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Nano Safety Worries Scientists More Than Public

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the what-aren't-they-telling-us dept.

Science 167

Nanotech Coward writes "The unknown human health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology are a bigger worry for scientists than for the public, according to a new report in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The new report was based on a national telephone survey of American households and a sampling of 363 leading U.S. nanotechnology scientists and engineers. It reveals that those with the most insight into a technology with enormous potential — and that is already emerging in hundreds of products — are unsure what health and environmental problems might be posed by the technology."

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not surprising (5, Insightful)

leomekenkamp (566309) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479021)

Well informed scientist see more possible causes for harm than the non-informed general public. This hardly comes as a surprise to me.

Re:not surprising (5, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479125)

Well informed scientist see more possible causes for harm than the non-informed general public. This hardly comes as a surprise to me.
Not always. Many times it's the other way around. Take, for example, genetically modified food. Most scientists working in this area see no harmful effects from GM food, yet many in the general public think GM food is going to kill them, cause cancer, or other such nonsense. Or human cloning. Many people in the general public are absolutely terrified of human cloning, yet I'd bet most scientists see no problem with this from a biotech standpoint, except for a few ethical considerations.

It cuts both ways.

Re:not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479165)

Similarly geologists generally have a positive attitide towards burning more fossile fuel, but then again a lot of them earn money in the oil industry.

Re:not surprising (4, Interesting)

Feyr (449684) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479357)

so uninformed public overreact/dont overreact to a piece of technology based on just how much dollar is out there instilling or not instilling fear in them (ie, greenpeace).

this is news how? sheeps will be sheeps

Re:not surprising (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480427)

I don't think it's just the publicity $. For most of the general public (by which, according to /. custom, I really mean me) nanotechnology is the stuff that keeps Jack Harkness alive and heals Ratchet. Ok, it went a bit wrong in The Empty Child, but The Doctor sorted it out.

Unless you think that it's all product placement, and it's the publicity $ that has made it a beneficial sci-fi staple...

Re:not surprising (1)

mcpkaaos (449561) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480587)

based on just how much dollar is out there instilling or not instilling fear in them (ie, greenpeace).

Investing money into instilling fear in the general population... and the example you come up with is Greenpeace? Are you joking?

sheeps will be sheeps

Baaah, brother.

Re:not surprising (3, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479471)

If people really cared that much about GM food, it'd have to be, you know, labeled. Thanks to the GM lobby, most people have already been eating GM foods for years. I have a problem with GM foods, but it's more about the problem with the modified plants cross-pollenating with unmodified plants, and corrupting unmodified seed lines, as well as the crappy business policies of companies like Monsanto.

I don't have any particular opinion about human cloning, except for the fact that I don't see any actual point in it. Animal cloning is done to strengthen the breed, technically, so either we're advocating some kind of eugenics, which is just inherently a bad idea, or we're catering to people's mistaken desire to have a genetic duplicate of a dead person, which is also a pretty bad idea.

Re:not surprising (2, Informative)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479705)

Where I live, it has to be labelled:

The EU recognises the consumers' right to information and labelling as a tool for making an informed choice. Since 1997 Community legislation has made labelling of GM food mandatory for:
* products that consist of GMO or contain GMO;
* products derived from GMO but no longer containing GMO if there is still DNA or protein resulting from the genetic modification present;
http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biotechnology/gmfood/labelling_en.htm [europa.eu]

However, I am not so sure whether Joe Sixpack cares.

CC.

Re:not surprising (3, Informative)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479803)

My prime concern with GM foods is the copyright / patent element, although this extends beyond GM foods into conventionally modified varieties as well. The fact that in many areas it is now a requirement that the crops grown come from licensed seed types and those types are owned by the suppliers not the grower may cause fairly large problems down the road.

The main issues I see (other than the ones you already pointed out) are the fact that 'heritage' varieties are being lost, simply because the new GM replacements have better guarantee's as to the end product, biodiversity is reduced which in turn makes large scale crop failures more likely (i.e. there is a single point of failure as all the plants are genetically similar, a single biological or environmental threat could destroy an entire crop). I would also suspect that monetizing this seed IP could well lead to higher seed prices (you get a higher yield after all) which may be an issue for smaller farmers, especially subsistence farmers.

AFAIK The health elements of GM seeds have not been fully investigated, nor will they be (no one investigated the health implications of new varieties created conventionally after all) so the potential for problems exists (the BSE crisis in the UK was caused in some degree by modern and more cost effective farming practices after all).

The biggest problem however is not with GM itself but the fact that it it now impossible to have a discussion about any remotely controversial scientific topic without it becoming a contest of marketing efforts, both sides (and there generally are only two that are heard) making false claims or overstating risks or benefits and most importantly trying to turn complex issues into soundbytes.

Re:not surprising (0, Flamebait)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480517)

I don't have any particular opinion about human cloning, except for the fact that I don't see any actual point in it. Animal cloning is done to strengthen the breed, technically, so either we're advocating some kind of eugenics, which is just inherently a bad idea,

Whoa whoa whoa, you're saying that breeding better animals is bad, because it's some kind of eugenics, and eugenics is inherently a bad idea?

Hey, I just ran that through Amazon's software and here's what it turned up:

People who used that line of argumentation also argued:

-Corporations are bad because they try to make a profit. Governments are bad because they're corporations. (Specifically, non-profit corporations.)
-Monopolies are bad because they have the power to manipulate the market and charge too much. Intellectual property is bad because it's a monopoly. So is all property.
-Environmental protection should be a top priority because it's a prerequisite for humanity to continue existing. We shouldn't colonize other planets, because that would mess up the environment.
-Murder is bad because it takes someone's life without their consent. Physician assisted suicide is murder. Therefore, it's wrong.

