A personal view of investment risk

Recently I changed my financial portfolio to make it more “real”. The overall risk measurement stayed the same “moderate,” but I feel safer now.

When I was reviewing my investments with my financial adviser, I came across a “fund of funds” within my portfolio of mutual funds – something I bought a few years because it was “balanced”. (I must not have been fully awake at the time!)

Digging a bit, I looked at the individual funds (within the fund of funds), some were performing better than others and there was overlap in their underlying investments. Then I realized … this was too abstract for me; I wanted something more real, more directly connected to actual companies.

Now my favorite funds are with a company with a winning investment strategy. I know it’s winning because their performance is excellent and because they have explained their strategy to me in clearly written updates as well as in person. I’m tempted to put more money with them, except they’re a young company … so that would be too risky.

Sometimes risk measures don’t tell the whole story. I want the added confidence of knowing how the fund managers are investing my money.


Nano paint for ships and hospitals?

Ship in dry dock

According to the marketer of a new line of nano paint, this revolutionary product is a “non-toxic coating system which is able not only to stop the appearance of algae and fungal growth but also destroy antibiotic resistant bacteria found in hospitals and medical practices.”

Impressive performance

Whether for shipping or hospitals the paint seems impressive. The company claims the antibacterial paint could help solve the problem of hospital super bugs. Risks The product data sheet for this nano paint raises the spectre of a real pollution concern. It carries the warning, “do not allow to enter drains or watercourses” while other literature advises: “Clean tools and hands immediately after use with soap and water.”

A reader of NewScientist.com where this item appears wonders where that nano-contaminated soap and water will end up if not in drains and watercourses. And what’s the consequence of nano pollutants in the environment? Risk research needed. Read about the key risk research questions that we need answers to in this article, “What’s driving the nanotech revolution and what this means for safety.”

What’s driving the nanotech revolution and what this means for safety

Nanotech development is an industrial revolution based on the control of matter on a scale smaller than one micrometre and the fabrication of incredibly tiny devices.

With nanotech, familiar products can be radically improved. Products that get reengineered using nanotech perform in unimagined ways: wounds heal faster with bandages that stay clean and don’t need to be changed; ultra light and ultra strong materials change the performance of every thing from golf clubs, golf balls, eye glasses and contact lenses.

The marketing mantra “new and improved” will no longer be hype. Nanotech’s growth will be phenomenal. For business, it’s going to be a race for survival. If your products are brand leaders today, there’s a real threat they may not be tomorrow. If you believe that a smart competitor could use nanotech in an innovative way to create a “category killer”-a new product that is so revolutionary and good that it wipes out the competition-you have no choice but to enter the nanotech race. A delayed or cautious start could be deadly for your business. Continue reading

Nano-hazard symbol contest announces winners

There’s something interesting about designing the symbol for something you can’t see. An estimated 30,000 people who gathered at the World Social Forum in Nairobi this week also seemed to think so. Participants at this conference had a chance to vote for their favorite Nano-Hazard Symbol – a design that warns of the presence of engineered nanomaterials (1 nanometer = 1 billionth of a meter). Designers from 26 different countries submitted 482 unique enteries. Here are the three winners.Nano-hazard symbol contest winners

These designs will be submitted to international standard-setting bodies and could be used as a label on product-packaging or workroom walls.

Because of their extremely small size and large surface area, nano-scale particles may be more reactive and more toxic than larger particles of the same substance. Even though hundreds of products containing engineered nanoparticles are on the market, the toxicology of nanoparticles is largely unknown.

Berkeley to regulate nanotechnology

This appears to be a first. Berkeley City Council is about to amend its hazardous materials law to compel researchers and manufacturers to report what nanotechnology materials they are working with and how they are handling the tiny particles.

The issue of establishing regulations to monitor the activities of startups and small business in Berkeley had a preliminary introduction at Council on December 5th. The Berkeley Council gave their unanimous support at this meeting. You can read more about this in a report from PhysOrg.com.

NANOTECH, The new industrial revolution. HOW WILL REGULATORS RESPOND?

Nanotech is shaping up to be a major, fast-moving regulatory challenge that will have an impact not only on manufacturers and developers of products but on those who regulate professions and occupations that will use these nano-enhanced products.

Ever since the discovery of atoms scientists have always wanted to manipulate them. Nanotechnology takes that ability to a new plane using techniques that manipulate substances at the atomic and molecular level to make structures in the nanometer (nm) range (a billionth of a metre or 1/80,000 the width of a human hair).

Working at this scale allows scientists to “tune” material properties and make them behave in different ways to normal, large scale solids. For example, carbon in pencils is soft and malleable but at the nano scale can be as hard as steel. Continue reading

Safe Drinking Water

Safe Drinking Water, Lessons from Recent Outbreaks in Affluent Nations by Steve E. Hrudey and Elizabeth J. Hrudey Iwa Publishing, 486 pp.

Safe Drinking WaterContaminated drinking water killed and sickened people in affluent communities long before anyone heard of Walkerton’s Koebel brothers. University of Alberta water scientist Steve Hrudey says waterborne outbreaks will persist in wealthy societies long after the brothers are forgotten – unless the underlying problems of complacency, neglect, accumulating errors, bad judgment and poor practice in water treatment plants are properly dealt with.

Hrudey, who worked on the research advisory panel to the Walkerton Inquiry and collaborated with the Canadian Water Network on the issue, said, “Far too many people seemed prepared to write off Walkerton as being only the misdeeds of the Koebel brothers. If you draw all the attention to a few blunders, ignoring the bigger picture about why waterborne outbreaks have persisted, you aren’t going to get the right people to take ownership of the problem.” Continue reading