this case, are replaced with comparisons between Nanit®active and the natural growth of grass and seeds:

"A natural process: The growth of plants from seeds and rain is comparable to the growth of a protection layer from Nanit®active and saliva."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mooney in Madison: The Republican War on Science

Chris Mooney, Washington correspondent for Seed magazine and a senior correspondent for the American Prospect, stopped by the University of Wisconsin Tuesday to promote the updated paperback of The Republican War on Science. After his talk we had a hard time finding a bar downtown that was not completely deserted, but ultimately we were successful.

Mooney is one of the very few writers in D.C. at the moment who understand the importance of successful strategic communication about emerging technologies, and who is able to articulate this message very succinctly. We are not just seeing a “war” on science by some policy makers, but we are also seeing attempts on both sides of the aisle to reframe scientific issues around moral values and belief systems of the respective political bases.

Frank Luntz has has certainly perfected this art of pretesting terminology and visuals and of streamlining the Republican message around key frames that play to very specific underlying schema among voters (see excerpt from one of his memos on the right). But the Democrats are trying hard to catch up and rally around their current campaign guru of choice, George Lakoff. In spite of the book’s partisan title, much of what Mooney talks about in this new edition therefore applies to the intersection of science and politics more broadly.

And of course “The Republican War on Science” talks about much more than just communication. Or as Boyce Rensberger put it in his book review for the Scientific American:

“Chris Mooney [is] one of the few journalists in the country who specialize in the now dangerous intersection of science and politics. His book is a well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists. Mooney's chronicle of what he calls "science abuse" begins in the 1970s with Richard Nixon and picks up steam with Ronald Reagan. But both pale in comparison to the current Bush administration, which in four years has:

- Rejected the scientific consensus on global warming and suppressed an EPA report supporting that consensus.

- Stacked numerous advisory committees with industry representatives and members of the religious Right.

- Begun deploying a missile defense system without evidence that it can work.

- Banned funding for embryonic stem cell research except on a claimed 60 cell lines already in existence, most of which turned out not to exist.

- Forced the National Cancer Institute to say that abortion may cause breast cancer, a claim refuted by good studies.

- Ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remove information about condom use and efficacy from its Web site.”

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Americans don't care about politics ... or anything else just blogged on a story from Rising Hegemon about Newsweek's recent decision to go with Ann Leibovitz's "Life in Pictures" for the cover rather than the war in Afghanistan:
"In her new book, Annie Leibovitz, our most famous photographer, places celebs side by side with surprisingly personal images of love and loss. An exclusive."
This probably says as much about Newsweek as it does about the marketability of hard news in this country. What's really depressing, of course, is that the Newsweek editors apparently felt that Latin America, Asia, and Europe were ready for the realities of world politics and could deal with the Afghanistan cover for their local editions of Newsweek.

The U.S. public, on the other hand, apparently needs a bit more pampering, and stories about celebrities, love and loss fit their interests better than news about wars, politics and other things that matter.

Of course, this also has immense implications for some of the scientific policy debates we will be facing in the near future. Why worry about a factual understanding of stem cell research, for instance, if we’re being fed talking points by intellectual and moral leaders like Michael J. Fox, Brad Pitt, Mel Gibson, and Jerry Falwell? After all, these are the people we put on the covers of our major news magazines.

This whole phenomenon, of course, is neither new nor surprising, and there is no point in continually lamenting the lack of public involvement in politics or science. But it important for those of us concerned with science literacy and outreach to realize that Brad Pitt has done more for California’s Proposition 71, a bond measure that will provide $3 billion over 10 years to stem cell research, than most scientific outreach programs and informational campaigns. The Newsweek cover story has once again highlighted the rules of the game. Whoever wants to play needs to follow these rules.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Predictable findings, but great soundbites

The Washington Post's Rick Weiss and the New York Times's Barnaby J. Feder both just wrote pieces about the new NRC report for Congress on the state of the National Nanotech Initiative (NNI).

As Rick Weiss writes, "[t]he report concludes that the U.S. research effort is vibrant and almost certainly the strongest in the world, though a few other countries are close behind. Among the more important unmet needs, it says, is stronger collaboration with the departments of Education and Labor to boost the supply of scientists and technicians with the skills the sector needs.

The report's concerns about the lack of a federal focus on nanotech health and safety were foreshadowed at a House Science Committee hearing Thursday at which Republicans and Democrats alike took the Bush administration to task over the lack of a plan to learn more about nanotech's risks."

While the report's conclusions shouldn't surprise anyone, they triggered a few good soundbites, among others from ranking Democrat on the House Science Committee Bart Gordon (Tenn.) who called the report "a very juvenile piece of work."

But the best and probably most accurate commentary didn't come from pundits or politicans -- but straigth from NSF. “I have to tell you that this area is so complex that I don’t know of any person or a small group of people who would be smart enough to be able to identify all the risks, set the priorities, and lay out a so-called game plan,” said Arden L. Bement Jr., director of the National Science Foundation. “The situation changes day by day, and so there has to be more of a soccer approach to this rather than an American football approach.”

(Click here for the Washington Post article and here for the NYT article.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

New national poll on nanotech

"WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Research findings released today from the first major national poll on nanotechnology in more than two years indicate that while more Americans are now aware of the emerging science, the majority of the public still has heard little to nothing about it. The poll also finds that the public looks to the federal government and independent parties to oversee nanotechnology research and development. These results, according to experts, necessitate increased education and stronger oversight as a means to increase public confidence in nanotechnology."

(Click here for the full story from PRNewswire.
The full report can be downloaded from

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Exploring uncharted territory: Nano in food and agriculture

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies – a partnership between the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts – just released their latest report on “Nanotechnology in agriculture and food production.” It provides a first, albeit somewhat speculative outlook on the future of nano applications in agriculture and food production.

“The goal of this report is to look upstream in order to develop an early understanding about what is on the nano agrifood horizon,” said Dr. Kuzma. “In its current form, the report and data only scratches the surface of potential applications. Nonetheless, it is sufficiently informative to serve as a starting point for a more in-depth dialogue among consumers, business, and government about the near-and long-term uses of and safeguards for nanotechnology in food and agriculture. Particularly, it provides an early guidepost to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food & Drug Administration.”

The report also provides a good first overview of the different available data sources on funding and research. I’ve posted two figures below dealing with USDA research areas and funding by major agencies:

USDA Research Areas for Agrifood Nanotechnology Projects

EPA, USDA, and NSF Funding for Agrifood Nanotechnology, 2000-2005

(Click here for a copy of the full report, co-authored by Jennifer Kuzma and Peter VerHage.)

New blog on the intersection of science, technology, and policy

Student Pugwash USA just launched their new blog MindFull, which deals with the “ethical intersection of science, technology, and policy.”

“The mission of Student Pugwash USA is to promote social responsibility in science and technology.

We prepare science, technology and policy students to make social responsibility a guiding focus of their academic and professional endeavors by:

  • Examining the societal impacts of science and technology;
  • Creating open and objective forums for debate;
  • Fostering the exchange of ideas among diverse communities;
  • Exploring solutions to current dilemmas in science and technology; and
  • Cultivating the analytical skills needed to address future challenges."

SPUSA is the U.S. student affiliate of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize with physicist Joseph Rotblat.