On May 18 2003, officials overseeing an election in Schaerbeek, a suburb of Brussels, got a shock. An electronic vote-counting machine declared that 4,096 more people had cast their vote than the ballot slips testified. The machine had been thoroughly tested and deemed perfect. So what went wrong?
The answer was, literally, a strike from the heavens.
Technicians pointed the finger of blame at cosmic rays -- particles that zip across the cosmos at huge speed and, while rightly ignored by humans as a health concern, can wreak havoc with highly sensitive microelectronic circuits.
Worse engineering excuse *EVER*.
[Hah. Bad excuse, but actually a legitimate arm of research.
Kobi was working on just this subject -- the effects of particle collisions with microcircuitry -- for his masters degree at Vandy.
I very much doubt that's why that machine broke, however. Color me skeptical. -k]
Fried chips: Cosmic rays put new-generation microcircuits to the test