The Very Real Threat of EMPs

October 27, 2010 -

Only in video games and sci-fi movies would we expect our worlds (communications, electronics - basically all the modern trappings of our society) to come to a crashing halt due to either a natural or weapons-based Electromagnetic pulse caused by a major solar storm or an A-bomb. Sure, it all sounds like the backdrop from a Call of Duty or Medal of Honor game (or one of those crazy History Channel specials on 2012), but some politicians are taking the threat seriously. USA Today has a fascinating article on the subject. We cover the parts we like.

An Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a massive burst of atmospheric electricity. Whether powered by geomagnetic storms, nuclear blasts, or a new generation of weapons supposedly developed by military types around the world, the result equals burned out power lines and electrical equipment - a society without power.

Politicians believe the threat is very real; former House speaker Newt Gingrich told a Heritage Foundation audience last year that we are not ready for such an occurrence:

"We are not today hardened against this," he said. "It is an enormous catastrophic threat."

Meanwhile, a bill called the "Grid Act" (PDF) passed in the House of Representatives awaits approval in the Senate. The bill "amend(s) the Federal Power Act to protect the bulk-power system and electric infrastructure critical to the defense of the United States from cybersecurity and other threats and vulnerabilities."

"The electric grid's vulnerability to cyber and to other attacks is one of the single greatest threats to our national security," Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said in June when he introduced the bill to the House of Representatives.

So what are the solutions? Here is an important excerpt on that:

Although the physics underlying the geomagnetic and nuclear pulses are fundamentally the same, they have different solutions. A geomagnetic storm essentially produces a long-building surge dangerous to power lines and large transformers. A nuclear blast produces three waves of pulses.

Limiting the risk from the geomagnetic-storm-type threat involves stockpiling large transformers and installing dampers, essentially lightning rods, to dump surges into the ground from the grid. Even if such steps cost billions, the numbers come out looking reasonable compared with the $119 billion that a 2005 Electric Power Research Institute report estimated was the total nationwide cost of normal blackouts every year.

Remember when we only had to worry about nuclear war and pandemics? Yeah, those were good times. Want to learn about some games and movies that use EMP as a core element? Check out this Wikipedia entry.

Posted in

Comments

Re: The Very Real Threat of EMPs

Scientific fallacies aside, the best way to protect our technology from EMP is to de-centralize our power production. Setting up small, numerous local power sources rather than big central plants would help mitigate the risk of EMP devastation.

-Greevar

-Greevar

"Paste superficially profound, but utterly meaningless quotation here."

Re: The Very Real Threat of EMPs

Realisticly, no EMP, even from the Sun, would knock out power to the entire contenient, which is what would need to happen to shut off power to the entire United States since Canada shares the same power with us. 

What always bothered me about that particular scene in MW2 is that the power outage cascades from southern New York down to Jacksonville, FL.  Other than completely ignoring the Northeast power grid that we all learned about when New York went dark several years ago, the cascade effect would not grow that large.  Our very infastructure is set up to shut down if any surge is detected coming down the line to prevent any damage to the power plant/station. 

Not to mention that most of the newest trunk lines are shieled to protect from anything but a direct blast, so phone service would be available in a lot of places near the blast.

Oh yeah, and a shockwave from a nuke would not spread over 1000 miles to destory the ISS.  Sorry, either it is low enough in the atmosphere to cause the EMP effect and spread over quite a ways, or it was high enough for the explosion not to react to anything.  I guess the Infinity Ward people just watched Independence Day and assumed that is how a nuke worked in outer space.

http://www.deathvanquished.blogspot.com

Re: The Very Real Threat of EMPs

Or, you could just hide a tesla coil in the computer lab closet like some joker did for a senior prank.

 

Re: The Very Real Threat of EMPs

"EMP Electromagnetic pulse" -- wow.  I frequently hear single-word tautologies like "ATM machine" and "PIN number", and occasionally even a two-word one like "for your FYI", but I do believe this is the first time I've ever seen a triple-redundancy.

