Danger and death are part and parcel of being alive. But with a few notable exceptions, it’s hard to find straightforward information online on how to make sense of stuff that potentially threaten our health and wellbeing. Which is a pity, because as well as being important for making smart decisions, there’s some really cool science behind how what we touch, breathe, eat, or otherwise come into contact with affects our health.
Risk Bites was originally conceived as a way of pulling some rather cool insights into the science behind human health risks out of dusty halls of academia and into the real world. Watching the meteoric rise of YouTube science channels like MinutePhysics and SciShow, I couldn’t help wondering why universities weren’t having the same success with the medium, and whether there was a way of bridging the gap between the educational establishment, and the online education counterculture.
On Monday, the National Institute for Occupational Safety released new data on the potential role multi-walled carbon nanotubes play as a cancer-promoter – a substance that promotes the development of cancer in the presence of a carcinogen.
YouTube intrigues me. Having been dragged into the YouTube culture by my teenagers over the past two years, I’ve been fascinated by the shift from seemingly banal content to a sophisticated social medium.
Sometimes you read a science article and it sends a shiver down your spine. That was my reaction this afternoon reading Ed Yong’s piece on a paper just published in Nature Biotechnology by Janna Nawroth, Kevin Kit Parker and colleagues.
Hot on the heels of last week’s announcement on the Higgs Boson, some of YouTube’s most viewed science communicators burned the midnight oil to explain why this is so exciting. Wrapping up this series of posts on YouTube, I thought I would call out three prominent YouTubers who were at VidCon last week, yet still found the time to pull together a video.
Having been initiated into the alternative world of teen YouTube culture last year, I am once again being dragged along to VidCon – the Comic-Con of the online video community. This year – the third year for VidCon – promises to be bigger than better than ever with around 6,000 signed up for the extravaganza June 28-30 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Nanotechnology leads to novel materials, new exposures and potentially unique health and environmental risks – or so the argument goes. But an increasing body of research is showing that relatively uniformly sized nanometer scale particles are part and parcel of the environment we live in.
The World Economic Forum Global Risks Report is one of the most authoritative annual assessments of emerging issues surrounding risk currently produced. Now in its seventh edition, the 2012 report launched today draws on over 460 experts* from industry, government, academia and civil society to provide insight into 50 global risks across five categories, within a ten-year forward looking window.
There’s something rather liberating about being asked to give a no-holds talk on your perspective on life, the universe, and everything. So when the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center asked if I would speak as part of their “Where do we go from here?” series, I jumped at it.
The immediate lessons from the Deepwater Horizon disaster are pretty obvious - we (or at least somebody) messed up! But what about the less obvious lessons, especially those concerning technology innovation and how it’s handled?
New technologies depend on uncommon materials, and society depends on new technologies. Which means that economies that develop the former and control the latter have something of an upper hand in today’s interconnected and technology-dependent world.
Now that I’ve had some time to get to grips with my new position as Director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, I thought it was high time I started letting people know something about where the Center will be heading over the next few years.
While traveling to the World Economic Forum meeting in China, I came across a new paper that piques my interest. The paper is by David Keith at the University of Calgary (published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science), and is a theoretical investigation of how injecting large quantities of precisely engineered particles into the upper atmosphere might provide a cost-effective tool for climate intervention - geoengineering.
Nature’s Nicola Jones asked me to comment on Singularity University for an article she was putting together; that article is now available. She included a couple of brief observations of mine, but I thought it would be useful to show the full context of my thoughts.
The fifth Hart survey of what American adults think about emerging technologies like nanotechnology and synthetic biology has been released by my former colleagues at the Woodrow Wilson Center - the first since I left the group earlier this year.
Back in July, the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) posted a Request For Information in the Federal Register for input to the next NNI strategic plan - to be published later this year. The closing date for comments was a couple of weeks ago now. I got mine in in the nick of time.
Can current approaches to doing science sustain us over the next one hundred years? An increasing reliance on technological fixes to global challenges demands a radical rethink of how we use science in the service of society.
The way science is taught, the way it’s portrayed on TV and in the press, the way it’s promoted by science-advocates and science bloggers, often seems to adhere to a rather pompous and hubristic view of science as the ultimate bastion of truth and certainty. So it’s been rather refreshing this week to see a group of real-world scientists shattering this image in the online event I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here!
Last week’s announcement from the J. Craig Venter Institute that scientists had created the first-ever synthetic cell was a profoundly significant point in human history, and marked a turning point in our quest to control the natural world. But the ability to use this emerging technology wisely is already being dogged by fears that we have embarked down a dangerous and morally dubious path.