Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Space Science

NASA Warns of Potential "Huge Space Storm" In 2013 464

Posted by kdawson
from the after-twenty-twelve-who-cares dept.
Low Ranked Craig writes "Senior space agency scientists believe the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes 'from a deep slumber' sometime around 2013. In a new warning, NASA said the super storm could hit like 'a bolt of lightning' and could cause catastrophic consequences for the world's health, emergency services, and national security — unless precautions are taken. Scientists believe damage could extend to everyday items such as home computers, iPods, and sat navs. 'We know it is coming but we don't know how bad it is going to be,' said Dr. Richard Fisher, the director of NASA's Heliophysics division. 'I believe we're on the threshold of a new era in which space weather can be as influential in our daily lives as ordinary terrestrial weather.' Fisher concludes. 'We take this very seriously indeed.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA Warns of Potential "Huge Space Storm" In 2013

Comments Filter:
  • Scary (Score:2, Redundant)

    by sonicmerlin (1505111)
    Like a giant EMP bomb.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ThinkWeak (958195)
      So would something like an EMP destroy pace makers, artificial hearts, etc.? I know the typical discussion is in regards to someone not being able to listen to their Jason Mraz album on their iPod, but would something like this essentially kill anyone with an artificial/bionic enhancement that controls life support?
      • Re:Scary (Score:4, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:33AM (#32576584)

        So would something like an EMP destroy pace makers, artificial hearts, etc.? I know the typical discussion is in regards to someone not being able to listen to their Jason Mraz album on their iPod, but would something like this essentially kill anyone with an artificial/bionic enhancement that controls life support?

        No. My titanium ribs act as a Faraday Cage and protect my electronic innards. So after the disaster happens.... I'LL BE BACK.

      • Re:Scary (Score:5, Informative)

        by vlm (69642) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:01AM (#32576830)

        So would something like an EMP destroy pace makers

        Pacemakers are installed inside a poorly constructed Faraday cage. That being your highly conductive body. Pacemakers historically have occasionally gotten all wound up in high RF fields, but aside from folks working at high power UHF TV station transmitters it has not been a serious issue.

        You can "short out" and essentially blow the fuses of a pacemaker. Of course it takes more than enough power to hopelessly electrocute someone, in fact depending on the design you pretty much need to cook them like one of those electric hot dog cookers.

        Its pretty much the usual useless scaremongering B.S.

        would something like this essentially kill anyone with an artificial/bionic enhancement that controls life support?

        Could something worse than we have ever experienced, result in deaths? Just speaking generally, not about any specific threat, and taking a wild guess, I'd say that's a good solid maybe, unless my salary depending on raising money by saying yes, in which case I'd say yes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FTWinston (1332785)
        Big transformers in the power grids will be the main victims. And all of us that rely on having a power grid, of course.
        As long as you keep a spare car battery to recharge any bionics that require that, and provided that the outage doesn't last too long, I'd expect something like a pacemaker to be just fine.
        GPS and cars are mentioned because its the satellites themselves that are vulnerable. The "ipods etc" stuff in the telegraph, assuming there's any reasoning behind their inclusion in the article at all
        • Re:Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:29AM (#32577198) Journal

          Big transformers in the power grids will be the main victims.

          OMG... Won't someone think of the Decepticons!?!

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by FTWinston (1332785)
            Dood, when decepticons get at a working power grid, it quickly stops being a working power grid.
        • Re:Scary (Score:5, Informative)

          by sortius_nod (1080919) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:52AM (#32577522) Homepage

          I seem to recall that the 1859 solar storm caused the telegraph (the service not the trashy paper) network to run without batteries for some time after it.

          Who knows, maybe this will trigger new science for harnessing solar flares/space storms.

        • Re:Scary (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Bakkster (1529253) <Bakkster...man@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @09:17AM (#32577816)

          Big transformers in the power grids will be the main victims. And all of us that rely on having a power grid, of course. As long as you keep a spare car battery to recharge any bionics that require that, and provided that the outage doesn't last too long, I'd expect something like a pacemaker to be just fine.

