Subatomic particles called neutrinous may someday help scientists communicate with extra-terrestrial beings, forecast earthquakes and explain the universe's creation, say researchers at Western Washington University.
The scientists last week conducted what they call the first successful demonstration that neuctrinos can carry human messages directly through the Earth, a communications breakthrough that could eliminate the need for satellite relay stations, according to research leader Peter Kotzer.
The experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator in Batavia, I11., beamed neutrinos-mysterious particles having no electrical charge or measurable mass-toward three 500-gallon water tanks located about four miles away, said Jim Albers, another researcher.
The tanks containing electronic sensors were lined up like a "telescope," said Kotzer. The neutrinos actually passed through rock and soil of intervening hills to reach the water at which point they produced flashes of light, albers said.
The Dec. 19 experiment showed for the first time that neutrinos could pass through the Earth and be detected, Kotzer said.
The beams eventually can permit communications with underwate submarines (a boon to the military), and higher-energy neutrinos could provide an "x-ray" of the Earth's interior, Kotzer said.
Neutrino beams also could travel directly through the moon, allowing scientists to communicate with space craft blocked from radio transmissions, Kotzer said.
The particles also could be beamed with virtually no interference to other planets that may sustain intelligent life, Kotzer said. Similarly, neutrinos might be transmitted by alien beings and could be translated here, he added.
Kotzer also said neutrinos could help examine the "Big Bang" theory of the universe's creation, which holds that a dense mass of material exploded eons ago to form the stars and planets.
Neutrinos, unlike other particles, could retain a "memory" of the blast, Kotzer said.
Because neutrinos interact very little with other particles they are likely to have survived mostly intact, said Kotzer. They should be able to retain "memories" to a fraction of a second after the original blast, he added.
The researchers' next step will entail longer-range tests of neutrino beams, Kotzer said. He wants to attempts transmissions through the Earth from Illinois to Washington State's Puget Sound about 1,700 miles away.