Monday, May 07, 2012

The Commenters are Smarter Than the Posters

In which Felix Salmon falls for a rip off and his readers set him straight.

Here’s an even better idea: why not get rid of fiber cables entirely, and use neutrinos to transmit information, at the speed of light, right through the center of the earth?

At the very least, this could provide a fantastic revenue bump for physicists working at extremely expensive particle accelerators in a world of fiscal austerity. In order to make this happen, you’d need to either build your own accelerator, or lease some capacity from an existing one. The sums involved are both big enough to make physicists salivate, and small enough that the private sector could raise the money quite easily:
and elicits a response
Neutrino detection is so hard that experiments such as that in Italy beaming them through the Alps come up with bizarre results like neutrinos traveling faster than light. (Which nobody, not even the physicist who presented those results, believes to be true. It is at this point a curiousity and a group in the USA is trying to reproduce it.)

The amount of energy required to produce detectable levels of neutrinos is very high. This would be an incredibly energy-inefficient method of communication if it could be made to work.

And of course, if it were possible to create a detector and coding scheme that worked well enough, neutrino communications would be the most perfectly insecure method ever.

This sort of proposal is the kind of thing that gets picked up by con-men who cobble together some apparatus that investment bankers haven’t a clue about.
 Eli, of course, is waiting for the Breakthrough Institute Experts to pick up the ball.


dhogaza said...

As Keith Kloor puts, pointing out the problems with this proposed technology means that you're just another example of an anti-tech enviro... :) :)

Nick Barnes said...

The insecurity you handle with crypto, that's what it's for. But the idea that one could use neutrinos to get bits from a computer in London to one in Tokyo faster than a fibre-optic cable, and with any sensible level of reliability, is just plain crazy. How many pulses did the OPERA experiment use?

Without any doubt at all, it would be cheaper to dig and maintain a straight-line tunnel. Or to put a trading platform in the centre of the earth. Notwithstanding the fact that we don't have the first clue how to achieve either of those things.

Anonymous said...


-- by Horatio Algeranon

Nothing could stop a
Oprah with OPERA

Anonymous said...

Isaac Asimov has a classic short story about a future technology of neutrinics, the neutrino equivalent of electronics.

No background, though, "neutrinics" was just a McGuffin. Scientists discover that neutrinics allows them to "see" the past. An obsessive archaeologist tries to find out why this the technology is so tightly controlled, because he wants to show that his beloved Carthaginians did not make human sacrifices of their children.

However, it was a case of "be careful what you wish for". Since the past begins NOW, neutrinics are an ideal surveillance tool.Everyone can visually spy on eveyone else, even in their homes. Any one remember the name of the story?


Brian said...

Toby - I read it years ago, just looked it up. The Dead Past.

The sci-fi idea I have is based on how astronomers now look at light echoes of supernova bouncing off of interstellar clouds to see the supervnova that Earth witnessed centuries ago. The idea would be to look for Earth reflections in interstellar clouds from hundreds or thousands of years ago.

John said...

By the way, that story about neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light seems to have been refuted. They didn't have some fiber optics plugged in all the way into the socket.

Anonymous said...

As John said, the study finding neutrinos travel faster than light has been refuted, which led to the resignation of the unfortunate lead scientist involved with the OPERA project, Professor Ereditato:

It seems like he made an honest mistake and perhaps felt compelled to fall on his sword. I have to feel sympathy for him. At any rate, this probably has no impact on the economics/ feasibility of using neutrinos for communication.
Taylor B

Anonymous said...

Google is your friend, Toby.

Not one I've read, but appears to be a short story called The Dead Past.

Cymraeg llygoden