Bzzt! Welcome to the dark ages

Guest post by Steven Goddard

The Effects of One Nuclear Bomb at High Altitude

From Wikipedia

Yesterday’s missile launch from nuclear power North Korea raised particular concern in the military, due to the possibility of EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack.  Almost every piece of technology in our lives is dependent on semiconductors, which contain circuitry that is extremely vulnerable to electromagnetic pulses.  From the Federation of American Scientists:

The pulse can easily span continent-sized areas, and this radiation can affect systems on land, sea, and air. The first recorded EMP incident accompanied a high-altitude nuclear test over the South Pacific and resulted in power system failures as far away as Hawaii. A large device detonated at 400-500 km over Kansas would affect all of CONUS. The signal from such an event extends to the visual horizon as seen from the burst point.

During the Cold War, the US military was very concerned about the fact that US planes used solid state circuitry and Soviet planes used vacuum tubes.  It was known that nuclear war would likely cause American planes to drop out of the sky.  Since then, we all have become completely reliant on semiconductor technology which controls our transportation, power, satellites, information technology and communication systems.  Transistors have evolved over time to smaller and smaller geometries and lower voltages, which make them increasingly vulnerable to EMP.

https://i1.wp.com/unic.ece.cornell.edu/images/chip.jpg?resize=508%2C323

What an integrated circuit looks like after being fried by overvoltage

The US and Russia conducted many nuclear detonations at high altitude prior to 1962, but the integrated circuit had not yet been invented.  Some experts believe that an effective EMP attack would send the US and/or Europe instantly back to the dark ages.  Civilian planes could lose control and fall from the sky, and cars made since 1980 might instantly and permanently lose steering, engine and brake control.  Many phones, computers and Internet switches would become permanently disabled.  Newt Gingrich spoke about the danger on Fox News this morning.

Gingrich replied: “There are three or four techniques that could have been used, from unconventional forces to standoff capabilities, to say: ‘We’re not going to tolerate a North Korean missile launch, period.’ … look at electromagnetic pulse, which changes every … equation about how risky these weapons are.”

More from Wikipedia

Ever wonder why (“Axis of Evil”) North Korea and Iran have been rushing to develop nuclear weapons and missile delivery capabilities?  It has nothing to do with stopping global warming or making friends with Washington and Whitehall.  Some references below.  I recommend that everyone read them before they go to the voting booth next time.  It is important to have leaders who can do more than talk, because we have bigger and tougher enemies than people who use incandescent light bulbs, and bankers who take holidays in Las Vegas.

ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE THREATS TO U.S. MILITARY AND CIVILIAN INFRASTRUCTURE

http://superconductors.org/emp-bomb.htm

http://www.unitedstatesaction.com/emp-terror.htm

http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/future-weapons-emp-bomb.html

http://www.electronics-related.com/usenet/design/show/98485-1.php

http://www.janes.com/articles/Janes-Strategic-Weapon-Systems/EMP-Bomb-Australia.html

http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/security/has197010.000/has197010_1.htm

http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/mctl98-2/p2sec06.pdf

http://www.fas.org/nuke/intro/nuke/emp/toc.htm

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/defense/1281421.html

141 thoughts on “Bzzt! Welcome to the dark ages

  1. Alright, I did not read the directions correctly. Let’s try that again.
    Well, I for one am very happy that I happen to have this little baby in my garage:
    http://s712.photobucket.com/albums/ww124/hugh59/?action=view&current=greeniegreen.jpg
    And this little prize on my wrist:
    http://s712.photobucket.com/albums/ww124/hugh59/?action=view&current=ExplorerSmall.jpg
    Because after the North Korean or Iranian EMP nuke goes off, I will still be able to drive around and be able to tell time.
    It is no fun living without technology. In 1995, I was living on St. Thomas after hurricane Marilyn hit. We spent two months living without electricity! No fun at all. You can survive; you would be amazed at how fast people can adapt, but it was NO fun.

  2. According to NORAD the launch failed. I’m glad whatever it was didn’t make orbit – I keep thinking about a well-timed nuclear explosion doing a massive EMP number on the electronic infrastructure of the US. Here’s hoping the Navy’s got salvage crews trying to track it down and see just what WAS in the nose of that sucker.
    And you have to ask yourself – would countries like North Korea and Iran DO that? Would Iran EMP Europe if they could? Knowing what the retaliation would be?
    Civilization depends on a lot of things at the present time, but we’ve made ourselves VERY dependent on the microprocessor to control everything from telecommunications and power grids to cars and watches. Destroy the microprocessor – and we’re gonna be in deep trouble.

  3. An EMP is any eco-terrorists wet dream for initiating a sharp reduction in CO2 emmissions and a quick dive in the human population without drastic effects to the rest of the eco-system.
    Fortunately eco-terrorists are very unlikely to get hold of a weapon and the delivery system.
    Mind you – if a small group were able to hijack a single russian ICBM missile facility and launch with a fresh targetting info for a series of air-bursts from MIRV launchers – could the nascent USA ABM technology (SM3s, Boeing – Lasers, etc) take it out in time..?
    (I feel an airport thriller coming on…)

  4. JLawson (17:47:45) :
    And you have to ask yourself – would countries like North Korea and Iran DO that? Would Iran EMP Europe if they could? Knowing what the retaliation would be?

    MAD works for rational players.
    What happens if you have a leader who truely believes that he is on a mission from GOD to rid the world of the godless unbelievers and has sufficient control locally to ensure that his orders are obeyed without question?
    The US ballistic submarine fleet will ensure guaranteed retaliation – provided they can be given orders from the President to do so (questionable if there is little response time for the attack).
    But retaliation saves no one.

  5. You are probably right when it comes to eco-terrorists, Graeme. But what about a state like Iran or North Korea? If they shoot off one missile at the US, they may hope that we don’t respond with massive retaliation. It may take a while for the military to realize the damage that has been done by an EMP. By then, it will be hours after the detonation…will they still want to retaliate?

