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August 14, 2012

Neutrinophone — Neutrino-Powered Telephone


That's different.

From the March 17, 2012 issue of The Economist:

A group of physicists at Fermilab have just submitted a paper to Modern Physics Letters A in which they describe how they have built themselves a neutrino-powered telephone.

Naturally, their neutrinophone is digital. A pulse of neutrinos (small, elusive subatomic particles with no electric charge) corresponds to the digit "1" while no pulse corresponds to "0". The neutrinos themselves are created by smashing bunches of protons into a target made of graphite. They are detected roughly 1km away by researchers who, in their day jobs, work on a neutrino collaboration called MINERvA. By modulating the pulses of protons the group was able to send a message in binary that, when translated, read "neutrino". Whether this will go down in history alongside Alexander Graham Bell's first message, "Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you," remains to be seen.

The point, though, apart from sheer wackiness, is that neutrinos are not easily intercepted by collisions with other sorts of matter. If humanity wanted to broadcast its existence to intelligent life forms that might be out in the galaxy listening, a modulated beam of neutrinos would be a good way of doing so. Conversely, some people argue that listening for ET at radio frequencies is the wrong approach. The right one, they think, would be to build a neutrino-receiver. And that would mean plenty of work for neutrino physicists. Perhaps, then, from its makers' point of view, the neutrinophone is not such a nutty idea, after all.

A longer Economist piece (from its Babbage blog) on the neutrinophone is here.

Much more on the subject here.

But enough about the Modern Physics Letter A paper, you say: You want to read the original.

Your wish is my demand.

Below, the abstract.

Demonstration of Communication using Neutrinos

Beams of neutrinos have been proposed as a vehicle for communications under unusual circumstances, such as direct point-to-point global communication, communication with submarines, secure communications and interstellar communication. We report on the performance of a low-rate communications link established using the NuMI beam line and the MINERvA detector at Fermilab. The link achieved a decoded data rate of 0.1 bits/sec with a bit error rate of 1% over a distance of 1.035 km, including 240 m of earth.

The paper in its entirety — 10 pages, 7 figures, updated with final figures used in the Modern Physics Letters A publication — is here.

Free, the way you like it.

August 14, 2012 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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