19 March 2012

Researchers send first message using neutrino beam

The latest experiment to determine whether or not neutrinos exceed the speed of light has confirmed once and for all that that they do not.

When CERN researchers originally reported that neutrinos could travel faster than light, concerns were raised over the possibility of a faulty cable affecting readings. CERN conducted a similar experiment - dubbed Icarus - at the Italian Grande Sasso laboratory. Icarus timed the speed of neutrinos traveling from CERN to Gran Sasso using the same short pulsed beam from previous experiments, but the team announced that the new measurement was 'at odds with the initial measurement reported by OPERA last September'. Nevertheless, the neutrinos were reported to travel at the same speed of light, which paves the way for a revolution in communication.

A group of scientists from the University of Rochester and North Carolina State University, have - for the first time - successfully sent a message using a beam of neutrinos. The teams were able to communicate through 240 metres of solid stone using a neutrino beam. The word 'neutrino' was translated into binary code – with the 1s corresponding to a group of neutrinos being fired and the 0s corresponding to no neutrinos being fired. Once they were detected, a computer translated the binary code into English, successfully receiving the word.

As well as travelling at light speed, neutrinos can also pass through planets without being disturbed, have a neutral electric charge and almost non-existant mass, are not subject to magnetic attractions and gravity, so they are virtually free of impediments to their motion. Dan Stancil, Professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State, said: "Using neutrinos, it would be possible to communicate between any two points on Earth without using satellites or cables. Neutrino communication systems would be much more complicated than today's systems, but may have important strategic uses."

The group has submitted its findings to the journal Modern Physics Letters A.

Chris Shaw

Supporting Information


University of Rochester

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The Tory government privatises assets faster than the speed of light. Is this an area worthy of further scientific research?

Comment James, 19/03/2012

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