Ever wondered why your laptop or PC crashes suddenly? If you blamed the hardware of your device, the manufacturer, or the ISP for such crashes then you may need to reconsider.
New research reveals that particles that originate from outside our galaxy may be responsible for computer crashes on Earth.
According to a new study, alien subatomic particles which pour down from outside our solar system are accountable for inflicting this annoying problem on one's PC, smartphones, and other electronic devices.
Bharat Bhuva, the professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University explained this theory, in his presentation titled "Cloudy with a Chance of Solar Flares: Quantifying the Risk of Space Weather."
He shared that on many occasions the operational failures are due to the effect of the electrically charged particles, which are created by the cosmic rays. These rays essentially generate outside our galaxy.
"This is a really big problem, but it is mostly invisible to the public," said Bhuva.
In his presentation, Bhuva cleared shed light on many concepts like Single-Event Upset or SEU.
What Is SEU?
The Earth's atmosphere is hit by cosmic rays traveling at the speed of light. These rays generate a chute of inferior particles like pions, muons, neutrons, and several alpha particles.
However, out of the millions of generated particles, only a fraction are known to transfer energy which interferes with the device's integrated circuits. As a result, this interference is able to alter the data stored in the memory of the device. This is known as SEU.
How To Trace SEUs?
According to Bhuva, it is difficult to ascertain where and when the particles will inflict an attack. Moreover, since no physical signs of a damage can be seen, the failures that these particles cause are tough to illustrate. Therefore, decoding the occurrence of SEUs is a tough task.
He further explained that a single bit flip may have numerous reasons behind it. It could either be a hardware flaw or even software bug. The only possible means of determining if this was an SEU is by removing any other likely cause.
While tracing SEUs may not be any easy task, their detection is not impossible. The researchers gave the example of a Belgian town when in 2003, a bit flip in an electronic voting machine accidentally led to the addition of 4096 more votes for a candidate.
The reason this error was spotted was that the candidate garnered more votes than conceivable. The fault was later traced to the single bit flip which occurred in the electronic device's register.
Another example cited by the researchers was a 2008 Qantas passenger jet, which while traveling from Singapore to Perth encountered an SEU. Due to this, the autopilot mode of the flight was disconnected and it took an abrupt 690 feet jump in just 23 seconds, which led to several injuries.
The researchers took samples of the "integrated circuits" to the ICE or Irradiation of Chips and Electronics lab to determine the SEU rate in 16-nanometer chips. Inside the lab, the researchers exposed the nanometer chips to the neutron beams and examined the SEU's experienced by the chip.
The researchers reveal that bulk of electronic devices have a failure rate which is measured hundreds and thousands of FITs or failure in time.
"Our study confirms that this is a serious and growing problem. This did not come as a surprise. Through our research on radiation effects on electronic circuits developed for military and space applications, we have been anticipating such effects on electronic systems operating in the terrestrial environment," said Bhuva.