  6. Sorry but I have to correct an error in the story;
    “…and cars made since 1980 might instantly and permanently lose steering, engine and brake control.” NNNNNNNo…Yes – the engine would quit if it had electronic ignition *HOWEVER* you would still have control of the steering and brakes even if they were power assisted, it would just be a bit more difficult to steer and brake but you still could.
    There are ideas of full ‘drive-by-wire’ systems where even the steering & brakes are digitally controlled (why?!?!). In fact, in my 2003 Suburban, the gas peddle is already that way. The accelerator does not connect to the throttle body by a cable but it turns a potentiometer which is read by a computer which digitally controls a servo/stepper motor on the throttle body. But why in the workd would they do that for the steering & brakes?? Auto-drive? They had better have a manual backup!!
    Just my $.02 – back to your regular programming…
    Jeff

  7. Steve,
    In the 90s I worked for a company developing high speed processor chips using gallium arsenide (GaAs). They were testing the initial samples in a lab, with the covers off the chips. The testing was not going well, they were working late and a security guard saw the lab lights on, and just opened the door and shut off the lights. Suddenly the problem that was bugging the test team went away. The electrical noise from the florescent lights in the lab ceiling was enough to disrupt the function of the chips. They replaced the florescent lights with regular incandescent bulbs and continued the testing.
    I spent 20 years in the Air Force as an electronics warfare officer and was in the early FB-111 program, one of the first aircraft with a full digital bombing and navigation system. The computers continued to fail in flight and no one had an explanation. One day flying in formation, the lead aircraft entered a cloud, one of those pre-thunderclouds over the Texas Hill Country, when the lead Navigator declared his computer dead in the water. Actually he said some thing else, but this is a family rated blog. As we entered the same cloud and our computer failed, the lat-long counters stopped moving. I just could not believe that was a coincidence, there was something in the cloud that caused the failure. After an extensive investigation General Electric discovered that a digital computer cable that passed over the pitot boom was getting an energy pulse down the boom, causing some extra ones and zeros in the cable, and the computer diagnostics did not know how the handle the extra information.
    Early Volvos has an electronic ignition system. Truckers could pull up next to the Volvos on the freeway and key their high power CB sets and the Volvo engine died. All this demonstrates how vulnerable our computers systems are, even those early military computers. Huge efforts have been put into making military computers less vulnerable, but our home computers and many internet servers are very vulnerable to EMP.

  8. The interesting thing is, that this is a threat that has been well known for about 30 years but outside the military and Civil Defense community has seen little exposure. The first indications of EMP effects and its threat occurred in the shot that effected Hawaii in 1962, but it took some time to study the problem and what protective actions are possible in a modern society. We were actually more vulnerable in some respects in the early 1980’s because much of our installed electronics then had very poor ESD protection (electrostatic discharge) and weak EMI protection (ElectroMagnetic Interference). That was the time period where you heard reports of peoples cars shutting off, or garage doors opening when a nearby trucker key’d his CB radio.
    Both EMI and ESD protection on consumer electronics has improved substantially since then, as has consumer level power surge protection. Today many consumer electronics are protected against power line surges with plug in surge protectors. These will help survivability of electronics in the low signal strength areas outside the primary impact area of the EMP, but will not have a lot of value when high field strengths are developed in the areas most effected by EMP.
    It is also important to understand the very short warning times that this sort of attack would give. If an ICBM were launched over intercontinental distances (ie Korea or Iran to the U.S.) the flight time from detection of the launch to detonation over a major industrial country would range from roughly 20-30 minutes depending on trajectory and target/launch point distances. If launched from near by land based locations (ie Venezuela -toward- U.S. or Iran -toward- Israel or Europe, or Korea -toward- Japan) the time on target would be much less, closer to 15-20 minutes. If launched from a sea based platform (some of these countries now have submarines and are working on sea launched ballistic missile technology), time on target would be on the order of 10-12 minutes total elapsed time from launch detection to detonation. If you consider the time for the warning messages to be issued, maximum warning time to the general public would range from zero to 3-5 minutes. The Military might get 5-8 minutes.
    There are relatively simple protective measures that can significantly harden even domestic consumer electronics but it would take years to implement them on a major scale.
    There are also low tech actions that can be used during periods of high threat for isolated systems like PC’s, such as unplugging them and placing them in a low EM environment like a shielded container or wrapping them with layers of aluminum foil to provide some Faraday shielding.
    Some recent changes in technology are improving the picture, moving to fiber optic from Cat5 ethernet for example, but all connections to electronics must be protected and even near by “non-traditional” conductors like water and gas pipes and other long metallic structures that can carry currents into and induce currents in near by signal and power lines.
    Large installations like switching centers must be protected in layers with both individual component protective devices and system level (the whole building or room) shielding and surge protection. They also may be un-protectable without some re-engineering of ground designs for example.
    Ham radio operators have a handle on some of these techniques, in the sort of protective measures they take for lightning strike and EMI protection on their equipment, but the very fast rise time of EMP pulses compared to lightning and other power surge pulses require much more attention to detail on install and location of the protection, and also magnetic shielding as well as typical EMI Faraday shielding.
    Steel bodied autos are relatively unaffected until field strengths get very high due to the inherent Faraday and magnetic shielding of the car bodies, and the fact that they float free of local ground paths and are typically are not located close to long conductors which can act as antennas for the EMP energy. At high field strengths they do become sensitive and the damage would typically not be repairable immediately post attack.
    Same goes for consumer electronics. Properly installed power surge arresters like MOV’s at the power panel are the best protection but plug in surge Arresters will provide some limited protection. But those protective devices like MOV’s and Zenier Diodes need to be properly installed (very low inductance leads — ie very short leads) to allow them to react quickly enough to handle nanosecond rise time pulses typical of EMP.
    Faraday shielding of the electronics themselves — such as older style computer cases which have all steel cases, rather than all plastic cases would be helpful in shielding sensitive internal components from surge voltages. Likewise high quality shielded leads on connections to the computer are necessary to reduce signal strength of both EMF and currents induced in the leads which interconnect devices and power leads.
    Larry

  9. I have heard that the military has taken steps to “harden” their systems to protect against EMP. How do they do that?

  10. “The electrical noise from the florescent lights in the lab ceiling was enough to disrupt the function of the chips.”
    That’s one reason why the space shuttle uses i386 microprocessors for all the critical gear. There wasn’t a rad hard Pentium (Pentium I) project until the late 1990’s. I am not sure anyone actually builds them. To the best of my knowledge, manned programs use i386 microprocessors.

