In the classic fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel dropped breadcrumbs while walking through the treacherous forest to avoid losing their way. Voyagers may one day use a similar technique to travel to other planets without their permanent data.
Typically, if a pirate permanently loses communication during a mission, all information collected is lost. To avoid this, researchers recommend using a multi-pirate system in which a smaller pirate piggybacks on a larger “mother pirate”. The smaller pirate would then venture into any particularly uncertain territory, such as a cave or a tube pod, with sensors the size of AirPods unfolding like crumbs going on.
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The sensors could then communicate with each other via a wireless network and funnel any data collected to the pirate mother, theoretical physicist Wolfgang Fink and colleagues propose on February 11. Journal of Space Research. As a proof of concept, the team built a prototype of sensors that communicate via Wi-Fi.
It is not that the lesser pirate would follow the “breadcrumbs” back the way he came. But “we use” [the sensors] “Information is a way of communication for wise men from the mother pirate’s cave,” says Fink, of the University of Arizona in Tucson.
The technology here on earth could be useful, especially after a natural disaster such as an earthquake. It could be sent by a pirate with sensors deployed on the wreckage where it is too dangerous for humans to conduct search and rescue missions (SN: 12/3/14).
A breadcrumb-like network of social communication can allow researchers to “tailor to the essence of scientific exploration,” says Fink, allowing wanderers to overcome some of the limitations of the smart locations they’re looking for. “In order to stimulate real science, we often go to exotic places, get to hard places.”
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