Thursday, May 12, 2005

QuoteBot


"Naked protests work.** I didn't know anything about nano-fibers or that anyone even cared enough about it to launch a protest. But thanks to their stunt and the resulting coverage, I'm now at least passingly familiar with the matter."

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22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gotcha! See -- our nano-hype is better than your nano-hype, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah nyah, nyah!


T.H.O.N.G.

Topless Humans Organized For Natural Genetics -- Putting Our Bodies Between Your Lips And Biotech

Mr. Smith said...

Well, I have to admit that they did raise the level of awareness in at least one person. Maybe they could hire themselves out to other nanocompanies.

Anonymous said...

I've been quoted many times before saying "the gene for intelligence exists on the X chromosome, and it is its absence from the Y chromosome that differentiates the two."

hmm... well, I knew almost immediately that (via XXY and XYY people) it doesn't compound, meaning that neither women nor genetic freaks are necessarily more intelligent.

if my idea is not wrong, then I suspect this 'anonymous' THONG person is probably YY. I wonder.... certain things work 'apparently' backward with such a broad observation of genetics, so it could well be the stupidest woman (uber-blonde?).

nevertheless, I'd like to see he/she/it naked. if it's unattractive I'm sure I can still make 'good' use of the image :-P

Anonymous said...

We come, not to harm the nanotechnology industry, but rather to keep it honest, safe, and ethical.

In that regard, we note that the naked activist community has a far better record on honesty, safety and ethics than the scientific, business, or government communities. So let's not get too haughty, Gentlemen.

We too have high hopes for nanotechnology. We simply don't trust you to realize those hopes without assistance from outside your ivory towers, labs, and offices. You have let us down too many times in the past.

T.H.O.N.G.

Topless Humans Organized For Natural Genetics -- Putting Our Bodies Between Your Lips And Biotech

Anonymous said...

Everything you know is wrong.

T.H.O.N.G.

Topless Humans Organized For Natural Genetics -- Putting Our Bodies Between Your Lips And Biotech

T.H.O.N.G. said...

That last post didn't originate with us.

But we thank the author in any event for a somewhat accurate portrayal of our attitude to know-it-all scientists and cocksure salesmen, i.e., those responsible for such wonders as asbestos, DDT and PCBs -- we never came up with anything that brilliant.

We hereby adopt, ratify and appropriate that last post.

T.H.O.N.G.

Topless Humans Organized For Natural Genetics -- Putting Our Bodies Between Your Lips And Biotech

Mr. Smith said...

Dear THONG,

Thank you for your concern about the safety of nanotechnology. It might hearten you to know that those of us who work with it on a daily basis are still alive and kicking becuase our own safety comes first and foremost. Do you really think that we would use ourselves as guinea pigs? Where did you get the impression that we scientists are all "damn the consequences, full speed ahead!" I myself have worked in many aspects of laboratory work and the first rule is "Don't kill yourself." Unfortunately, things do occur outside the lab that were never intended to happen. This is usually caused by the general public ingoring the directions for use. Nanotech is no more dangerous than any other technology. Case in point, any idiot can get a drivers license. Does this make them compentent to drive the car correctly and always obey traffic laws? No. People still engage in dangerous activities while driving and end up killing themselves and others. My point is, when using any technology, read the directions and use the tools properly and we will all be fine. Education is the best prevention for disaster. Therefor I suggest that your group educate itself and other as to proper use rather than run around half naked protesting things you don't understand.

Howard Lovy said...

Mr. Smith,

What kinds of nanomaterials do you work with, and what safety precautions do you take?

Mr. Smith said...

Howard,

I have posted in the past under another name. I have assumed the nom de plume Mr. Smith for reasons of job security. You have talked about the company I work for on this blog in the past and we have "spoken" by email on a number of subjects up to and including our kids and their "special needs".