  11. One word: Silverplate.
    I also laughed at this:

    and cars made since 1980 might instantly and permanently lose steering, engine and brake control

    Absolutely wrong. For the vast, vast majority of road vehicles, braking and steering are mechanical, NOT in any way shape or form electronic. The closest would be cruise control, which is STILL vacuum actuated in the majority of vehicles.
    Actually, my 1987 Daytona Shelby Z has its engine control electronics in a heavily shielded metal container inside the car, also surrounded by the chassis. In addition I made a few modifications as recommended by a friend who did a lot of work with “Silverplating”, and I’m confident my car would still be running. Not so for the 89-93’s, where they put the engine controllers at the very nose in a plastic case… that made no sense to me.
    Meanwhile, if I had to I could convert my vehicles to low-tech ignition with just a few hours of soldering and some simple components… unless someone wants to try to convince me that my soldering iron and disconnected components would be destroyed by EMP also.
    Once again, an interesting article heavy with hyperbole and low on facts… but entertaining all the same.

  12. George Bruce (18:35:36) :
    I have heard that the military has taken steps to “harden” their systems to protect against EMP. How do they do that?

    They use a systematic process of establishing multiple layers of protection.
    EMP induces very fast rise time voltage and current pulses on any long conductor exposed to the EMP pulse.
    The first level of protection is to place protective devices at all entry points to a facility and to bring all penetrations into the building at a single point if possible. At that entry point they provide a very high quality ground that has very low impedance to fast rise time transients and they “single point” ground things that should be grounded to that point, and then provide protective devices on all the “hot side” conductors that cannot normally be grounded.
    The first layer is typically large high energy MOV’s attached with very short leads between the power conductor and the ground. MOV’s act like a non-linear resistor, and their design voltage they have a very high resistance but at high voltages they “break down” and act like a very low resistance. In low power circuits they would typically use ziener diodes for the same function. In the case of RF circuits (radio antennas) they use what are called fast acting gas gap diodes with behave much like a neon light. At voltages below their turn on voltage they are essentially an open circuit, at high voltages the gas ionizes and shorts the voltage spike to ground.
    These measures essential “peak clip” the surge.
    They also have to in the case of facilities provide a shielded enclosure — basically a large Faraday cage room and place sensitive equipment in side that cage. The cage also is designed to provide magnetic shielding so large magnetic fields cannot induce currents inside the structure. At this point again all penetrations are passed through an entry panel that has additional protective devices on all conductors passing through the panel.
    At the device level they harden the design itself so it is tolerant of over voltage on the signal and power leads, and the case of the component provides another layer of Faraday shielding.
    The shielded enclosure we had at our emergency operations center had something like 100 db of attenuation. We were only a few miles from a 50,000 watt AM radio station and the antenna towers of multiple megawatt class FM and TV stations, and with the door closed you could not receive any of them on radios that did not have external connections through the penetration panel.
    Protection against EMP is not trivial as many normally safe paths become conductors to fast rise time pulses due to inductive and magnetic coupling.
    The best low cost protection for consumer level equipment is to turn it off and un plug it , and place it inside a conductive shell (Faraday cage). The simple expedient of wrapping a device with multiple layers of aluminum foil will greatly increase its tolerance to EMP effects.
    If the device must be plugged in, the best low cost protection is to install power panel surge protectors and plug in surge protectors at the wall plug, and UPS systems. Their protection is additive, the power panel MOV’s would clip the voltage down to manageable levels for the wall surge protectors and UPS system. High quality lightning surge protection goes a long way toward protecting consumer equipment.
    There are lots of paths for interaction so it is hard to setup “expedient” protection for commercial power equipment without testing and good engineering.
    If operation under power is critical and the device itself is critical, a DC powered device connected to a protected DC batter pack or free floating battery system would be the best way to go.
    Larry

  13. hotrod (18:24:17) :
    Faraday shielding of the electronics themselves ..

    MUCH over-hyped term.
    What most people mean when they use the holy words Faraday shielding is (what I will call) simple EM shielding which is effective against both electric and magnetic fields, because, there are “Faraday shields” that strictly shield the electric component of a field while allowing the magentic to proceed, unimpeded.
    So, I don’t think you strictly mean a Faraday shielding in the classic Physics sense, and I wish everyone would school themselves on this aspect.
    Look, even wikipedia has it right: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_shielding
    Also, the literature is rich in the application of “Faraday shields” in induction heaters; the shield is placed between the coil and the workpiece and prevents de-tuning of the coil due to capacitive coupling to the workpiece while allowing the magentic field to be effective on the workpiece.

  14. “There are also low tech actions that can be used during periods of high threat for isolated systems like PC’s, such as unplugging them and placing them in a low EM environment like a shielded container or wrapping them with layers of aluminum foil…”
    And people laugh at my tin foil hat.

  15. CodeTech (18:52:47) :
    I also laughed at this:
    and cars made since 1980 might instantly and permanently lose steering, engine and brake control
    Absolutely wrong. For the vast, vast majority of road vehicles, braking and steering are mechanical, NOT in any way shape or form electronic. The closest would be cruise control, which is STILL vacuum actuated in the majority of vehicles.

    I happen to know of a simulated EMP test against automobiles, it is over 10 year old now. I don’t know the pulse length or the field strength used in the test. All the late model automobiles engines died after being subjected to the EMP. This would also cause power steering and power brakes systems to fail on vehicles so equipped.
    Interestingly, some of the vehicles functioned again after disconnecting the battery and waiting for the engine control computer to reset.

  16. The comments are mainly concerned with individual devices or automobiles. My memory says that the early discussions of EMP indicated the power grid was very susceptible. And if we take out a bunch of transformers there are only a limited number of spared on hand.

  17. @CodeTech Once again, an interesting article heavy with hyperbole and low on facts… but entertaining all the same.
    Now just how well are the power brakes and the power steering going to work when the engine stops?

  18. A minor point, but the circuit depicted (from Professor Ehsan Afshari, Cornell) was fried by too much current pushed through too little metal….

  19. One common argument that often I heard from left leaning people is that “there is no way Iran would attack the US with one nuke because the US response would wipe them off the face of the earth”.
    Then you try the futile excercise in explaining to these people that Shiite Islamists who truely believe in the return of the 12th Imam and the Islamic “end of days” – requires 2 things:
    1) that THEY initiate the final battle. Not that we attack them, but they initiate the final battle
    2) that we are all destroyed as part of the final battle
    Only then will Mohammed return and they get their 72 virgins
    People need to understand that for the Islamic extremists – dying as a result of this battle is not only what they want, but what is REQUIRED for them to succeed.
    M.A.D. worked because the Russians wanted to live. The Islamists want to die, and they want to take us with them.