          The issue you refer is to ground loop currents in the electric grid. The storm creates a difference in the ground voltage between different transformers. This creates a massive current that blows out the transformer.

          The real issue is that the devices to prevent this (basically huge resistors) are expensive, rare, and take a long time to manufacture. And when we suddenly have half of the transformers in the US explode at once, the outage will not be brief. There is not a large stock of transformers sitting in warehouses as replacements. Transformers take even longer to produce than those resistors, and we would be waiting months before we could repair most of the grid. That's a huge issue.

  • Around 2013 (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Around 2013? So what, maybe December 2012...

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:25AM (#32577150) Homepage Journal

      after the Sun wakes 'from a deep slumber' sometime around 2013

      I think they're saying exactly December 21, 2012, the Winter Solstice and end of the thirteenth b'ak'tun, the ending of the Great Year, the Age of Pisces, the Platonic Cycle, Barack Obama's first term.

      I'm convinced that there are a lot of powerful (and not so powerful) interests are using "2012" as a tabula rasa onto which to draw their agendas. And I'm not just talking about crazy new agers.

      The US intelligence service has been toying with manipulating belief systems since the end of WWII. They've looked at (and maybe used) the UFO phenomena, Egyptian mysticism, Christianity, parapsychology and of course, psychotropic drugs as ways to influence events around the world and here at home. I'm not saying they believe in these things, but that they believe they can use these things, or rather, that they can manipulate other peoples' belief in these things. MK-ULTRA, Project Monarch, astrology, Andrija Puharich and the "Council of Nine" (involving Arthur M. Young of Bell Helicopters and Lee Harvey Oswald's wife by the way) were some nascent efforts in this area, and "2012" may be their pièce de résistance.

      There's just something that feels to me really manipulative about all this "2012" mishegas.

      [I just realized I quoted Latin, French and Yiddish in this post, which while not my record, is pretty good for 8 o'clock on a tuesday morning.]

  • by DigitalReverend (901909) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:17AM (#32576448)
    That IS impressive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Splab (574204)

      Technically they can still be proven correct, no one knows when the suns next big fart is coming up (the shiny one, not the paper version, they shit crap out all the time :D - and are probably an even greater danger to society)

  • Invest in FRDY! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by noidentity (188756) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:18AM (#32576460)
    I seriously wonder whether I should purchase a few crate-sized Farady cages [wikipedia.org] in preparation, and ensure I have non-magnetic backups of everything.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by capnchicken (664317)

      Non-magnetic? Like what? Writable CD-R's are only good for about two years. (not snarky, just curious)

      • Re:Invest in FRDY! (Score:4, Informative)

        by daid303 (843777) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:29AM (#32576546)

        Flash disks are non-magnetic. But if you want something that survives better then I suggest something like engravings on stone tablets.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:31AM (#32576564)
          Number-memorizing Chinese people have been known to survive well. Unless they work for Foxconn, that is.
        • Anything that includes circuitry would be affected (destroyed) by magnetic storms from the sun. In 1859, telegraph wires visibly sparked across the United States due to a geomagnetic solar storm, the largest recorded in history. I just hope my phone in my pocket doesn't take my leg off.
      • if we only have large activity in 2013, a single set of optical media would survive this, to be read in again in 2014

        Also, my computer is pretty much a large steel cage, with the magnetic platters encased in another thick layer of metal, how vulnerable would a regular tower be?

        • Re:Invest in FRDY! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by vlm (69642) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:06AM (#32576906)

          Also, my computer is pretty much a large steel cage, with the magnetic platters encased in another thick layer of metal, how vulnerable would a regular tower be?

          Simultaneously plugged into a multi-thousand mile grid of copper electrical power wiring and miles of aluminum hardline for the cablemodem, not so good.

          Unplugged in a box, excellent chance of survival.

