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Nanotech Protests Begin 693

Posted by Zonk
from the misguided-youth dept.
ByteWoopy wrote to mention a Wire.com story discussing the danger of nanotechnology, and the beginning of a backlash against the branch of technology. From the article: "...environmental activists sauntered into the Eddie Bauer store on Michigan Avenue, headed to the broad storefront windows opening out on the Magnificent Mile and proceeded to take off their clothes. The strip show aimed to expose more than skin: Activists hoped to lay bare growing allegations of the toxic dangers of nanotechnology. The demonstrators bore the message in slogans painted on their bodies, proclaiming 'Eddie Bauer hazard' and 'Expose the truth about nanotech,' among other things, in light of the clothing company's embrace of nanotech in its recent line of stain-resistant nanopants."
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Nanotech Protests Begin

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  • Pictures? (Score:5, Funny)

    by eggoeater (704775) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:30PM (#12781432) Journal
    So where are the pictures of these protestors?
  • by Datamonstar (845886) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:30PM (#12781434)
    And thus begins the Nanotech protests... Don't let the grey goo... Hey! a naked chick!!!
    • by lottameez (816335) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:37PM (#12781542)
      It's probably just some guy standing out there waving around his nano-penis. On the other hand, I suppose it's an interesting twist on the "does size matter?" question.
      • by Enigma_Man (756516) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:44PM (#12781634) Homepage
        The hilarious thing is these pants don't have the specific definition of "nanotechnology" in them at all. They are deliberately skewing the use of the word from the specific common-use meaning of "very small machines" to a very general case "very small manmade things". ALL it is is very small fibers of teflon, which is not a machine at all, just some molecules.

        So, this is retarded every way you look at it. The protesters are protesting something that isn't even nanotechnology as it is commonly referred to in the first place!

        -Jesse
        • by WoodstockJeff (568111) on Friday June 10, 2005 @01:12PM (#12781967) Homepage
          The protesters are protesting something that isn't even nanotechnology

          Sounds like any of thousands of protests going on world-wide. Protesters who haven't a clue about what they're protesting, but protesting it none the less. It makes them feel important. Facts don't enter into the equation.

          • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Friday June 10, 2005 @03:23PM (#12783636)
            Sounds like any of thousands of protests going on world-wide. Protesters who haven't a clue about what they're protesting, but protesting it none the less. It makes them feel important. Facts don't enter into the equation.

            Or, the only protests getting reported on are the silly ones. Have you ever talked to one of these "Tree huggers" or are you going by what you hear on CNN and Fox? I don't think these protesters feel important exposing their unattractive bodies --but maybe a little less powerless. It's pretty hard to get off work and then do something that you know is going to be ridiculed. There could be a culture of people where this is just the "thing to do". Or it could just be people who care enough to act. I'm too selfish making a living for my family --but at least I realize that I am the one who is not doing enough.

            Note; It may not be nanotechnology being protested, but the pollution created in the process. I have heard a bit about how the BuckyBall carbon molecules don't break down and react strangely with the body. So nano tech is hardly inert. The BuckyBall issue, while made from simple carbon, is a different shaped molecule. And could result in another health issue like asbestos fibers. While I doubt the Nano-fibers on these pants use Carbon nanotubes (but I don't know that they don't), they can have a very different environmental impact. Just having tiny particulates creates a health hazard for workers breathing it. You have a much higher risk for lung cancer by just inhaling fibers from insulation --which is essentially just glass. So health impacts aren't always so simple to predict --in fact, they never are.

            By taking off their clothes, these protestors got the Michael Jackson fixated press to cover it. If they had a thousand people with signs that said; "micro particulates can cause lung cancer, so we need to study this." nobody would have covered the protest. You have to say; "NanoTech" because the insipid media is so dumbed-down that they only cover the "hot button" words. CNN would not cover "particulates" or "fibers" --but if it had been Nano Stem Cells, they'd be on Fox. They couldn't go to the factory where it is made, because that is either overseas or in a poor neighborhood in Alabama --so again, nobody would cover it. So in this regard, they were successful. Of course, getting anyone to actually find out more about the issues when the Pavlovian response is to say; "idiots" to any protest is a very depressing prospect. But at least they were successful in getting the media to actually cover it. It will be of more interest when we cover cancer or birth defects ten years from now. Of course, the message then will be "old story, time to move on."