  20. coaldust (19:29:16) :

    This would also cause power steering and power brakes systems to fail on vehicles so equipped.

    The power assist goes away when the prime mover is no longer running, but one can, if capable, armstrong those into
    ‘compliance’. I lose power steering briefly when turning right into water puddles with a mid 90’s Detroit product …

  21. Gosh, you mean I might actually have to think and act for myself, instead of letting machines do it? I might have to make calculations on paper? I would have to read the books on my shelves or in a library instead of words on a lit screen. I would have to interact face-to-face with others to acomplish my work? I might have to walk somewhere or make things with my hands?
    Wait, isn’t that how I started out – lo, those many decades ago?
    Yes, I believe I could do that, again. I seem to remember I was good at it.
    You?

  22. codetech,
    I don’t recommend that you try turning your engine off while driving 75mph to see what happens to the steering or brakes.
    crosspatch,
    I don’t think Wikipedia or Newt are giving away any classified information.

  23. What most people mean when they use the holy words Faraday shielding is (what I will call) simple EM shielding which is effective against both electric and magnetic fields, because, there are “Faraday shields” that strictly shield the electric component of a field while allowing the magentic to proceed, unimpeded.

    That is correct, which is why I specifically mentioned magnetic shielding as well. Our shield enclosure in the emergency operations center was a metal box (room) composed of multiple layers of galvanized steel and sheet copper, to provide shielding against both the electric field and the magnetic field. The door had continuous brass finger stock to ground the entire perimeter of the door when closed, to create a complete Faraday cage room with magnetic shielding included.
    As mentioned above it is a highly complex topic that is not well understood in even the normal trades that deal with electricity and data. It is very common for a custom engineered EMP enclosure to be seriously compromised by a well meaning electrician doing something so simple as drilling a single small hole in the wall to pass a low power conductor through the wall.
    The problem with this sort of forum, is you have to strike a balance between precision and clear communication. The Electronics engineer might understand the distinction but for a layman’s discussion, a Faraday cage is good enough to communicate the basic process of shielding and is understood by most folks with a passing understanding of physics and electronics.
    Magnetic shielding is also used inside the shield enclosure with all leads in steel conduits and junction boxes, and avoidance of corner installation locations for sensitive equipment as Faraday and Magnetic shielding are less effective in the corners of the cage.
    At penetrations and conductors they also filter, by placing ferrite beads over leads and chokes in power leads to buck induced currents and stretch the rise time to a rate of change that can be handled by consumer class devices. You have to also consider coupling modes that are not typically a concern.
    For example on fast rise time surges transformers can capacitively couple across the coils to pass surges that would normally be blocked by their inductance. They act as if a small capacitor was connected between the windings.
    For example on board ship (1970’s period) our computer room was isolated from ships power by 5 1:1 transformers in series to supress surges. We had a rat or snake crawl into a power box and it blew a shore power lead the size of your forearm off the box and it vaporized a 12″ by 18″ junction panel, and then proceeded to hop all over the fantail of the ship until shore power cut off. This 440 volt line glitched all sorts of systems on our ship. It killed the first 3 of the 5 – 1:1 isolation transformers but in spite of that isolation, enough of the surge got through to zap about a dozen circuit cards in our computer. We were chasing phantom electrical problems for about a month from the gradual failure of components that survived the original surges but were degraded enough that they failed much sooner than normal.
    Here are a few references — For the technically minded the last link will keep you busy for a while (298 page PDF) and covers things like shielding, shunting surges, components, and single point grounds (single point earth in the UK).
    http://www.eeel.nist.gov/817/pubs/spd-anthology/files/MOV%20announce%20color.pdf
    http://books.google.com/books?id=-sE7JVywygQC&pg=PA71&lpg=PA71&dq=MOV+Metal+oxide+varistors++GE&source=bl&ots=pj-Mul8Rw8&sig=bCjpnY4TVyqgnv-8H8T5L_yz-YM&hl=en&ei=8XPZSYSyBIz2MMfL4fwO&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2
    http://www.lightningtalks.com/LightningProtection.htm
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5368/is_200709/ai_n21296174/
    http://www.dstan.mod.uk/data/59/411/05000100.pdf (page 50 and following for devices)
    Larry

  24. hotrod (18:24:17)
    “Both EMI and ESD protection on consumer electronics has improved substantially since then, as has consumer level power surge protection.”
    Agree, but there is no guarantee.
    The United States does not have any regulations regarding immunity for consumer products, if the consumer product has a CE mark on it for the European Union then it as been evaluated to 4kV contact and 8kV air discharges for ESD and 3V/m for radiated immunity, that is if the company has fulfilled only the minimum requirements for the CE mark.
    Bill_M7

  25. A few brief excerpts from: http://republicans.smbiz.house.gov/hearings/106th/1999/990601/skinner.asp

    1) EMP testing of consumer electronics indicates that most systems require high EMP levels for damage, but may be upset (but not destroyed) at lower levels. Testing of COTS equipment has allowed us to make some observations regarding their vulnerability to a range of EMP environments.

    2) Changes in commercial technology contribute to the hardening of the infrastructure. The two most significant developments are the widespread use of optical fibers and the general electromagnetic shielding of commercial electronics against spurious signals.

    3) You likely have a form of EMP protection in your home, if you have a home computer or a major investment in home electronics entertainment systems. You likely have purchased a surge suppressor …

  26. hotrod (19:57:13) :
    That is correct, which is why I specifically mentioned magnetic shielding as well.

    ???????? (Makes little sense to differentiate btw the two types of ‘fields’ esp. in as general a discussion as we are having here; the haphazard use of term ‘Faraday shielding’, I think, however, serves no useful purpose but to confuse and water down the term, the meaning, and the true nature of same. Regards)

  27. geophys55 ,
    Besides the romantic idea of going back to the good old days, there is that little problem of having cities with tens of millions of people and no access to food, heat or water.

