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Expert Warns: Civilian World Not Ready For Massive EMP-Caused Blackout

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the turn-off-the-lights dept.

The Military 271

schwit1 (797399) writes "An electromagnetic pulse is a burst of electromagnetic energy strong enough to disable, and even destroy, nearby electronic devices. In the first few minutes of an EMP, nearly half a million people would die. That's the worst-case scenario that author William R. Forstchen estimated would be the result of an EMP on the electric grid. 'If you do a smart plan — the Congressional EMP Commission estimated that you could protect the whole country for about $2 billion,' Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, told Watchdog.org. 'That's what we give away in foreign aid to Pakistan every year.' He said the more officials plan, the lower the estimated cost gets. 'The problem is not the technology,' Pry said. 'We know how to protect against it. It's not the money, it doesn't cost that much. The problem is the politics. It always seems to be the politics that gets in the way.'"

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Actual thought process (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805169)

Reading summary: this seems pretty stupid and a little fear-mongery for slashdot.

Click link: Fox news, figures. Usual shit reporting and lack of detail. Obamacare not mentioned anywhere in article.

Click link in article to watchdog.org: not much more detail, more zomg fear crap, still no mention of obamacare.

Read comments on watchdog.org: ok, I’m out

Not saying there isn’t something to talk about here, but linking to fox news for this kind of topic is like linking to a local news report on heartbleed. We aren’t the audience for this level of reporting.

Re:Actual thought process (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805289)

"We aren’t the audience for this level of reporting."

Slashdot isn't what it used to be. This site has become total shit over the years.

Re:Actual thought process (5, Informative)

Collective 0-0009 (1294662) | about 5 months ago | (#46805487)

Mod this AC up. WTF /.?????? Some article about devastating effects of EMP and an easy preventative measure (that I wanted to read about). But the links are to foxnews.com and watchdog.org!!!! There is no content!

Would people stop using /. and start using soylentnews.org, please!?!? I can't take this anymore!

Re:Actual thought process (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805797)

Yeah.. right... i would, but the place still does not have it's rss feeds up yet... so no, that's a no-go!

Re:Actual thought process (4, Informative)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 5 months ago | (#46805843)

Mod this AC up. WTF /.?????? Some article about devastating effects of EMP and an easy preventative measure (that I wanted to read about). But the links are to foxnews.com and watchdog.org!!!! There is no content!

Would people stop using /. and start using soylentnews.org, please!?!? I can't take this anymore!

The watchdog.org site has links to the actual paper referenced (the link in the text called estimated).

Re:Actual thought process (-1, Flamebait)

BitZtream (692029) | about 5 months ago | (#46805865)

Would people stop using /. and start using soylentnews.org, please!?!? I can't take this anymore!

Yet here you are ... using slashdot instead of soylentnews ...

If soylentnews is so great ... why are you here commenting on the articles that you dislike so much?

Not that I disagree about the shit quality of the articles, but you just look stupid when you harp on how people should use another site when you don't take your own medicine. Hypocrite?

Re:Actual thought process (-1, Flamebait)

Collective 0-0009 (1294662) | about 5 months ago | (#46806187)

Aren't you cute. As if there is only one domain you are allowed to visit.

Not that I disagree about the hypocrisy, but you just look stupid when you harp on how people should only use one site all the time. Dumbass?

Re:Actual thought process (1)

choongiri (840652) | about 5 months ago | (#46805815)

We're inception-style 3-links deep here, but this article, linked from Watchdog, is actually somewhat more interesting -- http://www.onesecondafter.com/... [onesecondafter.com]

Re:Actual thought process (2, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about 5 months ago | (#46805985)

Reading summary: this seems pretty stupid and a little fear-mongery for slashdot.

Click link: Fox news, figures. Usual shit reporting and lack of detail. Obamacare not mentioned anywhere in article.

Click link in article to watchdog.org: not much more detail, more zomg fear crap, still no mention of obamacare.

Read comments on watchdog.org: ok, I’m out

Not saying there isn’t something to talk about here, but linking to fox news for this kind of topic is like linking to a local news report on heartbleed. We aren’t the audience for this level of reporting.

So you repeatedly looked for "Obamacare" information in a story about the dangers to infrastructure posed by EMP? (And that is modded "informative"?!?!) Yes, I'll agree with your assessment that you "...aren’t the audience for this level of reporting." You don't seem to be up to that level. On top of that your post isn't really anything other than an anti-Fox News troll.

There is plenty of fodder in those stories for good discussion by anyone that is interested. You apparently aren't.

Experts: Civilians not ready for EMP-caused blackout [watchdog.org]

On multiple occasions during the past 155 years, large enough CME’s have disrupted electrical systems on Earth. One of the largest recorded solar flares happened in 1859. The CME, called the Carrington Event, disrupted telegraph systems in Europe and North America, and lit up the evening sky.

A solar flare in 1989 caused a blackout in Quebec that lasted more than nine hours, and systems as far away as New Jersey were also damaged. In 2013, Space.com ranked the solar storm that caused the blackout as the fourth worst in history.

Space.com ranked a solar storm in December 2006 as the worst, and U.S. government officials reported that the event disrupted satellite communications and GPS signals for about 10 minutes and damaged the satellite that took the picture of the storm.