            What is an example of a stupid protest that you've seen? I admit that some of the people have been a little too fluffy animal extreme. But many of the issues I've seen protested like the World Bank, G7/G8 Summit, lumber clear cutting and strip mining operations have actually made a lot of sense, because the damage from some of these operations has been extensive, while the benefits have only helped a few.

            People who protest are probably always going to be a little extreme and on the edge--even unbalanced. I've never protested in my life. But I have benefitted from those with the courage, or even the craziness, who have given up their time to change the status quo.

            Or would you prefer to continue separatism, child labor, or black lung? I'm impressed by people who can overcome their own hangups, and selfishness to try and make the world a little bit better. Often, these protesters can get jail time and I don't know of anyone who has made a living of going out and getting arrested --except for maybe a few rock stars. They could be wrong about what they are protesting, but how can any of us say we are better than they?
            • by WoodstockJeff (568111) on Friday June 10, 2005 @04:28PM (#12784400) Homepage
              But many of the issues I've seen protested like the World Bank, G7/G8 Summit, lumber clear cutting and strip mining operations have actually made a lot of sense, because the damage from some of these operations has been extensive, while the benefits have only helped a few.

              "Lumber clear cutting" is a good one to work on. The protests aren't just about someone clearing a mountainside of trees, killing all the birds and frogs and ???. Some protest ALL lumber harvesting, even of trees planted specifically for harvesting, like a long-term corn crop. If the protesters aren't going to picket farmers for "clear cutting" their wheat and corn, why do they do it when lumber companies harvest their crop?

              Some groups got the forestry agencies to stop doing preventative burns for years; it almost wiped out new growth of certain species of trees that couldn't grow without periodic thinning of competing species by fire. There were many protests when the burn policy was put back into effect... but the forest proved the protesters wrong.

              About half the forest land leveled by Mt. St. Helens was privately owned, by lumber companies. The other half is federal. The federal lands have been left to natural restoration, while the evil lumber companies salvaged the wood they could and replanted. Guess where most of the animal life has returned to... yep, the "crop land".

              Patrick Moore [greenspirit.com] has a few things to say about these protests, since he used to partake in them.

              Or would you prefer to continue separatism, child labor, or black lung?

              Separatism doesn't seem to react as well to protests as it does to education and economic factors. Child labor has only been bannished from areas where economics made it possible to do so; it's still prevalent in poor parts of the world, where the picketing of Nike is only seen as the reason the factory providing jobs had to close. And the "cure" for black lung (better technology) also reduced the need for jobs in the mining industry... putting a lot of marginally-skilled people out of work in areas that didn't have other types of jobs to fall back upon.

              Much as some people hate to admit it, economics moves the world. And many of the protesters are protesting that fact, directly or indirectly. But it is the prosperity that gives them the luxury of protesting.... Those who can't see beyond today's paycheck don't spend much time worrying about how the harvesting of the lumber for the house they live in affected the spotted owl's ability to make nests in KMart signs...

            • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday June 10, 2005 @09:07PM (#12786399) Journal
              I have heard a bit about how the BuckyBall carbon molecules don't break down and react strangely with the body. So nano tech is hardly inert. The BuckyBall issue, while made from simple carbon, is a different shaped molecule. And could result in another health issue like asbestos fibers.

              Are you aware that buckyballs are a major component of soot? Along with many of the other carbon nanostructures (many of which are manufactured by sorting them out of soot).

              Humans have had a very long time to evolve defenses against these particular carbon compounds that "react strangely" with the body - along with a lot of other combustion products.

              One of the dioxins, for instance, is a low-grade carcinogen for humans, instant death for birds (as in they literally fall out of the sky, which is how a chem prof told me at least one accidental release was detected) at similar concentrations, and extremely toxic for just about all other animal life.

              I'm sure nanotech will soon come up with something novel and nasty to humans - if it hasn't already. But, odd as they are, buckyballs aren't it. We've been breathing them in quantity since the domestication of fire.
        • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Friday June 10, 2005 @01:14PM (#12781988) Journal
          They are deliberately skewing the use of the word from the specific common-use meaning of "very small machines" to a very general case "very small manmade things".
          As far as I can tell, that is a widely accepted skewing: The first part of the push for nanotech is simply "very small manmade things" with which to build your "very small machines" and some of the first benefits of this push will be stain resistant pants, better sunblock, and better cosmetics.

