by Denise Caruso ~ February 8, 2008.
Permalink | Filed under: 21st Century Risk, Collaboration and Sensemaking, Hybrid Vigor, Planetary Life, Policy and Decisions.
The U.K.’s Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) functions something like the late lamented U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, killed off by Newt Gingrich back in the ’90s. They regularly publish brief but fairly comprehensive, interdisciplinary reports with cross-sector relevance on trends in science and technology.
POST recently published three POSTnotes entitled “Ecological Networks” [PDF], “Smart Metering of Electricity and Gas” [PDF] and “Autism” [PDF]. The first two POSTnotes for 2008 were on “smart” materials and systems, and synthetic biology.
You can subscribe to the POST reports yourself, by sending an email to: mailto:email@example.com.
“Ecological Networks” considers the possible conservation benefits of ecological network implementation in the UK. Ecological networks are intended to maintain environmental processes and to help to conserve biodiversity where remnants of semi-natural habitat have become fragmented and isolated.
“Smart Metering” examines the potential benefits, costs and policy considerations involved with technology that enables accurate measuring of energy usage and the provision of improved information to consumers, suppliers and the market. Smart meters are expected to be installed in all of the U.K.â€™s 25 million homes over the next ten years.
“Autism” describes autism and autism research, and considers policy approaches to this disorder whose prevalence is greater than previously recognized, thus putting pressure on service providers and highlighting the need for greater awareness. Autism affects how a person communicates, socializes and interprets the world, and can lead to wide ranging difficulties in every day life, including forming relationships and living independently.
From “Smart Materials”: “The most commonly accepted definition is that smart materials and systems can sense and respond to the environment around them in a predictable and useful manner. For example, the â€˜photochromicâ€™ materials used in reactive spectacle lenses become darker in response to increased light. Smart materials arise from research in many different areas and there is a large overlap with nanotechnology.
“From “Synthetic Biology”: “In the US, where most of the research takes place, the term ‘synthetic biology’ describes research that combines biology with the principles of engineering to design and build standardized, interchangeable biological DNA building-blocks. These have specific functions and can be joined to create engineered biological parts, systems and, potentially, organisms. It may also involve modifying naturally occurring genomes (an organismâ€™s entire hereditary information usually encoded in DNA) to make new systems or by using them in new contexts. There is sometimes confusion about the definition of synthetic biology amongst those outside the research community, reflecting its position as a complex, new and rapidly developing field.”