A joint study published in 2013 by researchers at Lloyd’s of London and Atmospheric and Environmental Research found that a similar event today would cost the world economy $2.3 trillion.

Risk of another Carrington-class solar flare is expected to peak by early 2015. In the summer of 2012, Earth narrowly missed one estimated to have been more powerful than the Carrington Event and 35 times the size of Earth.

Re:Actual thought process (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 5 months ago | (#46806073)

Try not to bring facts to the conversation. This is about how truly evil Fox news is. He laid out the facts on how and why they are so evil so you just need to shut up and get your news from real orgs like Al Jezeera America.

Extreme panic and fear is advisable!!! (2)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about 5 months ago | (#46806175)

Because, you know: If somebody could produce a massive EMP blackout in the US, he could just as well nuke Los Angeles. So it's best to spend trillions of dollars on nuclear shelters now. And constructing a doomsday world destruction device might also be a good idea, because this would act as a deterrent against the terrorists ...

Naivete (2)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 5 months ago | (#46805191)

That's what we give away in foreign aid to Pakistan every year.

...Is he implying America is giving that aid from the kindness of their heart?

linking to fox news? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805199)

really? why not more reputable sources like infowars of CNS?

Re:linking to fox news? (4, Insightful)

Barny (103770) | about 5 months ago | (#46805233)

Well, to be fair, at this point a link to the onion would enhance the credibility of the article.

Re:linking to fox news? (2)

turp182 (1020263) | about 5 months ago | (#46805627)

It's only a pole about solar flares, but it is related:
http://www.theonion.com/articl... [theonion.com]

My favorite: "The moon never pulls shit like this.”

Re:linking to fox news? (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 5 months ago | (#46805993)

Well, to be fair, at this point a link to the onion would enhance the credibility of the article.

The story is fine. Most of the comments seem to be from the Onion.

One word: FUD (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 5 months ago | (#46805209)

See subject.

Re:One word: FUD (-1, Troll)

Zumbs (1241138) | about 5 months ago | (#46805249)

Yup. Link is to Fox News, and TFA is extremely void of actual infomation.

Re:One word: FUD (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#46805367)

I like the statement that, in the worst case scenario, 500,000 people would die in the first half hour.

That amazes me. I would think that even in 2014, it would take a couple of hours before people went into a terminal heart rhythm because they couldn't log on to Facebook. Maybe I'm just old and slow...

Re:One word: FUD (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 5 months ago | (#46805533)

Even the tinfoil-hatters I know were not predicting that many deaths in the first hour. In 3-4 days, this would be a different story because people would be re-enacting the Donner party in heavily populated areas once food trucks stopped coming... but in the first half-hour, there might be casualties like people in elevators, or a welding robot shutting down and dropping something heavy on a worker's noggin, but not these many in such short a time.

Re:One word: FUD (0)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 5 months ago | (#46805641)

Worst case scenario is every plane in the air falls to the ground like a rock. That is were the half million number gets a large bump from. It's unlikely you'd hit the entire US with an EMP at the highest point in the day for air travel, but that would be the worst case initial conditions. People who make worst case scenarios out of what is most likely to happen shouldn't be writing up worst case scenarios.

Re:One word: FUD (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#46805931)

A solar EMP could easily hit the entire US.

Of course, a solar EMP isn't likely to be big enough in localized intensity to do any damage to small things like aircraft.... but it could still damage the electric grid on the ground, which has wiring that is many miles in length and so exceptionally large voltages can be induced by such an event.

Re:One word: FUD (2)

jimbolauski (882977) | about 5 months ago | (#46806117)

Anybody requiring electronic medical devices to survive would be in danger, pacemakers (1 million Americans), insulin pumps (20 thousand Americans), dialysis machines (500 thousand Americans), respirators,... then there is medication that requires refrigeration. Commercial airplanes are built to withstand lighting strikes so they would probably survive the control tower's comms and tracking equipment may not work so there is an increased risk of crashes.

Re:One word: FUD (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#46805699)

And why would trucks stop coming into the city?
Oh, right becasue idiots think an EMP would stop most vehicles from running.
Next time you tin foil hat friends mention it, be sure to inform them that only 3% would ahve any effect at all, and only a smalle number of those would lead to a situation where a crash could occur.

So, basically, we would be in 1910 for about a month, then 1920, within a year everyone would have power again.

Would people die? yes/ Would civilization collapse? no. The internet would be running at some capacity through the whole thing.

The biggest risk is that all these ignorant survivalist cause people to panic becasue of all the FUD that have been spreading.

http://www.empcommission.org/d... [empcommission.org]

Of course, this also mean it would need to be strong enough to impact that entire continent; which one could be, coming form the Sun.

Re:One word: FUD (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 5 months ago | (#46805821)

As a devil's advocate, assuming semis used completely mechanical systems, there would be other issues. All new cars depend on a series of embedded computers, and if those fry, the engine becomes deadweight and the vehicle becomes scrap metal. Fry a large amount of cars on major arteries in and out of metro areas, then the only way to get stuff in or out are airlifts.

No, an EMP blast wouldn't wipe humanity off the earth. However, people are herd animals and panic quite easily, and when they can't get their Doritos at the local grocery store, some will take it as an excuse to riot or just panic.

The Internet will survive. In fact, that is what its original purpose was... to be able to keep communication running in case of exactly this sort of thing. However, some cities likely will be never the same place they were beforehand.

