A Better Anthrax Screener?

A speedier detector to thwart and deter terrorist attacks

4 min read

A newly marketed anthrax detector that originated in the U.S. space program promises to halve the detection time of the system currently used by the U.S. Postal Service. It was devised by Universal Detection Technology Inc., in Beverly Hills, Calif., building on work done by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena. If it proves its worth in the field, the system may offer the Postal Service a cheaper and more effective way of countering bioterrorist attacks [see photo, " "].

On 18 September 2001, exactly one week after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, letters containing anthrax, all with Trenton, N.J., postmarks, were mailed to ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and the New York Post, all in New York City, and to the National Enquirer and the Sun at American Media Inc., in Boca Raton, Fla. Three weeks later, two more letters containing the deadly substance, also with the Trenton postmark, were discovered addressed to Democratic Senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont. In all, 22 people developed anthrax infections; 17 became severely ill and 5 died. The crimes are unsolved.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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