          The first concerns about nanotech are thus about "very small manmade things" too: these tiny particles will be produced in an abundance the likes of which the world has never seen. This could be fine or it could not, depending on the material. This has been widely discussed, and you reveal your own ignorance rather than that of those you criticize.

          None of these protesters are worried about grey goo. They're worried about the damage that these particles could do to an ecosystem. Maybe they're wrong, but it's a valid concern. Dunno how big those teflon fibers really are, and dunno whether they're really novel, but it's not a completely new use of the word "nanotech".
          • We need to eliminate candles, kerosene lanterns, diesel engines, carbon arc lamps, and fireplaces, because they all produce buckyballs and carbon nanotubes. Soot of any kind is just loaded with nanoparticles. What about all those nanoparticles they add to tires? Then there's dihydrogen oxide, which is known to penetrate all the cells of the body.

        • by Rei (128717) on Friday June 10, 2005 @01:15PM (#12781995) Homepage
          Nanotechnology != Nanomachines. Nanomachines are a subset of nanotechnology.

          Please keep this in mind. The most realistic uses for nanotech, many of which are right on the horizon, have absolutely nothing to do with machinery. They take advantage of the fact that A) at the nanoscale, it is more realistic to make structures that are 100% free of impurities, and B) many materials have radically different properties at nanoscale levels.

          For example, gold. We all know what normal gold is like. Golden, lustrous, very unreactive. Nanospheres of gold, though? They can be ruby-red in color, and quite reactive.

          Or look at carbon nanotubes: they're just rolled up graphite, but simply by varying the number of carbons and how they connect, you can make them incredible electric insulators or better than the best superconductors. They can resist heat incredibly well laterally and channel it along their lengths far better than any other material, or resist it all together. They can have almost ridiculous strengths, compared to brittle graphite. And many, many more odd properties.

          This is nanotech. Nanotech isn't little robots swimming around your bloodstream hunting down invaders - at least not in the present. If you mean to talk about those things specifically, say "nanomachines".
        • by nasor (690345)
          Actually, "very small man-made things" is indeed the definition of nanotechnology that's accepted by virtually all scientists and engineers who work in physics, chemistry, or electronics. Any material or structure that's conveniently measured on a scale of nanometers (billionths of a meter)is generally considered to fall under the umbrella of "nanotechnology". Machines that could be measured conveniently on that scale are still little more than fantasy.
          • by bitspotter (455598) on Friday June 10, 2005 @02:04PM (#12782625) Journal
            Very small man made things have been around much longer than the term "nanotech". Before that, it was called "chemistry". It still is.

            "The term Nanotechnology [wikipedia.org] was created by Tokyo Science University professor Norio Taniguchi in 1974 to describe the precision manufacture of materials with nanometre tolerances. "

            Drexler further popularized the term to describe very small *manufacturing*. It has since been hijacked by media and scientists alike in order to attract grant money, most notably from the National Nanotechnology Initiative [wikipedia.org], which ignores molecular manufacturing entirely in favor of buzzword-compliant "nanomaterials" research.

            Sure, if you accept that popular usage is what defines a term, then Nanotech has supplanted chemistry. That's not where it came from, though.

            More info on this confusion, and the Eddie Bauer "nude-ins"
            here [r30.net].
        • by dbIII (701233)
          The hilarious thing is these pants don't have the specific definition of "nanotechnology" in them at all.That's the way it's all going now - the paint used by the protestors has just as much right to use the word due to the small size of the particles used to add colour.

          Of course there are hazards with small stuff - for instance the problem with asbestos is due to size and shape of the particles (and the fact the stuff is effectively chemically inert, so once it gets in the body it stays there) but these

    • by Rei (128717) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:59PM (#12781819) Homepage
      First off, let me preface this by saying that I'm a huge nanotech fan. The sort of leap-forward potential that nanotech provides in superconductors, photovoltaics, betavoltaics, computing, LEDs, medical tracers, antibiotics, genetics, materials, rocketry, and just about everything that you can think of are of such a huge scale, it's hard to even picture.

