clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Researchers sent a text message using only vodka and a fan

New, 19 comments
York University vodka text message
York University vodka text message

Giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "drunk text," York University researchers in Canada have used vodka and a desk fan to send a new kind of text message. In the experiment, they encoded the alphabet in evaporated alcohol, assigning different concentration levels to represent bits 1 and 0. The chemical signal was then sprayed 12 feet across the room where it was then decoded by a receiver measuring the increase and decrease of alcohol concentration. The varying concentration levels spelled out the appropriate text, "O Canada."

Plants and animals use this kind of molecular communication all the time when they use pheromones to transmit long-range messages, but to date humans haven't been able to control sending continuous data in this way.

These molecular messages could eventually target cancer cells

There are reasons that scientists would want to send a message via vodka, apart from bragging rights. According to the study's conductor Professor Andrew Eckford, chemical signals can reach areas that wireless signals cannot, such as inside tunnels, pipelines, or underground areas. Eckford's partner researcher Dr. Weisi Guo from the School of Engineering at the University of Warwick also suggested that chemical signals like these could eventually be used to communicate on a nanoscale in mini robots to "carry out a specific task such as targeting drugs to cancer cells." Going from text messages to cancer relief is a big leap, but it's one that could be in the near future if scientists can develop the appropriate cocktail.