Can gravitational waves be used to transmit data?

Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, but these rhythmic changes in the structure of space-time were not proven until 2016. Could it be possible to impress information on them – like with electromagnetic radiation – and to read this information back without distortion or loss of information?

Yes, a team of Russian mathematicians has now shown. This is not obvious, because space-time, as a “medium,” appears to have special characteristics that are not handled by the theory of general relativity. The important question is thus: do these characteristics mean that transmitted data will always be distorted?

The Russian mathematicians can now show that there are functions that are not susceptible to such distortions. More specifically, information can be encoded with the help of a special mathematical function in a maximum of three dimensions of four-dimensional space-time so that the information remains unchanged and readable. The fourth dimension can also be used, but then two mathematical functions are needed.

Thus, it is possible to impress data on gravitational waves and to read this data back again. How this could actually work in practice, however, remains unclear – after all, enormous masses are needed to generate gravitational waves that can be measured by man-made instruments.

At least theoretically, gravitational waves can be used for data transmission (picture: Allen Dressen)

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  • BrandonQMorris
  • Brandon Q. Morris is a physicist and space specialist. He has long been concerned with space issues, both professionally and privately and while he wanted to become an astronaut, he had to stay on Earth for a variety of reasons. He is particularly fascinated by the “what if” and through his books he aims to share compelling hard science fiction stories that could actually happen, and someday may happen. Morris is the author of several best-selling science fiction novels, including The Enceladus Series.

    Brandon is a proud member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the Mars Society.