  28. I wonder if North Korea was even interested in placing the satellite in space. Maybe what they want more is the attention from the attempt and it’s use to gain a bargening chip in the future. Surely they realize that noone can be a winner when it comes to a war and that retalliation would be swift and awful for their country and spill over into countries close to it’s border. There is a lot of pride involved in the psychology of the leaders in North Korea. For example, when South Korea sent food the ship got to the harbor but since it was flying the South Korean flag the ship was turned away. It will be interesting to see the sanctions, if any, that are imposed on South Korea.

  29. _Jim (19:50:28) :
    coaldust (19:29:16) :
    The power assist goes away when the prime mover is no longer running, …

    Yes, this is what I mean. This would only be a problem for vehicles already in motion.

  30. c’mon folks
    Losing the power assist on the brakes and steering, even at 75 mph, is not really much of a problem unless you’re riding the switchbacks down the mountain. But a modern high-energy electronic ignition system with coil-on-plug and electronic fuel injection is going to require a lot more than firing up the old soldering gun and renovating all those old parts you’ve been saving in vintage coffee cans under the bench.

  31. When I worked for IBM UK at Havant Plant, many moons ago, there was a section called logic test and rework. From time to time one of the women (Freda…mmmm) who worked there allowed me to have a look at circuit boards under her microscope. Some times it, literally, looked like an aerial photo of a WW1 battle field. This damage was from static discharge, not an EMP, but the effects are the same.

  32. “I wonder if North Korea was even interested in placing the satellite in space.”
    No they aren’t. But there is a statute in “international law” that says everyone has free access to space. So they use the claim of a space shot to cover their ballistic missile testing. As long as they claim they are attempting to orbit a satellite, they can fire off whatever they want.
    A solution would be to offer to launch any satellite they want to launch with our vehicles from Florida. That gives them “access” to space. Then we shoot down anything they launch from Korea. Actually, I would be okay with destroying the vehicle on the pad before launch as even a partial flight can give a lot of data. They can get an idea if the thing is operating properly or not.
    As long as they claim they are attempting to reach space, they can do pretty much whatever they want. There really is no difference between an ICBM and a space vehicle. The Mercury and Gemini programs were launched with US ICBM boosters. In fact, the entire purpose of an orbital launch is to send the message that a country has the technology to reach any point on the planet. If you can put an object into a stable orbit, you have the technology to aim a ballistic missile to any place on the Earth. Achieving a stable orbit is a matter of hitting a certain point in space at the right speed and altitude. The idea of hitting a spot on the surface is the same for a suborbital trajectory. You hit a certain spot at a certain speed and then let gravity take over. The payload is “ballistic” at that point and if your boost profile was correct, your reentry profile will be correct.

  33. My ’69 Vette had a metal box around the coil/distributor, and shielding on all the spark plug wires to keep the am-fm radio listenable. Made changing the plugs and points a real pain, so they soon went in a box in the attic and I gave up listening to the radio.
    When I once took a transistor radio into Walmart, all the sheet metal in the roof wiped out reception completely. On the other hand, I notice everyone in the aluminum bodied airliner getting good reception on their cell phones during taxi-in, so there’s no telling what’s going to work or not. I’m just glad I got all my pre-fluoride silver fillings replaced with plastic ones.
    Nuke deterrence won’t work with the two likely suspects. The Iranian MFWIC would be happy to take his nation to gehenna with him, and Kim Dim Sum is safe because half the folks in South Korea have relatives up north, and the other half (and Japan) would suffer from the fallout. I do believe the North Korean leadership is rational, but willing to push up to the limit, and beyond. It’s the Iranians whom we must worry about. If you look on a globe for missile flight paths, you’ll see why George W. was willing to irritate the Russians by putting an ABM unit in eastern Europe.
    Given that the current administration didn’t know that DVD’s have region codes, it might be wise to invest in a little extra tin foil.
    Fortunately, for the next four years, my plastic Vette and I aren’t going to be living in any invitingly large population centers.

  34. If you lose your power steering at speed in freeway traffic, you have a serious problem. You can’t swerve to avoid the accident which is inevitably going to happen right in front of you.

  35. Popular Mechanics had a very good article about this in their September, 2001 issue – but something else happened that month which diverted everyone’s attention towards lower tech terrorism.

    E-Bombs And Terrorists: September 2001 Cover Story
    In the blink of an eye, electromagnetic bombs could throw civilization back 200 years. And terrorists can build them for $400.

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/defense/1281421.html

  36. George Bruce — I have heard that the military has taken steps to “harden” their systems to protect against EMP. How do they do that?
    In the 80’s my employer’s equipment was used in the processing of semiconductors being used in the space program (gov’t facilities) and these were rad hardened devices being made. They use manufacturing techniques in the chips themselves to shunt overflow currents. My guess is that almost all modern era non-COTS military electronics are similarly hardened; my experience was well over 20 years ago and I suspect that this is now reasonably standard.
    CodeTech — Absolutely wrong. For the vast, vast majority of road vehicles, braking and steering are mechanical, NOT in any way shape or form electronic.
    My Acura MDX doesn’t use mechanical linkage for steering. Won’t be long I think before most cars are similar.
    pwc — My memory says that the early discussions of EMP indicated the power grid was very susceptible.
    Wait until the government upgrades it. Suggested improvements include internet connected PC’s to control the grid. As if it’s not enough to look out for terrorist hackers to cause problems…

  37. coaldust (20:51:37) :
    . . . The power assist goes away when the prime mover is no longer running, …
    Yes, this is what I mean. This would only be a problem for vehicles already in motion.

    Steven Goddard (21:33:41) :
    If you lose your power steering at speed in freeway traffic, you have a serious problem. You can’t swerve to avoid the accident which is inevitably going to happen right in front of you.

    Been there. The engine quit while I was driving (ignition problem), and the steering suddenly got stiffer and the brakes took more pressure, but they worked just fine.
    With nuke EMP’s, airplanes should be OK, at least for getting back on the ground. The little guys have all mechanical controls, and the big ones AFAIK have at least one mechanical backup. The modern jets all have electronic engine controls, but the engines are made by the same companies that make the rad hardened military engines, so they should be OK, too. Airplanes are designed with lightning strikes in mind, so the electronics and electrical systems have some inherent durability.
    We still have a little time to get our ABM systems running, since the best rad hardening is preventing the nukes from getting here in the first place.

