Chaotic, But Loud And Clear

CHAOS SOUNDS LIKE THE opposite of communications, but researchers in Maryland have put them together in a way that will rely on cheap, simple transmission gear. The effort is led by Scott Hayes, a physicist with the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Md., who is working on his physics doctorate at the University of Maryland in College Park with professors Celso Grebogi and Edward Ott.

Hayes exploits the fact that chaos does not equal randomness. Actually, a chaotic system's behavior can be predicted for a short time. By applying tiny, well-timed nudges to a chaotically oscillating radio or light-wave circuit, Hayes can control its output. A properly tuned receiver could interpret the output as a series of zeros and ones of digital code.

One advantage of the system is that the information-carrying wave remains analog, so it can be boosted and cleaned up with simple analog gear instead of the complex circuitry that is used in fully digital transmission.

Hayes says he has been approached by several companies interested in commercializing the Army-patented system for use in fiber-optic communications--not to mention by Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute researchers who want to send interstellar radio messages.

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