Re:One word: FUD (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 5 months ago | (#46805907)

Why would the computer circuits in trucks be exempted from an EMP? As for only having a problem for a month, you've obviously never had to deal with a natural disaster.

Re:One word: FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46806195)

Because the whole Truck body acts as a faraday cage. Which is why most cars and trucks tested by the comission didn't even stop, some had to be restarted, and a very few had to be towed for minor repairs. If your car wasn't running at the time of the EMP, nothing happened no matter the model.

Re:One word: FUD (1)

ScentCone (795499) | about 5 months ago | (#46806091)

And why would trucks stop coming into the city?

For lack of available fuel? For lack of refrigeration in the warehouses that used to store the food they deliver? For lack of whole chunks of the supply chain upstream from their knife's-edge just-in-time delivery infrastructure? Because roads would be blocked or at least hosed up for lack of traffic control? Because people would be truck-jacking anything that looked valuable?

The entire infrastructure that brings food to people right before they actually need it is incredibly fragile. The trucks, needing fuel, communications, functioning computer-controlled drive trains, and managed roadways, are just one part of it.

The biggest risk is that all these ignorant survivalist cause people to panic becasue of all the FUD that have been spreading.

The numbre of survivalist-type people is completely, utterly eclipsed by the number of people who have no clue about (or interest in) being sensible in an emergency. Look at New Orleans, where people living below sea level had days of warning, and couldn't be bothered to fill up a few jugs of drinking water or move their fleet of school buses into a useful place. And they're used to big storms down there! Now imagine lower Manhattan suddenly without any power or comms or viable transportation for weeks or more. Or the suburbs around DC. Yeah.

One other word: denial (2)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 5 months ago | (#46805943)

Yes, the article is sensationalist. While EMP could be a real problem, a bigger problem is that any attack that could generate a big enough EMP to knock out the electronics over half a continent would likely cause much worse problems, like World War III and Nuclear Winter. Even if it only costs a little bit, is it worth the effort to guard against EMP? Computer security is another area that you have to constantly ask if it's worth the trouble, and will proposed measures actually help? Yes, we've had many embarrassing security breaches, but that could be better if the alternative is to spend so much on security that it's cheaper to suffer the occasional breach. However I think the consensus is that we would spend less if we invested a little more in security.

Also, we have a lot of other, worse problems we're not doing much about either. Climate Disruption. Asteroid impact. And as for healthcare, how about the AIDS denial in South Africa?

We have also noted for some time that we have a lot of infrastructure that's vulnerable to terrorism. Terrorists could blow up a few critical bridges (or maybe just close a couple of lanes), poison water supplies (maybe by peeing in them), bomb stadiums when a big game is on, torch oil refineries and terminals, and no doubt many other things. Why hasn't this happened? Is it that they're trying but our security services are unsung heroes who have already foiled dozens of plots we never heard about? Or more like that the threat isn't that big, as the effort it takes to pull off something like that is more than is appreciated?

Re:One word: FUD (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | about 5 months ago | (#46805961)

i guess the assumption is that it's half a million people on critical life support, or otherwise relying on some contraption to keep them alive. It's certainly exaggerated, but i could see an emp crashing planes. Sure, it's not going to cause the wings to stop providing lift, but I'm pretty sure airliners have no mechanical connection between the input and the control surfaces.

I guess it could cause your car to shut down. it might start back up again, but i don't have faith in my fellow motorists abilities to all handle their cars shutting off en route.

Re:One word: FUD (3, Funny)

Megane (129182) | about 5 months ago | (#46805697)

Don't forget the people living on a... um... "government income", who suddenly won't be able to watch Jerry Springer or Dr. Oz or other fine examples of daytime television programming. Once their big-screen TV set shuts down, you know the first thing they're going to do is grab a large kitchen knife and go on a rampage killing everyone in the neighborhood.

Re:One word: FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805827)

I like the statement that, in the worst case scenario, 500,000 people would die in the first half hour.

That amazes me. I would think that even in 2014, it would take a couple of hours before people went into a terminal heart rhythm because they couldn't log on to Facebook. Maybe I'm just old and slow...

EMP and CME are actually quite different in their effects. An EMP(man made nuclear) has the potential to fry any unprotected microchip/diode(Zap, every cell phone, car(with computers(most)), computer, led/cfl light, into the trash). A CME is a different effect that would only fry devices plugged into long lengths of wire(The grid); unplugged computers, cellphones(tho not the towers), lights not plugged into an outlet etc would be fine.

The very rough estimate of 500,000 people dieing in the first half hour of an EMP could be considered fairly accurate simply by every modern passenger jet in the sky losing all computer/control. Thousands of jets falling out of the sky killing those on board, and those unlucky enough to be crashed on with falling planes; Ambulance/hospitals would essentially be having their own problems and any electronic life support would stop(killing who knows how many thousands).

http://www.quora.com/Air-Travel/What-number-of-people-are-in-the-air-flying-at-any-given-time

Re:One word: FUD (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 5 months ago | (#46805881)

I like the statement that, in the worst case scenario, 500,000 people would die in the first half hour.

That amazes me. I would think that even in 2014, it would take a couple of hours before people went into a terminal heart rhythm because they couldn't log on to Facebook. Maybe I'm just old and slow...

