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Space Science Technology

One In Eight Chance of a Financially Catastrophic Solar Storm By 2020 337

An anonymous reader writes "A privately employed solar scientist named Pete Riley estimates there's a 12 percent chance of a massive solar storm comparable to the Carrington Event in 1859 which resulted in breathtaking aurorae across the United States and other temperate regions of the globe. The electromagnetic surge from the 1859 event caused failures of telegraph systems across Europe and North America. A similar storm today could knock out power grids, GPS and communication satellites, data centers, transportation systems, and building and plumbing infrastructures and wreak $1 trillion or more of economic damage in the first year alone, according to a 2008 report from the National Academy of Sciences."
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One In Eight Chance of a Financially Catastrophic Solar Storm By 2020

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  • by philip.paradis ( 2580427 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:01PM (#39220713)

    Make multiple backups of everything you care about, using a mix of different media types. Store your backups in geographically diverse locations, in hardened containers, preferably some of them subterranean. Of course, you're already doing that anyhow, right? Past that, your PC becomes significantly less useful if major communication grids are down/damaged, at least if you like the Internet.

  • If only :) (Score:2, Insightful)

    by giampy ( 592646 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:04PM (#39220771) Homepage

    Actually a 1T$ investment to rebuild all the electrical infrastructure would be just great both for the infrastructure AND for the economy.

  • by GmExtremacy ( 2579091 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:06PM (#39220787)

    Using Gamemaker, they can put off the problem with its extreme slowness.

  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:12PM (#39220851)
    Likewise, it will not break satellites if they're unplugged?
  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:18PM (#39220939) Homepage Journal

    Your car is already an electromechanical device. EMP would disable modern gasoline vehicles just as surely as it would electric vehicles.

    Which is a big part of the reason I love my old, beat up, carburated pickup.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:20PM (#39220969)

    Just need two bits, a true and a false. From that, you can rebuild everything.

  • Re:If only :) (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:24PM (#39221025)

    if you believe the broken window fallacy.

    I somehow can't believe that destroying trillions of dollars worth of real goods/ wealth is going to make us better off. but hey keep listening to the Keynesians. they predicted the crash.... oh wait, they didn't. they explained the crash... Oh wait, they didn't do that either. they have since fixed the crash with the50k plus per American that they prescribed.... oh wait, that didn't work either.

  • by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:34PM (#39221137) Homepage Journal


    Turn it off when you're not using it and disconnect it from power and communications (eg disconnect the power cord and network cable). Since if something Bad Happened, it's likely going to come in through the AC or in through the DSL/Cable/Sat modem - same as any other power surge.

    In these storms, what happens is that long lines (data and power transmission) resonate more or less with the "fun" and so you get powerful AC currents induced into them. The smaller wires in your peripherals and inside the computer are too small (so they resonate too high frequency) and so shouldn't be directly vulnerable. It's those large AC voltages coming in from those long lines that release the magic smoke.

  • Re:If only :) (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DreadPiratePizz ( 803402 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:42PM (#39221241)
    Broken window fallacy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @12:52PM (#39221359)

    I'm in the EMP business. A colleague of mine sat in a running (modern) car while it was flashed in a simulator. Nothing happened.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:04PM (#39221517)

    Store your backups in geographically diverse locations, in hardened containers, preferably some of them subterranean. Of course, you're already doing that anyhow, right?

    Storing back-ups in hardened containers in subterranean bunkers? No, I'm not, and somehow I doubt most other people here are either.

    Backing things up safely, securely and frequently is surprisingly hard for individuals to do given all the technical wonders we have in the world today.

    (In case anyone's knee is jerking, please read the actual terms and check the actual reliability stats of any Internet-based back-up service you're about to recommend before you post it. Chances are, you'll never make the post.)

  • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:19PM (#39221639)

    Actually we don't know if it is the solar maximum... The sun is very periodic but it is still a bit unpredictable as to when exactly the periods start and stop. The only way to know is if in 2013 it shows the telltale slowdown of the decline cycle (that is, if we are still here...)

    Interesting, this is the same strategy employed by economists. It seems most of them won't recognize an economic bubble when they're in one... but after the "telltale slowdown" is becomes extremely obvious in hind-sight.

  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:28PM (#39221747)

    Which is strange, because I knew we were in a bubble while it was going on. When the houses around me started selling for $150,000 more than I bought mine for in a matter of a couple years, with no real underlying changes to the economy, it was pretty darn obvious there was a bubble.

    Economists aren't that dumb, they're either being hopelessly optimistic that economics has suddenly discovered perpetual motion, or they were just keeping their mouths shut lest they be the guy who went down in history as the one popping the bubble and starting the inevitable recession.

  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:30PM (#39222619) Homepage Journal

    IIRC there actually is a psychological, medically acknowledged, syndrome that has to do
    with giving up on prosperous concepts/enterprises. In layman's terms it describes optimism
    in a more elaborate language, though it also describes gambler's addiction at some point.

    Can't remember where I have read about it though..

    It could have been the 150 year old book "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" which basically cited the many self-induced economic bubbles/busts up to that point in history, and has been a blueprint for every one of them since. What's interesting is how every time the pattern repeats we swear that a) we didn't "really" see it coming with enough foresight to stop it and that b) we are sure as hell never going to let it happen again. Those two complete fallacies are the cornerstone of our tragic existence.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @03:18PM (#39223285)

    Interesting, this is the same strategy employed by economists.

    Is it really that surprising when economists (at least the ones that speak in public and which we see) are merely the modern version of astrologists, soothsayers, and chicken entrails readers? The vast majority of them are paid to make shit up in a way that favors their patron. Every government out there has a staff of them on hand for rationalizing the policy of the day.

    It's their job to sell the current propaganda, until that position becomes too untenable to retain credibility.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle