Teenager spots error in NASA radiation data

Teenager spots error in NASA radiation data

British astronaut Tim Peake Cover credit: European Space Agency/Flickr

British astronaut Tim Peake Cover credit: European Space Agency/Flickr

A British teenager has come to attention for pointing out a flaw in NASA’s data which is collected from the International Space Station (ISS). Seventeen-year-old Miles Soloman, who attends Tapton School in Sheffield, was participating in the TimPix project.

Organized by the Institute for Research in Schools after British astronaut Tim Peake took up residence in the ISS, the project allows young people and schools to take an active role in the research, focusing mainly on radiation levels in space. In turn, this creates an understanding of how it affects the human body in space, something which Peake is exposed to.

The project uses a tool called the Timepix hybrid silicon pixel detector to measure radiation particles from a variety of sources.

Soloman spotted that data collected was in the negatives toward the bottom of the set in Microsoft Excel. Understanding that you couldn’t have negative energy, he immediately contacted NASA alongside his physics teacher James O’Neill.

“They thought they had corrected for this,” Professor Lawrence Pinsky of the University of Houston said, commenting on the find. “The problem is that some of the algorithms which converted the raw data were slightly off, and therefore when they did the conversion, they wound up with a negative number.”

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Seeing the error, which had been occurring several times a day, NASA thanked the aspiring science student who along with his fellow peers is also looking at genetic research into cardiovascular disease and analyzing the atmosphere, taking students beyond the ISS in the TimPix project.

As for Miles himself, he’s aiming to continue his studies of science. When asked about his find, he said: “I’m not trying to prove NASA wrong, I’m not trying to say I’m better, because obviously I’m not — they’re NASA,” he said. “I want to work with them and learn from them.”

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