  38. “If you loose your power steering at speed in freeway traffic, you have a serious problem. You can’t swerve to avoid the accident which is inevitably going to happen right in front of you.”
    I am not entirely convinced of this as many PAS systems in cars these days actually start to reduce the PAS as speed increases specifically to prevent an accident as a result of swerving.
    Having said that, it’s nothing like losing *ALL* PAS systems (Steering, brakes etc) in a Land Rover on a round-about, in rush hour.
    Also had a ex-military Land Rover 109 V8 FFR (Fitted For Radio) which had a fully screened electical system which ran at 24V and 800AH.

  39. Let me try one more time.
    If you are in a large vehicle like an SUV, van or truck and the engine goes out, it is nearly impossible to manoeuvre the vehicle out of traffic. I can bench press nearly 300 pounds, but when an SUV I used to own blew out the alternator – it took all of my strength to edge it to the side of the road. I understand that some people have small cars with particular steering systems that can be driven reasonably well without power. Can we move on?
    As far as airplanes go, we seem to be barely able to land jets safely with all systems fully functional. Heathrow handles 200,000 passengers per day. Take a typical cloudy day in London and try to land those planes with no fuel systems, communications, lights radar or computers. Not very many are going to make it to the ground in one piece.

  40. Thanks for your blog, Anthony. Always a pleasure to consult in these strange times.
    1. Connecting the dots… William Morse (20:00:56) “if the consumer product has a CE mark on it for the European Union then it as been evaluated to 4kV contact and 8kV air discharges for ESD and 3V/m for radiated immunity, that is if the company has fulfilled only the minimum requirements for the CE mark.” From what I see on the bizarre nuclear smiley clown mask map, the charge from a single EMP will be above 12.5V/m for almost the entire area affected. Ergo, even CE mark appliances won’t help.
    2. I just finished reading “One Second After” by William Forstchen the fictionalized account of EMP which details the human cost. The author did a lot of research. He was very optimistic however, his time for the attack was spring or summer. Imagine the electricity off because the EMP was shot off just before the major winter holiday of the infidels. By the way, the delivery method in the book was surface launch from container ship, no submarine needed. Will a Korean or Iranian missile fit in a container or two?
    3. We don’t need a nuclear EMP to be deprived of electricity, of course. As discussed here previously, a solar storm could do it, or for large area a very bad ice storm (is there a possibility we will have more of those if temperatures keep dropping?) can take out a lot of electrical supply. There were 4 million people without electricity from an ice storm in Quebec 10 years ago. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_ice_storm_of_1998 If average temps keep falling, could the area commonly affected by that move south?
    4. Guess I can sell my 86 LeSabre, I had hoped it was old enough but that comment about 1980 cars has me worried!~

  41. Steven, while you are moving on, please re-read paragraph 3 in my post at 22:09:21. A Land Rover *IS* a large, even the short wheel base one, heavy vehicle.

  42. Steven Goddard (22:19:46) :
    As far as airplanes go, we seem to be barely able to land jets safely with all systems fully functional. Heathrow handles 200,000 passengers per day.

    Barely 200,000 pax per day land safely ?
    🙂

  43. That’s it…I’m turning Amish for sure! If only they were allowed to use the internet…hmmm.

  44. Pat,
    A Land Rover is a large vehicle, but you didn’t provide any data about it other than a mention that the PAS theoretically reduces at speed. (Don’t) try turning it off completely on the freeway.
    Mike,
    BBC NEWS | England | London | Airliner crash-lands at Heathrow
    17 Jan 2008 … A BA passenger jet from China crash-lands short of a Heathrow runway after reportedly losing power.

  45. Meanwhile, if I had to I could convert my vehicles to low-tech ignition with just a few hours of soldering and some simple components… unless someone wants to try to convince me that my soldering iron and disconnected components would be destroyed by EMP also.
    Does your soldering iron run on butane? Or do you have a generator in your garage, shielded and waiting for the balloon to go up? Because if the EMP kills anything, it’ll kill the power grid. Could take a loooong time for that soldering iron to heat up.

  46. I don’t believe there is anything we are going to be able to do to EMP-proof our infrastructure. The thing that is most important about this line of thought, though, is to bring out how fragile our infrastructure really is and EMP from an aggressive act or even from a huge solar flare could cause us a great calamity.
    Just the number of people stuck in elevators in buildings that have them computer controlled would be staggering. We can’t go around putting little tin foil hats on all of our electronics gear. And I have had problems with “alpha particle induced soft errors” in chips with ceramic packages. If the pulse doesn’t fry the electronics, it is has the potential to randomly change the state of many things such as the contents of memory locations, registers internal to processors, the state of logic devices, etc. There is no telling what the equipment is going to do because there are going to be things changing state at more or less random. Even if your computer isn’t killed, it is probably going to have its memory scrambled. Plan on the Internet being gone for a while too.
    And … I promise it will happen some day. That there was a huge solar flare in the 1800’s says such events are probably fairly common over geological time. We have no idea how common they are. Attempting to design to survive it is probably futile or cost prohibitive but maybe what we CAN do is design so that the systems fail in some kind of predictable manner. Of course, that is hard to do for a computer whose memory gets changed at random.

  47. Steven Goddard (21:52:34) :
    US leadership still addled, but possibly showing some rudimentary signs of brain function. Perhaps the North Korean missile was an enlightening event.
    Mmmm. But given the prevalence of propaganda (Whoops, sorry, if it comes from your side it’s “information” isn’t it?) the question is, how do we know that NK even launched a rocket? It would certainly suit the US MIC (Military Industrial Complex) to use such “information” to press the case for more research and development of ABM systems (which will almost certainly never work). What independent (of the US) evidence of a launch is there?
    The legal side is also interesting. A high level burst over Kansas is quite obviously a violation of American airspace (as American lawyers are entirely capable of extending “airspace” to cover regions where there isn’t in fact any air), but what about a burst over International waters? Since the majority of the US population and industry is near the East, West or South coasts, one or more such bursts could cripple considerable proportions of American capabilities. Maybe, just maybe, the UN could make a case against such, but again, what about a burst high over your own territory? Apart from a pretty flash there is little or no ground effect from such and if Iran wanted to put on a show for its people that surely is their affair? And if Israel objects? We do live in interesting times, don’t we.

