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Space Science

Is a 'Katrina-Like' Space Storm Brewing? 356

pilsner.urquell writes "A newly released NASA report warns that the world has forgotten the power of the sun, creating a technological society susceptible like never before to large infrastructure damage from solar storms. According to the report, the world has grown so dependent on modern technologies without respect of what the sun can and has done, that it's risking major communications, finance, transportation, government and even emergency services disruptions."
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Is a 'Katrina-Like' Space Storm Brewing?

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  • by brouski ( 827510 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @11:26AM (#26417255)

    We're all going to DIIIIIIIIEEEEEE!

  • Rather dramatic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeadPixels ( 1391907 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @11:26AM (#26417265)
    "Space Katrina" sounds rather dramatic, but wouldn't the atmosphere lessen the damage? Granted, it's still a valid concern that should be considered, but TFA seems like it's a bit more "doomsday" and a little less "this could happen".
  • I hope it happens. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @11:49AM (#26417655)

    Private and semi-private energy companies, like all lnstitutions promoted by competition to cut costs, suffer the malady of products and infrastructure "built by the lowest bidder".

    Because of the nature of pure capitalism and even mixed economies, it is against the interests of any individual actor to create a more robust electronic infrastructure.

    This is a role for the dreaded "R" word..ok i'll say it.. RRRegulation.

    This is why i hope a solar storm like the one this article fear-mongers about happens.

    When it does, various electronic infrastructure companies (power, telecom, etc) will happily welcome a law which sets a minimum level of EMP hardening and other standards.

    It's important to note that, despite raising their costs a bit, it won't matter to them so long as their competition suffers the same way.

    The cost will likely be passed on to the consumer, but "main street" will also be happy to pay an extra 3 bucks on a few bills knowing region-wide blackouts of power, phone, and internet will no longer be common, especially with a catastrophic failure fresh in their minds.

  • by mcatrage ( 1274730 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @11:50AM (#26417667)
    How about them using the term Katrina at all. Just because a bad thing happened to Americans doesn't mean it's the worst natural disaster ever.
  • Re:Just a thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @11:54AM (#26417731)

    Right. If people had lower taxes, the first thing they'd think of to spend the money on would be EMP-resistant electronics.

    They would forgo extra vacations, faster cars, Jacuzzis, expensive Champagne and plastic surgery, so that they could upgrade to a rad-hardened TV set. They would show off their Faraday-enclosed gear at parties to impress their friends.

    I'm 100% confident that's what everyone would do, and solar storms would be no longer be a risk to anyone.

  • by MalHavoc ( 590724 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @11:55AM (#26417761)
    No kidding. As bad as Katrina was, it's hard to equate that particular disaster with the Tsunami that occurred on December 26, 2004 during which hundreds of thousands died.
  • Answer the summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by colmore ( 56499 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @12:01PM (#26417851) Journal

    In answer to the ridiculous summary:

    No, a "Katrina-like" space storm is not brewing, because for a storm to remotely resemble an Atlantic Hurricane, it would need to occur inside of a frikkin' atmosphere.

    Bad journalism should be painful to the perpetrator.

  • Re:Rather dramatic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @12:02PM (#26417863)
    This would give a good incentive for switching over to fiber optics!
  • by dtolman ( 688781 ) <> on Monday January 12, 2009 @12:04PM (#26417899) Homepage

    Why is the term inapropriate here? Just like Katrina, the authors are describing a serious, but forseeable weather event, that could be almost completely mitigated with better planning.

    Plus Katrina was one of the bigger hurricanes you could expect to see, while the event they describe is one of the bigger CME's you could expect to see... seems like a good analogy all around (except one effects a small area and dunks a small city, and the other the entire world and will destroy civilization as we know it).

  • Re:Rather dramatic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday January 12, 2009 @12:11PM (#26418011) Homepage Journal

    Third, cell phones, radios and other wireless devices could go down. Your home network will probably be fine. But forget using your 3G phone for anything. Your cordless phone will probably be OK to call emergency services but they won't be able to get them on the radio to tell them where to go.

    It won't affect terrestrial radio, only satellite communications. If you can call 911 then they have power, if they have power their radios will work. Cell phones won't work well if at all, you'll likely not have any long distance phone service at all.

    It won't bring us back to the stone age, only back to about 1960. It will be an inconvinience, not the end of the world.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday January 12, 2009 @12:16PM (#26418097) Homepage Journal

    Kanye West was wrong. George Bush cares about Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Condoleesa Rice, Barack Obama, and their ilk. It's poor people George Bush don't like, and their skin color is unimportant.