From the actual report being reported on, almost all commercial airlines are computer controlled an an EMP would kill those computers and the flight controls. Anybody in the air wouldn't be for long.

Re:One word: FUD (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 5 months ago | (#46805867)

Yup. Link is to Fox News, and TFA is extremely void of actual infomation.

You need to click through Fox to Watchdog Radio and their story has links to the various info being reported on in the actual story text.

Re:One word: FUD (2)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 5 months ago | (#46805385)

FUD? I didn't even know we had a Congressional EMP Commission. I feel much better now. I think we should all vote to re-elect all our congressmen so they can continue their great work. What do the rest of you dumbasses think? Wait for the next election, to get the punchline.

Re:One word: FUD (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#46805741)

They are correct, we do need to take step to prevent impact from a massive EMP from a solar burst. IT need to be part of a larger revamping of the system. DEsigned by engineers, and not by congress.

Interesting red. if you like dry technical topics:
http://www.empcommission.org/d... [empcommission.org]

Re:One word: FUD (1)

fermion (181285) | about 5 months ago | (#46805609)

Wost case scenario: when a black out occurs in NYC, 8 million people will die within the first day.

It is worst case, not probable, not something that is going to happen, not something that probably will happen, so such numbers are FUD and really are not part of the debate.

It is true that 30 years ago electronics were not so embedded in our lives. In particular the new generation does not seem to be able to solve problems for themselves. I see them on the phone having their parents solve even the most basic problems. So it may be that the kids just begin to walk into the street. More seriously, planes might fall out the sky and patients in the hospital might die.

But since much of the world is not so dependent on the electronics, I am sure that they are worried about other things, like clean water.

A chilling EMP scenario (1)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about 5 months ago | (#46805221)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O... [wikipedia.org]

The degeneration of society seems to be pretty plausible. Kind of ties in with the "post-apocalyptic skills" thread of a few weeks ago.

Re:A chilling EMP scenario (1)

CQDX (2720013) | about 5 months ago | (#46805413)

Yea but if it got rid of social media and insipid reality shows, it might be awash.

Re:A chilling EMP scenario (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 months ago | (#46805457)

I don't think the rising sea levels are fast enough for that.

Re:A chilling EMP scenario (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | about 5 months ago | (#46805801)

LOL!!!

Re:A chilling EMP scenario (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805429)

And the innumerable other "news items" about the consequences of an EMP effect from all kind of sources we get every few months...

Re:A chilling EMP scenario (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805501)

Civilization is but a thin veneer over barbarism. It wouldn't take much to reveal the true nature of the human race.

The problem is the politics. It always seems to be (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805235)

"The problem is the politics. It always seems to be the politics that gets in the way." Yeah except for the NSA, they seem to always get their way and continue their way even afterwards. Just do what they do, claim mass terror is coming all the time and people will listen and vote for it. There simple right? btw, throw is something about women and children, that helps too I hear.

Re:The problem is the politics. It always seems to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805333)

Well, the EMP guys are more persuasive.
Compare their worst-case scenario here versus that of the anti-NSA crowd: "They'll catch everybody stashing pot and pirating porn!"

Re:The problem is the politics. It always seems to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805411)

The worst case scenario of the NSA is that the government will use the information to target anyone who does something it doesn't like, such as criticize it. They'll be able to find out who to target, and they'll be able to more effectively screw them over. Do not belittle the danger of tyranny.

Suuuuure we can protect against it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805237)

Re:Suuuuure we can protect against it (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 months ago | (#46805481)

See, suddenly a good reason to buy those solar panels and that battery system for the basement...

Country not ready for huge asteroid or Godzilla (3, Informative)

deadweight (681827) | about 5 months ago | (#46805285)

I just happen to sell asteroid repellent and giant lizard repellent. If you order before midnight, you can get some ginsu knives too.

Re:Country not ready for huge asteroid or Godzilla (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 5 months ago | (#46805499)

I just happen to sell asteroid repellent and giant lizard repellent. If you order before midnight, you can get some ginsu knives too.

Exactly. The purpose of national defense is not to defend against the entire menagerie of the imagination. It is to defend against the most probable threats in the most cost efficient way possible.

Side note: Sometimes, whether we protect against everything we can imagine or not, we will get hit with an unexpected event and people will die. That is just the way it is. Quit trying to steal money from the emotionally weak.

Re:Country not ready for huge asteroid or Godzilla (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 5 months ago | (#46805953)

Well, since the sun ejecting mass that would cause country wide EMP impact, and it WILL happen sooner or later, I think this qualifies.

Rebuilding are grid is a great benefit for many reasons. Better distributed power, less reliance on outside energy, improved SCADA defenses,

Re engineering the electrical grid minimizes the impact from a whole host of externals and internal issues.
The benefit is both wide and deep.

BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805293)

I've been getting -1 for saying some posts are BS.

I'd be worried if people start giving me positive scores and nothing gets corrected.

I'm not saying it's not a bad thing. But 500K people in a few minutes? Yeah, right.

Change "die" to "get injured" and we might have a discussion. IMHO, news stories from non-GOP supporting sites also carry higher credibility.

