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Vatican Radio: Still Making Waves

A new report on the health effects of the Vatican's shortwave transmitters says the church is causing cancer in children

3 min read

20 July 2010--A new study ordered by a court in Rome has revived the decadelong battle between the inhabitants of Cesano, Italy, who live close to a huge complex of shortwave antennas, and the operator of this complex, Vatican Radio [see "Sins of Transmission?" IEEE Spectrum , October 2005].  Environmentalists and the residents of Cesano and neighboring communities have been claiming for years that radiation from the antenna complex, located on a large plot 25 kilometers north of Rome, has increased the number of leukemia and lymphoma cases in children. It is an accusation the Vatican continues to deny.

The new 300-page research report, by a team at Milan's National Tumor Institute led by Andrea Micheli, supports the claim of Cesano residents: Nineteen children living at a distance of 12 km or less from the antennas died from leukemia or lymphoma between 1980 and 2003, a figure higher than in control groups in other parts of the country.

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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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