Hello Mr. Strawman. (0, Flamebait)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21481215)

I think you should look at the definition of Eugenics [google.com] before you start talking about animal cloning because it doesn't apply to that...Unless you're being cute and saying that all animals (including humans) are equal, in which case I think you'll find that you're in complete agreement with PETA, which is, I doubt, what you want.

As for the rest, you can shove your trollish delusions up your ass until I actually say any of those things.

Re:not surprising (2, Interesting)

inviolet (797804) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480539)

I don't have any particular opinion about human cloning, except for the fact that I don't see any actual point in it. Animal cloning is done to strengthen the breed, technically, so either we're advocating some kind of eugenics, which is just inherently a bad idea, or we're catering to people's mistaken desire to have a genetic duplicate of a dead person, which is also a pretty bad idea.

Eugenics is inherently bad?

If eugenics is defined as "improving humans through genetic selection or modification", that seems to me to be inherently good.

It only goes bad when the sought improvements are not rational -- such as, for example, attempts to make us all Christians, or blonde, or obedient.

Consider all the rational improvements that could be made through genetic improvements: we could increase tendencies to be smart, scientific, responsible, just, good-natured, conscientious, or whatever other characteristics are found to have genetic inputs.

Or were you just being sloppy with your words when you said 'inherently'? IMO you should've said 'historically'.

Re:not surprising (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21481265)

Consider all the rational improvements that could be made through genetic improvements: we could increase tendencies to be smart, scientific, responsible, just, good-natured, conscientious, or whatever other characteristics are found to have genetic inputs.

And we could increase the tendencies to be dumb, obedient, hard working, and short-lived, thereby making us into the people that governments and corporations would dream us to be.

Do you really want to start going down that road? I don't like companies messing casually with plant genomes...Do you really want to jack some patented gene sequences into your kids? If they breed is it going to violate someone's copyright?

Re:not surprising (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480643)

Most of the time when human cloning is talked about in a serious way, what is really being discussed is cloaned organs. Now, you never hear that in the news because someone making a copy of their speen is less newsworthy than some mad scientist trying to copy whole people. Almost all of the serious reserch is geared towards specific parts, ont whole people.

I'm opposed to GM food (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479487)

But then again, I'm a Ford man.

Re:I'm opposed to GM food (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479647)

As a former GM contract employee, let me tell you: you aren't missing much. GM cafeteria food was HORRIBLE.

Re:not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479731)

The only reason this is true is because the media hasn't latched onto nanotech as a "big scare" item yet. Give it time, and I'm sure the general public will be just as scared of nanotech as they are of geneticaly modified food.

Re:not surprising (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479825)

Yes, not many scientists have jumped on the bandwagon to rid the world of dihydrogen oxide.

Re:not surprising (1)

AmyRose1024 (1160863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480053)

Or sodium chloride, for that matter.

Re:not surprising (4, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479945)

Most scientists working in this area see no harmful effects from GM food, yet many in the general public think GM food is going to kill them, cause cancer, or other such nonsense.

Problem is, most members of the general public (at least here in the UK) remember the little debacle a few years back when

  1. most scientists working in the area saw no danger in feeding animals on the bovine equivalent of Soylent Green
  2. Whups, the cows are getting BSE, but most scientists saw no danger of it passing to humans
  3. Ah, perhaps there was some danger of it passing to humans after all, but despite CJD having a long, indeterminate incubation period and there not being any test for it, most scientists see no danger of a mass epidemic of horrible lingering deaths (fingers crossed...)

Consequently, the general public can be forgiven for suspecting that "most scientists" get altogether too much funding from Big Agrobusiness to have an impartial view on the matter. This is rather unfair to "most scientists" and probably more due to politicians not understanding the difference between conclusive scientific proof and risk/benefit analysis (when the only benefit is to the coffers of Big Agrobusiness; the starving third world can't afford GM seed and the overfed first world has no particular need for more efficient agriculture).

Re:not surprising (1)

surfingmarmot (858550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480405)

Not always. Many times it's the other way around. Take, for example, genetically modified food. Most scientists working in this area see no harmful effects from GM food, yet many in the general public think GM food is going to kill them, cause cancer, or other such nonsense. Or human cloning.
Not the same issue at all. When the general public is more concerned than scientists, it is born of a combination of things: ignorance, poor reading comprehension, poor listening skills, or emotion. When scientists are more concerned than the general public is usually due to empirical scientific analysis, facts, or cold hard logic.

Re:not surprising (1)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480895)

Not the same issue at all. When the general public is more concerned than scientists, it is born of a combination of things: ignorance, poor reading comprehension, poor listening skills, or emotion.

Not necessarily. Back in the 50s you would be hard pressed to find a scientist worrying much about nuclear power, specifically the threat of nuclear waste or a meltdown.

Today you would find that the consensus position amongst scientists is highly skeptical of nuclear power, in particular the nuclear waste issue is a major concern as is the safety issue in the wake of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

In fact one of the biggest reasons to avoid nuclear power today is the fact that the population at large was lied to throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies by the old nuclear power establishment. That makes any new investment in nuclear power a pretty risky proposition. Sure people can propose new technologies such as pebble bed but they are still going to have to face the fact that the light water reactors were neither as safe nor as efficient as claimed.

