TNB Night Owl – Quantum Gravity Gradiometers

Cross-border Tunnel Attempt Stopped in Nogales. Photo by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

And you know, it makes me wonder
What’s going on, under the ground,
Do you know? Don’t you wonder?
What’s going on, down under you?

“Deja Vu” – Crosby, Stills, & Nash

Bad news, bunker boys. Science has discovered how to locate and map out any and all features under the surface of the Earth. This includes natural structures such as water or oil reserves (or even volcanoes), and man-made constructs like smuggling tunnels or secret bunkers. Instruments capable of such discoveries are called gravity gradiometers, and you might be surprised to learn they were first used in the nineteenth century – well over one hundred years ago. Of course, until very recently the detail that gravity gradiometers could provide was… imprecise… and time consuming to employ. So, if you wanted to find water or oil and you had months to search for these subterranean resources with your trusty old gravity gradiometer, you were good so long as only a rough ballpark estimate of their location was acceptable. As the technology improved, so did accuracy, although it still required a large investment of time on the order of weeks or months, depending on the size of the area surveyed.

Well, that was yesterday’s tech. Something new has arrived from the future: quantum gravity gradiometers. There’s that word ‘quantum’ again: it refers to subatomic particles, or simply the stuff that atoms are made of. The other tricky word in that name is ‘gravity’. (You thought I was going to say gradiometers, didn’tcha?) Gravity is tricky because, of all the known physical forces known to science, it is the least-well understood. Actually, we don’t even understand what gravity is or how it works. (Really, we don’t). We are, however, learning that there’s some kind of relationship between gravity and quantum particles. Scientists at the University of Birmingham, et al., have built and successfully tested this new quantum gravity gradiometer, by finding a buried tunnel.

The new technology has huge potential to save time and money. What took weeks to do before can now be done in hours, and with far more precision. Anytime new construction in a major metropolitan area like New York City, for example, is undertaken, civil engineers have to study maps and other documents from the past to determine what existing infrastructure the new project may impact. There are subways, power lines, communication cables, gas, water, and sewer pipes, among other critical urban components, that crisscross underground. If construction crews hit any of these things, their project will take longer and cost more, so locating preexisting underground constructs with the greatest possible precision is paramount. The future, in the form of quantum technology, is here now and more is coming. Now, who’s in the mood for a tune?

Crosby, Stills, & Nash – “Deja Vu” (4:12)

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About Richard Doud 622 Articles
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Never stop learning. No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.