Austria Figures Electronic Vote Counting Machines Were Fingered by Cosmic Rays

By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Monday, January 8, 2007

cosmic raysAn electronic vote-counting machine in Schaerbeek, a suburb of Brussels, declared that 4096 more people had cast their vote than the ballot slips testified. The machine had been thoroughly tested and deemed perfect. So what went wrong? Scientists pointed the finger of blame at cosmic rays which can wreak havoc with highly sensitive microelectronic circuits.

“The phenomenon has been known for a longtime by aerospace experts but, as components become more and more miniaturised, almost any electronic equipment these days is at risk,” says French scientist Jean-Luc Autran, who is associated with L2MP laboratory at the University of Provence, Marseille.

consmic rayA high velocity passing neutron can be lethal to information technology. When it hits an electronic component, it unleashes parasitic electrical discharge.

“In the past, when circuits were big and clunky, this was no big deal.” says Autran.

“But now, more and more circuits are being crammed into chips. As a result, the electrical discharge can be as powerful or even greater than the charge used to store the binary code on the chip.

Altitude adds to vulnerability. At sea level, one square centimetre (0.155 of a square inch) is hit by 10 neutrons every hour; for an airliner cruising altitude, the tally is a thousand times higher.

“Take a laptop which runs perfectly and hop on a transatlantic flight. There is a high risk that it will jam up once during the trip and you have to reboot it.”
Now that is another good reason not to use Laptop in flights. Personally I have seen it happen once or twice but I previously attributed them to the vagaries of Windows.

Autran points out that the problem goes beyond mundane gadgets such as laptop computers, mobile phones and high-definition TVs. Cars, high-speed trains, hospital equipment, “even pacemakers,” could be vulnerable to the risk from space from their dependence on high-performance chips, he says. via

So now you know what really happened in 2004 Florida election.

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