      However, it would be wrong of us to pretend that there aren't serious risks. And, no, I'm not talking about dumb "grey goo" scenarios. Look at CNTs, for example. Very stable, aerosolizable in some situations, and very easily penetrates cells. Add various functional groups onto them (like many projects are doing) that might damage cell internals, and it sounds like a ready-made health nightmare. The problem with many nanoparticles is that they're very small, and thus able to get to places that their non-soluable relatives couldn't. They often tend to be either very stable or very reactive in comparison to their large-scale relatives.

      Oh, and before all of the poorly thought out "nanoparticles like CNTs occur in nature in candle soot!", that's like arguing that since cyanide occurs in many fruits, we shouldn't worry about pure cyanide.

      We shouldn't hold up research; far from it, the varying fields of nanotech really look to be the next leap forward in almost every scientific arena. But we also need to put them under great scrutiny, or we'll have another DDT on our hands.
      • by Dread_ed (260158)
        I work in a retail business in Houston and *RIGHT* across the freeway from me is a little lab where they make, among other things, large quantities of nanotubes and buckyballs. They mostly provide these to NASA and USA researchers for development of new lubricants for the space program.

        The way I found this out was from the guy that runs it. He stopped in to take a look at my products and we got to talking about what he did, and needless to say, I was deeply interested.

        The thing that freaked me out was t
  • who the **** wears nanopants?

    mary-kate and ashley?
  • Yeah.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by MaGGuN (630724) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:31PM (#12781439)
    Nano bad.. let's get naked!
  • Nanopants (Score:3, Funny)

    by ciole (211179) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:31PM (#12781441)
    Squeeze as I can, I just can't fit in em.
  • by qazwsxqazwsx90 (321105) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:31PM (#12781445)
    I'm going to start wearing nanotech all the time if it draws protesters like these.
  • I'm confused! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:32PM (#12781452) Homepage
    I thought the Evil Religious Right(tm) had cornered the market on unreasonable opposition to scientific progress. What am I supposed to make of this??
    • I thought the Evil Religious Right(tm) had cornered the market on unreasonable opposition to scientific progress. What am I supposed to make of this??

      Only that you should be thankful we keep our clothes on. Well... most of us, anyhow. Those other ones are total loonies.
    • Re:I'm confused! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PaxTech (103481) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:48PM (#12781689) Homepage
      There's really very little difference between radical environmentalists and religious fundamentalists.

      Both want to control what everyone else does and thinks based on their own unreasonable and unprovable beliefs. "The end of the world is nigh" indeed.
      • Unlike "scientists" who are interested only in the welfare of the human race and whose motives and actions are always pure and above reproach.

        SCM

        • Re:I'm confused! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by be-fan (61476)
          Scientists, in general, don't depend on a moral justification for their behavior. While some scientists are concerned about human welfare, it is only tangentially related to science as a field. Science is merely concerned with the furthering of the state of knowledge. And yes, the vast majority of scientists are able to live up to this credo, if only because the goal itself is so modest.
    • They're both crazy extremists.

      I have no problem with people respecting the environment and making sure we don't (accidentally or intentionally) do bad things to the earth. I also have no problem with people being religious as long as they're not on a jihad.

      For the radical environmentalists, their religion is environmentalism. The sensible environmentalists are like the sensible religious, who respect that "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesi
    • Re:I'm confused! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Thangodin (177516)
      They oppose scientific progress, not technical progress. They haven't figured out the connection yet. Not that this is terribly surprising, given how little they know about science.

      The people who are opposing this are actually a different breed of religious fanatic, the neo-pagans, who do not espouse any particular religious affiliation but are nevertheless highly superstitious (often believing in ghosts, ESP, and psychics).

      The fear of AI and nanotechnology is born largely out of ignorance of their limita
    • by lheal (86013)

      I thought the Evil Religious Right(tm) had cornered the market ...

      You are thinking in only one dimension (1D), with "right" and "left" as opposing signs. In reality there are many variables that define people's political positions, at least one per issue.

      Also, for many people, political activism for their causes takes on a religious role in their lives. It gives their lives meaning and makes them feel part of a larger whole in the way that religion does.

