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March 30th, 2007

Visiting professor urges scientists to consider risks of new technologies

Jamison sees potential in nanotechnology but feels public education is in order.

This may be true. In a public perception study conducted by North Carolina State University recently, 52 percent of respondents stated they had heard nothing about nanotechnology.

One of the reasons for this is the nebulous nature of nanotech. Nanotechnology can be used in the medical, alternative energy, military and even consumer fields. It can also be organic or inorganic, engineered or grown, according to Andy Karvonen, an assistant instructor in UT's Science, Technology and Society Program. In order to qualify as nanotechnology, an emerging technology must be smaller than 100 nanometers. One nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

A plurality of respondents from the NCSU poll stated they were concerned about privacy violations and possible health risks, such as nanotoxicity (the particles are small enough to slip right through human skin), as well as the technology being used inappropriately for military applications.


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