I work with nano in both the tube and sphere form and also work with nanoscale mesurements. As for safety precautions, these involve simple things like proper eye protection, masks, and gloves. The more complicated precautions involve air filtration and application of negative pressure in the experimental environment. Any cleaning of equipment involved is done using closed systems and all wastes are analyzed before disposal. We do not release nanoparticles to the atmosphere or ground water willy-nilly. One reason is that we are still testing the impacts these particles would have on the environment and another reason is they are expensive to make and we don't need to be throwing money away.

Howard Lovy said...

Ahh, OK. I know who you are. Glad you're in stealth. This blog has caused enough employment trouble as it is. I'm glad I know you, "Mr. Smith," because now I won't feel bad playing devil's advocate with you.

How do you know what constitutes "proper" protection against nanotubes and buckyballs in the context of your own workplace? There have been few studies on workplace exposure. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is only now beginning to fund studies on whether nanoparticles can accidentally penetrate the skin, and what happens to them if they do. Eventually, this research will help NIOSH come up with some rules for handling this stuff, but right now your masks and gloves are just guesses.

Mr. Smith said...

They are not guesses but part of what we call Universal precautions. The amazing thing is that while people rant and rave about how dangerous nanoparticles are or will be, they have no problem standing over the nozzle at the gas station breathing in known carcinogens. Even with the sign that says not to right there beside their head. I think that you will find that the industries involved in nano work are most cooperative when it comes to these NIOSH studies. They seem to remember the lessons from the past on what happens when a product is sent to market before all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. Does this mean that all nano companies do this. Nope, but I think you will find that a majority do.

Now, lets talk about penetrating the skin. How many people put insulation in their own attics and refuse to follow the instructions about proper attire. Quite a few. Fiberglass is not the worlds best thing to be rolling around in and breathing. Yet it happens all the time.

Buckyballs and nanotubes will not be handed to the public like so much fiberglass but will remain in the hands of professionals that know how to handle them and will take the proper precautions.

Ah but what about things like asbestos that was also installed by professionals but was later found to have problems with degradation?

There you have a case of improper use and placement. Asbestos was never meant to be used in a number of the places that it is found and was never meant to be applied in manner in which it was. If the application had been done correctly then it would have never caused the problems it has. As it is, more problems are being caused by its removal than would have occured if it had simply been sealed in place.

Will the NIOSH study be helpful. Most assuredly. Will it be a cure-all. Nope, and for a very simple reason. Manure occureth. Nothing is 100% safe ever. The object of the game is to get as close as possible to that 100%

I guess I'll put my soapbox away for now and see you on Monday.

T.H.O.N.G. said...

"Ah but what about things like asbestos that was also installed by professionals but was later found to have problems with degradation?

There you have a case of improper use and placement. Asbestos was never meant to be used in a number of the places that it is found and was never meant to be applied in manner in which it was. If the application had been done correctly then it would have never caused the problems it has. As it is, more problems are being caused by its removal than would have occured if it had simply been sealed in place."

That is an astounding understatement of the risk posed by asbestos. You're saying that if it had just been properly applied, it never would have caused the problems it has.

The people who suffered the most from asbestos exposure were the miners who extracted it, and their families, who suffered secondary exposure from dust on the miners' clothing. You treat those people, and the risk they faced, as if they didn't exist. And that is to say nothing of the many other risks posed by asbestos. Your assessment of risk is facile, and dangerously narrow.

It seems you're going out of your way to ignore risk, and that should give any sane person pause about your assessment of the risks of nanotechnology.

T.H.O.N.G.

Topless Humans Organized For Natural Genetics -- Putting Our Bodies Between Your Lips And Biotech

Mr. Smith said...

Exposure to asbestos, coal dust, silicates, cotton fibers, flour dust et. al. have all been well documented and precautions have been put in place to limit exposure to the workers. Unfortunately some of these workers chose to ignore this precautions because and I quote "I can't chew tabacco with a mask on." This is a direct quote from a coal miner I encountered while working for a physician as an undergraduate. The gentleman in question was 30 yrs old and had developed black lung.

