The Universe is Hostile to Computers

The Universe is Hostile to Computers

Tiny particles from distant galaxies have caused plane accidents, election interference and game glitches. This video is sponsored by Brilliant. The first 200 people to sign up via get 20% off a yearly subscription.

This video was inspired by the RadioLab Podcast “Bit Flip” — they’re brilliant science storytellers.

A Huge thanks to Dr Leif Scheick, Calla Cofield and the JPL Media Relations Team.

Thanks to Col Chris Hadfield. Check out his book:

J. F. Ziegler, “Terrestrial cosmic rays,” in IBM Journal of Research and Development, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 19-39, Jan. 1996, doi: 10.1147/rd.401.0019. —

D. Binder, E. C. Smith and A. B. Holman, “Satellite Anomalies from Galactic Cosmic Rays,” in IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science, vol. 22, no. 6, pp. 2675-2680, Dec. 1975, doi: 10.1109/TNS.1975.4328188

Ziegler, J. F., & Lanford, W. A. (1979). Effect of cosmic rays on computer memories. Science, 206(4420), 776-788

Drury, L. O. C. (2012). Origin of cosmic rays. Astroparticle Physics, 39, 52-60.

Hess, V. (2018). On the observations of the penetrating radiation during seven balloon flights. arXiv preprint arXiv:1808.02927. —

Carlson, P., & De Angelis, A. (2011). Nationalism and internationalism in science: the case of the discovery of cosmic rays. The European Physical Journal H, 35(4), 309-329. —

Höeffgen, S. K., Metzger, S., & Steffens, M. (2020). Investigating the effects of cosmic rays on space electronics. Frontiers in Physics, 8, 318. —

Edmonds, L. D., Barnes, C. E., & Scheick, L. Z. (2000). An introduction to space radiation effects on microelectronics. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. —

NASA Mars 2020 website covering the specifications of the Perseverance Rover

Australian Government Australian Transport Safety Bureau report on QF72 —

Australian Government Australian Transport Safety Bureau summary on QF72 —

Great Blog post about QF72 —

Michael Barr’s report on the Toyota acceleration issue —

NASA’s Report on Toyota —

T. C. May and M. H. Woods, “A New Physical Mechanism for Soft Errors in Dynamic Memories,” 16th International Reliability Physics Symposium, 1978, pp. 33-40, doi: 10.1109/IRPS.1978.362815. —

P. M. O’Neill and G. D. Badhwar, “Single event upsets for Space Shuttle flights of new general purpose computer memory devices,” in IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science, vol. 41, no. 5, pp. 1755-1764, Oct. 1994, doi: 10.1109/23.317386. —

Wikipedia about radiation hardening —

Toward Monitoring Fault-Tolerant Embedded
Systems (Extended Abstract) —

Article about speed run —

Article about speed run —

Article about redundant systems in spaceflight —

Article about the PowerPC750 —

Fuglesang C, Narici L, Picozza P, Sannita WG. Phosphenes in low earth orbit: survey responses from 59 astronauts. Aviat Space Environ Med. 2006 Apr;77(4):449-52. PMID: 16676658. —

Good article about Cosmic Rays causing flashes —

Good article about radiation resistance —

Special thanks to Patreon supporters: Paul Peijzel, Juan Benet, Ruslan Khroma, Richard Sundvall, Lee Redden, Sam Lutfi, MJP, Gnare, Nick DiCandilo, Dave Kircher, Edward Larsen, Burt Humburg, Blake Byers, Dumky, Mike Tung, Evgeny Skvortsov, Meekay, Ismail Öncü Usta, Paul Peijzel, Crated Comments, Anna, Mac Malkawi, Michael Schneider, Oleksii Leonov, Jim Osmun, Tyson McDowell, Ludovic Robillard, Jim buckmaster, fanime96, Juan Benet, Ruslan Khroma, Robert Blum, Richard Sundvall, Lee Redden, Vincent, Marinus Kuivenhoven, Alfred Wallace, Arjun Chakroborty, Joar Wandborg, Clayton Greenwell, Pindex, Michael Krugman, Cy ‘kkm’ K’Nelson, Sam Lutfi, Ron Neal

Written by Derek Muller and Petr Lebedev
Animation by Iván Tello, Mike Radjabov, Fabio Albertelli, Jakub Misiek and Charlie Davies
SFX by Shaun Clifford
Filmed by Derek Muller, Raquel Nuno, and Emily Zhang
Edited by Derek Muller and Petr Lebedev
SFX by Shaun Clifford
Additional video supplied by Getty Images
Rover Footage From NASA/JPL-Caltech
QF72 footage from the Smithsonian channel
SM64 footage from
Music from Epidemic Sound
Produced by Derek Muller, Petr Lebedev and Emily Zhang


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  1. For a long time I have always thinking the importance of radiation soft error issues.
    And these soft error problems are exacerbated as semiconductor miniaturization technology evolve tremendously now.
    I think "All the PC should use a system with an enterprise CPU, such as Xeon or AMD's Opteron ~ EPYC with enterprise ECC system memory . Do not choose a consumer PC. should buy x86, x64 Windows EWS!"
    … but when buying a computer, people always think about "3DMark and many benchmark results" and "speed and price".
    No matter how much time passes, only those who can afford can use the "warranted" computer system, and the average person is still using the "non warrantied" computer system. This is very sad for me.

    Evenly the smartphones which have evolved significantly with PCs, users are completely unconcern in these soft error issues.

    … I was also thinking about the Apple Macintosh in the PowerPC era.  "The CPU should be changed to POWER (used in IBM's enterprise systems …) instead of PowerPC, and the memory should also be changed to ECC system memory." But "Mac Evangelist" said nothing about it. (it was more important to them to increase their share of Macintosh and desecrate Windows than to improve their Macintosh products). I was very sad again. (I'm a Windows programmer and endorse Windows, but about Macintosh, I thinks the presence of the "Happy Mac" that appears at startup to be the most important value for a Mac.  and I don't like the current Mac …)

  2. It’s unreasonable how much respect I have for this guy, I started doing a deep dive into why our universe is the way it is and, long story short, it’s maddening. I can’t comprehend the amount of things Veritasium knows and still doesn’t go crazy.

  3. The thing with flashes of light. I was sitting in class and suddenly the room became bright for a split second, like thunderbolt hit somewhere without a sound and on a sunny clear day. Most people reacted to it one time. But overall it happened a few times and I never really thought about it.

  4. A Veritasium clip using a Belgian election glitch (that most of us don't know about or have already forgotten long ago) to explain the dangers of cosmic rays on tech stuff… of course I need to give this a thumbs up!

  5. Can we conclude then that the assertions of the Astrologers under the influence of the constellations and planets about the energies that reach us were not without nexus? There would now be a lack of association/correlation experiments between the relative position on Earth, of the Earth in relation to the Sun/Galaxies etc.

  6. 18:30 interesting…
    People who came back from death in hospital beds usually say that they saw flashlights and their memories passing through. Imagine if their 'consciousness'(whatever that might be here) travels through space to go somewhere…? Obv a lot of cosmic rays pass through 'them' and therefore they see those flashes of light?
    Idk….Sounds very pseudoscientific but ey…it makes us ponder.