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Science Thursday, March 15th 2012 at 1:24 pm

First Neutrino Beam Message Successfully Sent Through Over 250 Yards of Solid Stone

One of the main problems with conventional wireless signals is that they can be obstructed, and pretty easily at that. You can very, very rarely get cell service in a subway, and sometimes just being inside a building can make things difficult. Unlike radio waves however, neutrinos can power through just about anything, making them a great potential vehicle for wireless communications. Now, the first ever neutrino beam message has been sent, and it was delivered through 240 meters, 262 yards, or 787 feet of solid stone.

This successful test transmission took place at Fermi National Accelerator Lab outside of Chicago, and was overseen by researchers from the University of Rochester and North Carolina State University, who have been working on the project for a while now. The message, delivered as a binary stream of neutrinos in a sort of morse-code like fashion, read simply “Neutrino.” It’s tempting to think of the message being sent one neutrino at a time, but in fact, the message was represented by massive clusters of neutrinos because even the FermiLab’s state of the art, several-ton detector can only pick up one neutrino out of every 10 billion or so. Still, it’s an accomplishment.

“Using neutrinos, it would be possible to communicate between any two points on Earth without using satellites or cables,” says Dan Stancil, of North Carolina State and lead author of the paper on this research. “Neutrino communication systems would be much more complicated than today’s systems, but may have important strategic uses.”

Considering the first successful message was only just sent, the technology is pretty primitive. While the benefits of neutrino based technology depends their ability to go through just about anything, that quality also makes them pretty hard to detect, at least with conventional equipment. Viable neutrino-based communication is still a long, long way off, but that doesn’t have to keep you from fantasizing about how awesome it would be.

Viable neutrino-based communication would effectively end the now common issue of signal strength. A neutrino beam message could travel, effortlessly, through the center of the Earth and can easily pass through any readily available material. Neutrinos’ neutral charge almost non-existent mass leave them mostly untouched by forces like magnetism and gravity, so they’re pretty hard to stop. Now that could be a double-edged sword if you’re in the market of trying to block signals and communication for whatever reason, but for most of us it would just be heavenly. Maybe someday we’ll get find out just how great it would be first hand.

(story and image via University of Rochester)

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