      Religious views become mixed up with po

  • Nanopants? (Score:2, Funny)

    by mpathetiq (726625)
    My pants are already too tight, why are they making them smaller?
  • by 0kComputer (872064) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:32PM (#12781455)
    Theres no nudity in the pictures :(
  • Love those khakis (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:32PM (#12781464) Journal
    I've got several pairs of those nanotech khakis. They don't stain at all, even with coffee spilled on them. It doesn't seem to be "real" nanotech, though, just some kind of nylon polymer treatment for the material that makes it water-resistant.

    Eddie Bauer makes some nice jeans too. Levis always seem to feel better, but I get a lot more compliments when I'm wearing my Eddie Bauer jeans.

    I'm not sure what they are trying to protest. Maybe they can get some mites rolling around naked in the store or something. That ought to give them something "nano" to worry abuot.
    • Re:Love those khakis (Score:5, Informative)

      by IceAgeComing (636874) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:38PM (#12781552)
      They claim that the pants contain teflon, which is in a family of chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin. It is known that this same family of chemicals accumulates in the body, that most Americans have some level of this in their bodies, and that there is research to show that it damages immune systems in other animals.

      • by Otter (3800) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:59PM (#12781821) Journal
        They claim that the pants contain teflon, which is in a family of chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin.

        Whatever the merits of that point, it has zero to do with nano- anything.

      • by Jimmy Nail (862098) on Friday June 10, 2005 @01:16PM (#12782008) Homepage
        All the great properties of Teflon are due to its total and complete chemical inertness and stability. It doesn't react with anything in any capacity (not even on a van der walls level, thus its non-stick properties). Sure it might be harmful like helium and water if you breath too much of it or eat nothing else, but as a chemical, Teflon is probably one of the least dangerous things you can put in your body. I guess it could do something like asbestos (due to its mico-mechanical properties, not chemical), but as far as I know nothing like this is known.
        • partially true (Score:3, Informative)

          by tacokill (531275)
          Teflon is inert for MOST materials. There are a few things that make it swell but you are, mostly right. It is the most chemically inert substance I personally know of.

          Just a minor clarification.
      • Re:Teflon is bad (Score:5, Informative)

        by msblack (191749) on Friday June 10, 2005 @01:23PM (#12782103)
        Many bird owners are aware of the dangers of Teflon. Cooking with Teflon cookware will kill your birds. Not cooking their food, but any food. Teflon delaminates from the cookware and gets into the air. This isn't from crazy environmentalists; it's a real danger.
        • by John Whorfin (19968) on Friday June 10, 2005 @02:25PM (#12782939) Homepage
          Cooking with Teflon cookware will kill your birds

          I thought cooking birds would kill them irrespective of the material they were cooked in.
        • I call BS (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tacokill (531275)
          I call bullshit. In it's purest form, Teflon is good to about 400 degrees F. I don't know how they laminate it to a frying pan but I am guessing they do so in a way that that the Teflon can not "melt" away or vaporize during the higher cooking temperatures. Is it possible that it's something OTHER than the teflon that is causing the problem? It would certainly be easier to qualify if you could provide a link supporting your assertation.

          Also, if the vapors are so bad, then why don't power plants, c
      • ...and 3M stopped making Teflon 5 years ago because (wait for it...) they wisely anticipate the MASSIVE lawsuits that are going to come pumping down the line on this matter very shortly.

        These protesters are right. Teflon and the like (perfluorochemicals) are accumulating in the food chain.

        They are known to cause cancer and supress the immune system.

        See this New York Times article:

        http://www.health-report.co.uk/teflon_poisoning_d e nied.htm [health-report.co.uk]
  • No grey goo... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lilmouse (310335) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:33PM (#12781471)
    So sad, grey goo is unlikey to come from this... But we could still get cancer!

    The problem with nanotechnology is that we don't really understand why much of it works, and we don't have any idea how the special properties it has will affect our bodies. Nano-whiskers? Great - I'm sure they help keep stains from getting on clothes. But what the *hell* are they going to do in my lungs?

    As we've seen time and again, what we don't know really can hurt us...

