[extropy-chat] EMP Attack?

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Sun Apr 17 19:01:11 UTC 2005

At 08:10 AM 17/04/05 -0700, Olga Bourlin wrote:

>Unready For This Attack
>By Jon Kyl

>Saturday, April 16, 2005; Page A19

This article is bs in so many differnt ways it is scary.  Someone pointed 
out that it takes an H bomb to get these effects on a large scale.


>American society has grown so dependent on computer and other electrical 
>systems that we have created our own Achilles' heel of vulnerability, 
>ironically much greater than those of other, less developed nations. When 
>deprived of power, we are in many ways helpless, as the New York City 
>blackout made clear. In that case, power was restored quickly because 
>adjacent areas could provide help.

That is largely untrue.  Most areas came back up in a somewhat crippled 
mode (rotating outages) on their own.

>But a large-scale burnout caused by a broad EMP attack would create a much 
>more difficult situation. Not only would there be nobody nearby to help, 
>it could take years to replace destroyed equipment.
>Transformers for regional substations, for example, are massive pieces of 
>equipment that are no longer manufactured in the United States and 
>typically take more than a year to build.

They are also just about the least likely to be damaged by 
EMP.  Transformers are protected against *lightening* strikes which are a 
lot more energetic.

>  In the words of another witness at the hearing, "The longer the basic 
> outage, the more problematic and uncertain the recovery of any 
> [infrastructure system] will be. It is possible --
>indeed, seemingly likely -- for sufficiently severe functional outages to 
>become mutually reinforcing, until a point at which the degradation . . . 
>could have irreversible effects on the country's ability to support any 
>large fraction of its present human population." Those who survived, he 
>said, would find themselves transported back to the United States of the 1880s.

Right.  1880s with the Internet (which was designed from the start to deal 
with attack, not to mention that optical fibers are just not affected by 
EMP.  (The electronics might be hurt.)


>The writer is a Republican senator from Arizona and chairman of the Senate 
>Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security.
>© 2005 The Washington Post Company

I doubt he wrote it, people at that level almost never do.  But he isn't 
going to get much credit from technical people for letting this go out with 
his name attached.

There *are* real problems, some of which are just not talked about at all 
because we don't know how to protect against them.  We do need to consider 
and plan for these problems, but EMP taking out big transformers is way 
down on the list.

Keith Henson

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