You don't need to be an economist to be suspicious of a hedge fund called 'Long Term Capital Management' that is exclusively engaged in highly leveraged short term arbitrage speculation, or banks that trade in Leveraged Super Senior debt, or companies like Enron that post huge profits based on raptor vehicles.

Scientists are people as well, and people lie.

Re:not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21481267)

Not necessarily. Back in the 50s you would be hard pressed to find a scientist worrying much about nuclear power, specifically the threat of nuclear waste or a meltdown.

Today you would find that the consensus position amongst scientists is highly skeptical of nuclear power, in particular the nuclear waste issue is a major concern as is the safety issue in the wake of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.


No. Only the public is afraid of nuclear power. It is an political problem, not an engineering problem.

Re:not surprising (2, Informative)

CustomDesigned (250089) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480819)

Most scientists working in this area see no harmful effects from GM food, yet many in the general public think GM food is going to kill them, cause cancer, or other such nonsense. Or human cloning. Many people in the general public are absolutely terrified of human cloning, yet I'd bet most scientists see no problem with this from a biotech standpoint, except for a few ethical considerations.

That is a straw man. The issues with GM have to do with labelling (so you know you're not getting what the term "tomato" usually stands for, whether or not you like the alleged improvements) and stuff escaping and destroying ecosystems.

We already have a problem with BT corn escaping and contaminating crops of small/poor farmers. Surprise, surprise, the pollen gets blown into other fields. Fortunately, most people aren't highly allergic to the toxin, but then Monsanto might come along and sue them to take away their livelihood (I'm only aware of an actual example with GM canola, but its going to happen). There's nothing like having to beg giant faceless corporations for permission to plant your subsistence crops. And you thought proprietary computer software was bad...

Labelling of GMO food is important because our understanding of nutrition is always incomplete. Tang was cutting edge for the Apollo mission, but is a nutritional joke comparable to Koolaid now. The "improvements" to GMO food are worth trying, but *only* if there is a way for consumers with bad reactions to avoid them. A conventional example is MSG. Most people don't have a problem with it, it has been used for centuries, it improves the flavor of food. But I personally know several people for whom MSG triggers severe migraine headaches. They *really* need to know which packages have MSG without having to guess about cowardly disguises like "natural flavor". We carefully label "may contain traces of peanuts" because peanut allergy can be life threatening. But a severe migraine puts the sufferer out of commission for a day - a big hit to productivity.

When less informed people hear about problems they don't fully understand, they often don't describe them accurately or even recognizably, allowing those willfully ignoring the problems to attack straw men.

you miss the news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21481185)

The industry has gotten caught lying on way more than one occasion. Numerous internal animal studies show some pretty harmful effects. Combine that with the revolving door of government inspectors going into the same industry they were inspecting after so called retirement and pension, and you start to smell a rat after the 50th time that comes out in the news. And when talking about the FDA or USDA, this is de rigeur, it's a racket for rubber stamping industry just like the FCC is for the telcos and big broadcasters and just like the patent and copyright office is for patent trolls and the MAFIAA. I mean,they have to keep passing laws to try and protect whistleblowers! Why is that? Really, answer that question, why do they have to protect whistleblowers if it is "safe"?

Remember, scientists can be greedy normal humans same as everyone else. Industry scientists claimed any number of now banned pesticides were "safe" for example.

I'm into agriculture and follow this subject a lot,(enough to comment here and state I stay as far away from GM as possible, along with most chemicals) so I'll give you a tip, take anything the big agcos and chemcos say along with their government sock puppets with a huge heaping shovel full of salt about how "safe" stuff is. And that goes for grant/industry driven ag colleges as well.

    People have every reason in the world to be pretty suspicious of genetically modified food, plus it is just a completely bad idea, patenting and creating "closed source" vendor lock-in food and dicking around with the food supply where a little "whoops-gotcha" in the code can cause huge problems is just a bad idea.

  Your puny software operating system or application with a bug, causes something bad to happen, who cares, extremely minor, reload it, patch it, but you CAN'T DO THAT with the planets food supply or water supply WHEN they fuck up, and being humans, they WILL fuck up. You-coders-techies-no matter how much money thrown at it or how many letters after your name- can't even guarantee and warranty computer code, all of it is distributed with the snakeoil caveat emptor disclaimer EULAs, and that stuff is easy compared to biology, so somehow magically you can guarantee chimeric creations?? Are you NUTS?

And before any of the COMPLETE TOTAL IDIOTS chime in with "we've been making hybrids forever" nonsense, let me point out, NOT WITH CROSS SPECIES CHIMERIC HYBRIDS WITH INJECTED DNA. That doesn't happen in nature at any sort of rapid pace or on a large scale, and when it does, say like with the flu virus on a teeny tiny barely changed scale, it tends to be OMG serious bad fukken news when it occurs.

THINK about it rationally given the actual empirical evidence you have to look at, the stuff in the history books so far and in the breaking scandals news over the past few decades. Ever hear of agent orange and blue? Whole flock of dudes in white coats claimed it was safe, and not chemical warfare. uh huh. A few hundred thousand sick or dead vets and vietnamese civilians beg to differ after a little long range "real world testing". And the dioxins in there are now a major threat in everyones water supply, go look it up yourself. Here's another, MTBE to make gas "cleaner", now contaminated a lot of aquifers.

Guess what? Scientists can fuck up too, or be paid off enough to sort of "ignore" results that don't fit with the "business model". Happens all the time.

Keep it up with the GM food/seeds and you are going to see a planetary scale catastrophe.