    --LWM
    • Re:No grey goo... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Winkhorst (743546) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:47PM (#12781668)
      Okay, let's just suppose that viruses were a technological development of an ancient civilization. One can imagine a protest that would draw a chorus of laughter from the technical elite of the time. "These guys are just against technological advancement," they might say, "a bunch of luddites." Well, it really amazes me that science can run off willy nilly inventing all manner of peculiar "stuff" and it never occurs to most folks that they could be opening themselves and their descendants up to thousands of years of consequences. Next time you rip some of that round-leafed mint viney shit out of your lawn, remember, this too was trumpeted as an advancement.
    • From TFA, the "nano tech" they are using reduces the amount of toxic chemicals required to make the pants stain resistent. Hmmm, fewer toxic chemicals seems like a pretty good thing.

      Unrelated to your post, one of the the big problems with nanotechnology is misuse of the term. In the late 1800's we didn't call molecular engineering nanotech, we called it molecular engineering. Nylon, is a nanotechnology, people seem ok wtih nylon. You are surronded by nano-particles (dust, pollen, etc...), we have been si
    • by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Friday June 10, 2005 @01:06PM (#12781890) Journal
      The trouble with the precautionary principal is that it can be applied to anything at all.

      I bet there's a great deal about malt scotch that we don't understand at the molecular level. Does this mean we should be purging Balvenie from the shelves? Saints preserve us!

      This does not mean we blindly rush into things, but to say "we don't understand everything about it" or "there's a possibility that it gives cancer" is just stating the blindingly obvious. We need a better assessment of the risks than that.

  • Yeah... (Score:2, Funny)

    by paul248 (536459)
    Just call me when self-replicating pants start to take over the world.
  • People with too much time on their hands decide to pre-emptively protest something decades away by getting naked.

    So now, they've associated concerns over proper use of nanotechnology with people stripping in public. Nice job. That'll definitely encourage people to take such issues seriously.
  • Kneejerk Activism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Kryptonian (617472) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:34PM (#12781481)
    I was standing in line to see a movie years ago - I forget which one - when I was approached by petitioners from PETA who were upset about the treatment of the horses in the latest Conan movie.

    They showed me a letter from the Spanish Department of the Interior which said, basically, "Gosh, if you say they were abused, then we believe you." Then they waved this letter around claiming the Spanish Government corroborated their claims.

    People who run up and start protesting before they know a damned thing about what they're protesting just make me laugh. I hope at least that the people who took off their clothes had nice butts, because apart from some tittilation, that's all they accomplished.
    • Re:Kneejerk Activism (Score:3, Interesting)

      by daviddennis (10926)
      Expect at least some of it to backfire on the protestors.

      I had no clue this existed until now.

      Now that I know Nanopants exist that are stain resistant, I look forward to purchasing and wearing them. I just hope they expand this technology to shirts, and quick!

      So Eddie Bauer may have gained a customer thanks to the protersters who are trying to prevent them from gaining customers!

      D
    • by cecille (583022) on Friday June 10, 2005 @01:28PM (#12782163)
      While I do think that protesting is a valuable tool, I think there are too many people who get into it without sufficient knowledge and then refuse outright to change their positions. It becomes more about winning and less about wanting to do some good.

      Let me give you a quick example. At my university, there was a large number of people protesting against coke (the cola). Boiled down to the basics, and skipping some important details, basically, they argued we shouldn't drink coke becuase of their business practices in columbia...they were endagering and/or killing (depending on who you talk to) workers and being anti-union. Since I'm an avid coke drinker, the possibility of loss of coke disturbed me, but I felt I should learn a bit about it. I went to talk to one of the protesters and ask some questions. One of my questins was along the lines of "do you know that the columbian government investigated this and found coke not guilty? Do you also know that they have the highest union rates in the country even though you're accusing them of being anti-union?" Her response was that the columbian gov't couldn't be trusted, and coke should still have more union workers even though they have the most per capita already. I forgot about the union thing and asked who would be able to provide objective evidence to convince her that coke was innocent. The columbian gov't couldn't, so who could? Her reply? No one. No one could ever convince her. So I asked if she really though that her opinion was more informed than every legal body in the world, despite the fact that she didn't have access to the facts presented to the courts. She told me engineering students were morons who should keep out of social issues.

