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It is known that there exist a number of radioisotopes of elements commonly used in computer systems. Is the decay of these materials known to affect device performance over time, or is its impact so small as to be immeasurable?

This question occurred to me last night as a friend "cleaned the N64 cartridge" by blowing on the contacts. I've also heard that cosmic ray collisions regularly affect satellite computation. There are a number of "material parameters" to computational science we, as developers and computer scientists, rarely consider.

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    $\begingroup$ yes, it is known, and the impact can be estimated or (in some cases) directly measured. such errors will become much more important as we move to the so-called "exascale" systems with very small transistor sizes (think 10-15 nm) and very high density. $\endgroup$ – GoHokies Dec 17 '17 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ see also this wikipedia link $\endgroup$ – GoHokies Dec 17 '17 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. This will probably affect optoelectronic computers as well, due to spontaneous emission of photons in passively-energized systems. One of the facts of life in the cosmos :) $\endgroup$ – user26339 Dec 17 '17 at 21:14

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