          Also, electrical fields have no direct effect on magnetic material, you can completely vaporize the electronic of a computer in a lightning strike and a cleanroom service can install new circuit boards and recover most/all of the data off the drive. Now, heat the platters above the curie temperature, like in a fire, and you're screwed.

        • Your computer will be fine. Really. Provided, of course, that your mains connection is properly fused.
      • They sell gold plated CD/DVD that claim they are rated for 20 years if properly stored.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Unless you have a punchcard to jtag writer, documentation on your cd-rom drive, and of course backups of your bios, you're screwed anyways. Every electronic component you'd use to recover those backups probably has either an eeprom or flash part in it containing the device specific code. In the event of any sort of serious EM pulse that could damage hardware or wipe software you would either have lost or best case had minimally corrupted every device along the chain you'd use for recovery. This actually fal

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DerekLyons (302214)

          And even if you have all that stuff - what about the tools to make the tools? Having all the documentation/drawings/plans/specifications/whatever to rebuild the reader for the media you've stored away is pretty much meaningless unless you can actually use all that data to actually build the reader.... And that equipment isn't trivial either.

          And it goes like that right down the technological chain. As I told a misguided survivalist type friend of mine back during the run-up to Y2k: "Living off the

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Dust of your parents tempest computers.
        http://www.digibarn.com/collections/systems/mac1891T/candes-pix/page_01.htm [digibarn.com]
        Make notes and sell 2013 ready Macs/Linux/Windows units to the preppers.
        Its like a next gen Y2K.
    • non-magnetic backups of everything

      Does anybody know how the advent of GMR hard drive heads influences the EMP scenarios? They're resistant to change enough that regular high-power drive de-gaussers don't work anymore.

    • by ae1294 (1547521)

      I seriously wonder whether I should purchase a few crate-sized Farady cages in preparation, and ensure I have non-magnetic backups of everything.

      You could build your own cheaply but it won't protect you from the power fluctuations, loss of communications and looting(tm)... Not to mention high energy particles chewing up your ipad and dna if it was a really real problem and not mostly bullshit...

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:21AM (#32576478)
    Send a rag-tag bunch of misfit ex-astronauts in space with an atomic bomb to place at the center of the storm, to create "a sort of firecracker in closed fist effect", YEEEEEEE-HAW!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If they had said it was coming in 2012 it would have generated way more publicity!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:23AM (#32576492)

    Oh, good... I was worried that I'd have to throw out all that canned Y2K food that I have in my basement bunker. (actually, it's technically my mom's basement)

  • hmm (Score:3, Informative)

    by davidmcg (796487) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:24AM (#32576496) Homepage
    Doesn't worry me seeing as we won't survive 2012 anyway.
  • TFA. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bbqsrc (1441981) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:26AM (#32576520) Homepage
    If you RTFA, it's not a world ending event. It's just gonna mess up some transformers if they don't turn them off in time.
    • Re:TFA. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:35AM (#32576600)

      If you RTFA, it's not a world ending event. It's just gonna mess up some transformers if they don't turn them off in time.

      But will it be more likely to turn Autobots into Decepticons or the other way around? It's an important distinction!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "home computers, iPods, and sat navs"
    Why not "Macs, iPods and Garmins"?

  • sure, sure. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Banichi (1255242)

    You can't plot the weather here on Earth more than 3 days from now accurately, but you expect us to believe you can plot the sun's weather 2 years from now?

    I call BS.

    • Re:sure, sure. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TheKidWho (705796) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:32AM (#32576578)

      Are you an astrophysicist?

      I'm going to assume you aren't. If so, wtf makes you think anyone is going to take your BS accusation seriously?

      I call BS on your BS.

      • Calling BS on BS doesn't make the initial statement true.
      • Re:sure, sure. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @08:50AM (#32577502) Homepage

        Physicist here (not an astro-, but good enough for these purposes).

        Solar activity generally occurs in cycles. As far as we know and have observed, these cycles are fairly regular and predictable in a "big-picture" sort of way.

