Thursday, September 10, 2009

Your Thursday morning doom'n'gloom:

While the "zomg every single microchip will be slagged!" view of EMP is a little overstated, it's still a fact that anything plugged in to the grid is as good as toast, and that includes most of the grid itself.

What's being done about it? Well, there was a conference-type thing, but it wasn't, you know, official.

Meanwhile, hey, how about some socialized medicine!

(H/T to SurvivalBlog.)


og said...

Pretty substantial strides are being made in making electronics EMP resistant. People who weld know something about this, some welders are nothing but EMP generators When we first started using these type welders, we fried cellphones, wristwatches, etc. left and right. And until we caught on, it was standard practice to remove all electronic gadgets before you entered a pulse cell. Last IMTS, they did a demo where they welded a cellphone in a box with a pulse welder, and it continued to work inside the box. The countermeasures are becoming pretty sophisticated.

Me? I keep my important data stored on CD roms and in multiple locations, and I feel plenty secure. But what I consider "important data" is predominantly photographs. Anything else can be replaced or duplicated. I think it's just another "ZOMG! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" Having to put pen to paper to write a letter? having to do without cellphones and internet and fax machines and etc? Not so bad, to me.

Oh, and I have my music ripped to CD's too. When the EMP Zombiepocalypto arrives, I'm gonna need decent tuneage to get in the killin' mood.

Tangalor said...

"Oh, and I have my music ripped to CD's too. When the EMP Zombiepocalypto arrives, I'm gonna need decent tuneage to get in the killin' mood."

Erm... your radio may not work at this juncture. :P

og said...

Simple. I'll just tape the CD's to my ears.

William said...

I guess that I need to copy all of my music to cd's, but then would I need to build a Faraday cage to store a cd player in? Maybe I will just use my old vacuum tube shortwave receiver to listen to whatever music is still available.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Vaccuum tube sets will probably still work. . . .as long as they weren't plugged into the wall when the EMP hits. Possibly melt the voltage transformer?

Ditto for ham radios.
And for CD playas, get something battery operated & a solar battery recharger.

B Woodman

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Only thing I've learned about EMP is that we kill and eat the diabetics first. If you wait til their insulin wears out the meat will be too gamey.

Kristopher said...

But will my face colander still work with my tacticool revolver?

(wv: Furator We will make you wear this wookie suit ... )

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

RELAX Kristopher. Here's a tip. A busted microwave makes a great faraday cage. Just cut the plug wire off. Store your colander in there and it will be safe as houses.

Old NFO said...

EMP 'will' get your attention... especially if you have a pacemaker... And it will burn the grid down. Re the meeting, those that can't do pontificate :-(

Kristopher said...

Or I could just wear the microwave. Add a gorilla suit, and I can do the Robot Monster thingy!

John A said...

They're late to the party. Back in the late Fifties someone pointed Ma Bell to the Carrington Event of 1859, and protection of telephone landline wiring was upgraded.

Alas, electrical lines seem not quite as well protected, other than completely controlled by military. An equivalent event has been speculated to be capable of shutting down all non-military electricity for days - I'd put it at a lot more time than that.

- - - some reading

staghounds said...

I smell a Deputy Directorship of Public Health Insurance Option Record EMP Protection...

Stranger said...

Everything electronic and vital goes in a shielded box. A 50 Cal ammo can makes a pretty good Faraday cage. So does an antique solid tin steamer trunk. Both do even better when the stuff you need to keep are tinfoil wrapped. Just double fold the seams.

During? Plenty of sparks - as much from distributed reactance in the grid as direct inductive pickup. Unplug everything you don't hate - but don't bother unplugging the clock radio. You won't be worrying about the time for some time. Do provide yourself with some fire extinguishers because you are likely to need them.

"Whole house protectors" and high joule (a joule is essentially a watt second) suppressors will help keep the sparks down. After the first flash look for flames.

After? Prepare for 12 to 24 months of living in a pre-industrial society. You will want a hand crank SW radio - twice as much staple food as you think you could possibly need, plenty of warm clothing.

And to butcher up an old Teresa Brewer song, ammo, ammo, ammo.

And just to be real cheerful - another Carrington event could do the same thing as an EMP attack - around the whole world.


reflectoscope said...

Had the big balloon gone up back then, that would likely have been the first thing to happen: A great big one going off over each others' territory, for exactly that reason.


Ed Foster said...

I had an interest in EMP since Honolulu lost it's power back when I was in high school, from a fairly small, low altitude test burst 1,500 miles away.

Bottom line, 2 megaton bomb, 200 miles over Omaha, and we lose civilization from Hudson's Bay to Panama. Plus all the satellites up there, either immediately or within a few days. Can't fly a bird in a Faraday cage.

I strongly recommend the Graham
commission report to Congress,

Even the stuff not blacked out in the report is enough for the gollywobbles.