Re: The Very Real Threat of EMPs

While it could have used a couple of commas, the intent was to define the acronym. I think that was clear for most intelligent people.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: The Very Real Threat of EMPs

And why is that significant?  Do Tautologies cause EMPs?

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

Will Target Australia sell the next GTA game upon its release?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
james_fudgeSo what people are saying is PIXELS is a great movie to see if your are comatose.07/30/2015 - 9:47am
ZippyDSMleePixels is something to shut your brain off with and just try and enjoy. The rest of films not so much. LOL07/30/2015 - 8:49am
MechaTama31Child of Light looks interesting, but not "I'm willing to put Uplay on my PC" interesting.07/30/2015 - 7:51am
MattsworknameOn the subject of movies and video games, if you haven't seen it and your a street fighter fan, run down a copy fo Street fighter assassins fist. Its the best video game movie made, and its by a small studio07/30/2015 - 5:37am
Goth_SkunkSee, i didn't enjoy the Transformers films, but I don't really know why. I watched them for the sake of watching them, but I doubt I'd ever have a craving to watch them again. With Pixels, I would.07/30/2015 - 5:12am
Sora-ChanOn topics of movies in general: I usually find the argument of "shut down your brain and enjoy the movie" argument to be annoying. It was something that I was told to do when it came to the transformer movies from Bay, and it irked me when people said it.07/30/2015 - 5:03am
Goth_SkunkI did. And I didn't care much for it, but it was the reason I went and saw the film. The entire thing can be summed up in one sentence: "I didn't like it! If you pay to watch this movie, you're a big smelly poopy-head!"07/30/2015 - 4:56am
MattsworknameI think everyone here has Crono, we just don't agree with him or how he handles himself or his reviews, but thats us07/30/2015 - 4:55am
CronosonicThere are far worse problems Moviebob pointed out about Pixels than it not being 'serious'. Did you even /watch/ his review?07/30/2015 - 4:35am
MattsworknameAlso, newbusters verison. http://newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/tom-blumer/2015/07/29/venezuela-orders-food-producers-divert-output-empty-state-stores07/30/2015 - 4:25am
MattsworknameNot game related, but wow, Were are all those people who sand the praises of venezula now http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/L/LT_VENEZUELA_FOOD_SHORTAGES?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT07/30/2015 - 4:25am
Goth_Skunk... is one you can acknowledge, then you'll enjoy it.If you CAN'T acknowledge such a mindset, then you must be MovieBob. Welcome to GP. :^)07/30/2015 - 4:13am
Goth_SkunkIf you watch Pixels expecting it to be Film Of The Year, or if you expect a Best Actor performance from Adam Sandler, then yes, you will be disappointed. If the idea that a film can simply be fun and entertaining without needing to be serious...07/30/2015 - 4:12am
MattsworknameIm kinda torn goth, on one hand , the effects look cool, but im not sold on sandler as the star07/30/2015 - 3:54am
Goth_SkunkBut did the film specfically take elements of Space Invaders and dedicate scenes and acts to it? No, they didn't.07/30/2015 - 3:49am
Goth_SkunkThe whole film is kinda centered around a Space Invaders theory.07/30/2015 - 3:49am
MattsworknameInfo: What dictionary says and what people today use that word for are not the same07/30/2015 - 3:30am
Sora-ChanPixels was a movie I was interested in for a week. A week after it got announced it was announced Sandler was in it and i went "... naw"07/30/2015 - 3:13am
Infophile@Goth: Apparently you're in the minority, from what reviews I've seen. Haven't seen it myself though, so I can't say how valid the reviews are. One question: Did they do Space Invaders at any point?07/30/2015 - 3:05am
Goth_SkunkJust came back from Pixels. Loved it. I knew I would.07/30/2015 - 2:33am
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician