A British Teenager Finds an Error in NASA's Space Station Data

A 17-year-old British schoolboy spots an error in the data from International Space Station's radiation sensors.

International Space Station (ISS)
The International Space Station (ISS) is seen from NASA space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation May 29, 2011 in space. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)


A 17-year-old British student, Miles Solomon, spotted an error in NASA’s data while working on a school physics project. What’s more, the teenager figured out that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were not working properly. The sensors were actually capturing “false data”.  

Once he found the error, Solomon emailed NASA, which said it “appreciated” the feedback and even invited him to help fix the problem. 

Solomon’s Tapton Secondary School in Sheffield was taking part in a project from Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) which provided the students with real scientific data from NASA’s radiation readings. The measurements were of radiation levels from British astronaut Tim Peak’s stint on the ISS in December 2015, taken every 4 seconds. The students were encouraged to look for anomalies and promising patterns.

When he first got the readings, Miles right away had a plan. 

'What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds,' he told BBC Radio 4. “I went straight to the bottom of the list and I went for the lowest bits of energy there were.”


Miles Solomon. Credit: BBC

What he spotted is that on occasions when the sensors didn’t detect any radiation, they instead recorded a negative reading of -1. As you cannot have a negative for energy, Solomon and his teacher got in touch with NASA. 

"It's pretty cool", said Miles. "You can tell your friends, I just emailed Nasa and they're looking at the graphs that I've made."

It turned out the teen noticed an error that NASA didn’t fully see for 15 months. The space scientists said they did actually know of the error’s existence but thought it happened once or twice a year rather than many times a day.

The discovery of the error was welcomed by NASA and IRIS, which created the opportunity to get “real science in the classroom”. They hope this kind of cooperation can inspire students to become scientists.  

Miles is very excited, although his friends might be less enthused.

"They obviously think I'm a nerd," shared the self-deprecating student. "It's really a mixture of jealousy and boredom when I tell them all the details."

He also doesn’t see the situation as a case of embarrassment for the world’s premiere space program.

"I'm not trying to prove Nasa wrong. I want to work with them and learn from them,” Solomon added.

How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

Listen: Scientists re-create voice of 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy

Scientists used CT scanning and 3D-printing technology to re-create the voice of Nesyamun, an ancient Egyptian priest.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists printed a 3D replica of the vocal tract of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest whose mummified corpse has been on display in the UK for two centuries.
  • With the help of an electronic device, the reproduced voice is able to "speak" a vowel noise.
  • The team behind the "Voices of the Past" project suggest reproducing ancient voices could make museum experiences more dynamic.
Keep reading Show less

Dark matter axions possibly found near Magnificent 7 neutron stars

A new study proposes mysterious axions may be found in X-rays coming from a cluster of neutron stars.

A rendering of the XMM-Newton (X-ray multi-mirror mission) space telescope.

Credit: D. Ducros; ESA/XMM-Newton, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Surprising Science
  • A study led by Berkeley Lab suggests axions may be present near neutron stars known as the Magnificent Seven.
  • The axions, theorized fundamental particles, could be found in the high-energy X-rays emitted from the stars.
  • Axions have yet to be observed directly and may be responsible for the elusive dark matter.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Put on a happy face? “Deep acting” associated with improved work life

    New research suggests you can't fake your emotional state to improve your work life — you have to feel it.

    Credit: Columbia Pictures
    Personal Growth
  • Deep acting is the work strategy of regulating your emotions to match a desired state.
  • New research suggests that deep acting reduces fatigue, improves trust, and advances goal progress over other regulation strategies.
  • Further research suggests learning to attune our emotions for deep acting is a beneficial work-life strategy.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Surprising Science

    World's oldest work of art found in a hidden Indonesian valley

    Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.

    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast