Tiny particles send a message for the first time (+video)
Scientists have used neutrinos to send a message. This may be the first step toward a new form of communication.
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The molecules in the water around a submarine potentially could serve well as a neutrino detector. Because creating neutrinos currently requires a powerful particle accelerator, the sub would be able only to receive messages, not send them.Skip to next paragraph
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Stancil also said a neutrino communications device could be useful as a backup during a catastrophe that destroyed existing infrastructure.
"In principle, you could have straight-line communication right through the center of the Earth, without satellites or cables," Stancil said. "I can imagine there could be certain strategic situations where that could be very valuable."
However, neutrino communication is a long way from being practical, the scientist said. In addition to requiring particle accelerators, such systems would be hampered by the fact that the signal intensity decreases with distance, so much denser beams than are currently available would be needed to send a message very far. And neutrino detectors themselves are complex affairs that would need to be simplified to make a usable communication device.
Time traveling messages?
This isn't the first time neutrinos have made news lately.
A team of physicists at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, reported last year that they'd seen neutrinos apparently traveling faster than light. The controversial finding stood to disprove one of the most successful theories of physics, Einstein's general theory of relativity, which states that nothing can move faster than the speed of light.
Because of the weird relationship of space and time, objects that could break this cosmic speed limit would have to travel backward through time, according to the theory. So if neutrinos are that speedy, they may also be time travelers, physicists have suggested. [10 Implications of Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos]
And if neutrinos can travel faster than light, that means a neutrino communications system could potentially send messages back in time.
However, most experts think the CERN results were an anomaly caused by an error in analysis or the experimental setup.
"The latest sense is the neutrinos did not in fact go faster than light," Stancil said. "Certainly we'd have to think through the implications for communications, but I don't anticipate that anything like that would be possible."
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