Solar flares are horrifyingly dangerous, but they can influence ELECTIONS too

    Did you know that solar flares can influence elections on Earth? Know about this weird coincidence between solar flares and fluctuating votes.

    By: HT TECH
    | Updated on: Oct 14 2022, 19:17 IST
    Solar flare
    Know how these dangerous solar flares can change election results. (NASA)
    Solar flare
    Know how these dangerous solar flares can change election results. (NASA)

    Earth has been bombarded with solar particles with increasing frequency these past few months. High-speed solar flares hurled by the Sun bring the risk of Geomagnetic storms. Although NASA has made it clear that solar flares cannot physically harm humans, they can still cause damage to power grids, cause blackouts, interrupt radio signals, spark internet outages and auroras and more. But did you know that solar flares have been known to mess with the voting machines and sway election results? No, we're not kidding.

    According to a presentation given by Bharat Bhuva, a professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston on February 17, 2017, space weather, solar flares in particular, meddled with votes during elections, despite not being legally registered to vote!

    According to the information provided by Vanderbilt University to phys.org, when cosmic rays strike Earth, they release various particles like energetic neutrons, muons, pions and alpha particles. Although these particles do not affect the human body, they also pass-through integrated circuits and cause damage, often changing the data stored in the electronic devices' memory.

    This event, called the Single Event Upset or SEU, is nearly impossible to detect due to the energy particles not causing any physical damage. Therefore, there is no way to characterize the malfunction.

    According to phys.org, Bhuva explained in his presentation, “When you have a single bit flip, it could have any number of causes. It could be a software bug or a hardware flaw, for example. The only way you can determine that it is a single-event upset is by eliminating all the other possible causes.”

    There is enough scientific evidence to back these claims, Bhuva reported. In a 2003 election held in the Belgian town of Schaerbeek, an electronic voting machine added 4096 to one candidate. Although this went unnoticed at the time, the error was later traced back to a single bit flip in the machine's register, which gave the candidate more votes than possible.

    When a solar flare hits the Earth, the radio communications and the power grid is affected when it hits the Earth's magnetic field.

    So, next time there i an election and results are being counted by voting machine, make sure to check on solar flare activity, just in case.

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    First Published Date: 14 Oct, 18:49 IST
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