  I can't say when, but based on human beings 100% complete track record of having serious bad things happen with every other tech, you can guarantee it will happen. Now "dead" tech, machinery, electronics, oh well, you can ignore it,fix the mistakes and move on, with living tech, spread by the wind and water?? Hubris and arrogance with biology is going to kill millions if not billions of people eventually. It won't matter if 99% of all the new creations turn out to be harmless, it's that 1% that is guaranteed to be a mistake which will bork the whole system. Guaranteed, it's gonna happen, and your one box of stashed away cheetos isn't going to fix things.

Re:not surprising (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21481203)

The scientists are infact concerned about GM food.
Real stuff like preventing the plants from overtaking the unmodified plants that is.

Stuff like cancer is nonsense and scientists dont lose sleep over idiots.

Re:not surprising (2, Interesting)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479171)

What is more usual is for the public to vastly over-estimate the risks. This often occurs when scientists cannot say with 100% certainty that a certain thing is safe, and is largely a result of the public's generally poor understanding of risk and probability.

It could be said that the public's opposition to nuclear power, GM crops, etc, is largely an irrational reaction to the impossibility of scientists and policy-makers giving cast-iron guarantees that accidents can never and will never happen (not a view I necessarily agree with).

The issue with nanotechnology is that so far there has been almost no public discussion of the risks, which is probably why Joe Public is currently pretty much unaware of the issues at all.

Re:not surprising (1)

leomekenkamp (566309) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479321)

Well, yes, but is this not because there has been no significant issue with nanotech yet? I mean, we all know about radioactivity since Hiroshima/Nagasaki. On the other hand, people were afraid to get on the first trains, because they thought their internal organs would be mashed up because of the 'enormous' speeds.

Add to this the more apathic 'politicians know what is best for us' mentality there seems to be nowadays; it would come as no surprise that something has to go wrong first before the general public takes notice. Compare this to the first mayor harvest season gone wrong before Monsato will face legislation to ensure bio-diversaty.

Re:not surprising (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479971)

but is this not because there has been no significant issue with nanotech yet
Wrong. One word: asbestos.

Asbestos' danger stems from the fact that its fibers are so small that they get into the lungs unhindered where they wreak their havoc. Even if it's natural, it's still nanotech in a way.

Re:not surprising (1)

leomekenkamp (566309) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480193)

You are absolutely right; I had not thought of that one. Asbestos off course stems form an era when the word nanotech was (probably) not yet thought up, so most of the general public (and even probably here on /.) would not connect the two (saving my face here :-).

So all it takes now is for the media to connect asbestos and nanotech; that might convince politicians to disregard brib^H^H^H^H campaign contributions to make sure the proper safeguards will be incorporated in laws.

Re: not suprising (1)

voislav98 (1004117) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479591)

Could publics view of everything as dangerous have anything to do with the quality reporting by the impartial news media we get these days. I think I saw "Staplers, find out how they can harm your children" the other day on CNN.

Re:not surprising (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480385)

"It could be said that the public's opposition to nuclear power"
The issue with nuclear power isn't that its without risk. Rather, that our containment capabilities mitigate those risks to the point that the benefits far outweigh the probability of an accident. This is different that GM and possibly nanotech. We're not turning radiation out into our landfills and waterways. With GM we're consuming it. And since so much of what happens in our bodies happens over time its easy to see no issue within say a year or two and think, "Hey, this shit is harmless!" Only to find when we're 40-50 or older that it has caused some degradation, disease, or death. By then plausible deniability gives scientists an out: "We can't say conclusively that this disease didn't occur from some other factors." Sometimes scientists are sheeple to.

Well this sounds like a serious problem (1)

wdnsdy (977228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479185)

Well this sounds like a serious problem, because the public are actually more of a threat to scientists than any nano-tecnology whatnot.

Re:not surprising (5, Interesting)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479227)

Disclosure: I do research in the (overly-broad) field of "nanotechnology."

I went to a talk recently discussing the safety issues surrounding nanotechnology (health effects of nanoparticles, in particular). Several possible problems were identified, and there is vigorous ongoing research to determine the full health and environmental implications of this technology.

In short, I get the impression that scientists are trying to "get it right this time." That is, we are all keenly aware that numerous scientific breakthroughs had unintended health side-effects (e.g. the originally unknown effects of radiation, carcinogens, etc.). So the scientific community is determined to identify the safety concerns as quickly as possible, before these technologies become widespread. This is, obviously, a good thing. Though possibly overly-cautious, this strategy should minimize the risk of public health concerns and evironmental damage.

In any case, as you said it's hardly surprising that the people most intimately familiar with the technology are best able to predict its problems/shortcomings. Also worth noting is that the scientists working with these technologies/materials have a vested self-interest in identifying health problems, since they are the ones being exposed to these materials.

Re:not surprising (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479547)

In any case, as you said it's hardly surprising that the people most intimately familiar with the technology are best able to predict its problems/shortcomings.
Unfortunately, it takes multidisciplinary research. Nanotechnology research insiders are most interested in possible health problems, that is true, but neither they, nor specialists in fields that explore potential "victims" (e.g. biochemists) can't see a whole picture on their own, using only their own expertise.

Re:not surprising (1)

profBill (98315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21481413)

Any chance you could send me pointers to the talk? We are doing some research on how people (lay people) form opinions on controversial topics. We are looking at nano as one possible topic. Any help would be appreciated.

      bill

Then you should RTFA (2, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479267)

Well informed scientist see more possible causes for harm than the non-informed general public. This hardly comes as a surprise to me.


