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EMP March 16, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in inventions, science fiction, web & computers.

I was meandering about the web the other day and came across this on hardening data sites to withstand direct nuclear attack. Well, within 2 or 3 miles. A direct hit is going to pretty much destroy anything, if not from the initial vaporization, then from the shock wave. Years back, I spent some time thinking about how to take out NORAD. A titanium sheath around a big enough bomb coming in at several thousand miles an hour would cut through the rock and deliver the bomb mid-mountain.

But that was then and I’ve heard NORAD has moved. Probably to a condo in downtown Detroit.

The notion of a nuke going off and frying the electronic infrastructure of the US is pretty scary. I haven’t thought on how realistic it is but it makes for good thriller-esque fiction. Even if you have your computer all secure under a lead shield, it’s got to connect to something unless you just want to use it like a fancy typewriter (and I do)–but I want the Internet connection, too).

Since everything from our cars to our missiles depend so heavily on electronic components, such a blast frying our grid is kinda scary. Wouldn’t matter if it came from a CME or was artificial. Worse yet would be the electricity going.

But I’m not worrying. I still have the Royal typewriter (circa 1940 model) I learned to type on. OK, to hunt and peck on. And I know what carbon paper is, even if I currently don’t have any.



1. insightstraight - March 19, 2010

I have war-gamed this, and not just out of casual anxiety or intellectual curiosity.

I work 38 miles from home, the drive taking me past the I-25/I-40 interchange, Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia Labs, and that underground storage site for things that messily go boom under the Manzanos. Each of these locales a prime target for nasty hostilities, or a location where a messy accident would shut down transportation so as to keep me from driving home.

As part of this ponderance I have asked myself, “So what if one of those mysterious devices they are always working on out there at the base malfunctioned and set off an EMP? Killed all the cars? How would I get home? *Could* I get home?”

Yes, I could get home — I am physically quite capable of hiking the mileage back to the house. But to do it as comfortably and safely as possible, through both urban and rural terrain, amid great disruption…?

Once I war-gamed the situation, I put together a kit which is ever in my car. Broken-in boots, a stout walking stick, and a backpack with basic supplies.

Do I expect such a disruption to happen? No. Do I *want* such a disruption to happen? Certainly not. I like my comforts and hiking for 2 days through shambling zombies (previously upright citizens) makes for a good movie but a stressful time.

I have often encountered people who say, when they learn that I have made such preparations, “Wow, you must really be worried.” To which I answer, “Not at all — I worried about it once, and have made preparations against those eventualities. Perhaps *you* should worry!”

I know people who have such blithe and unthinking confidence in the continuance of their everyday conveniences that they don’t even carry a coat in their car during winter driving. This is always a bit startling to me — what, they will get someone else to change their flat tire out there in the cold wind? (Probably.)

Having basic supplies — some food, water, warm clothing, shelter material — in the car seems just good common sense to me. Not just for the extreme events under discussion, but for more everyday things like breaking down along a New Mexico back road which might only see 2 cars a day (and no cellphone signal).

As you mentioned, so many of our everyday conveniences — and, more importantly, fallbacks — are predicated upon electronics that for many people it is unthinkable how life would be if the electronics were fried/unavailable. But just a bit of thought suggests ways we could make it easier should that unthinkable happen.

bobv451 - March 19, 2010

Your best bet getting home might be up thru Golden and Santa Fe if anything happened at the base because it would likely take out Tijeras Canyon.

Don’t think the big bangs are in the Manzanos anymore but buried at the juncture of the two runways at the airport (really)

The problems with “just in time” supply chain are going to become more noticeable in coming years, I suspect.

insightstraight - March 21, 2010

Shhhh — you’re giving away my secret route, cutting through the wilds to avoid panicked citizenry. I’d rather deal with a grumpy bear than someone whose Tuesday Night TV watching has been disrupted — “What do you mean I can’t nuke my hotpockets?”

But a bushwhacking path is all the more reason to have some sturdy clothes and supplies on hand.

I have many times seen Tijeras Canyon closed for weather, and I am still not certain as to the criteria they use. Sometimes they let through local residents, other times they turn away everyone trying to head up the Canyon. Then a few minutes later they let everyone through… Those in charge of the decisions seem have less information than do the average folks with cellphones. I heard a fellow interviewed the other day — he was stuck in snow overnight on I-40 outside of Moriarty, could get little information from authorities/radio, had to call a friend in Missouri to look up NM conditions for him on the Internet… Good thing he had a cellphone signal there.

Again, the unpredictability of closures of the Canyon is another reason to have some basic supplies on hand. And always topping off the gas task — no gas stations in the Canyon itself.

Was it Trotsky who said, “No civilization is ever more than three meals away from revolution”? Well, few cities have more than three days of food supplies on hand — the constant flow of just-in-time supply is that narrow. Wouldn’t take much to disrupt it, including the EMP with which you started this discussion. (Hey! Bob released an EMP! Eewwww!)

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