Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Swiss miss the mark

First, here's a shameless teaser: There's "booty" at the end of this post.

As I promised at the end of my Kiwi Economics commentary, Swiss correspondent Valerie Thompson's report is up on Small Times today. Valerie writes about how the media in Switzerland, birthplace of the scanning tunneling microscope, are focusing more on claims of nanotech's risks.

Even though much of the recent reporting out of Switzerland repeats, unchallenged, the same old misinformation put out by activists groups, I understand the reasons behind the new focus. I suppose it's the geek version of "if it bleeds, it leads." Nanopollution is a fresh angle, and most general-interest journalists are used to seeking out clear-cut opposing sides to any complicated issue. Now that there are spokesmen for the opposition, look for the general media to fall into this comfortable, lazy format.

One item that came too late to add to Valerie's report is this feature in today's Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper. It leads, predictably, with the environmental issue, but with that out of the way it continues with an informative description of real nanotech research. Valerie points out to me that this is the same newspaper that earlier had run an article that dismissed as unimportant the Swiss invention of the scanning tunneling microscope.

"Interesting, the article is in the Science and Technology section and the journalist seems to be someone who understand physics," Valerie says.

Today's NZZ article includes work being done by Harvard University chemist Charles Lieber. The closest I come to understanding German is a few words of pidgin Yiddish, so I had to run it through the Google translator, which transformed the researcher's name to "Charles dear one." I like that. I think we should all think about the meanings of our names.

More fun with the German-English Google translator: "There the acceptance lies close that that once artificial organisms could be created, which multiply themselves uncontrolled, as this for instance the Science fiction author describes Michael Crichton in its new novel 'booty'."

Don't ask me. I merely did a cut-and-paste.


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