If you had taken time to read the article instead of rushing to get the first post, you would know that what's causing surprise is not that scientists see possible causes for harm, but that "The new findings are in stark contrast to controversies sparked by the advent of technologies of the past such as nuclear power and genetically modified foods, which scientists perceived as having lower risks than did the public".

Re:Then you should RTFA (1)

leomekenkamp (566309) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479381)

Ehhm, reasoning was a bit short trying to get first post *blush*. More reasoning is in this [slashdot.org] . reply

I think that's revisionist history... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21481291)

The new findings are in stark contrast to controversies sparked by the advent of technologies of the past such as nuclear power and genetically modified foods, which scientists perceived as having lower risks than did the public

I think that's revisionist history.

At a similar point in time (don't forget, we're a long way from real nanotech), the public was similarly clueless and complacent about both of these. It was scientists, like these ones, who first started talking about dangers, and it wasn't until a few populists (some scientists, some with other backgrounds) really started pushing the issues that the public noticed. The massive overreaction phase won't hit until there's a big splashy problem.

Re:not surprising (3, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479285)

I'm sure the public will be able to grossy overestimate the risk once a movie comes out where people die from breathing nanoparticles or something.

The craziest thing is that with the average Joe the most common concern I've heard about nanotech is fear of the "grey goo" scenario, which in my mind is probably the least likely way we're going to destroy all life as we know it. The practical considerations of that scenario are enormous and we'd be lucky to get within 5 orders of magnitude of having to even worry about it.

The bigger concern in my book is the stuff that acts like asbestos in your lungs and gives you cancer or just makes a mess of cell walls.

Re:not surprising (1)

Mushdot (943219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479665)

I totally agree - films or documentaries on nanotech-gone-wrong will be the turning point for how the public perceive it. At the moment I think it's quite lucky in that 'nanotech' doesn't immediately conjure any image (good or bad) of what it's about.

Contrast that with microwave ovens - my mother still refuses to use a microwave because once she heard the word radiation, she immediately thought of some kind of controlled Hiroshima event in her kitchen blasting food and the immediate surroundings with death rays.

Re:not surprising (2, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479807)

Your mother is not alone. I've seen experiments online where people put water in the microwave to warm it up, cool it back down, and then grow plants with it and they say the plants perform poorly with the microwaved water, saying that the oven basically poisons the water and we shouldn't use it.

Ah, here it is: Microwaved Water and Plants [execonn.com] . I would like to see someone replicate this in the lab, thus far nobody has been able to reproduce her result.

Re:not surprising (3, Insightful)

fmobus (831767) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480475)

I'd risk there is some effect on the concentration of oxygen dissolved in the water after a microwave-heating/cooling cycle. It should also be compared with boiling water the normal way and them cooling it.

Re:not surprising (1)

joss (1346) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480769)

I'm pretty sure there is a significant reduction in oxygen in water
that has been microwaved. Tea made with water boiled in a microwave
tastes worse than freshly kettle boiled water [I was able to
tell quite easily on blind tests, although I didnt go as far as
to do double-blind tests]. If you reboil the kettle
a couple of times it tastes as bad as the microwaved tea [ a known
mistake which effects taste due to deoxygenisation ].

Re:not surprising (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480691)

Ah, here it is: Microwaved Water and Plants [execonn.com] . I would like to see someone replicate this in the lab, thus far nobody has been able to reproduce her result.

Not exactly a double blind study is it? Sure it was only a 6th grade science fair, but that 6th grade science teacher deserves an F on his/or her teaching skills.

It's also funny the way using "microwaved water" causes the leave and stems of plants to be clipped off, as if by scissors. Its almost as if the teacher told the student that getting a measurable result was more important than getting a correct result. Then again it's 6th grade, who cares how much you screw up the kids brains... Someone will fix their brains in high school or college, right?

My wife has a young cousin who attends one of the "lesser" U.C. schools. She was telling us over the Thanksgiving holiday how her Chemistry T.A. is encouraging the students to fudge their lab results to get the "right" answer. If you're encouraged to cheat on a crappy little chem lab, what do you think these students are going to do later in life when prestige, grant money or their careers are on the line? Suddenly do the right thing?

Re:not surprising (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479973)

The craziest thing is that with the average Joe the most common concern I've heard about nanotech is fear of the "grey goo" scenario

Speaking of which... If you noticed the slashdot tags, there appears to be two types of nanobots. A British and an American ;)

Re:not surprising (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480039)

The craziest thing is that with the average Joe the most common concern I've heard about nanotech is fear of the "grey goo" scenario
Speaking of which... If you noticed the slashdot tags, there appears to be two types of nanobots. A British and an American ;)
One of those is Earl Grey Goo, the afternoon goo.

      (Giggigty giggity, of course)

Re:not surprising (1)

StellarFury (1058280) | more than 6 years ago | (#21481025)

Michael Crichton already wrote the book, I guess it's only a matter of time before PREY: THE MOVIE hits the theaters and causes a media firestorm before fading into relative obscurity.

BUT DERE NO KONSENSUZ!!!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479477)

As a typical conservative, I need there to be a complete and overwhelming concensus before I'll admit anything science related is actually a threat, like with global warming. As opposed to instances where we can kill human beings, like Iraq.

Stay the course!!!

Re:not surprising (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480187)

We should already know how dangerous the natural nano-technology is (virus, bacteria, etc, etc), like we need to start releasing shit that automatically lives which we can't see into the system without really grasping it's implications.