BTW, and please correct me if I'm wrong, isn't Fox the network to which was granted the right to lie?

http://foxnewsboycott.com/resources/fox-can-lie-lawsuit/

PS: Feel free to downvote this post. I assure you I'll find it quite normal. Alas, I don't want positive scores here... I don't to be seen in bad company.

Re:BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805461)

I don't be believe it was to lie.

It was real news vs opinion programming. (everyone does it but everyone hates on Fox more than others)

a large amount of Fox is opinion programming, and personally I trust things like that as much as infomercials from most news stations. anything that slanted right left or sideways is normally not really accurate, but when they actually say this is opinion stuff, then whatever. it's opinion, say your deal and I'm not going to try to say you are telling lies and pretending it is fact.

Re:BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46806009)

I'm not saying it's not a bad thing. But 500K people in a few minutes? Yeah, right.

in EMP(not CME) 500k in first few minutes is easy; The planes flying overhead would all fall like a stone; Every computer keeping people alive would be toast(life support in hospitals etc etc..)

So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805315)

This isn't anything new. We have heard all this before.

But I damn well am against Homeland security doing anything to counter it, because they always twist things around to use it against the American people and support the fascist oligarchy.

He wants 2 more billion in pork funds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805321)

... for his pet project?
And then what? 40 billion to protect ourselves from the alien invasion?

EMP caused by *what*, exactly? (1)

kheldan (1460303) | about 5 months ago | (#46805375)

Nuclear detonation? We'd have worse things to worry about then (like ionizing radiation killing us all). Solar flare activity? How the hell would you even protect the entire planet from something that powerful in the first place? Don't we have more immediate things to worry about than something as unlikely as this?

Re:EMP caused by *what*, exactly? (1)

Swampash (1131503) | about 5 months ago | (#46805427)

Well, as the article said, God might do something.

Re:EMP caused by *what*, exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805505)

Nuclear detonation? We'd have worse things to worry about then (like ionizing radiation killing us all). Solar flare activity? How the hell would you even protect the entire planet from something that powerful in the first place? Don't we have more immediate things to worry about than something as unlikely as this?

Firing a nuke and wiping out a few million humans, as well as the nuclear fallout and aftermath takes a hell of a lot more nutjob than it does firing off an EMP.

Sure, this is probably a bit of FUD (although governments have likely been working on massive classified EMP weapons for years now), but you should probably learn to fear an EMP attack because it's a hell of a lot easier to pull the trigger on one of those from a moral standpoint.

Re:EMP caused by *what*, exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805829)

Re:EMP caused by *what*, exactly? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 5 months ago | (#46805949)

... If you were close enough for ionizing radiation to kill you ... the heat would have vaporized you well before you had enough time to figure out that the radiation might be a problem.

And we could run fiber to every home for $100bn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805379)

As we've learned, just because we spend that money doesn't mean we get shit for it in return. A few select people will just get richer pocketing that money and us commoners will continue to get shafted.

What's the range of an EMP? (5, Interesting)

swb (14022) | about 5 months ago | (#46805437)

I know it would vary based on the yield of the nuke and the relative shielding of the device, but let's say...

1) "Rogue" small-yield nuke detonated at ground-level (eg, snuck onto a shipping container or other similar delivery).

2) Standard-size ICBM delivered to target intended for ground destruction.

3) Standard sized ICBM delivered for maximum EMP yield.

Can you use a single nuke to EMP the entire continental US?

What kind of shielding is necessary to block EMPs? Is my TV in the top floor of my house junk but maybe my PC in the basement likely unaffected? Is there a shared risk from the electric grid?

Re:What's the range of an EMP? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805517)

A solar generated EMP is not a threat to your house wiring. It is only a threat to wiring that is many miles long - i.e. the commercial power grid. It will induce large currents in the grid, that will travel to your house as (I assume) your house is connected to the grid. As disconnecting your house from the grid is (I assume) not a valid solution, the answer must be protecting the grid.

Re:What's the range of an EMP? (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 5 months ago | (#46805561)

Somehow I have the feeling that if a nuke detonates, that is powerful enough to produce an EMP that causes a blackout in the entire USA, the EMP will be low on the list of things to worry about. That is, assuming you survive the initial blast long enough to even realise there is a nation-wide blackout.

Re:What's the range of an EMP? (2)

Entropius (188861) | about 5 months ago | (#46805725)

I was under the impression that it was something of an either-or: if you're trying to EMP people with a nuke, the thing to do is to set it off in the ionosphere so you create large currents.

Re:What's the range of an EMP? (3, Informative)

lagomorpha2 (1376475) | about 5 months ago | (#46805779)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

"It produced a yield equivalent to 1.4 megatons of TNT."

"The Starfish Prime electromagnetic pulse also made those effects known to the public by causing electrical damage in Hawaii, about 1,445 kilometres (898 mi) away from the detonation point, knocking out about 300 streetlights, setting off numerous burglar alarms and damaging a telephone company microwave link. The EMP damage to the microwave link shut down telephone calls from Kauai to the other Hawaiian islands"

Re:What's the range of an EMP? (1)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about 5 months ago | (#46805751)

Somehow I have the feeling that if a nuke detonates, that is powerful enough to produce an EMP that causes a blackout in the entire USA, the EMP will be low on the list of things to worry about. That is, assuming you survive the initial blast long enough to even realise there is a nation-wide blackout.

