Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Could the "electromagnetic pulse" warnings in conservative media be baiting me with "fake news"? Actually, I think it's real, and we need to get our act together

Readers who visit my blogs, especially on Wordpress, know that I have paid a lot of attention to the accelerating threat to the US homeland from North Korea, especially the less often presented idea that North Korea (or any other rogue state in the future) could circumvent the problems of landing a nuclear-tipped missile at a target with an airburst to cause an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) effect, more likely E1 (which can fry personal electronics and newer car ignitions) than E3 (like from solar storms, which could fry power grid transformers).
I’ve noted that the EMP bogeyman gets discussed largely in right-wing and conservative sites, as well as doomsday prepper feeds.  There are some reasonably technical sites like Resilient Grid (based in New Hampshire).  Huffington Post recently covered it, but then took the step of banning unpaid contributions (although I don’t think the article on this subject was self-published).  Vox (which is liberal to moderate) has covered it once or twice.   I don’t recall seeing a detailed article on it on CNN, NBCNews, ABC, or CBS.  I have seen it on Fox (Trump’s favorite), and on the Examiner, and, repeatedly, The Washington Times. I have to admit on a recent motel stay in a Holiday Inn in Ohio, I gleefully left Fox News on while I worked.  It says something that Fox was one of the first channels to come up.

This set of circumstances would invoke the question, as to whether there is a “fake news” aspect to the EMP controversy.  A foreign power could reason that if ordinary US citizens are convinced their technological way of life could be wiped out in an instant (as in “One Second After” or “Lights Out”), the US might be less aggressive in foreign policy.  For example, it might not issue a preventive pre-emptive strike against North Korea (as if the danger to South Korea weren’t enough reason).
My own commitment is to get to the bottom of it. I’ve talked to a Congressman (in a forum) and to tech executives myself, and I get the personal feedback that DHS, the power industry, and software industry are all working on it.  What seems missing is private industry consensus on what should be done and how much it would cost.   A real businessman president (with more stability than Trump) would take this up.  I can imagine Mark Cuban dealing with this.  Actually, so would Mark Zuckerberg (who will be 36 in 2020).

I’ve done a little gumshoeing myself.  In 2010, I overheard a conversation about it in a biker bar near Baltimore, and wound up checking the museum at Aberdeen Proving Grounds (you probably can’t get in now). I’ve visited Oak Ridge (in 2013)  – which has written about the problem, as has the National Academy of Sciences.

It should be self-evident that local power generation, especially with renewables (solar) would add to resilience. 
We do need to get our act together on this issue.  Consider the singularity. 

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