Bottom line, Cheyenne Mountain isn't in trouble, but the rest of us are screwed. Even an antenna stub an inch long will wipe out a radio. Set the pig off during February and we disappear as a nation.

And what it does to the poor sumbitches inside Abrams tanks armored with "depleted" uranium doesn't bear mentioning. Effects virtually identicle to neutron bombs.

About a dozen years ago the Feds built an EMP generating facility to test various weapons systems. Good coverage in Aviation News and Space Weekly at the time.

To get the goodies to pass, they had to reduce probable induced voltage by half, and reduce pulse length by 50% to 80%.

I believe it's called borrowed time. I'll e-mail you the prologue to my novel. I researched it really, really well.

Me, a well stocked basement, a generator with breakpoint ignition (eventually a diesel, I can make that stuff myself), and yes, plenty of cal. 50 ammo boxes.

Also, wrap good stuff inside paper, tape well, then wrap inside metal foil and seal in plastic.

A real "Oh Shit" moment When I reade Jovian's bit about the busted microwave. Thank you sir.

Stranger, it's not just, or even primarily, the EMP that does the damage in a high altitude burst. It's the sleet of Compton Electrons liberated by the EMP that essentially shuts down the grid, fries all the goodies, and drops us back into the 1880's.

The EMP is primarily the fuse. It's all the things it sets off in 200 miles of atmosphere.

reflectoscope said...

Speaking of aircraft and EMP, I have a booknark on my Windows partition to a site which has a photo of a B-52 sitting on a wooden trestle structure, for EM testing. Apparently it is/was the largest glue-laminated structure in the world. Hell of a tow job, though. At least concrete aprons don't creak and sway when you move aircraft on them!


reflectoscope said...

Found it!


Don Meaker said...

I figure that our massive US debt to China makes us safe from EMP weapons, at least from them.

Kristopher said...

Dude ... a bunch of those nukes went off within sight of towns in Nevada.

Civilization did not end there.

Diesel engines will not even stop running, and will start right up without issues ... you might need to go get a new cd player, and a replacement battery if you were right under the sub orbital nuke.

Anonymous said...

Back in the early 80's, I worked at a "dark grey" hi-tech research center in SoCal that had their own UG EMP test generator. The test room was about 15 x 15 and surrounded by lots of shielding. It could generate a simulated 55MT EMP blast.

We learned a lot about semiconductors going intrinsic, stub antennas acting as re-radiators, etc.

There is a valid reason the Russians still design electronics with vacuum tubes.

Jus' sayin' ...

Tam said...


"Dude ... a bunch of those nukes went off within sight of towns in Nevada."

An airburst 5 miles away would have less effect on electronics than a low-orbit blast 500 miles away. The EMP from the nuclear explosion is merely the trigger. (...and a big enough solar storm can do, and has done before, the exact same thing.)

While the doomsayers can run a bit pessimistic it would certainly be bad. Even a best case scenario has weeks or months of no juice in large swaths of the US.

Ed Foster said...

Tam, that's the key. It's the altitude that's the killer. 150 to 250 miles is the ideal (or worst case) scenario, depending in warhead size.

Again, it's not the EMP per se, but the sleet of secondary particles they kick off, collectively refered to as Compton Electrons. The EMP is bad enough.

But the secondaries, none of which have been quantified in physical testing (it's not really possible to generate a field like that) have been modelled using the effects of the Hawaiian air burst and a much bigger boo-boo the Russians did about the same time.

Significantly, even during the height of the cold war, only months after the Cuban Missle Crisis, both sides immediately stopped all atmospheric testing and put the fireworks underground.

Both sides needed the performance boost solid state tech gave them, and the gentleman's agreement, akin to the one we all observed on poison gas in WWII, has held to this day.

Interestingly, it's not the transistors that were fried, it was the leads and printed circuits that acted as fuses and popped when overloaded.

Back in the 60's and 70's, military mother boards use surface mounted transistors and shielding, protected by fuseable links. A .005thick circuit could be protected by a .002 thick fuse.

As miniturization progressed, the couldn't use fuses anymore. They would have been too small to pass normal operating current. So the military went to quick change boards, with replacements in Faraday wrappers.

Ask any Air National Guard mechanic what's under the seat of an F-16. It's not classified, just not widely advertized.

There is a mechanical computer, originally designed by the University of Pennsylvania and University of Colorado School of Mines for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.

It's made of nylon, with more than 5,000 little valves (switches), whose sole job is to keep the wings level and provide very basic control input to the pilot in the event a HEMP (High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse) scrambles all three of the planes redundant computers. It's (hopefully) just enough to get the plane down onto a friendly highway.

Airforce One was "hardened" by sticking in 1950's vintage Boeing 707 tube sets, backup gauges, and mechanical engine controls. They also fly with a flight engineer to monitor all the extra widgets.

