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Saturday, September 4, 2021

Cosmic Rays, Bit Flips, and Computer Vulnerability

Here is a very interesting video about a problem that many of us have been blissfully unaware. 

You can see the role played by the solar cycle.  This is the subject of some on-going research by the folks who put out the SpaceWeather.com web site.  They have been flying balloons to measure high altitude cosmic rays: 

I've been meaning to build a cloud chamber for a long time.  I recently discovered that my local 
supermarket sells dry ice... 

Thanks to Dave, K8WPE for alerting us to this video.  


  1. Decades ago working for NASA, JPL we were designing the computer system for an experiment that was to fly on the space shuttle and ultimately on satellites. That was when I first heard the term "single event upset" used - essentially cosmic ray causing a bit flip on a circuit. This was why we needed radiation hardened components. My recollection is that at the time - of all the IC manufacturers only National Semiconductor was willing to go to the expense to make radiation hardened versions of their chips for us - so we used the NSC 32000 for our design. What was the project? It was to be one of the first space based missile detectors - part of Ronald Reagan's so-called "Star Wars" missile defense shield. Our mission never flew because of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. That was the last space project I worked on...then I moved to weather systems, then terrestrial where I have kept my feet firmly planted ever since!

  2. Didn't this same type of event occur some time back in one of the Scandinavian countries causing some unexpected election results? Radiolab from WNYC did a program on it in 2019


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