Why ET will phone using neutrinos not photons

Neutrino communication

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence assumes that ET will be communicating using photons. But despite decades of listening out, we’ve heard nothing.

But today, John Learned from the University of Hawaii and pals say forget photons. We should be looking for evidence of ET using neutrinos.

The reason is that any civilisation advanced enough to colonise the galaxy would need a reliable way to communicate over intragalactic distances and photons simply don’t pass muster. There is a huge amount of noise in the electromagnetic spectrum, photons are easily scattered and would almost certainly be absorbed if they had to travel from one side of the galaxy to the other.

By contrast, the neutrino spectrum is relatively noise free and neutrinos intereact so weakly with matter that a signal could travel unhindered from one side of the galaxy to the other.

They propose testing the idea by generating a neutrino signal using a particle acclerator to genreate Z nought particles which decay into neutrinos of a relatively easily detectable energy. They would encode information in the time structure of the beam, like Morse code.

What’s more, Learned and co say that the kind of neutrino signals that ET might be expected to beam should be detectable by the generation of neutrino detectors now under construction.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0805.2429: Galactic Neutrino Communication

34 Responses to “Why ET will phone using neutrinos not photons”

  1. amnezick says:

    or maybe the ET is smart enough to just live happily on their planet in their corner of the galaxy just as we should.

  2. Digital says:

    Good call, lets just wait here to die… after all, what’s it matter really? The species will survive long enough for me to breed and die, screw what happens after that.

    Or… you know… maybe they aren’t stupid animals.

  3. Kaiser says:

    Very interesting, I would assume that ET has found a way to generate a neutrino signal without the use of a particle acclerator. I know we will have to if we are going to use it!

  4. Britt says:

    I am curious, why “should” we confine ourselves to only our planet? I can think of numerous reasons why not, as an example, when you have vacation do you go home and sit peacefully? Or do you go someplace else? Me, I like to go someplace new and different.

    So, Amnezick, why ‘should’ we voluntarily confine ourselves to our one little world, which most likely will be existing within the sun (if it exists at all) in roughly 5 billion more years?


  5. Britt says:

    I am curious, why “should” we confine ourselves to only our planet? I can think of numerous reasons why not, as an example, when you have vacation do you go home and sit peacefully? Or do you go someplace else? Me, I like to go someplace new and different.

    So, Amnezick, why ’should’ we voluntarily confine ourselves to our one little world, which most likely will be existing within the sun (if it exists at all) in roughly 5 billion more years?


  6. Anthony Kendall says:

    Actually, a particle accelerator is probably a trivial piece of hardware for a society capable of propelling ships at useful fractions of the speed of light. And, since you’re only using the neutrinos for communications between stellar systems, or even stellar provinces, the neutrino signals need only be something akin to a trunk-line, with multiple distribution channels to local end points.

    Just as we don’t all have a gigantic fiber pipe leading into our homes, such a civilization could simply switch optical messages to neutrino-encoded signals for the long haul.

  7. ET says:

    Nice idea, but even a neutrino signal will travel no faster than the speed of light. You will still have a 4 year delay in your phone call to Alpha Centauri.

  8. Dennis says:

    Frankly, this is only a small step in the right direction. Any advanced interstellar civilization will have to develop faster-than-light communications at the very least.

    I have a question about this neutrino communications: If it is a focused neutrino beam (akin to laser) and not a broadcast signal, will we still be able to detect it?

  9. jack says:

    Amnezick, Why you’d prefer us all inside a huge gravity well is beyond me. The earth literally brings destructive objects to it. If there’s one lessen to be learned, it’s don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

  10. Diego says:

    i admire your hability to find alien technology! that’s was a very good kept secret until now.
    There is a multidimensional phisics for neutrinos, isn’t it?