I'm all for technology, but stuff you can't see that can get inside you and do serious damage without your knowledge and companies being questionable guardians of the public good, I don't see how companies should not be strictly observed by everyone, period.

Re:not surprising (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480663)

We should already know how dangerous the natural nanotechnology is (virus, bacteria, etc, etc)

to extend your analogy, we also already know how beneficial it is/can be with the example of all the bacteria in your gut that allow digestion of various things.

as usual, technology is a double-edged blade. the same tech that can get a chemotherapy drug through the blood-brain barrier can also move something less friendly, intentionally or not.

not a whole lot you can do about the intentionally bit as far as science goes (dealing with that is the law/government's job.), but we can do our best to avoid the unintentional badness.

I think this is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479027)

if there is nano pizza for the shutdown

That's understandable (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479049)

It's pretty easy for scientists to kill the public. Nano stuff seems a bit tougher to kill.

A phone survey regarding the dangers of nanotech? (4, Funny)

pgillan (1043668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479061)

How come I never get cool questions like this?

Re:A phone survey regarding the dangers of nanotec (4, Funny)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479109)

...Because you would hold up the call operator for 40 minutes discussing the benefits of which OS the nanobots should run centred around some kind of car analogy?

Re:A phone survey regarding the dangers of nanotec (2, Funny)

irtza (893217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479557)

What? Are you mad? There's no reason for discussion. The answer is obvious. The nanobot OS would be a monolithic unix derivative stripped down to the bare essentials with all drivers statically linked - like a custom Linux or BSD build. Tiny nanobots are like a Mini [miniusa.com] . You need something that will fit the form factor. You would need something like a a href=http://www.fordvehicles.com/trucks/f150/>Ford F150 to run Windows. Windows Doesn't even enter the nanobot market....

more seriously though, if we built nanobots, and each nanobot ran its own version of an OS, could we count this in marketshare research?... wait, what were we talking about again? Oh yes, fear. Let O'Reilly do a piece on nanotech and terrorism and the numbers will do a 180 and the public calling for a ban on research.

Ok, (1, Informative)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479063)

So they are all worried about grey goo? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Ok, (2, Interesting)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479175)

So they are all worried about grey goo?
It's probably much simpler than that. It's already known that small particles can cause lung problems up to and including cancer (from asbestos). Small particles can also cause problems for other parts of our body, such as skin irritation from fibreglass. Indications are that shape, size, and chemical composition are all factors in the toxicity of small particles. Until these risks are tested against and quantified, any responsible scientist would be concerned. No need for future possibilities like self-replication to make them dangerous.

Re:Ok, (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479317)

No, this is about nanoparticles that don't react nicely when it gets to some body tissues. Some of the particles are small enough to cause serious damage when inhaled IIRC.

Re:Ok, (3, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479399)

So they are all worried about grey goo? [wikipedia.org]
No, not at all. The "grey goo" scenario (where self-replicating nano-robots consume all available resources and turn all materials into a giant amorphous glob of nanomachines) is not taken seriously both because it is unlikely to be plausible (with respect to things like complexity of design and thermodynamics of matter conversion and pattern replication); and because our current research in nanotechnology is too primitive compared to the molecular nanotechnology [wikipedia.org] that would be required for that scenario to even be remotely possible.

No, the current concerns with nanotechnology are much more mundane: things like nanoparticles causing health concerns by passing into people's bodies and accumulating in organs. There is already some research suggesting that (some) nanoparticles can actually absorb into tissues or even pass through cell membranes. One of the reasons that nanoparticles might be great for biological applications is that they can be made to be at a size-scale that many biological processes ignore. The lack of an immune response is great in some ways, but it also means that the body may not be able to deal with possible negative side-effects.

Other possible health, safety, and environmental concerns are just variants of what we're already worried about: carcinogens, flammability, toxicity, accumulation in the environment, etc. Associated with all this is coming up with the right procedures for filtering out dangerous materials, disposing of them safely, and so on. All these conventional concerns must be reconsidered when dealing with nanomaterials, since their behavior is different and sometimes non-intuitive.

(Disclosure: I do research in "nanotechnology.")

Wrong color (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479853)

The gray goo event already happened, though they got the color wrong. It was actually green, and involved self-replicating nanobots using sunlight to make the atmosphere toxic and kill off most life on the planet.

Some of you might have heard of this Oxygen Catastrophe [wikipedia.org] . Sad times for our planet, indeed.

Re:Ok, (1)

TimeTraveler1884 (832874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480541)

One of the reasons that nanoparticles might be great for biological applications...
...or weapons.

Actually, I'm surprised we have not heard anything regarding nano-WMDs in the media yet. Seriously, don't people know that terrorists can make fullerene bombs from the soot of burnt wood [wikipedia.org] ? And what do terrorists have abundant access to? Burnt wood!

Coincidence? I think not!

Re:Ok, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479497)

If they were more worried about Grey Goose the world would have a little less stupidity (or more, better either way).

Re:Ok, (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479643)

No. Grey goo is a stupid fear, when you get down to it. The energy budget isn't there. You can't just walk over and dissolve rocks and glass and concrete and steel by trying to eat them. There isn't a net energy gain to be had.

Smart scientists are worried about nanoparticles getting stuck places they shouldn't and doing bad things there. Like causing cancer. Or killing fish. Or accumulating in fish and killing people who eat fish. Or getting into peoples' brains and causing... brain problem stuff.

Re:Ok, (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480159)

Forget "grey goo" - that's quick and relatively painless. It's Borg nanoprobes that scare the willies out of me.

nano safety (4, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479071)

For maximum nano safety, just specify the -B, -N, and -t options.