  48. I’m not so worried about Iran and North Korea. They play their games so that they can always have feel like they some sense of self-importance. If they create trouble won’t be as bad as knocking out the US grid because the repercussions for them and the whole world would be devastating.
    I’m more worried about the mental damage being done to young generations by media disinformation campaigns that spread hatred of capitalism and free markets while glorifying anarchism, communism and fascism. This is called subversion and we see it daily from the Guardian and other media outlets. Most of last week the Guardian has been attacking British police at the G20 protest and defending the scum who came out to attack them, making them out to be victims of police brutality when it was the other way around. Our environmentalist friend George Monbiot, liar extraordinaire and co-founder of a Marxist-Islamist party, led the charge.
    Then take a look at the attack on free markets in the media. Government and lawmakers were responsible for sub-prime in the first place, not the free market. The result we have now is that the free market takes the blame for everything while sub-prime has gone international.
    The conclusion of the G20 summit saw politicians create $1 trillion of wealth, most of which will be for developing nations which they will have to pay interest on. Some money will also be used to keep nations poor by putting them on welfare. That’s what regulation is all about – imperialism. True free markets allow nations to be equal players on the world stage but the elites don’t want that and neither do the Leftist journalists who are brainwashing our X-Box playing youth into accepting greater government control of their lives. The media feels it is untouchable from criticism. It has become drunk on its power to influence opinion, suppress information and manipulate the masses.
    There is the real threat that would destroy our freedoms from within. So the question is, what is the bigger threat? Living under an eco-communist nightmare created by our own people or an EMP weapon that might never be launched because the attacking nation wouldn’t benefit from doing so?

  49. I think a ballistic missile strike by Iran or N.Korea is a very, very distant possibility.
    Far more likely is an “accidental” failure of a N. Korean or Iranian nuclear powered satellite directly over the continental US, giving some degree of plausible deniability.

  50. NASA’s THEMIS spacecraft recently discovered a hole in earth’s magnetic field which is 10 times as large as previously thought. The magnetosphere protects earth from the plasma of solar flares, now has a hole in it four time the size of the earth. A large solar flare would knock out hundreds of key transformers that would take years to replace and living standards would plummet. Winters without electricity might be tough. Fortunately the sun is real quiet now.
    Worrying about North Korea is almost a ridiculous as worrying about mans CO2 causing catastrophic global warming. These countries don’t have a suicide wish. Although the population is poor, the leaders live pretty well.
    As for the terrorists, thats a possibility. But even then, those who might help provide them with such a weapon would have to consider the consequences of being even a suspect.
    GK (19:48:12) : [i]”People need to understand that for the Islamic extremists – dying as a result of this battle is not only what they want, but what is REQUIRED for them to succeed.”[/i]
    The Islamist leaders who rule Iran already have paradise on earth with many more virgins than the 72 you get in paradise. Religions are created for the herd so the leaders can control them. In Islam, the promise of paradise after death, while they live in a paradise on earth, is a good way to motivate people to go on suicide missions that serve their interests. Life is already good enough for the leaders, and they are in no hurry to meet Allah, so they will not send their herd on suicide missions if it would lead to their demise. Saddam getting hung may have made an impression as well.
    In any event, Iran has no nuclear weapons, and North Korea makes crappy rockets apparently. Pakistan would be a more likely suspect, but the argument made applies to them as well. This is just alarmism of the AGW variety.

  51. Hmm, most of this reminds me of AGW scaremongering. Take a real effect (greenhouse effect / EMP) which is real, known, understood, scientific effect. Then claim all kinds of doom and gloom consequences which are not real, known, understood, scientific – yet insist there is some kind of a scientific basis for the claims.
    The power steering and power brakes is a typical example. I have a modern vehicle, which has hydraulic power steering and vacuum servo assisted brakes. These both rely on the engine turning to operate. When I’m doing 75 mph and the clutch is up, the engine isn’t going to stop turning, even if all the electronics were to burn out (which I’m not particularly convinced they would). There is this huge mechanical link between the tyres, through the gearbox, to the crankshaft, which turns the pulley for the power steering, and creates a vacuum in the inlet manifold via the pistons which form an air pump. And the EMP isn’t going to melt the driveshafts. So I have both power steering and power braking. A small chunk of engine braking, too. So the answer is simple: if you need to steer and brake, and your electronics won’t run the engine, let the road run the engine for you.
    SG suggests not turning the engine off at 75mph. I agree with this strongly, and people shouldn’t be tempted to try it out. Nothing to do with power steering or braking, more to do with the fact that there is a chance that you will accidentally engage the steering lock, which is a much greater hazard than the loss of power assisted steering or servo assisted brakes.

  52. This sounds a bit like AGW scaremongering, yes EMP will have an effect but I thing it has been grossly overstated.

  53. I have no idea what this post is doing on WUWT.
    This is not supposed to be a political blog.
    REPLY: Jeez, please read the masthead:
    “Commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news by Anthony Watts”
    This has two components cited in the masthead:
    1) technology and 2) recent news
    – Anthony

  54. I never could grasp the elctro-magnetic part of physics, found it fascinating but much went over my head. Anyway I enjoyed watching “Goldeneye” & have know about EMP scince my father used to work for the UK ARWE. Daft really under the official secrets act he wasn’t allowed to tell us what he had for lunch in case the Russians got to here about it, not that they probably didn’t know anyway.
    I digress. (Moderator please feel free to amend/delete if you think I may put ideas into heads etc although I frankly doubt that I am a first) What I find really frightening is not so much the odd rogue state using the technology to launch a deadly weapon, but tell me my fellow WUWTites, using the simple analysis from the altitude/radius connection, surely it would be possible to construct a small version not for national/international usage, but one used on a local scale on a 5-10 mile radius outward & upward, like airports, banks, military installations, government departments? The local disruption & chaos would be horrendous with emergency services unable to mobilise, etc. no local communications available. That I think would be more of a risk & far more frightening. We have seen the damage caused by 9/11 & 7/7 & Madrid, add in a tactical device like an EMP generator?????

  55. The EMP effects get a lot of publicity but often overlooked is the possibility of the HANE (High Altitude Nuclear Explosion) detonating appx 100km high.
    “If someone were to explode a 10kT nuclear weapon at a high enough altitude over their own territory, 90% of the world’s low earth orbit [LEO] satellites would be lost within a month.”
    An interesting link can be found here.
    http://www.globalsecurity.org/org/news/2002/nuke_explosion.htm
    Now detonating a test blast over your their territory with no immediate effect would make nuking a country like Iran or Korea in retaliation appear rather drastic overkill so I think we would be back to more just more sanctions.
    Immediate effect on Western Civilization, No mobiles, No Satellite Tv, Thats enough on it’s own to end civilisation as we know it for todays youth.