A ground-based/low altitude nuke will kill you, but not cause an EMP pulse. A very high altitude nuke will cause an EMP, and not give any radiation to the ground. While they're both fruit, it's apples and oranges.

Re:What's the range of an EMP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805817)

Trying to maximize EMP tends to contradict what you want to do to maximize damage. If you were trying to blanket the entire continental US with an EMP, this could be done with a single high altitude weapon. To maximize EMP, you want to be at a high altitude where the air is thinner, so electrons, creating by gamma rays hitting the air still there, have a longer mean free path. There are problems with two stage fusion weapons, making smaller, one stage fission weapons potentially a lot more effective if designed and/or used right.

Re:What's the range of an EMP? (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 5 months ago | (#46806157)

Actually the EMP can travel thousands of miles in the upper atmosphere and do damage. Read up on Starfish Prime and some other of the tests. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... [wikipedia.org]

Re:What's the range of an EMP? (1)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | about 5 months ago | (#46805729)

In Forstchen's book (and according to what I've read) it would take a minimum of well placed 3 nukes in the upper atmosphere to cover the continental US- basically line of sight. I believe it doesn't take a particularly big nuke.

A Faraday cage may protect your devices, but only if the cage is complete- any wires in or out could defeat the purpose and propagate the high field strength (at least high enough to do damage) inside the cage. Since the risetime of the signal is very, very fast, even a tiny crack in the cage would be enough to let in a damaging amount of energy.

Re:What's the range of an EMP? (1)

slack_justyb (862874) | about 5 months ago | (#46806063)

Can you use a single nuke to EMP the entire continental US?

No, not really. If you had an EMP that could cook via electromagnetic radiation the electrical grid of the US, you'd have worst problems than EMP caused black outs to deal with.

The whole idea of an effective EMP is to fry as much cooper/aluminum wire as one could. Think of really effective EMPs being more like lighting and less like nuclear detonations, since using a nuclear detonation is like trying to cut off the kitchen lights using a bulldozer and thirty tons of sand. If we're strictly talking EMP, lighting and all the static discharge family is your better bet.

So with that said, a lot of electrical companies are prepped for pretty bad EMPs with response teams, though I'm pretty sure most of America would find that hard to believe when their power does actually go out. One thing that is actually going to be slightly more difficult to deal with is first finding the point of failure, bring it down, and then put up the replacement. With a bomb, it's pretty easy to figure out where the failure is and the upshot is that the part to be replaced is already on the ground or missing completely so you can skip that whole removal step. Yeah, we might be talking several kilometers needing to be replaced with a nuclear device, but you know from the first second you need a couple of hundred kilometers of wire. A good EMP keeps you guessing and has a dozen or so employees walking hundreds of kilometers of wire trying to find the failure. Better sections of the US grid have more fine grain reporting points so maybe on a dozen or so kilometers need to be checked. However, the actual transmission lines are the key to a good EMP. That said, you don't need a big "bomb" to be effective, you just need coordinated attacks on major transmission lines. However, doing that alone is just more of a major disruption, rather than a major blow to the nation.

Additionally, power generating plants usually have a lot of counter measures for EMPs. So you really aren't going to take out the generators. It's silly to think that someone could without a massively coordinated attack. Especially if we're talking strictly EMP here. If we're talking a nuclear device, again, you've got bigger problems especially if you had enough to take out all the major plants in the US.

The real danger here, I guess, is consumers. Some EMPs can fry pacemakers and pretty much anyone on life support is dead in a massive EMP. However, it's not the end of society and more so, hardly the end of the US. You can take any example of when some large section of the US had power knocked out for several weeks. A massive EMP would be roughly equal to a hurricane without any advance notice that hit a large section of the US. If you were lucky enough to hit the entire US then multiply the figures in your head by that amount. However, the end of days for the US, hardily. EMP weapons in real life would cause some death but for the most part the US would be tired of martial law long before the US fell under the pressure of an EMP weapon.

The real tactical value of EMPs is not as some silver bullet, but as a disruptive force that is soon followed by other forms of attack. Additionally, you'd want your EMP to be as quiet as possible and look as much like a lighting strike as possible on the grid. Anything else and there would be way too much attention drawn that would get people ready for the obvious next strike. Thinking that an EMP would be a good primary strike is silly. Additionally, some have thought about EMPs in asymmetrical warfare contexts and while they would play a good role in the demoralizing aspect of that, it's just simpler to buy a ton of fertilizer and diesel fuel as opposed to trying to construct something massive enough to disrupt more than just a few dozen people. In other words, the reason low tech seems to win in asymmetrical warfare and terrorist operations is that you get more bang for buck so to say.

I think when you consider it carefully, those who would toss EMPs around like we are under some imminent threat of them, are doing nothing more but trying to push some agenda. EMPs just really aren't that great of a weapon and the technical curve to building ones that would be worth the time and money is just too high for your casual mayhem makers.

Just In: Paper town not ready for flame thrower... (2)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | about 5 months ago | (#46805451)

Yeah... considering *everything* has a processor in it and it not protected against EMP... Yeah. It would be a shit show.

how (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#46805473)

Details are light and scary claims heavy. I can't see half a million dying unless all the planes fall out of the sky and all hospital equipment fries. Maybe a few thousand on the roads as confused old people find themselves without power steering and brakes.