Oh, wait, you were talking about something else!

Re:nano safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479619)

I don't see those options. What menu do I scroll to?

Re:nano safety (1)

gambolt (1146363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479979)

Or use pico

it is the unknown unknowns that scare me (1, Funny)

dominux (731134) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479129)

I am just glad that the American administration is looking after them. What? Rumsfeld is gone?? now we are in trouble.

Duh. (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479155)

Scientists are more worried about a lot of things than the general public. This is not because scientists are worriers, but because the general public is hopelessly ignorant about a lot of things.

I see all this crap about how bad reporters are at science reporting...This is mainly from people who never have to watch their work be dumbed down over the course of days to the point where joe six pack can get some glimmer of meaning from it. Trying to convey anything scientific to the masses is extremely difficult.

The truth of it is, the public, by and large, just doesn't care. They don't want to know. They don't want to make the effort. And if you succeed in enlightening them as to the dangers, then it's all too likely they'll panic and refuse to use anything even close to it, as was the case with nuclear energy.

Re:Duh. (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479281)

Fully agreed. The other end of this is in ten years' time when (if?) something goes horribly wrong with nanotech, the public will get in an uproar about how they weren't told about the potential problems, and lawsuits will be filed and won.

Re:Duh. (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479403)

And everyone will freak out and start wearing all natural fiber clothing (except the Japanese).

Yea, it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. Most people don't have a real rational sense of danger and risk...People in Montana terrified of terrorists, even though you're more likely to die of a lightning strike. Far better to have a giant coal-fired power plant spewing mercury and radiation into your neighborhood than have a relatively clean nuke plant doing less damage for more energy. Yadda yadda.

Re:Duh. (1)

KKlaus (1012919) | more than 6 years ago | (#21481533)

In defense of the "ignorant" public, if I have no say in future policy, what really is the point in worrying about it? I don't hold it again Joe Public for not caring overmuch about the future health implications of emerging technology, because he really has no say in how those health issues are ultimately handled, and worrying about them really does gain him nothing. So complain about "ignorance is bliss" if you want, I just don't think your average going-to-work-at-the-plant Joe has a better option.

And I suppose you could argue that some education would allow him to personally mitigate certain problems (like ducttaping over the seals on his windows to keep nanoparticles from blowing in), but I think that really is in the minority of cases.

For the same reasons nano works so well for drugs (2, Insightful)

stox (131684) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479195)

Nano formulated drugs can get into places that were impossible before. For this same reason, other nano formulated materials may present a severe danger. For example, I wouldn't want particles from the paint on my house to end up crossing the blood brain barrier.

The public and scientists have different interests (3, Interesting)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479207)

"The public" worries about what the media tells them to worry about. Did you know everyone's children are going to die from Chinese toys with lead in them? The public does.

Scientists worry about science-related things they think are interesting. Hence, asteroids hitting Earth and nanotech are worried about.

This should surprise no one.

Social scientists are probably worried about the disconnect between the publics' and scientists' thinking though.

I'm not surprised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479229)

Scientist are introverts. Of course the public scares them.

So what you're saying is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479247)

When they talked to scientists with knowledge of nanotechnology, they got meaningful discussion of the issues; but when they interrupted someone's dinner at random and asked "do you have concerns about nanotechnology?", they got hugn up on?

Shocking.

What's with the line of veiled attacks on science of late? First we get some FUD a couple days ago about science bringing us closer to teh end of the world (based on misconceptions about quantum physics and observatino); now this "nanotech is so bad that the people who know about it are even more scared than the public" bull.

Re:So what you're saying is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479431)

observatino: (n.) the quantum of information required to collapse a superposition of observable states.

Why predict? We're almost there! (1)

eebra82 (907996) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479269)

One thing I've learned over the years is that new technology almost never gets any extensive research on safety. It's too expensive and too difficult to predict problems. There are exceptions, of course, such as planes and things that generally involve the safety of hundreds of people.

In most other cases, however, we learn from our own mistakes, through trial and error. If something goes wrong with a car, scientists will see this and hopefully perfect it in the next version.

Same goes with nano technology. You can put a hundred super computers at it and try to predict as many dangers as possible, but in the end, it's gonna cost so much and delay advancements so far that, ultimately, we're better off with the trail and error phase. Things will surely go wrong, people might get hurt, but that's how it's been going on for ages.

Film at 11...? (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479275)

Scientists cautious about new and untested technology. General public clueless about new and untested technology.

Like... WOW! Incredible insight!

Re:Film at 11...? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479323)

Oh come on. What could possibly go wrong?

\fuck a Cockk (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479279)

And shower. For Number of FreeBSD session and join in Members' creative numbers continue Myself. This isn't similarly grisly MOVIE [imdb.com] worthwhile. So I visions going fueling internal Of open-source. goals. It's when turd-suCkingly In ratio of 5 to irc.secsup.org or the resources that keed to be Kreskin Whether you [amazingkreskin.com]

Agoraphobic? (1)

SavedLinuXgeeK (769306) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479433)

When I first read this I thought it meant that scientists were more afraid of Nano technology than they were of people. Either really works, but people aren't THAT scary, well most of the time...

Oh, I'm Worried... (3, Interesting)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479481)

After all, and I quote, "It was us who scorched the sky."

Nano public knowledge == nano public worries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479493)

It's all in your nano.

For Good Reason (1)

phobos13013 (813040) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479551)

I am a Public Health student currently, and I have been doing some research on this topic, was planning on writing a paper about it, but decided not to for the primary reason that there is little research data available on it and even less on implications from this data! The reason the general public is not concerned with the issue is two-fold.