  11. txinva says:

    Hmmm so what would we use to read the neutrino mail? Since they don’t interact very well with anything. Of course we would also have to have a way to modulate them have intelligence transmitted. Sounds like an interesting concept, but very difficult to achieve with current technology

  12. […] con ondas electromagneticas? , pero estas plantean un problema…..la respuesta en el meneo. Vía:arxivblog.com/?p=426 Artículo original:arxiv.org/abs/0805.2429 sin comentarios en: cultura, ciencia karma: 11 […]

  13. R.Mirman says:

    Actually ET won’t phone at all. The concept of ET is pure fantasy. The arguments are overwhelming. It takes a whole book to even start to show that. See the OAIU book. And look at how big it is.

    The proof that physics, a universe, would be impossible in any dimension but 3+1 (strangely agreeing with reality) is clear and unavoidable. Stunning is that a change of any number in any of the formulas by even 1 would make any dimension, thus any universe, impossible.

    That the universe allows, and has, galaxies, stars, planets, even life, thinking life, that all the conflicting conditions do not conflict and are met, is beyond stunning.

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    Existence is the greatest mystery, not only that it is but that it can be. Conditions are too many, too strict, too conflicting. Outlandishly we are, yet that we are impose upon us the responsibilities of loneliness. Horrendously our most basic need is to hate, hurt and kill, to horribly misuse that awesome, and likely unique, gift of intelligence — destroying, dishonoring, the most magnificent constituent of nature.

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    We look, we see, but do not notice. The nothingness that is space much requires noticing — the opulent structure of the emptiness is essential, even for just a universe. There is so much to see, especially because there is nothing to see. We should learn, and we should look.

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  14. […] Comm Links The better to hear you with, my dear! The search for extraterrestrial intelligence assumes that ET will be communicating using photons. […]

  15. Andrew says:

    “The proof that physics, a universe, would be impossible in any dimension but 3+1 (strangely agreeing with reality) is clear and unavoidable.”

    Well, I read no further as I have arrived at this ‘unavoidable’ conclusion:

    You’re a crackpot.

  16. Andrew Bennett says:

    Because in 300 million years of life on Earth, no event has ever been so devastating as to leave the Earth less habitable, less survivable than any other place known to Man. No ice age has been as cold and dry as airless Mars. No Triassic heat wave was the pressure cooker that Venus is today. Not even the most energetic asteroid collision has sterilized Earth to the barren, pockmarked wasteland that is the Moon. For every person you might be able to position out of harm’s way off-world, thousands more could be saved if instead the money were used for shelters here on Earth. Exploring space is a fine and noble cause on it’s own merits. Survival of the species, however, is a job best accomplished at home, sweet home.

  17. meh says:

    Doesn’t quantum entanglment get around the speed of light issue, this i think is the likely method for long distance communication.

  18. Dee Yoganes says:

    Ok, we have two kinds of phisicians. the ones who believe in the 3+1, others for the string theory, and even 11 dimensions. I’m still with einsteins unitary field theory. i see one dimension, but i could be probably wrong.
    Space signals are real. and probably they are neutrinos quantum entangled. could it be?

  19. amnezick says:

    Really? Why am I not so interested in outer space? Do you see fish trying to build pressurized costumes so they can walk on land [which is their “outer space”]? No! Because they don’t need to. They have everything they need on their “Earth” [that’s water] just as I have everything I need on my Earth. So good luck wasting your life on doing something useless because I prefer living it.

  20. seth says:

    Someone said faster-than-light communications? Have we determined the speed of gravity? All we need is something to detect the movement of a large mass from a large distance (that, or defy physics and learn how to create and destroy large amounts of matter to send gravity taps to galactic neighbors).

  21. tothal says:

    We have already tested faster than light communications -did you hear about quantum entanglement?

  22. Helmut says:

    my brain is aching reading something that is trying to explain quantum stuff, but i know for sure – our universe is real, and we’re not alone. well, atleast i hope so 😀

  23. Georgie says:

    Would detecting neutrinos hinder/reduce the amount of neutrinos arriving at their intended destination?