      I don't have an opinion on the coke issue really. I don't know for sure what happened down there, but I continue to drink coke. Maybe I'm a bad person, who knows. But the point is that both sides of these types of arguments need to step back and evaluate the merits of the other side, and determine what level of confidence they have in their positions, what evidence they have backing them, and what type of evidence would convince them not necessarily to change their mind, but to at least re-evaulate their positions. In the case of a protest against something, this is hard since it's impossible to prove conclusively that something is safe, but at some point the benefits outweigh the risks. At the point where you are saying that no amount of reasonable evidence contrary to your position will cause you to change your mind, this should serve as a realization that you are being irrational. And while everyone has their irrational issues, it's not these people who should be leading and articulating the views of their side of the argument, since a that point it is not fact being argued, but irrational opinion. It's a pipe dream that this will actually happen, I know, and I'm far from innocent on this matter, but it's something to consider.
    • by uqbar (102695) on Friday June 10, 2005 @01:30PM (#12782204)
      I was at a performance of a Japanese Butoh troop. Outside protesters were doing their thing complaining about the live bunnies used in the performance, and explaining that bunnies get "stage fright."

      Now I am a fairly hardcore animal rights activist who won't eat meat or wear leather (but I keep my beliefs to myself mostly since I know that people have to come to their own conclusions on these issues).

      My response to these leather shoe wearing idiots was, what about the dead cows on your feet? How is a bunny's stage fright a more important cause than killing animals?

      It seems like nanotech pants is a minor issue compared to far scarier stuff, like say antibiotics in groundwater causing young girls to enter pueberty years early. While it's nice to see people being active, I wonder what would happen if these efforts were guided towards threats that are more pressing.
  • Afterwards they all drove away in their SUVs.

    In all seriousness, most new technologies have the potential for good and bad. How many people have been killed by electricity? Should we not allow new technologies to advance because there are dangers? I think nano is truly the next frontier and I'm excited about it.

  • When people don't understand the science behind something as advanced as in today's world (molecular biology, nanotechnology), this type of knee-jerk reaction always happens. The sad thing is that it is very difficult to make such knowledge available to the layman because it is very hard to dumb down advanced scientific thought. Sure, some concepts can be explained by using metaphors, etc. but only up to a limit. Then, fear of the unknown takes over and such cycles repeat. Sigh.
  • Send in the Clowns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by That's Unpossible! (722232) * on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:34PM (#12781493)
    I really enjoyed the "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!" episode about environmental activists. +1 Funny AND Insightful, highly recommended viewing.

    I think the thing that stuck with me the most is that the environmental activists started out decades ago with a good idea, and then were usurped by anti-American/anti-Capitalist propaganda peddlers.

  • by rainwalker (174354) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:35PM (#12781512)
    Seriously, WTF are these people thinking?! Stain-resistant pants are "nanotechnology" in the sense that they have small fabric fibers! How the hell is this an environmental hazard?

    Still, the idea of a "catastrophe brought on by millions of uncontrolled, destructive [Eddie Bauer pants] that chew through the environment" is very appealing to me, and I suggest that the SciFi channel makes a movie about it.

    ...[E]xperts note that little research has yet been conducted into the effects of nanotech materials on humans...

    Yes, of course, the dangerous effects of pants on humans. These people are just fucking stupid. Way to be afraid of a marketing word.
  • by joelpt (21056) <[ten.tpleoj] [ta] [todhsals]> on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:39PM (#12781559)
    We're already seeing signs of problems to come: buckyballs appear to cause Alzheimer's-like damage when they get into the brains of fish.

    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/mech-tech/nano technology/dn4825 [newscientist.com]

    I have been eagerly awaiting the first self replicating nanomachines ever since reading Engines of Creation (http://www.foresight.org/EOC/ [foresight.org]) but the tech probably has a long convoluted road ahead to acceptance and safe use. If we are seeing problems already with buckyballs - perhaps the simplest example of nanotech - the implications will be far greater for something like airborne nanobots that clean the air, or your bloodstream.
  • Haha (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maelstrom (638) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:43PM (#12781624) Homepage Journal
    OMFGWTFBBQ EVIL TECHONOLOGY. GET NEKKID. Protests like this lower the value of all other protests. Sort of like spamming lowers the value of all e-mail, you have to filter out the crap to actually see the stuff that is worthwhile.

    But who needs logic when you can jerk your knee around some. These guys have the same mindset as the Creationists, just a different issue.