One, the public becomes concerned with a public health issue when it affects them directly or more commonly when the threat of HOW the issue affects them is conveyed typically BY THE MEDIA! The Media spends very little time on this issue primarily due to its esoteric nature and its extremely low "sexiness" as an issue.

Two, its not a hot topic because there is little exposure from it to the general public. Certain industries and certain populations in these industries are exposed to it and even then, the awareness given to them about it is minimal.

Until nanomaterials are showcased on CNN in a show called Public in Peril: The Coming Nanomaterial Endemic or nanomaterials enter the average everyday workplace and an eight-hour training seminar on their safety comes to a conference room near you, this will be a non-issue as it should be.

The limited research [ehponline.org] going on is out there though [cdc.gov] , as it should be [wikibooks.org] :

Re:For Good Reason (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479987)

Also, nanotechnology is a buzzword. It is not a single material, and as such there really aren't any properties that are consistent among all the many things that are considered nanotechnology. With these new materials as with *any* material, rigorous testing is the key to safety. Period. That includes determining levels of acute as well as chronic toxicity, and delivery mechanisms of the material to key organ systems within the body.

What we have here is failure to communicate. There is always fear of the unknown and exotic, and that's now nanotech. 50 years ago it was anything with the word 'nuclear' in it. Now it's nanotech, genetic engineering, etc.

How about this for fearmongering - tell a reporter that scientists are developing technologies for manipulating materials that are barely a single nanometer long. Now, tell them that these materials are present in every product we buy. Crazy, right? It's called chemistry - the original nanoscience. The stuff that's now considered 'nanotech' is less 'nano' than technology we've developed for a long time. Nanotech is just an extension of fields of study that currently exist and have existed for centuries. This is no big deal.

Re:For Good Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21481133)

I think that they talk about the behavior of large quantities if nano-particles in your body.

Re:For Good Reason (1)

gnalle (125916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21481415)

That is an interesting story. I just don't understand why it is difficult to get this kind of research published. If journals are ready to publish this kind of articles with LD50 values of all sorts of chemicals, why don't they accept an article about a kind of nano-particles? Are the scentific journals really controlled that directly by the mass media? That surprises me.

nowhere left to hide, nothing much to worry about (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21479683)

fretting does not help at all anyway.

meanwhile if you're not too busy, take a chance & look up at the sky from time to time. also, take the extra effort to look into the eyes of people as you pass by them during the day. you can pretend that everything's in order, but you'll miss the actual content of your effort. the lights are coming up all over now. pay attention. it's cost effective, & could lead to yOUR participation in the better days ahead. try considering whois the 'main competitor' of all that is wrong/fatal.

never mind attempting to second guess/deny the creators, consider more the blood, guts & dead people, as well as innocent children being starved/blown to pieces. takes some of the excitement of the techno babble out of it. yOUR 'mainstream' media has failed us whoreabully (futile attempts at mass hypenosys) in this aspect.

don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, so you'll be alert when witnessing the big flash.

there's lots to be done. the planet/population remains in crisis mode.

we're intending (do not underestimate intentions) for the philistine nazi execrable to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com] [google.com]

micro management of populations/anything has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster/death.

the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption.

fortunately there's an 'army' of 'angels'(light bringers, for those who are afraid of/confused by heavenly stuff), coming yOUR way

do not be dismayed, it is the way it was meant to be.

the little ones/innocents must/will be protected.

after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit?

for each of the creators' innocents harmed (in any way), there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available after the big flash occurs.

beware the illusionary smoke&mirrors.con

all is not lost or forgotten.

no need to fret (unless you're associated/joined at the hype with, unprecedented evile), it's all just a part of the creators' wwwildly popular, newclear powered, planet/population rescue initiative/mandate.

or, it could be (literally) ground hog (as in dead meat) day, again? many of US are obviously not interested in how we appear (which is whoreabull) from the other side of the 'lens', or even from across the oceans.

vote with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable.

we still haven't read (here) about the 2/3'rds of you kids who are investigating/pursuing a spiritual/conscience/concious re-awakening, in amongst the 'stuff that matters'? another big surprise?

some of US should consider ourselves very fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate.

it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc....

as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis.

concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order.

'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

I, for one, (1)

freg (859413) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479701)

as a member of the public, welcome our new nanobot overlords.

Nano Nano (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479821)

This is Mork signing off.

spelling/80's sitcom nazi (1)

wed128 (722152) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480309)

I believe the correct spelling (in the Mork context) is 'Nanu', correct me if i'm wrong

I fully expect to see... (2, Funny)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 6 years ago | (#21479883)

Some guy (or woman) being nabbed at the 2026 Olympics for use of performance enhancing nanobots...

Three words (1)

rhenley (1194451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480221)

Ignorance is bliss.

How many of the general public (1)

wilder_card (774631) | more than 6 years ago | (#21480573)

polled could spell "nanotechnology"?

I'll tell you why... (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | more than 6 years ago | (#21481179)

At least 50% of Americans are either to dumb to realize that historically all new technologies have had negative consequences or they are laxy and want an easy fix to things that require work and responsibility.

Personally, I am worried IBM is going to graffiti everything.

Re:I'll tell you why... (1)

dick johnson (660154) | more than 6 years ago | (#21481493)

The other 50 percent are too dumb to know that "to" is a direct preposition.

Wo0t. fP (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21481357)

claim that BSDq 1s a
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