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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34 Responses

  1. TheBlake says:

    Veritasium really has the highest production value educational videos on all of youtube

  2. Bismuth says:

    I am very pleasantly surprised to see Super Mario 64 and the work of Pannenkoek2012 mentioned in a Veritasium video! As someone trying to combine science and speedrunning into one edutainment mix, seeing one of the best science vulgarizers on YouTube talk about Super Mario 64 is a clash of worlds I never expected to see.

    • Lughs_Revenge says:

      Verified Youtubers in Comment Sections are just another way of glorifiying themselves, self-promote and market themselves.

    • Andrew Isaacson says:

      You’re forgetting a third category: YouTube watchers. This group does not have to be physicists nor sm64 speedrunners in order to watch simplified videos on both.

    • Twisted Code says:

      I see you have enough subs for a checkmark so I automatically (well, not completely automatically, but I wouldn’t put it past them to tamper with the algorithm in favor of you) get to see it in top comments even though, while a good comment, I’d probably rather see something else.
      Still, congratulations on the checkmark for whatever that’s worth

    • Stoner Bland says:

      ME TOO! also great to see you here

    • Guy says:

      Particle manipulation is the future of speed running.

  3. Ray Magini says:

    „Who should we vote for?
    Please give us a sign!“
    _Universe actually gives a sign_
    „Naaah, we‘re good bro!“

    Maria cries in *elected by the universe*

  4. Fernando says:

    I got a sense of satisfaction as seeing his reaction was kind of how I felt.
    “the main causes for acceleration was”, “ drivers pushing the accelerator thinking it was the brake”

  5. NathaNeil says:

    This just shows us that we need redundancy in our computer systems in case this happens. Also, it would be good to engineer better mechanical systems that take advantage of physics, etc and use less computer parts to avoid this problem altogether.

    • Psymøn says:

      It’s a pity that Intel has discontinued support for ECC memory in the last few generations of their mainstream CPUs. It’s almost like they’re going backwards.

    • ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) says:

      @Psymøn or maybe they developed better solutions?

    • Mike Crapse says:

      @( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) better for Intel stockholders perhaps. You have to buy “workstation” cpus to get ecc memory. AMD has ecc memory on all chips, for this exact reason. It won’t be long before and systems are known for having less blue screens(assuming drivers are on par)

    • Psymøn says:

      @( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Maybe, but did they? I haven’t heard of any.

      There is a big Intel premium if you want ECC memory support right now, and I can’t think of a reason why. They removed the support for the mainstream CPUs, so if you want ECC, you basically have to get your hands on a Xeon, and a matching chipset that also supports ECC.

      I had this challenge when building a server recently – I had to use AMD, or pay a premium to get a server board that supported a CPU that included ECC as a feature. That hardware would total over $1000 more than the equivalent mainstream hardware.

      So, unless there was a good reason for it, it remains a valid criticism of Intel. If you know a good reason, I’d be delighted to hear it.

  6. Carl Eric Doromal says:

    “Our game doesn’t have bugs, they’re just a primary target of cosmic rays!”
    – Todd Howard, probably

  7. InuKa says:

    Everyone blames me, cuz did a mistake in a coop game.
    me: not me, it was cosmic rays

  8. Abhinay Artham says:

    “Hey, why is your code failing in prod?”
    “cosmic rays”

  9. Tim Malcrov says:

    So Cyberpunk isnt “buggy”, its just “cosmically attuned”

  10. Stefan Lopuszanski says:

    “Timmy, why don’t you have your homework? Don’t tell me your dog ate it.”
    “No, teacher it was a cosmic ray bit flip that ate it!”

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