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Computer Crashes May Be Due to Forces Beyond Our Solar System


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Chips like this are susceptible to single-event upsets caused by cosmic rays.

Single-event upsets occur when cosmic rays and the electrically charged particles they generate interfere with the operation of the microelectronic circuitry in electronic devices, says Vanderbilt University professor Bharat Bhuva.

Vanderbilt University professor Bharat Bhuva on Friday gave a presentation on single-event upsets (SEUs) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

SEUS occur when cosmic rays and the electrically charged particles they generate interfere with the operation of the microelectronic circuitry in electronic devices.

Bhuva says during an SEU, particles alter an individual bit of data stored in a chip's memory, which can have effects ranging from altering a single pixel in a photograph to bringing down a passenger jet.

Although there are serious examples of SEUs causing significant damage, Bhuva notes they are still fairly rare events. However, he says as the number of transistors being used in new electronic systems increases, so does the probability of an SEU failure on the device level.

"This is a really big problem, but it is mostly invisible to the public," Bhuva warns.

From IDG News Service
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