I am not understating the risk posed by asbestos rather I am pointing out that we learned from those problems and are taking precautions in the workplace to prevent exactly the kinds of problems you brought up.

Your way of assesing risk reminds me of a sign that I saw at a reststop on the highway. It recomended that I plan for the unexpected. How in the world do you plan for the unexpected? If I didn't expect it, I would have no way of planning for it. The only way to plan for the unexpected is to sit in a dark room and do nothing at all. But the ceiling would probably fall in unexpectedly.

Your manner of protest and defense of said protest tells me that you are afraid of nanotechnology because it is new (which it really isn't) and you don't understand it. Educate yourself and get a better understanding of what it's all about. And stop reading Micheal Crichton.

T.H.O.N.G. said...

We take a different lesson from the sad story of asbestos. Science, industry and government failed adequately to investigate and assess the risks of the substance and, even after such risks were discovered, failed adequately to reduce the risks for innocent victims.

You seem to have the common "blame the victim" approach of some (not most) scientists. Most people exposed to asbestos had no clue it would harm them (unlike the coal miner in your example.)

Your attitude reminds us of Lehrer's take on Von Braun:

"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.

If all scientists were responsible in their use of technology, there would be no need for a group like T.H.O.N.G. But it is exactly scientists like you that make T.H.O.N.G necessary. You, Mr. Smith, are our reason for being.

T.H.O.N.G.

Topless Humans Organized For Natural Genetics -- Putting Our Bodies Between Your Lips And Biotech

Mr. Smith said...

Acutally I think your mom and dad are your reason for being or did you skip Biology 101 that day.

In case you missed my point, and I think you did, science, industry, and goverment are all studying the risks of nanomaterials. Your problem is that you don't think we are doing it fast enough. Scientists for the most part are responsible in their use of technology (See rule #1 from pervious post).

The problems usually occur when the technology is released to the general public, hence the warning labels on hair dryers telling the consumer not to use the product in the shower. Also apparently ironing ones clothes while one is wearing them is a big problem with some people.

Look at the number of people that misuse products every day and then tell me that the victim is not to blame. Scientists try to account for the possible problems that may occur but they can't account for stupidity.

I suggest you take some of this free time that you have to run around half-naked and go back to school. A course in Logic 101 would be a good place to start. Some classes in basic chemistry and biology might be in order also.

By the way, the answer to von Braun's question is : Australians.

T.H.O.N.G. said...

Then perhaps you could explain to us how the miner who extracted asbestos, without any warning of its dangers from his employer or the scientists who developed the commercial uses of the substance, is "stupid," or has only himself to blame, for his inability to breathe?

It would take an extraordinary level of intellectual arrogance to do that. But we wouldn't put that past you.

With scientists like you working in the industry, it's no wonder that Swiss Re counsels against insuring nanotechnolgy risks. "Manure happens" (your term) is hardly a re-assuring (or scientific) risk assessment.

Do nanotechnology enterprises look forward to the same fate as the asbestos industry?

T.H.O.N.G.

Topless Humans Organized For Natural Genetics -- Putting Our Bodies Between Your Lips And Biotech

Mr. Smith said...

You still don't get it. We are RIGHT NOW investigating possible risks from nanomaterials. What happened in the past is in the past and we have learned from those mistakes. If you keep holding those mistakes against science you can pretty much plan on society reverting to the bang rocks together stage. How do you think the lifestyle that you enjoy today came about, spontaneous generation? No. It came about because Scientists made Discoveries that have Enhanced our lives.

I did not call the workers who mined asbestos "stupid", you did that. Employers and scientists at the time did not realize the dangers involved. I simply pointed out that most consumers are stupid. FYI, I had a great-uncle that mined asbestos and even had a raw sample that he sent me for quite some time. When the dangers were announced, he asked me for the sample back so that it could be disposed of properly.

Blaming me as a scientist for the mistakes of the past is like blaming the modern Catholic church for the crusades.