  24. Omitted says:

    Hmm. A lot of cracked pottery here, but that long post was worth a skim just for: “These force the question: does the word God exist?”

    Seems a little self evident at first written (as it is) in a sentence composed of, you know, words, one of which is… oh never mind. But on further thought, it might be a paean to “the Word God”. Which is alright be me. There are some pretty funny words. Trellis. Rheumatoid. Lemma. Whatever force created them is OK with me.

  25. Allen Brown says:

    There is another application for this technology which is much closer to home. Messages could be beamed point-to-point anywhere on earth. No need for optical fibers in the ocean. No need for satellites. Just aim the transmitter and fire.

    Allen Brown http://brown.armoredpenguin.com/~abrown/
    Nostalgia is not what it used to be.

  26. Anonymous says:

    These statements, “Galactic Neutrino Communication” (title), “We examine the possibility to employ neutrinos to communicate within the galaxy.” (abstract), “Such signals [neutrinos] from an advanced civilization, should they exist, will be eminently detectable in neutrino detectors now under construction.” (abstract), “So if they want to send a message in advance, saying hello and welcome to the galactic network they are going to have to speculate about when to bother to transmit.” (page 2), and “For instance, the ETI may be relatively nearby, either on a extrasolar planetary base or in a space station, waiting for us to build a suitable neutrino telescope.” (Page 3), by John G. Learned et al, sounds like a hollow theory, by hollow men. And this is why:

    1) No analyse of the Roswell incident in New Mexico in 1947.

    2) No analyse of the Shaq Harbor incident in 1967.

    3) No analyse of the Phoenix lights in 1997.

    4) No analyse of The UFO Encyclopedia, The Phenomenon from the Beginning, 2 Volumes, by Jerome Clark, and/or the UFO phenomenon in general, and its sececy within DoD, DOE, DHS, FBI, CIA, NASA, local police et cetera.

    5) No analyse of Bob Lazar and his statements of Detachment 3, Air Force Fliight Test Center, i.e. Area 51, S4, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Edward Teller, and back-engineering of captured Extra-Terrestrial Crafts (UFO:s) at S4 in Papoose Lake, NV.

    6) No analyse of Area 51: The Alien Interview (Documentary), directed by Jeff Broadstreet, 1997.

    A Documentary About Aliens And UFOs, With Reenactments Of Alien Interviews And Video, Of A Supposedly Real Video Of An Alien Being, Inerviewed By Government Officials.

    7) No analyse of Inside the Black Budget by William J. Broad, NYT, April 1, 2008, and its Esprit de Corps. Especially:

    A Lifetime Of Silence; Southwest as a red star; Behind The Green Door.

    My seven examples are an example of the limit, and NOT beyond this limit of “Normal science” (John G. Learned et al, the term also refers to Thomas Kuhn´s, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions), or with Nietzsche´s preferable words, “The hatred of philosophy not at all uncommon among men of learning is above all hatred of the long chains of conclusions and the artificality of the proofs. At bottom, indeed, every generation of men of learning has an unconscious canon of permitted sagacity; whatever goes beyond it is called into question and all but employed to cast suspicion on the probity of its propounder.” (Friedrich Nietzsche; Untimely Meditations, Schopenhauer as Educator, Cambridge University Press 1997, Chapter 6, page 170.)

    It is also (John G. Learned et al) in conjunction with the naive Kantian Worldview, i.e. objective will, objective truth, and objective world, and it also has the belief of zero!!! information – and knowledge hierarchies.

    The paper by John G. Learned et al also has the idea of Terrestrial Intelligence (TI) = Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (ETI), even better, extraplorate TI into ETI, but this idea in reality has very low probability, and the overall idea of “Galactic Neutrino Communication,” will risk to be a failure, almost before its future use, and John G. Learned et al gives almost a classic example of Nietzsche´s “unconscious canon of permitted sagacity,” when ZERO UFO-reports are analysed, and nothing of my seven examples as well, and thus its hollowness.