    *plonk*

  • Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by weston (16146) <westonsd @ c a n n c entral.org> on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:45PM (#12781637) Homepage
    Merits and dangers of technology aside, activists seem more and more stupid these days. Yeah, shock value gets you *attention* -- but not credibility. MLK had protestors dress up in their sunday best, looking dignified. If they'd run through the streets nude and shouting, it would have been a fine spectacle, but we'd probably still have seperate water fountains.

    So yeah. Fight the man. Spark debate over nanotech, GM food, war, whatever. Just do it with some sense, OK? Protest is already in danger of becoming dead as a vector for social change. Turning it into an easy parody of itself isn't helping.

  • by kb9vcr (127764) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:57PM (#12781804)
    Seriously, can we wait until the cool nano-tech stuff comes out before the protests start? This is like protesting the realistic violence in video games just after the release of Pac-Man.
  • Oh Good Lord! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday June 10, 2005 @01:09PM (#12781926)
    Is that the best thing they can find to protest? Talk about fiddling while Rome burns! Lemme see, you could, say, talk about the broad and concerted assault on the middle class through Bush's Retirement Roulette scheme, or the nuclear option Congress is practicing on American workers by rewarding outsourcing, or the elimination of personal bankruptcy protections that only hurt anyone not wealthy enough to field a team of lawyers, or the changes to Federal Student Loan guidelines that will double the cost for poorer students' families, or nominating federal judges who equate non-neo-cons with slavers. Heck, you could possibly even talk about a quagmire that never needed to happen, that was sold to the American public on a pack of lies, and that is now grounding down our army, grinding up our treasury, and, incidentally, killing American soldiers and lots and lots of hapless Iraqis.

    THIS is what these people choose to spend their time doing?
  • Times have changed (Score:3, Informative)

    by humankind (704050) on Friday June 10, 2005 @03:15PM (#12783529) Journal
    Wow, I remember when comments on Slashdot used to be thoughtful and informative. Now they're reactive, ignorant and shallow. Did any of the dorks calling these people "stupid hippies" actually read any of the details of why they're protesting?

    CHICAGO, Ill. -- On Saturday, at 1 pm, dozens of concerned citizens joined the public health group THONG outside of the Eddie Bauer flagship store on Michigan Avenue to protest the company's use of untested "nano-fibers" in their "nanotex" clothing line which also boasts the "Teflon" label and are "wrinkle free". THONG is a local Chicago public-interest group that uses nudity to educate people on detrimental threats to human health and the environment.

    "We're out here naked so people can SEE THE PROBLEM, nanotech is such a radical and unpredictable new technology, like biotech, that it takes something highly visible, like a naked body, to get people to focus on the need to stop corporations from using humans as guinea pigs for new, untested, and unstable new technologies!" said Kiki Walters of THONG.

    "The Royal Society in the UK has issued their own report, recommending regulation to control exposure to nanotechnologies. We believe they have a point to make. We just wanted to make it even more obvious to people."

    Eddie Bauer's line of water and stain resistant clothing utilizes nanotechnology, a radically new and untested technology that involves the manipulation of matter at the scale of the nanometer (nm), which is one-billionth of a meter. At this scale, materials behave differently than their larger counterparts, and can possibly be more reactive and toxic, posing unknown risks to human health and the environment. Though nanoparticles are not regulated by any government in the world, many products containing them are already on the market, including food, clothing, cosmetics and sunscreens, without proper safety testing for toxicity, posing risks to the health of consumers and retail workers. Nano-Tex(TM) clothing contains nano-fibers coated with Teflon particles. Nanoparticles have been found to penetrate the blood brain barrier. Inhalation of many types of nanoparticles have been proven to be toxic to animals in lab tests.

    "Even the largest re-insurance company in the world, Swiss RE, has stated that they will not insure nanotech at this time. At least this major financial player has openly admitted the potential toxicity of nanoproducts, and that these products present what they call long latent unforeseen claims." said Natalie Eggs, another THONG member.

    The real toxic issue here is not nanotech, but the fact that nanotech is being used to further promote the use of substances such as Teflon, which is known to be toxic and dangerous and is already outlawed in many countries. People wearing these outfits with the special nanotech-enabled teflon-based chemicals embedded within them, are exposing themselves to toxic chemicals that are widely recognized around the world as being dangerous!

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