Just two billion to harden the commercial air fleet and hospital equipment? Please.

Re:how (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805573)

It sounded like they may just be talking about electrical utilities being protected for the $2 Billion, not individual appliances. Those would fall outside ofthe responsibility of government authority. It would still be devastating. Airplanes in flight, pacemakers, hospital and rescue services alone in a major metropolitan area would cause inistant deaths, but things like lack of refrigeration for food and medicines such as insulin would kill many, many more in relatively short order.

However, just protecting the infrastructure wouldn't necessarily save any of those people. I remember that something called a Faraday cage is supposed to protect electronics, but don't think I ever learned the details of how they work.

Re:how (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#46805861)

Except that those individual things wouldn't be tend to be affected by a solar generated EMP... A solar generated EMP isn't like an EMP weapon, which may do a lot of damage to only a very localized region. A solar EMP is ultimately only a threat to wiring that is on the order of multiple miles in length, such as the electric power grid. They are a threat to individual devices and appliances only to the same extent that they may be connected to a grid which is itself vulnerable.

It always seems to be the politics... (4, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 5 months ago | (#46805483)

This will be the epitaph of our civilization.

Half a million in minutes? (3, Insightful)

feedayeen (1322473) | about 5 months ago | (#46805527)

The people who die in the first few minutes are going to be those who's lives are dependent on technology. That's list contains almost exclusively those in planes and those dependent on medical devices. How's a power grid update going to protect those people? Hospitals already have backup generators and you can't do anything about fried equipment.

Car crashes (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 5 months ago | (#46806143)

The people who die in the first few minutes are going to be those who's lives are dependent on technology. That's list contains almost exclusively those in planes and those dependent on medical devices.

You forgot automobile drivers who are caught off guard by their engines stalling at the same time as those in the vehicles around them stall. There will be some car crashes and some who die as a direct result or as a result of not being able to get immediate access to adequate medical care.

If you extend "minutes" to "the first 59 minutes" then you can add more people to the list.

Interestingly, some older, non-fly-by-wire planes can be landed after a complete electrical shutdown if there is no other damage to the plane, the pilot knows what he's doing, and there is a landing strip available.

How Exactly (4, Insightful)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 5 months ago | (#46805529)

TFA is kinda small on any details, but what do you expect from Fox News. How exactly does 2 Billion "protect" everyone from an EMP weapon? Have we found something as good a what we currently use, but won't break? Old Vacuum tubes are a nice protection against a system that could go down, but you never want it to go down. You can't really use the good vacuum tubes ether so you're stuck in 1940's tech for a lot of stuff. How exactly does this 2 Billion stop the pace makers from breaking, the planes from falling, and every hospital patient from dying in those few initial hours. That money might help for long term protection by setting up a process to recover from such an event, but I don't really see anything that says it will protect us from the massive initial death toll.

Re:How Exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46806229)

Isn't it obvious? You convert the $2 billion to pennies and bury all of the power lines and other electric equipment in a layer of them so thick that the EMP can't penetrate it. Of course, $2 billion in pennies isn't enough to cover EVERYTHING, so that's when you go to Congress and tell them how well your program is working (after all, no one's EMPed the power lines yet so clearly the penny defense system is working) and that you need another several trillion dollars to begin rolling it out across the country. If they refuse, you can tell them how many new jobs have been created in the new industry of guards that has sprung up to stop people stealing the defensive penny shielding by the truckload.

$2 Billion (1)

PPH (736903) | about 5 months ago | (#46805531)

Isn't that much when you consider all of the nation's electric utilities. It'll be interesting to see how Congress spins this: As a requirement to be imposed upon each utility as a part of their normal maintenance and reliability obligations. Or as Impending Doom, requiring the immediate transfer of federal funds into the coffers of the nations' utilities. Including the investor-owned outfits.

I'm placing my bet on the "Doom" option.

Re:$2 Billion (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | about 5 months ago | (#46805995)

I don't believe the 2Billion dollar amount for a second. 2 Billion seems like a very VERY large number. Now lets do some simple math. Divide that by 50 and that is 40million available for each state. You might be able to protect Wyoming for 40 Million, but I doubt you could protect Alaska (construction costs are too high) and I doubt you could even begin to protect a city like San Jose, New York, Dallas, or Chicago for 40 Million (not even to mention the rest of those states).
The other interesting thing to think is protect against what... Yes, you could probably protect against a low yield EMP produced by a solar flare - however, there will be no protecting against a high yield nuke detonated over an area (where the EMP is the least of your worries). EMP is only one of the things that would need to be protected against - there is blast damage, fallout, fuel supplies... Yeah - if a high yield bomb goes off over the US we are all screwed, whether we spend 0 dollars, or 100Billion.

Setting aside the whole "EMP" thing... (2)

argStyopa (232550) | about 5 months ago | (#46805613)

...whether Cold War-flavored (so very 1980s) or terrorist-flavored (so very 9/11), wouldn't these relatively straightforward precautions LIKEWISE buffer us against the effects of the sorts of solar activity that randomly seems to popup every 100 years or so?

It seems that as our society becomes more and more DEPENDENT on the interwebs, we'd want to invest a little to protect that.
(Then again, one might assume that because our entire economy runs on the roadways, we'd want to invest in them too...)