        Although I might not trust the weatherman's forecast for this Friday, I will trust his assertion that it's going to start getting cold around November.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by nadaou (535365)

      ... two mods who think this post is insightful, and two posts showing it is wrong, and still no one has figured out that this is a joke making fun of the global warming deniers ... sigh, yup, which ever of these groups you side with the answer is the same: no one gets it and at this point we're pretty much screwed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by masterfpt (1435165)

      It is common knowledge the sun has seasons, like the hearth. But they take 11 years to cycle.

      With statistical analysis and observations, it is very well possible to make an educated guess...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by lawpoop (604919)

        It is common knowledge the sun has seasons, like the hearth. But they take 11 years to cycle.

        Yeah. my hearth is cold in the summer, and warm in the winter.

    • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      Just because you do not understand how something is done does not mean that it cannot be done.

    • Re: sure, sure. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Black Parrot (19622)

      You can't plot the weather here on Earth more than 3 days from now accurately

      But you can easily predict that next summer will be warmer than next winter.

  • by dragisha (788) <dragisha&m3w,org> on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:29AM (#32576548)

    With influenza pandemy, Maya's calendar doomsday, $|€ crisis, oil spills, earthquakes...

    Or NASa just saw the light and how public fear can me made into profit, using for example big pharma recipes...?

    Whatever, only reasonable thing to do about it is to cool down and ignore as much as we can.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      public fear can me made into profit

      Definitely. The plan is to build a ship made out of unobtanium and fly it into the sun. Once it reaches the core some nukes will be detonated which will reverse the spin of the sun and avert this catastrophe.

      That's gotta be worth a few billion at least in feasibility dollars!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dominious (1077089)
      Really? you mod this insightful?? Modders, read the replies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by diewlasing (1126425)

      With influenza pandemy, Maya's calendar doomsday, $|€ crisis, oil spills, earthquakes...

      Or NASa just saw the light and how public fear can me made into profit, using for example big pharma recipes...?

      Whatever, only reasonable thing to do about it is to cool down and ignore as much as we can.

      I don't get it. I mean I don't get why you were modded up. I myself might get modded down for saying this, but the quality of modding has gone down here on /.

      Are you suggesting NASA is trying to scare us for profit? Are you bloody serious? If you took the time to read the literature, solar storms happen with a roughly well determined periodicity. No one is suggesting this is a world-ender but electronics are at risk; to just ignore it as a NASA conspiracy is amazingly irresponsible and completely ignor

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:30AM (#32576552)
    I'd hate to see what would happen if all our energy usage was electric instead of burning stuff.
    • Got fuel injection? That's controlled by a computer [wikipedia.org].
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

      I'd hate to see what would happen if all our energy usage was electric instead of burning stuff.

      It doesn't matter, we have electronic controls everywhere. If there's an EMP-level event from the Sun, any cars made since about 1970 will be rendered inoperable.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If there's an EMP-level event from the Sun, any cars made since about 1970 will be rendered inoperable.

        Good, my 1968 muscle car will still work. And since everyone else's cars will be dead, there'll be plenty of cheap gas and I won't care that it only gets 9MPG.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

          Good, my 1968 muscle car will still work. And since everyone else's cars will be dead, there'll be plenty of cheap gas and I won't care that it only gets 9MPG.

          That and you'll get more 'muscle' by pumping the gas out of the station's underground tank by hand. Bring cash.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vlm (69642)

        It doesn't matter, we have electronic controls everywhere. If there's an EMP-level event from the Sun, any cars made since about 1970 will be rendered inoperable.

        Why? The electronics are buried in fully enclosed little steel boxes, installed in big car sized fully enclosed steel boxes, with short wires designed not just to survive electrical sparks, but to control those electrical sparks. And none of the electrical wires are longer than a couple meters at most, and none of them connect outside the vehicle (the occasional winter time engine block heater excepted). The only things tougher than automotive electronics are diesel electric locomotive electronics and mi

    • by init100 (915886)

      I'd hate to see what would happen if all our energy usage was electric instead of burning stuff.

