Alien subatomic particles are raining down on earth and causing destruction to our gadgets, found in a new research from the Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The crashing of computer and freezing of mobile phones may be due to electrically charged particles generated by cosmic rays originating outside our solar system.
The study found, the cosmic rays travelling at a speed which is a fraction of the speed of light strikes the Earth’s atmosphere wreaking cascades of secondary particles.
According to Bharat Bhuva, professor at Vanderbilt, millions of these particles strikes our body each second but we don’t get to know and they have no harmful effects on any living organism. He describe it as a “big problem, but mostly invisible to the public.“
Scientists found that just a fraction of these particles can carry enough energy to interfere with microelectronic circuitry. They are capable of alerting individuals of bits of data stored in memory- known as single event upset (SEU)-when they interact with integrated circuits.
The research concluded that it is difficult to know when and where these particles will strike. The physical damage and malfunctions that they cause are difficult to characterise. As a result determining the prevalence of SEUs it not straightforward.
Professor Bhuva explained: “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.”
However, it may be difficult to identify these instances but the problems they cause are extremely serious.
For example, in 2003 a bit flip in a voting machine caused 4,096 extra votes to go to one candidate in Belgian town of Schaerbeek. And in 2008, avionics system of Qantas passenger jet appeared to suffer from single event upset that caused autopilot to disengage which dropped plane 690 feet in just 23 seconds.
According to professor Bhuva, there are many unexplained glitches specially in airline computers. Some of which experts feel must be caused due to SEUs that have resulted in cancellation of hundreds of flights.
At last Professor said,”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.”