Aliens ate my laptop – Network World

To misquote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the Apple Genius Bar, but that’s just peanuts to space.

And out there, in the vast reaches of the cosmos, continuously streaming towards Earth are what are called cosmic rays which are  protons and atomic nuclei theorized to come from both supernovae explosions and probably the centers of galaxies. The earth is continuously bombarded by these alien particles which, in turn, collide with the atmosphere and generate a whole range of secondary particles including neutrons, muons, pions and alpha particles. 

Cosmic rays themselves have virtually no effect on living things but the secondary particles can because every now and then one of these will have enough energy to cause damage to whatever it strikes. Allow me to digress for a moment and mention the Oh-My-God Particle of which Wikipedia explains:

The Oh-My-God particle was an ultra-high-energy cosmic ray detected on the evening of 15 October 1991 over Dugway Proving GroundUtah, by the University of Utah‘s Fly’s Eye Cosmic Ray Detector. Its observation was a shock to astrophysicists (hence the name), who estimated its energy to be … equivalent to a 142 g (5 oz) baseball travelling at about 26 m/s (94 km/h; 58 mph) … roughly 60 times the collision energy of the Large Hadron Collider … Since the first observation, at least fifteen similar events have been recorded, confirming the phenomenon. These ultra-high-energy cosmic ray particles are very rare …

Now, if a secondary particle collides with a strand of DNA, the damage could result in a mutation, while if it’s something electronic, for example, a transistor in a processor chip, the result could be simply the flipping of a bit or, at worst, the destruction of some circuitry and thence a dead computer. 


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