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A Terahertz Waveguide

A surprisingly simple solution opens up the newest piece of the electromagnetic spectrum to practical applications

3 min read

22 December 2004 -- It's not often that the simplest fix turns out to be the best. But engineers hunting for an efficient way to transmit terahertz waves along a narrow path have discovered that a simple metal wire does the trick. "It's really a very beautiful and unexpected result," says Michael Pepper, professor of physics at the University of Cambridge, in England, and cofounder of TeraView Ltd., a Cambridge, England start-up that is commercializing terahertz technologies. The discovery ends a search spanning many years for a waveguide that can carry radiation from the part of the spectrum lying between the deep infrared and microwaves, a region scientists have only recently learned to exploit.

Terahertz waves have generated huge interest in recent years because they are associated with the vibrations of whole molecules. Every large molecule has a unique terahertz signature. So in theory, reflected terahertz waves can be used not only to image an object but also to determine its chemical makeup.

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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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