Jon Miner

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Civilization depends on vulnerable technology. Let's protect what we can protect before a disaster strikes.

Our civilization is built on a foundation of electricity and sophisticated electronics. Accidents do happen. Wars do happen. Terrorism happens. When they do, it is more and more certain that vital infrastructure will be damaged.

Among the many disasters which might bring down a civilization are wars, earthquakes, floods, plagues, and EMP.

A single nuclear EMP bomb exploded 25 miles in the air above a large city would not create a blast of heat to burn the city up. It would not blow tons of fallout into the air. It would do a simple thing. It would permanently turn off every electronic device in a line of sight to the blast.
These devices could not be repaired. They would have to be replaced. So, I propose to start safeguarding the infrastructure upon which civilization depends.

  • Jun 8 2012: I think our officials are completely aware of this problem (I googled it). For reasons I do not understand they have chosen to do nothing. To me, this vulnerability makes all other security concerns seem minor. An EMP generator can be built in the back of a small truck for just a few thousand dollars. EMP could knock out the internet, our business computers, our medical equipment, our cars, trains and planes, our phones and our grid. In other words, it could knock out our civilization. What are they thinking?
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    May 25 2012: An EMP 40,000 meters over London would turn of all electronics in a circle which has a radius reaching Vienna.

    This is an unthinkable event, so nobody is thinking of it.

    But 911 was an unthinkable event as well. Four planes went down and a lot of people were killed. Everybody agrees it was a terrible event.

    An EMP over Europe or America would bring down 3,000 planes and turn off the electricity for hundreds of millions of people.

    Would this be worse that the results of Global Warming?
    Would this be worse than the deaths suffered by the millions of people who died in World War II?

    Should 'somebody' be trying to avoid this outcome, if it is avoidable?
    Is such an effort too expensive to consider when allocating resources?

    Maybe we should wait until it has happened and then react with anger and a 'war against EMP users.'
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    May 25 2012: Obviously an all out nuclear war would end civilization. But what about a single nuclear missile launched by a 'nut' or 'terrorist.' Certainly it could destroy a city. But could it destroy a civilization? You think not? Think again. I am not talking about fallout as in Chernobyl. True, tens of thousand of square miles were made uninhabitable, and that is a disaster. But civilization went on elsewhere. The people just moved elsewhere.

    These devices include electrical generators, computer controlled equipment and vehicles, refrigeration and transportation systems, and of course the Internet and all the computers attached to it.

    Without these things, civilization will break down.

    Protecting our civilization against an EMP, whether it was on purpose or in an accident, is a fact of life in this era.
    After such an event, it is too late to ask "Why didn't they prepare for this?"
    Here is a list of possibilities:
    Water systems controlled by electronically controlled pumps and valves will need to be safeguarded. Clean water is the blood of civilization.
    Electrical generation and distribution systems depend on electronics to control and maintain 'the grid.' Protecting this is obvious and is not being done.
    Transportation systems are highly dependent on electronics. Airplanes are controlled by computers which follow the pilots commands. A plane near an EMP suddenly has no computer. The pilot can do nothing.
    Food processing and storage is all controlled by electronics. Even if the electricity starts up again within days of an EMP, the microprocessors in these systems would need to be replaced. Take a moment to guess how many refrigerators are in a big city like London, Paris, Moscow or New York City. Think of how inconvenient it is when your refrigerator breaks down.
    Cars on the road would just stop. Planes in the air would just fall. Trains on the tracks would just stop. Homes would go dark. Pumps would stop.
    Civilization is not prepared to deal with this.