Cosmic Rays Can Crash Your Computer Or Mobile Devices

Posted: Feb 20 2017, 10:09am CST | by , Updated: Feb 20 2017, 10:18am CST, in News | Latest Science News

Cosmic Rays can Crash your Computer or Mobile Devices
Artistic view of a cosmic rays shower. Credit: ASPERA/Novapix/L.Bret

Alien particles from outer space are wreaking low-grade havoc on your smartphones, computers and other personal electronic devices

When computers crash or IPhones freeze up, manufacturers usually get the blame. But over the past few years, researchers have started to look at other possibilities and have found that another type of problem is affecting our devices and causing operational failures.

Not many people know that but subatomic particles from outer space are wreaking low-grade havoc on their smartphones, computers and other personal electronic devices.

“This is a really big problem, but it is mostly invisible to the public, said Bharat Bhuva, professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University, in a presentation on February 17. “When you have a single bit flip, it could have any number of causes. It could be a software bug or a hardware flaw, for example. The only way you can determine that it is a single-event upset is by eliminating all the other possible causes.”

Every second, hundreds of thousands of cosmic ray particles from space hit the atmosphere of the Earth, some of which can cause serious computer glitches or errors. Though, these events are not common but cannot be ruled out altogether.

The glitches generated by cosmic rays are understandably worrying computer manufacturers as they can affect the reliability of their products.

“The semiconductor manufacturers are very concerned about this problem because it is getting more serious as the size of the transistors in computer chips shrink and the power and capacity of our digital systems increase,” said Bhuva. “In addition, microelectronic circuits are everywhere and our society is becoming increasingly dependent on them.”

Since it is difficult to know when and where these cosmic particles will strike, their prevalence cannot be determined easily. But researchers have found that as the transistors in many of our devises have gotten smaller they have become smaller targets for cosmic rays so the rate at which they are struck has decreased.

Bhuva says. “This is a major problem for industry and engineers, but it isn’t something that members of the general public need to worry much about.”

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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