The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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EPA Will Investigate Nanoparticles' Toxicity

Does the EPA, or anyone else, have the tools to measure the toxicity of nanoparticles outside a vacuum?

1 min read

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been under pretty steady pressure over the last five years to look at nanoparticles in terms of their size rather than their chemistry. It appears they have finally succumbed.

I suppose this is a positive move, but when one considers that the microscopy tools that are needed to investigate these nanoparticles outside of a vacuum hardly exist and that some kind of universal standards of measurement have still to be arrived at I remain somewhat conflicted.

Just from a social science point of view, I am not sure that nanotech’s critics will ever be satisfied with the results, especially if they prove that the risks of nanoparticles are negligible. The raison d’etre of your typical anti-nanotech NGO has always come across as being less about the dangers of nanotechnology and more about fears of globalization and big business.

If anyone wants really satisfactory answers to the impact of nanoparticles in the environment or on the human body, they should be prepared to wait a long time because they will have to develop, and even invent, the tools necessary to measure them in these situations. Honestly, I don’t think anyone on either side of this debate has the patience to wait for that.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan
LightGreen

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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