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Brain Implant Uses Skin to Transmit Signals to Computer

University of Michigan researchers have developed a system that uses human skin to wirelessly transmit the brain’s neural signals to a computer. Typically, the skull must remain exposed if neural implants are used. By contrast, BioBolt, which is about the size of a dime, doesn’t need to penetrate the cortex to work and is completely covered by the skin. It uses a film of microcircuits that rests on the brain to pick up signals. They are converted to digital signals and transmitted via the skin to a computer. The researchers say this neural interface technology could eventually be used to transmit the brain’s signals for limb movement directly to muscles, although this is years from becoming a reality. The technology might also be used to control epilepsy as well as for diagnosing diseases such as Parkinson’s. The work is scheduled to be presented 16 June at the 2011 Symposium on VLSI Circuits in Kyoto, Japan. ( of Michigan)

Researchers Using GPUs for Quantum Chromodynamics Analysis

Researchers continue moving quantum chromodynamics (QCD) software to versions able to run on graphics processing unit clusters. Research in this area of physics predominantly consists of running simulations based on various theoretical models, followed by analysis. Executing these simulations traditionally requires a great deal of computational resources, but these tasks can be computed independently in parallel, which is ideal for GPUs. In the US, researchers are using GPU computing resources at Jefferson Laboratory and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory as well as developing tools for QCD researchers. The workload is reportedly continuing to increase as more users and developers are attracted to the project. Several papers have been produced based on physics researchers’ ability to use these GPU-based resources. Still, many challenges associated with developing GPU-reliant software exist, some of which are expected to be addressed by continuing hardware improvements. (International Science Grid This Week)(US Lattice Chromodynamics)

Researchers Observe Two-State Dynamics in Glassy Silicon

A team of University of Illinois researchers has directly observed two-state dynamics in glassy silicon for the first time, finally determining if amorphous silicon is indeed a glass. It is until hydrogen is added. Researchers have long debated the question, , but University of Illinois researchers used  a scanning tunneling microscope to capture subnanometer images of amorphous silicon’s surfaces and observe two-state dynamics, a signature property of glass. Amorphous silicon is a popular semiconductor material valued for its low cost and flexibility. However, it’s rarely used in its pure state. Hydrogen is commonly added to amorphous silicon for stability and to improve its performance. Because the material can’t be made using techniques typically employed for other glasses, this raised the question regarding its characterization as a glass. The researchers say that now that this issue regarding the fundamental property of glassy silicon has been resolved, more research is needed. “We really need to revisit what the properties of a-Si are,” stated Martin Gruebele, the group’s leader and chemistry professor at the University of Illinois. “There could yet be surprises in the way it functions and the kind of things that we might be able to do with it.” The full results were published in Physical Review Letters.(redOrbit)( “Direct Imaging of Two-State Dynamics on the Amorphous Silicon Surface,” Physical Review Letters 106, 235501 (2011) )

White House Calls for More Engineering Grads

US President Barack Obama is seeking to increase the nation’s engineering graduation rates by 10,000 a year as part of the White House’s latest jobs strategy, which is focused on keeping high-tech, high-paying jobs in the US. By matching private companies with colleges and universities and encouraging the private sector to fund programs as well as offer internships, it is hoped that students will be encouraged to concentrate on science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. The unemployment rate among engineers in 2010 was only 4.5 percent; however, there were only 126,194 engineering graduates for all degree tiers in 2009. The additional 10,000 engineering graduates would be an 8 percent increase in the total number of graduates. Were that number applied to the bachelors’ degree level only, there would reportedly be a 13 percent graduation rate increase. No specifics have been provided as to how the jobs plan would be funded. (SlashDot)(Computerworld)(The New York Times)

US FTC Drops Investigation of Start-Up

The US Federal Trade Commission dropped its investigation of a start-up firm that searches and analyzes social media and Internet sites to gather information on its clients’ employees and job applicants. Social Intelligence was under scrutiny while the FTC determined whether the company’s investigation practices meet the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The company reportedly modified some of its background check permission forms and provided examples of items it might find and report in such a search to subjects. The company states that between 5 and 20 percent of the applicants it has screened have a negative hit in an Internet or social media screening. As with other screenings covered by the FCRA, the employer must provide reports to applicants when the information gathered results in a decision not to hire them, which the candidate might challenge. Social Intelligence is a subsidiary of Riv Data, a private data company based in Santa Barbara, California. Social Intelligence Hiring is reportedly planning to ally with traditional background check companies in the near future. (Forbes)(Media Post News)(Social Intelligence)(Federal Trade Commission)

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