Plane English, THERE IS NO WAY to harden the U.S. or Europe against HEMP. Individual nodes, sure, but the economy that feeds those nodes is, forgive the language, truly fucked without benefit of clergy.

Hypothetical wargaming for a future brawl in Korea always assumes a mid-winter attack by Kim's boys. That way the north-south running rivers are frozen hard enough to support armored vehicles.

Add in three rusty old freighters off the American coast, one each in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Carribbean. Each, while still in international waters, lobs a souped up SCUD high enough to generate HEMP. No need for orbital capabilities, no need for anything except vintage 1960 technology, and America goes away. There are many other scenarios just as simple, just as scary.

Ed Foster said...

Kristopher, the folks in those towns in Nevada didn't have Blackberries in their pockets and electronic ignitions in their cars.

It is, as Tam says, the nastiness caused by the altitude, but also the vulnerability of our present generation of electronics. Any circuit .002 or .003 wide that swallows 100,000 volts earns a new name. Fuse.

For reference, just in case, my generator is small, very quiet, I have an exaust pipe plumbed out through the foundation, and, after dark, I would only use the power to keep the furnace running. No lights.

I wonder who the goblins might be?

Back during hurricane Hugo, I watched CBS news describing the fighting in the U.S. Virgin islands. The police and National Guard mutinied, secured most of the food and potable water for themselves, then set about an amazingly unpublished campaign of rape and robbery that ended up washing over the yacht basin and breaking up after meeting some stiff resistance from the well armed boaters.

The correspondent's comments, as near to verbatim as I can remember, were "I can't believe this". "The yachtsmen are fighting the National Guard house to house, pushing them back from the boat basin".

Forgive the seeming racism, but since the police and guardsmen were virtually all African-American, the media immediately put a hold on any further commentary concerning their actions.

If things were bad enough, I wonder if Privates Karl Schmidt, Terrence O'Malley, and Pierre Cloutier would be any less dangerous. Probably not the rape and vengeance beatings, but confiscation of food and weapons? All for the public good of course.

Anonymous said...

All amazing Comments, I like surrounding myself with people who get it.

From what I have read, an Emp is line of site and those nukes that they set off in the nevada desert were in a valley with very tall mountains on either side and either end of the valley sloped up. Interesting to look at on google earth.

That is why a high level 150-200 mile emp would be the most effective.

Also a great GE thing to look at is that EMP generator mentioned earlier at teh AFB, "the Trestle" I wonder how much it cost to dig that hole.

Oh and I will do my reading, I come here from rodgers site because of all of the great wtshtf stuff. Learn learn learn.


Tam said...


More good links can be found here. :)

Kristopher said...

People's crackberries dying will not spell the end of Civilization ( although you might need to dig that 1990 vintage PC/Mac out of the closet afterward to have the Persians tell you that they are tired of your insolence ).

We would have a blackout for a few weeks, and some frozen food will spoil. A bunch of new cars will need to be repaired. A bunch of appliances will fry. Some folks in hospitals will probably die. Phone service will be out for a while.

Some people will have to do without the Internet or Television, and cold beer for a while.

( OK, that last one was serious ... but still )

Tam said...


It's good to be optimistic. Still, you think everybody needing to buy primers all at once FUBAR'ed the supply chain?

Will said...

for a well written, well researched view of the anticipated results of this subject, read the book "One Second After". Your incredibly rosy take does not jive at all with what researchers know. IIRC, expected deaths in the USA range from 50% to 80%.
Deaths from airliners alone range from 300,000 to 600,000, not counting losses from all the ones that crash in cities. (airliners are pretty much fly by wire control systems these days, although some of the older designs were hydraulic)

Kristopher said...

Tam ... I just don't think things will stay FUBAR for as long as the TEOTWAWKI fantasizers would hope.

( Not that this will stop me from stocking up on beer, toilet paper, and ammo. )

If nothing else, the feds ability to prevent recovery by being brain-dead fuckwits will be severely hampered ... hopefully long enough for adults to sort shit out locally.

Ed Foster said...

Kristopher: I used to think like that too, but...

Look, Salt Lake City is the only urban area in North America with more than a three day food supply. THREE DAYS!

The origins of the Mormon faith may be a tad more hincky than some, but it does require it's members to own guns, know how to use then, learn some really worthwhile survival skills, and store a year's worth of food for every member.

Plus St. John Moses Browning (PBHN) was one of them, with 5 or 6mothers. You have to appreciate people who think big.

My (hopefully) publisher says I can pass around the prolog to the novel I'm writing, as long as it has attributes traceable to the novel, called The World After.

Check in with CossackInAKilt or Tam for my e-mail and I'll send it to you. Tell me what you think. Ed.