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July 18th, 2007
The Dark Side of Nanotech
As nanotechnology remains a mystery to most people—what it is and what it will do—it generates the same kind of fear of anything that is unknown.
We are given a fairly thorough catalogue of these fears in a recent blog belonging to Government Computer News.
We get this breathless revelation "normally benign materials can become toxic when nanosized because microscopic particles tend to react more readily with human tissues and other substances." The subjunctive thought coming from the "can" sounds a bit more indicative than the science may support, but in truth we don't know.
The piece makes no mention of the distinction between "manufactured" nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes versus the nanoparticles that are produced from car tires as they drive on the road, or since mankind first mastered fire. But, presumably, the author's sole concern here is evil industry producing nanomaterials that are integrated into our everyday products—like our computer mouses.
The call for more research into the toxicological issues contained within the piece is a legitimate one, and one that has been answered by both government and industry. But these calls should be made with a modicum of understanding and a healthy restraint on hysteria.
It is from pieces like this that leads me to believe that the dark side of nanotech is not the hidden harm that it could do, but how nanotech remains in the dark for most people.
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