When In Doubt… Blame It On Neutrinos

This weeks blog post comes from years of dealing with that inevitable “why” question that just can’t be answered. For example, why did my data get corrupt, why didn’t I get that email, why do I get a flicker and (insert random interval here). Most of the time these are a combination of factors like a power outage, failed update, poor programming, poor security, and the one EVERYONE loves to hear “user error”.

Most of these issues we have limited control over, sure we could give everyone a battery backup at there desk and stagger updates to avoid most of those issues(like postponing updates). As for end user training, well the old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink” applies here, as cliche as it might be. Those users that want to learn will, those that don’t or won’t, most if the time, will grow more frustrated and distrustful. That doesn’t mean you can’t change tactics, but sometimes it’s just in their nature. I’ll go over dealing with crank customers in another post(and there are stories abound here).

Now we get to those that believe there is “always” an answer to the why question. Most of the time a typical answer like “it could be(insert reason here)” or “it’ll take longer to find out than to fix the problem” will suffice for most. Having worked in electronics and manufacturing I’d explain to those more technically inclined, or less excepting of a traditional answer, that not all electronics are created exactly the same and that that was the reason for the failure(see this answer on Silicon Lottery or this video on CPU Binning). This works for most end users/customers.

What does this have to do with Neutrino’s? Over the years my favorite explanation for those that just absolutely had to have a scientific and definitive answer was that cosmic rays, neutrons, or neutrino’s cause the issue. Most of the time this either satisfied their need for an explanation or they can’t prove it’s bs and decide to let it go. A few years after I started using this in those rare situations I found an article on the Los Alamos National Laboratory explaining an SEU(Single-Event Upset) where a high energy neutron hitting silicon can flip a bit with potentially catastrophic results.

So to wrap up for this week, remember when analogies and common explanations fail, blame neutrinos. Because when the universe decides to give you a rough day, what can you do?

Next week I’ll go over how to handle the customer that just wants to be mad, and maybe even get a thank you for it.

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