Saturday, March 31, 2012

Researchers Send Message Through Solid Stone on a Beam of Neutrinos

While modern wireless technologies are obviously vastly superior to the communication methods of old, they still rely on the use of magnetic waves, and therefore, on maintaining an unobstructed line of sight between the transmitter and receiver, in order to work. So even today -as anyone whose ever had a satellite dish knows- it can take little more than heavy cloud cover, or even a little too much sunshine, to result in a lost signal.

One potential answer to the ever present issue of signal obstruction, is the recently very popular sub-atomic particle known as the neutrino. Because all though they may still be limited to the speed of light like everything else, neutrinos are still very strange, and potentially very useful little bits of matter. These neutrally charged, weakly interacting, sub-atomic particles move through the world virtually unaffected by outside forces, and even other matter, thanks to the neutrino's near complete lack of mass. It's this unique ability to pass through other matter unaffected, that makes the concept of using beams of neutrinos to replace the conventional radio wave as a data carrier, so attractive.

A recent experiment conducted at the Fermi labs accelerator in Illinois by a group of scientists lead by researchers from the University of Rochester and North Carolina State University, managed to successfully transmit information using a neutrino beam, for the very first time. The message they sent, which was simply the word "neutrino", was transmitted through 250 yards of solid stone, and is a promising proof of concept, where the use of neutrinos as an effective, alternative transmission medium is concerned. However, even sending this simple, binary message consisting of a single word, took over two hours and the power of massive particle detector pull off. Which clearly demonstrates that the same property which makes the neutrino a suitable medium for unobstructed data transmission, also makes it difficult to detect and collect on the receiving end.

So while it's entirely possible that we might all someday be connecting wireless to the world through virtually unobstructable beams of neutrinos. For now, you'll still have to keep hanging your head dangerously far out your office window, to try and get that elusive third bar you need to load your Twitter feed.


Story and Image VIA: University of Rochester

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