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Dreaming of a nanotech Christmas: What persuades the public to embrace and buy nanotechnology?

Will parents put an iPod Nano or Head® Nano Titanium tennis racket under the Christmas tree for their children this year? Will holiday revelers hang a Nano-Infinity stocking on their fireplace mantle for Santa Claus to fill? Just what does compel shoppers to either buy nanotechnology products, or avoid them because of real or imagined risks?

With over 350 manufacturer-identified nanotechnology consumer products available for purchase this gift-giving season (see:, and with $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods incorporating nanotechnology expected by 2014, there is a lot at stake in how these questions are answered.

The results of the first large-scale empirical study of how consumers consider risks and benefits when deciding whether to purchase or use specific nanotechnology products will appear in the December 2006 issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The article's lead author, Steven C. Currall, University College London and London Business School, and a co-author, Neal Lane, Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and former U.S. Presidential Science Advisor, will report their findings at a program and live webcast on Tuesday, December 5th at 2:00 p.m. in the 5th Floor Conference Room of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars ( The Nature Nanotechnology article is embargoed until December 5th at 2 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time.

At this program sponsored by the Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, the authors will address whether greater popular awareness and understanding of nanotechnology will whet the public's appetite for the technology and lead to increased support for research, or raise concerns about the potential ill effects of new applications. They will discuss how public perceptions of nanotechnology are being shaped. They also will compare the experience of the emergence of nanotechnology to the experience of other "new" technologies, including nuclear power, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), embryonic stem cell research, and biotechnology.

Sharon McCarter | EurekAlert!
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