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Metamaterials Breakthrough Brings Invisibility Closer

Negative refraction of visible light is a step toward invisibility

4 min read

13 August 2008—New optical materials that bend light in unusual ways could lead to much tinier transistors, microscopes that are able to peer at smaller cellular structures, and—with a good deal of engineering—even invisibility cloaks.

Two new types of metamaterials, as the light-bending stuff is known, were developed by researchers at the Nano-Scale Science and Engineering Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and described in separate papers in Nature and Science . One is the first three-dimensional material to have a negative index of refraction, which allows it to bend light in the opposite direction of what you would expect from any other material. The other, also 3-D, doesn’t have a negative index but still provides some negative refraction, and unlike previous metamaterials, it does so in the visible part of the spectrum.

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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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