STEPHEN TREMP'S WORMHOLE BLOGFEST
Rules are simple:
Name one thing where science advances mankind, and one where technology will go too far and set us back. They can be the same thing or different.
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In a world where butterflies taste with their feet, anything is possible.
My One Thing that both helps and hurts:
In the growing field of nanotechnology,
engineers are creating countless new microscopic materials.
They're used in thousands of consumer goods, from cell phones to cosmetics and sunscreen. But how safe are they?
Nanotechnology is an area of science and engineering that involves the study and manipulation of particles 1-100 nanometers in size.
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, with a meter being about 39 inches.
Particles in this size range often have unusual properties,
and it is hoped that these can be exploited to bring huge benefits in fields such as science, engineering, medicine, and computing.
Any assessment of the dangers of nanotechnology is complicated by the fact that the size and shape of nanoparticles may affect their bioactivity and toxicity.
Sometimes, the physical, as opposed to chemical, properties of particles may alone make them hazardous in unexpected ways. Asbestos is one example.
Since it is chemically quite inert, it was initially thought to be harmless and was widely used,
but when it is cut or broken, this material produces tiny, airborne fibers that can be inhaled and can cause cancer when they lodge in the lungs.
One scientific study found that some types of carbon nanotubes closely resemble asbestos fibers in their dimensions and shape,
and tests on animals showed that the nanotubes cause inflammation and lesions in tissue exposed to them.
Even as far back as 1997, scientists at Oxford discovered nanoparticles used in sunscreen created free radicals that damaged DNA.