      So you think your car doesn't use electricity? Ever heard of spark plugs, starter motors, instruments, electric fuel pumps, electric cooling fans, lights, not to mention electronic engine control units? There are hundreds of electrical systems in a car.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by vlm (69642)

        There are hundreds of electrical systems in a car.

        All installed in sealed Faraday cages bolted to the inside of a big car shaped Faraday cage, and designed to work in very close proximity to spark plugs (unless your car is a diesel)

  • by gorg1 (205080)

    From one of the links we learn that "..powergrids will temporary switch off some transformers, to save them from the effects..".
    What about our computers? Anyone here able to confirm that powered off electronics would not be damaged by the blast?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FTWinston (1332785)
      The effect is proportional to length of wire. We're talking about a hypothetical major solar event, potentially comparable to the one in 1859 [space.com]. As the effect will be proportional to the length of the conductor in question, the effect on your ~1m PC will be ~1000 times less than the effect on a ~1km power cable.
  • by CdXiminez (807199) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:39AM (#32576632)

    Why should we expect a worse sun spot maximum than previous maxima?
    Nowhere in the two linked articles does it say anything about why it would be worse than 2006.
    They don't even talk about the unusually long sun spot miminum we've had.
    I was hoping for some science about how that might affect the coming maximum...

    • by vlm (69642)

      Why should we expect a worse sun spot maximum than previous maxima?

      Because the folks studying it want more money. Hence the prediction of it being worse.

      No different than Ms Cleo saying something terrible will happen unless you send her money to learn about it in advance.

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Ugh, ignore the fucking Telegraph article, it's a piece of shit.

      The NASA article makes no claim that this solar maximum will be any worse than previous ones. Their point is that, due to the deep penetration of technology in our lives, our society is more sensitive than ever to peak solar activity, and so solar weather forecasting is now more important than ever.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:40AM (#32576636) Homepage

    The National Risk Register, established in 2008 to identify different dangers to Britain, also has "comprehensive" plans on how to handle a complete outage of electricity supplies.

    Yes, secret plans. Don't worry, when we need to know, they'll be disseminated, presumably by a network of tin cans and bits of string, with a smoke signal backup system.

  • My iPod has a Monster Cable brand cover!

    "He said large swathes of the world could face being without power for several months, although he admitted that was unlikely."

    It could be really bad, or not. Plan accordingly.

  • But the rest of the world doesn't! Silly scientists with you wacky microscopes.
  • Just a few snippets from the wonderful Telegraph article...they say that;

    "While scientists have previously told of the dangers of the storm, Dr Fisher’s comments are the most comprehensive warnings from Nasa to date."

    Indeed they are! For example:

    “Large areas will be without electricity power and to repair that damage will be hard as that takes time.”

    Ah, OK...but there's more!

    "He said large swathes of the world could face being without power for several months, although he admitted that wa

  • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Tuesday June 15, 2010 @07:46AM (#32576690) Journal

    Does it seem to anyone else that the telegraph routinely confuses "Something up to size X could hypothetically happen some day" with "X IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!!!!"?

    I'm not saying this is a bad topic to have a conversation about (in fact it's one of my favorite disaster scenarios to rant about), it's just that if slashdot is going to reference the telegraph, it should frame it as though a new Hollywood disaster movie has been released, not as though it was an actual news item was printed.

  • It had to be said.
  • by dsvick (987919)
    Will anyone staying on the ISS at the time turn into the Fantastic Four?
  • Time republish "Inconstant Moon"...

  • Can't wait until this story gets picked up by my local stations and reported as FACT!

  • I am going to coat my entire house in aluminum foil when I get home from work today. I wish I didn't have vinyl siding, I'd just have to cover the roof if that were the case. Sigh.

  • After all, the world is ending in 2012 !!!
    Duh, stupid scientists, don't they know anything?

As the trials of life continue to take their toll, remember that there is always a future in Computer Maintenance. -- National Lampoon, "Deteriorata"

Working...