Yet the Republicans are too wedded to utter prohibition on taxation, and the Democrats are too busy taking the tax revenues we do get and pouring great gobs of cash onto various interest groups for either of them give a shit about the ACTUAL public weal.

Only $2 billion? What's stopping them? (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#46805647)

Does anyone know what the so-called "politics" are that get in the way of just going and doing it, or is this doublespeak for the idea that it's going to be hard and not particularly rewarding work that nobody ultimately really wants to do?

Re:Only $2 billion? What's stopping them? (2)

mbone (558574) | about 5 months ago | (#46805757)

"Politics" in this case means that they haven't convinced the government that this money needs to be spent on them. Given that in these cases the government tends to have a bias towards spending money, I would regard that as telling.

"Civilian World" really isn't ready for anything (1)

PseudoCoder (1642383) | about 5 months ago | (#46805675)

This "civilian world" is sitting fat, dumb and happy watching reality TV shows about the people who are more ready than they are. Those "crazy preppers" who are trying to prepare for such things are probably going to see the zombie masses looking not for a pound of flesh, but for the food and supplies that they made fun of preppers for stockpiling.

Re:"Civilian World" really isn't ready for anythin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805847)

This "civilian world" is sitting fat, dumb and happy watching reality TV shows about the people who are more ready than they are. Those "crazy preppers" who are trying to prepare for such things are probably going to see the zombie masses looking not for a pound of flesh, but for the food and supplies that they made fun of preppers for stockpiling.

You've made one rather large assumption about the "civilian world', at least in the US. The masses are armed.

When it comes to stockpiling, one must wonder what will ultimately be more valuable in the apocalypse. Food, or bullets to take or defend food.

Uh Huh (1)

mbone (558574) | about 5 months ago | (#46805731)

If people start exploding megaton class warheads 200 km above our soil, I would say that we have other things to worry about.

Or, to put it another way, that $ 2 billion is being spent, and it's being spent several times over, just not here.

National Enquirer buys Slashdot. (1)

retech (1228598) | about 5 months ago | (#46805755)

I guess my grandma reads /. now. Since that seems to be the demographic you're targeting.

There was once a time that I got about 65% of my news from /.. I enjoyed the topics and the discussions were often as informative as the stories, sometimes more. This is just not the case anymore. /. has degraded to just an old grocery store check out line rag. Very little actual content. Scare tactic headlines. You know the drill.

Not Realistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805781)

Some people live in the clouds...which is exactly where an EMP would need to be to be effective.

If that were to happen, it would mean someone with a delivery system fired on the US and there would be a lot more on the way. Those latter ones would physically take out the infrastructure, so protecting from EMP is kind of redundant.

Context is critical when assessing vulnerability...otherwise you just sound like an idiot that needs to be fired.

Fox News (2)

edibobb (113989) | about 5 months ago | (#46805835)

Fox News hysteria, now available on slashdot!
Starfish prime [wikipedia.org] is interesting, though.

Doooooom ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46805891)

I don't know which is more amazing
- Republi-tarian Fox News bitching because we're not spending *enough* on public infrastructure, coordinated by the Fed, or
- That anybody's surprised that Fox is running an article to appeal to apocalypse-hungry preppers.

Nature (1)

willy everlearn (82796) | about 5 months ago | (#46805901)

I really expect another Carrington Event (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrington_event/) first. No enemy necessary but the results would be the same.

Why? (1)

koan (80826) | about 5 months ago | (#46805947)

Would .5 million people die?

Stop bitching about Fox News... (2, Interesting)

PseudoCoder (1642383) | about 5 months ago | (#46805989)

If NBCCBSABCCNN are busy abusing their "Breaking News" banners and fauning over Michelle Obama's dress, then the alternatives are where you're going to hear about this stuff. In fact, The Blaze and Drudge have been linking to this stuff for a long time because for the people who actually care about this stuff this isn't news.

I'm ready! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46806097)

Bring it on, I have real paper books to read. Zap all those devices. I don't care.

Actual Link (1)

geeper (883542) | about 5 months ago | (#46806137)

Here is the link [onesecondafter.com] to the actual article without going through Fox and Watchdog.

large solar storm can do this too (2)

peter303 (12292) | about 5 months ago | (#46806159)

The 1859 solar flare [wikipedia.org] resulted in anaurora visible at the equator. It damaged telegraph lines and lighning rods. If it happened today it would be expected to fry most power line transformers and cell phone towers. there are only 5% enough spare transformers at most. Plus industrial production could have come to a halt.

This extra radiation appears to have created extra C14 from atmospheric nitrogen) at that time. Scientist have exampled tree rings, ice cores, and lake sediments for other such super storms. There is a hint of one in 774 AD [wordpress.com] . The historical records and istopes have not been studied enough to determine the recurrance of large storms.

Why is slashdot reporting FUD? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46806205)

The blurb clearly states "an EMP on the electric grid." Not airplanes, not cars. Essentially, Fox (ahem) "News" is spreading the BS that this guy wrote that a blackout would kill half a million people, even though we've seen blackouts of this magnitude in our lifetimes (the 2003 Northeast blackout). Are some people's memories so short and brains so stupid they've already forgotten that event and the aftermath? Here's a quick refresher: 55 million people affected. 11 deaths. ELEVEN. There's a reason Jon Stewart refers to Fox News as Bullsh** Mountain.

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