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Cave-Loving 16-Year-Old Develops Underground Texting System

As many city-dwellers know, it's hard to scrap together even a few seconds of cell phone service in underground metros or subways. But a student barely old enough to drive has just invented a new device that can send text messages from well below the surface.

Los Alamos, New Mexico's 16-year old Alexander Kendrick won the 2009 International Science Fair for developing a cave radio device that could drastically alter the landscape of cave research -- and save lives in the process. Employing low-frequency radio waves, Kendrick's cavernous communicator transmits messages from deep below the Earth's surface to identical receivers above ground. As NPR reports, Kendrick recently sent a message from 1,000 feet below sea level, which was successfully received by his father, perched directly above ground. The feat marked the deepest known digital communication ever achieved in the United States.

Kendrick still has to fine tune the radio a bit, and is reportedly trying to make it smaller and easier for cave crews to use. But if it does eventually become portable enough for practical application, it could have a major effect on cave rescues, which have long been hindered by communication barriers that often prolong rescue efforts -- often at the expense of human life. Experts are also suggesting that the invention could have a positive ecological effect, especially in environmentally sensitive caves, where human presence alone can disrupt and contaminate important biological processes. With Kendrick's radio, though, scientists could transmit data about the cave from afar, and thus minimize their impact on the environment.

As for Kendrick, after he finishes tinkering with his radio, he's planning on delving into his next project, which involves finding underground rivers using electromagnetic currents. We're not really sure what that means, but judging from this whiz kid's scientific wherewithal, we're pretty sure it'll be way more important than anything we ever did at 16. [From: NPR]

Tags: caves, cellphone, environment, radio, science, teens, texting