Here's a free lesson in semantics:

Nanoparticles used to be refered to as ultra-fine particles. Where was your protest then? Are you simply protesting the use of the term nano?

Another question: Can I safely assume that since you are against biotech that you do not avail yourself to advances in modern medicine?

Howard Lovy said...

Hey, folks, let's keep the discussion polite. Let's assume that all sides are sincere in their beliefs, and stick to the argument on this issue without going off and making other assumptions about what the other side does or does not believe. I know, I know, I'm guilty of this, too, but very few points are scored through sarcasm.

Just a quick update: One reason for my editorial silence the past day or so is that I'm busy gathering information for a story or stories that everybody involved in this debate will be interested in: What is being done right now to look into the safety of engineered nanomaterials in the workplace and environment. There's more being done than even I had thought. Stay tuned.

T.H.O.N.G. said...

This writer can't speak for T.H.O.N.G. on the subject of the Catholic church, since
T.H.O.N.G has no position on that institution.

But, as a Catholic, I absolutely hold my Church responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition, and every other horror it has inflicted on humanity (including its relatively recent failings in The Holocaust.) Taking responsibility for past failures is absolutely necessary for preventing similar failures in the present, and the future.

And T.H.O.N.G. judges the scientific community by its past behavior, although it certainly hopes that the scientific community has learned from its mistakes. As we noted below, the scientific community is the least threatening, indeed, the most promising, of the communities we seek to influence, since you are ostensibly committed to the search for truth and the betterment of humanity. We view the business and government communities with much more trepidation. We pester you, not because you pose the greatest threat, but rather because you have the best knowledge, the better instincts, and the best chance to prevent harm. You are in the best position to ensure that what you create will be used safely and ethically, before you hand your inventions to the salesmen and governments.

The nanotechnology industry has premised its pitch on the fact that substances at the nano level behave differently than they do at the macro or even micro levels. It logically follows that different properties present different risks. One need not have a Ph.D. to see the potential for harm.

And, no, we are not ignorant Luddites, opposed to innovation. Indeed, we believe nanotechnology holds great promise for humanity. But we fear that the great perils which always accompany great promise are not adequately factored into the risk equations. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, in one of his more lucid moments, we want to ensure that you are searching for the "unknown unknowns" in your risk assessment.

But, please, feel free to characterize us as "ignorant Luddites", "the green gang," "polltically correct" or any of the other monikers typically used to diminish the credibility of citizen groups. That is consistent with the hype we seek to create. And it follows precisely the current paradigm for citizen input in the development of technology policy.

If the paradigm is "crazy environmentalists" vs. "hard-nosed scientists", we are quite confident we will win that particular battle of ideas.

T.H.O.N.G.

Topless Humans Organized For Natural Genetics -- Putting Our Bodies Between Your Lips And Biotech

P.S.: Mr. Lovy, we previewed this comment just as you posted your comment about manners. We reviewed it in that light, and think our tone has improved from prior posts. We hope it meets with your approval (at least on civility grounds.) We even said nice things about scientists, and Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. Smith said...

Finally, a post that states your concerns in a lucid, logical manner. Rest assured that the scientific community that I converse with on a daily basis is working to make nanomaterials as safe as possible. We are not just trying to find potential problems but are also working to solve these potential problems. We have learned from the past because we stand on the shoulders of giants.

We must,however, do this with our shirts on because we need a pocket for our pens and calculator.

T.H.O.N.G. said...

Mr. Smith,
We thank you for your efforts. They are appreciated.

If you ever decide to retire, and your need for shirts diminishes as a result, there might be a place for you in T.H.O.N.G., if you're interested.

T.H.O.N.G.

Topless Humans Organized For Natural Genetics -- Putting Our Bodies Between Your Lips And Biotech

Mr. Smith said...

Thank you for the invitation but I think I'll keep my shirt on as I do not wish to be accused of wearing fur.