  27. omni-impotent says:

    I’m not sure neutrinos would be so good due to oscillations… but anyway, if you follow the same lines of argument, they could be communicating gravitons, dark energy, dark matter, hell, even the CMB might be just them painting the night sky…

  28. just some physicist says:

    Yes, the “speed of gravity” is known (in the sense that anything in science can be “known”) and is equal to the speed of light. A change in the gravitational field propagates through vacuum at the speed of light, just like a change in the electromagnetic field propagates at the speed of light. In the case of gravity, the disturbance propagates as a wave in spacetime itself, (creatively) called a “gravitational wave”.

    So gravity isn’t the solution to sending messages faster than light, unless we exploit spacetime by curving it into a wormhole or something similar… it will probably turn out to be easier to send a “signal” (such as a photon) through a wormhole than to send a human being, so wormholes will probably be a better bet for faster-than-light communication than it would for faster-than-light travel, at least at first. The really, REALLY difficult part still lies in creating the wormhole in the first place. It requires an astronomical amount of energy, if it’s even possible at all.

    Quantum entanglement can break the speed-of-light barrier. Entangle particle A and particle B. Do something to change particle A, and particle B will also magically change regardless of how far away it is (ie, the speed of light is no limitation to the speed of propagation of the signal from A to B). There’s a potential drawback however… as far as I know, when you engineer the entanglement of A and B they need to be near each other spatially. Once entangled, then you can send B out to Alpha Centauri, and once it’s there you can send a signal from A to B instantly. But, B still has to make the 4-year trip to Alpha Centauri first. Granted, B only makes the trip once and then your “telephone line” is set up. But we’d still have to wait 2 million years to set up such an “entanglement phone line” with Andromeda.

  29. just some physicist says:

    Clarification on my previous post: sending a “signal” via quantum entanglement may not be possible, in the sense that it may not be possible to transmit “information” via entanglement. Not to mention the incredible challenge of building a conduit from here to another star or galaxy that doesn’t disturb the quantum state of an entangled particle. However, even if it were possible to do all of those things, the problem of first “laying an entanglement phone line” probably still remains an issue.

    All that said, I have to hand it to scientists and engineers… they are extremely clever, and no matter how many roadblocks nature throws up, I’ve learned to never say anything is impossible.

  30. just another physicist says:

    To answer a few unanswered questions and make a few comments:

    Dennis – the idea is to send bunches of neutrinos in a Morse code style – series of short and long bursts. These would have to be in a focused beam if they are to be detectable far away (otherwise they will become too diffuse to be detectable).

    txinva – as explained in the article, we would read the neutrino mail with neutrino detectors.

    R. Mirman – crimony man. Andrew – agreed!

    meh, Dee Yoganes, seth, tothal – see Just Some Physicist

    Georgie – Yes, we would absorb some of the neutrinos, but only an infinitesimal fraction of them, so the signal should make it to its intended destination (if not us) with minimal degradation.

    Anonymous – you forgot 8) no “analyse” of how crazy you sound. Learned et al do not need to analyze the pseudoscience of ufology to discuss the practicality of using neutrinos for galactic communication. Your philosophical ramblings don’t make sense. And if you actually read Kuhn, you would understand why Learned et al don’t bother with analyzing Area 51 or alien interviews – if their aim is to do their job as scientists, it’s a waste of their time.

    omni-impotent – oscillations are not a problem. The neutrinos would be far enough away from the source that all flavors would be in equilibrium. And if one detects the neutrinos via neutral current interaction, oscillations are irrelevant.

    just some physicist – thank you for making sense

  31. just another physicist says:

    That 8) is meant to be an 8 followed by a ). 🙂

  32. saillabs says:

    The question is when actually phones will be replaced with digital cameras?

  33. cig says:

    I believe that in a 2-3 years the cellolar phones definatelly replace them