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This year, I am delighted to be joining the Editorial Board of NanoEthics, edited by Christopher Coenen. It has a fantastic back catalogue of really provocative articles on cutting edge issues in ethics and I look forward to reading submissions in the future! Here's an overview of what it does:

Nanoscale technologies are surrounded by both hype and fear. Optimists suggest they are desperately needed to solve problems of terrorism, global warming, clean water, land degradation and public health. Pessimists fear the loss of privacy and autonomy, "grey goo" and weapons of mass destruction, and unforeseen environmental and health risks. Concern over fair distribution of the costs and benefits of nanotechnology is also rising.
Introduced in 2007, NanoEthics: Ethics for Technologies that Converge at the Nanoscale provides a needed forum for informed discussion of ethical and social concerns related to nanotechnology, and a counterbalance to fragmented popular discussion.
While the central focus of the journal is on ethical issues, discussion extends to the physical, biological and social sciences and the law. NanoEthics provides a philosophically and scientifically rigorous examination of ethical and societal considerations and policy concerns raised by nanotechnology. 

Nanotechnology and Postmodern Culture (2009, Jun 9)

Giving talk at Sheffield Uni on 9 June - Nanotechnology and Postmodern CultureWhat kind of future is nanotechnology creating for us? What will it mean to be human in the twenty-first century?Professor Richard Jones (Physics and Astronomy), Dr Alex Houen (English), and Professor Andy Miah (Media, Language and Music, University of the West of Scotland)

Convergence 08

On November 15-16, 2008, the world's most dangerous ideas will collide in Mountain View, California. Convergence08 examines the world-changing possibilities of Nanotech and the life-changing promises of Biotech. It is the premier forum for debate and exploration of Cogtech ethics, and ground zero of the past and future Infotech revolution. Convergence08 is an innovative, lively unconference, the first and only forum dedicated to NBIC (Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno) technologies.

Nano Now

The Institute of Nanotechnology is now offering its fantastic magazine for free electronic download.

New Phd student, Bettina Hoermann

This week, I start working with another new PhD student, Bettina Hoermann from Germany. Tina will be working on a project that deals with upstream engagement issues related to nanotechnology. She is co-funded by the Institute of Nanotechnology and starts her time with us by heading down to Oxford University for the NanoBio-RAISE advance course on nanotechnology. By all accounts, it's an awesome event! Tina and I met up for the first time while I was in Berlin last weekend.

Bettina Hörmann, BA (Hons), MA Bettina (Tina) Hörmann is the Institute of Nanotechnology Doctoral Researcher in Public Engagement with Science, at the School of Media, Language and Music, University of Paisley. Tina’s research investigates ethical, policy and communication issues arising from nanotechnology.

Previously a Master degree student in Sociology at Brunel University, where she attained a Distinction on her dissertation, Tina is originally from Germany. Her undergraduate honours degree in Communication is from the University of Applied Science Hanover. Tina brings considerable expertise in the area of science communication and is working closely with the IoN in developing an industry sensitive analysis of critical nanotechnology challenges within the United Kingdom.


email: email [AT]

NanoBio-RAISE (Grenoble, France)

The NanoBio-RAISE project is proving to be very exciting. This week, we visited the hospital in Grenoble and witnessed a surgical procedure with a patient who has Parkinson's Disease. Professor Benabid informed us that this occasion was the deepest they have gone with the brain electrodes. It was a fascinating insight.

Technology pushes sporting boundaries (25 March, 2007)

Interview by Australian Associated Press while in Brisbane last week. Here's the outcome:

Technology pushes sporting boundaries

Dozens of leading professional golfers, including Tiger Woods, have had eye surgery to improve their vision. Some believe it gives them "better than perfect" eyesight and makes the tricky business of reading greens far easier.

Hundreds of American major league baseball pitchers have had surgery to implant stronger tendons from elsewhere in their bodies into their elbows. Many of them testify that they can throw the ball harder and faster than they could before the operation.

Now the day may not be far away when athletes have microscopic-sized devices implanted in their brains to help them perform better.

According to Dr Andy Miah, a British bioethicist, the line between using technology to improve sporting equipment and using it to improve the bodies of its practitioners is becoming increasingly blurred.

"Sports are technologically enabled practises," Miah said.

"We are pushing the limits of the body technologically and creatively - and I think the relationship between those two is quite close.

"People are fascinated with what the body can do in various kinds of performances."

Miah, who was in Brisbane this week to address a conference organised by the Australian Sports Commission, said functional elective surgery in sport is a more immediate issue than the
long-feared emergence of genetically manipulated athletes.

While the World Anti-Doping Agency concentrates on performance-enhancing drugs and worries about so called "gene-doping", it has no provision in its code for surgically enhanced athletes.

Woods, who was so short-sighted his doctor said he could barely count fingers held in front of his face, wore contact lenses early in his career.

He had laser surgery on his eyes in late 1999. After the surgery, which gave him vision rated at 20-15, Woods said the hole looked bigger to him.

Whether or not the surgery had anything to do with it, Woods won seven of the next eight PGA tour events he played in. The following year he began the "Tiger Slam" in which he became the first man to hold all four Majors at the same time.

Woods' surgeon, Dr Mark Whitten, says the eyesight produced by surgically altering the shape of the cornea gives golfers an enhanced three-dimensional view of the shot confronting them. "It
may be better than normal vision," he says.

Others who have had the surgery include Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh, Scott Hoch, Jesper Parnevik, Lee Westwood and Mike Weir.

Around 10% of major league baseball pitchers in the US have had surgery to strengthen their elbows, which come under enormous strain from repeatedly hurling baseballs at 150 kilometres an hour.

The procedure, called ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (UCR), is widely know as Tommy John surgery after the pitcher who first had it done in 1974.

According to a report published in USA Today, it involves taking a tendon, usually from the wrist or leg, and grafting it into the elbow in a figure-of-eight pattern through tunnels drilled in the
humerus and ulna bones.

The surgery has saved the careers of hundreds of pitchers, and there is evidence that its success rate is encouraging younger pitchers with only minor elbow injuries to seek the surgery to help their careers.

Some pitchers say they come back better than ever.

"I hit my top speed (in pitch velocity) after the surgery," said Kerry Wood, who had the procedure five years ago and now pitches for the Chicago Cubs. "I'm throwing harder, consistently."

Miah believes there is now a new frontier in sporting technology, driven by the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science.

All of these have profound implications for technological and medical developments generally, as well as within sport.

"It seems likely to me that sports will confront the implications of this convergence quite soon.

"We can imagine nanotechnological devices being utilised by athletes to keep them fit ... these are molecular-sized devices that could be inserted into the brain to elicit certain kinds of
physiological modifications."

The technique has already been used to implant molecular-sized devices into the brains of people suffering from Parkinson's disease.

The implants alter the brain's electrical output to help cure the  uncontrollable shaking that is the main symptom of the disease.

Technology such as this could have implications in shooting, snooker, archery and other disciplines requiring steady aim.

Miah, who believes genetic manipulation of athletes is not necessarily a bad thing, says the march of technology is throwing up some crucial philosophical questions.

"The development of biotechnology, stem cell research, cloning technology and the like has provoked a kind of moral encounter with what it means to be human and what technology might be doing to alter that.

"If we can develop devices that make it difficult to say these are external to the body, if they're implantable into the body then it becomes much harder to say that they are artificial."