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A system that can compare physical objects while potentially protecting sensitive information about the objects themselves has been demonstrated experimentally at the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, according to the University website.

The research was supported by funding from the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration through the Consortium for Verification Technology. According to John Greenwald of the PPPL Office of Communications, the research marks a promising first experimental step toward a potentially useful technique in future disarmament agreements.

"This was an extremely important experimental demonstration," explained Robert Goldston,astrophysics professor and co-author of the paper. "We had a theoretical idea and have now provided a proven practical example," he said.

Researchers first organized the cubes into a designated "true" pattern and then into a number of "false" ones and beamed high-energy neutrons into each arrangement, recordinghow many passed through to bubble neutron detectors.

To avoid revealing information about the composition and configuration of the cubes, bubbles created in this manner were added to those preloaded into the detectors.

According to the PPPL Office of Communications, questions yet to be resolved include "the details of obtaining and confirming a targetwarhead during the zero-knowledge measurement; specifics of establishing and maintaining the pre-loaded detectors in a way that ensures inspecting party confidence without revealing any data considered sensitive by the inspected party; and feasibility questions associated with safely deploying active interrogation measurement techniques on actual nuclear warheads in sensitive physical environments"

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