    Racism is a tool of the rich, meant to take your eye of the real problem, classism, and meant to keep poor and middle class whites and blacks at each others' throats so they won't see the REAL enemy, the rich bastards who are keeping the poor and middle class of all races down.

    Bernie Madoff stole fifty billion dollars and got out on ten million bail, if I get caught stealing fifty thousand dollars will I get out on ten dollars bail? And why am I the only one asking that question?

  • I would not say that.
    For the most part, there was no way to save most of the victims of the tsunami.
    Many of the victims of Katrina could well have been saved had their been ample planning and communication in regards to a disaster that they knew was coming sometime.
    Most of the deaths of Katrina were caused by failure to plan, failure to listen, or failure to implement disaster plans.

    I can see where the author is coming from.
  • Buy Camping Gear! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nevdullc ( 732342 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @12:34PM (#26418417) Journal
    But seriously folkes.. if all the lights went out tomorrow, what shape would you be in..?
  • Re:Rather dramatic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dtolman ( 688781 ) <> on Monday January 12, 2009 @12:52PM (#26418745) Homepage

    Really? We're about to implement a system where we put more people than ever in the air, thanks to GPS systems and shorter distances between aircraft. When the grid and GPS go down at once, I'm sure they'll all get down safely.

    As for the rest - you been to Vegas lately? Millions of people just waiting for a power outage or a water shortage to wipe them off the map. We've been stuffing millions of people into tiny areas across the globe over the past century, that are not friendly to human habitation - let alone high density habitation, that require long distance transportation of essentials - water, food, etc. Its not sustainable without modern technology (modern being, post electricity).

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @01:15PM (#26419123) Journal
    Just to make sure that doesn't happen, you should get yourself some guns too. Plus, back in days before electricity, they had governments that supposedly stopped this type of thing from happening in most instances.
  • Re:finance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @01:23PM (#26419239) Journal
    I'm beginning to think that in general, modern society is a Perfect Storm factory.

    Can you think of any intersections between A) groups who might be in a position to guide modern society that way, B) groups who might want society to end up that way, and C) groups who are positioning themselves to thrive in the aftermath?

    If you were given the opportunity to shape society to prevent such a thing, how would you live? How would you govern yourself if you were trying to systematically disenfranchise people with such goals without having the capacity to point them out? What systems, what supporting technology would you need to make such a lifestyle achievable by your neighbours?

    This is our world, our birthright. We shouldn't have to revert to individual survialism and live with a prejudicial fear of systems and each other. We are capable of better, and we should stand up and take responsibility for ourselves. It's our failure to do so that makes these sorts of nightmare scenarios possible.
  • by afabbro ( 33948 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @01:39PM (#26419493) Homepage

    WRT to item C on your list: birth control pills. It would be a completely different world without that medical wonder. Suddenly having hundreds of millions more fertile women in this world would cause lots o' problems.

    Hardly. The vast, vast majority of women on this planet (measured in billions) do not use any form of birth control. A few percentage points' worth more would make zero difference.

  • by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Monday January 12, 2009 @02:10PM (#26420027) Homepage Journal

    I've lived rough -- no electric, no running water, if I wanted heat I had to chop wood, if I wanted dinner I had to hie myself to the river and catch it. The problem is that now we have too many people for the land to support in that way. I'd be fine, but what the majority would do ... probably riot.

  • Destroy the sun (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @02:23PM (#26420285) Homepage Journal

    We must destroy the sun immediately to avoid these disasters (it will also correct global warming).

    The Amish manage to live without electricity, perhaps we should learn how to live without it ourselves for a few weeks. That skill might come in useful in the future.

  • Re:Rather dramatic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jstott ( 212041 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @03:38PM (#26421537)

    It actually caused telegraph wires to short out across Europe and the Americas - some even caught on fire. If that happened now, it would cause global power outages, fried computer equipment (including the ones that control your fancy electronic car), and everything except for milsats in orbit could be knocked out.

    Inductance is proportional to the length of the wire in the magnetic field.

    Telegraph wires had problems in the 1800's because those big long wires can produce some impressive voltage surges. Modern electrical transmission lines have the same problem (although, being a well-known problem, there are circuit breakers and the like already installed to limit the potential damage).

    Your car, on the other hand, will come through just fine — the wires are too short for the voltage surges to amount to anything. Same goes for any other [terrestrial] electronics not actually connected to the power grid or other similar long wires.


  • by GuruBuckaroo ( 833982 ) on Monday January 12, 2009 @06:22PM (#26424167) Homepage

    You've got it backwards, but your heart was in the right place. Due to the fact that the sun is MUCH larger than this 12,000km shield, the shadow will actually get smaller as it gets closer to the sun.

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.