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Science Matters

Nanotechnology:
Small world—Big issues

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Surveys indicate that the public’s attitude towards nanotechnology is generally positive. Nanotechnology enables us to manipulate matter at the atomic level in order to create new materials, devices, and systems with highly specific properties at pinpoint accuracy. New advances will be possible in the fields of medicine, environment, agriculture, food, and defense to create a wide range of products from better diagnostic technologies and diseases treatments to stain and wrinkle-free fabrics and transparent sunscreens. While interest is high, there is little public understanding of the underlying science of nanotechnology. Moreover, there is growing practical and ethical concern over the possible health and environmental risks from this emerging field. It is too early to determine if nanotechnology is ushering in a new industrial revolution, yet experts agree that the convergence of nanotechnology, information technology and biotechnology will have profound implications on how we make things and how we live. How will society deal with the impact of this powerful yet infinitesimally small technology? Who will benefit from the fruits of nanoscience and who will monitor its effect? Indeed, behind the small world of nano are some big issues. This program began with a presentation explaining the current science of nanotechnology and speculating on its future course. In this light, panelists discussed the complex ethical and legal issues that infuse the discussion of nanotechnology.

Click to download Dr. Heath's PowerPoint presentation.
Click to download Dr. Tinkle's PowerPoint presentation.

Panel Discussion:

Featured panelists offered different perspectives on the science and ethics of nanotechnology. Panelists included: (click name for bio)

Conan Nolan—moderator

Reporter, NBC4

James Heath, Ph.D.

Professor of Chemistry and Director of NanoSystems Biology Cancer Center at California Institute of Technology

Daniel Ritter, JD

Partner at Preston, Gates, Ellis LLP

Derrick O. Boston, JD

Partner at Guth | Christopher LLP

Sally Tinkle, Ph.D.

Assistant to the Deputy Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
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