When this little article caught my eye this Monday A.M., I just can’t resist posting it:
It may not lessen Toyota’s woes to hear that the problems the company has been having with faulty gas pedals could be blamed on cosmic rays from space. Sound unbelievable? The concept is actually a lot more plausible than you might think.
Toyota’s sticky gas pedals caused sudden and unintended acceleration in several of the automaker’s top-selling Toyota and Lexus-brand cars, which led to a massive recall of more than 9 million vehicles worldwide, beginning in November. While ongoing inquiries attempt to locate the source of the problem and figure out a fix, investigators might find it useful to examine a far-out culprit: cosmic ray radiation from deep in the cosmos, which has been known to plague vulnerable data and memory chips in electronics.
Cosmic rays could be at least partially to blame for Toyota’s mechanical defects, scientists now say. And the problem could get worse in the future, as the increasing use of tiny computer chips – replacing mechanical parts – makes cars more and more vulnerable to space radiation.
More sensitive electronics
Federal regulators were prompted to look into the possible role that cosmic rays played in Toyota’s product recall fiasco after an anonymous tipster suggested the design of Toyota’s microprocessors, software and memory chips could make them more vulnerable to interference from radiation compared with other automakers. This is because Toyota has led the auto industry in its widespread inclusion of electronic controls in the manufacture of their various car models.
As electronic devices are made to perform more and more functions on smaller circuit chips, the systems become more sensitive and vulnerable to corruption, and thus more prone to interference from radiation, said Ewart Blackmore, a senior researcher at TRIUMF, a cyclotron facility in Vancouver, Canada, that works with companies to test and analyze the effects of radiation on products.
“Radiation is certainly a potential cause of Toyota’s problems,” Blackmore told LiveScience. “What’s not known is what direction Toyota and other automakers are taking in terms of finding and correcting these issues.”
What are cosmic rays?
As a start, automakers and regulators need to understand the complex and sometimes mysterious ways cosmic rays affect electronics on Earth.
Cosmic rays are high-energy protons that originate in shock waves from the remnants of supernovas – the death heaves of giant exploded stars. Cosmic rays constantly rain down on Earth. And while the high-energy “primary” rays collide with atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and rarely make it through to the ground, “secondary” particles are ejected from these collisions and do reach ground level.
The effect is similar to a cue ball striking a rack of balls in the game of pool, said Robert Rauk, a consultant at Creative Power Resources, Inc., a Philadelphia-based electrical and mechanical engineering consulting company.
“These secondary particles bathe the Earth in energetic showers that can disrupt electronics,” Rauk said in an e-mail interview. “The effect depends on how sensitive the spot is that was struck.”
High-energy particles and electronics
Electronic chips record, store and process information in the form of “bits.” High-energy particles that pass through these chips can alter or “flip” a bit, resulting in a Single Event Upset (SEU).
This event can be anything from data loss or altered programming, to much more serious corruptions of circuitry functions.
The risks are especially high for circuits that are “field programmable,” explained Lloyd W. Massengill, director of engineering at the Vanderbilt Institute for Space and Defense Electronics at Vanderbilt University. Field-programmable circuits are systems in which the circuit’s function can be electrically altered while it is still in use.
“These circuit families store not just data, but their basic function electrically,” Massengill said. “In the unfortunate event of a particle flipping just the right bit, a circuit configured to carry out a benign action may be reprogrammed to carry out some unintended action.”
As the author notes, this is very plausible and I believe the US military plans for it when ordering equipment from contractors.
And it’s a bugaboo for NASA when planning future manned interplanetary missions.
Area 51 lore contains alien grays, crashed ufos, ufo technology, secrecy, the CIA and all the tin foil hat wearing stuff we like here.
At last, some former Area 51 vets are speaking out and some items are coming to light.
Alas, no aliens:
After nearly five decades, guys like James Noce finally get to tell their stories about Area 51.Yes, that Area 51.
The one that gets brought up when people talk about secret Air Force projects, crashed UFOs, alien bodies and, of course, conspiracies.
The secrets, some of them, have been declassified.
Noce, 72, and his fellow Area 51 veterans around the country now are free to talk about doing contract work for the CIA in the 1960s and ’70s at the arid, isolated Southern Nevada government testing site.
Their stories shed some light on a site shrouded in mystery; classified projects still are going on there. It’s not a big leap from warding off the curious 40 or 50 years ago, to warding off the curious who now make the drive to Area 51.
The veterans’ stories provide a glimpse of real-life government covert operations, with their everyday routines and moments of excitement.
Noce didn’t seek out publicity. But when contacted, he was glad to tell what it was like.
“I was sworn to secrecy for 47 years. I couldn’t talk about it,” he says.
In the 1960s, Area 51 was the test site for the A-12 and its successor, the SR-71 Blackbird, a secret spy plane that broke records at documented speeds that still have been unmatched. The CIA says it reached Mach 3.29 (about 2,200 mph) at 90,000 feet.
But after September 2007, when the CIA displayed an A-12 in front of its Langley, Va., headquarters as part of the agency’s 60th birthday, much of the secrecy of those days at Area 51 fell away.
Advance warning to UFOlogists: Sorry, although Noce and other Area 51 vets say they saw plenty of secret stuff, none make claims about aliens.
I do believe the CIA used the UFO phenomenon to cover up secret black projects since it made a convenient foil. But these projects were compartmentalized to the point where most people didn’t know what each other did. Unless they worked together directly, they didn’t know crap.
So that still leaves room for the possibility of back-engineering UFO tech and keeping it secret from others who worked at the facility!