  56. It may be an uncomfortable truth for some people in the US, but the US was the ONLY nation to use nuclear weapons (not counting tests). The US has an unbelievable arsenal of weapon systems ranging from cruise-missiles to carrier battle groups – and the US have proven that they are willing to use them to bomb other nations into the “dark ages”, as you call it, and they have done so repeatedly. The US is spending more on its military budget than combined military budgets of the rest of the world. The US has meddled in the internal affairs of every nation under the sun, unsing from hostile economic measures, assassinations and mercenaries, to its full military “might”. The US threatens every nation with nuclear annihilation that would even THINK about launching a missile in the general direction of the US.
    So maybe, just maybe, all those little countries which are willing to sacrifice a substantial part of their Gross National Income to build nuclear weapons (and ICBMs) do so to build up a deterrent to prevent an US attack on their county? So maybe, just maybe, could you for one moment look at the world from the point of someone who is at the wrong end of your imperial armada? Like anybody outside of the US?
    Ah, who am I kidding? Empires have never been brought down by reason! Empires need to come down crushing! So you do what you do, maybe even more. Throw more money at your military! Maybe this will bring you down even faster.

  57. Graeme Rodaughan (17:55:56) :
    What happens if you have a leader who truely believes that he is on a mission from GOD to rid the world of the godless unbelievers and has sufficient control locally to ensure that his orders are obeyed without question?

    Are you talking about former president GWB?

  58. To Hugh
    Ref your VW, how will you fill it when all the microchip controlled petrol pumps are fried?

  59. .
    >>What happens if you have a leader who truely believes that
    >>he is on a mission from GOD to rid the world of the godless
    >>unbelievers
    Too true. Koran quote:
    ”When the sacred months are over, fight and slay the unbelievers wherever you find them, beseige them and lie in wait for them in every strategem of war.” (Koran 9:5)
    .

  60. >>Hane explosion
    >>Immediate effect on Western Civilization, No mobiles, No Satellite Tv,
    And no aviation either – it is all satellite navigation nowadays. I suppose VOR nav is still there as a backup, but it would be very restrictive.
    .

  61. TonyS (00:53:48) :

    Are you talking about former president GWB?

    No – just any hypothetical leader with a messianic complex.

  62. >>and cars made since 1980 might instantly and permanently
    >>lose steering, engine and brake control
    >>Absolutely wrong…..
    No so. There is no cable connection in my Citroen, between throttle and injectors. It is all electronic.
    .

  63. RE: Russ Steele (18:19:23) :
    Russ – being somewhat of an expert in this area in a former (non-retired) life (20+ years, Texas Instruments), and having seen firsthand this issue, I would assert that the interference was more likely due to the light impingement on the exposed GaAs, altering the band gaps on the junctions of the integrated transistors. When the guard turned off the light – no impingement, no interference.
    Been there, done that.

  64. .
    >>When I’m doing 75 mph and the clutch is up, the engine isn’t going to
    >>stop turning, even if all the electronics were to burn out.
    Again not true. My fuel control system is all electronic, and when the computer has a fit (once a year) everything stops. All lights and all accelleration dies and the servo brakes seem to disappear too.
    Besides, if you have a modern ”plip” key, you would never get into the car in the first place.

  65. “jeez (00:18:29) :
    I have no idea what this post is doing on WUWT.
    This is not supposed to be a political blog.”
    You’re right Jeez, this is definitely a departure.

  66. regarding the answer to an eventual nuclear attack, i am not sure at all that the current US administration would be in a hurry to retaliate if anyone fired a nuke with the intention to make damage. they would probably write an angry letter to the UN, and start negotiations….
    EMP would be a massive PITA, but i tend to believe that enough infrastructure would survive to keep things running. someone might remember the Y2K bug story and how it boiled down into nothing. a lot of computers will be fried alright, but real data centers and important networking equipment is really, really protected. and most high speed data communication is done via fiberoptic, which is itself immune to EMP. now, im not sure how the grid would react to a EMP. but if it can survive lightnings, it can probably survive EMP.

  67. “Immediate effect on Western Civilization, No mobiles, No Satellite Tv, Thats enough on it’s own to end civilisation as we know it for todays youth.”
    telecommunication satellites are mainly used for backup. telecommunication is done through fiberoptics. mobiles dont use satellites except the iridium. and i can survive without TV for unlimited time. the loss of GPS would be a big problem, but i tend to think such sensitive equipment is well protected.

  68. Tony S:-0
    Far be it from me to defend America’s foreign policies over the years, right or wrong, good or bad, I know America has its faults, as every nation has, nothing is perfect, but America is the greatest nation on this earth as regards freedom & democracy. I would remind you of the Life of Brian & the Peoples Popular Front of Judea, “what have the Romans ever done for us?” – Law & Order (Oh yes Reg this place would be murder without Law & Order!), Hospitals, Education, the Aquaduct, the Viaduct, Public Health, Sanitation”, etc). I would point out that historically speaking, I cannot think of a single empire that was ever “crushed” & brought down. The Greek, Roman, Turkish, British, etc all faded becasue their time had come, the writing was on the wall, it was just a matter of time! What may have been percieved as a significant contribution said empire being brought down. Eg the Roman empire was essentially “brought down”through decline, as Rome got richer, more & more Romans sought to get out of doing national service & military duty, & more reliance was put on mercenaries. Whilst doing a splendid job for a while, they were ultimately only paid for doing a job, not to believe in an ideal! That’s without the rise of Christianity within the Roman Empire which certainly contributed towards the end. The world had moved on.
    Hugh:-)
    Stock up petrol cans then that will solve your pump issues! I am so jealous, I wish I had kept my 30 year old diesel landrover but my backcould no longer take the punishment – on metalled roads!!!!!

  69. “This is not supposed to be a political blog”
    But you can’t really separate the EMP discussion from the political story and, as we know about AGW, politicians are only too keen to make hay with anything they can use to scare the pants off the electorate.
    As H L Mencken said:
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
    Does anyone know if the Korean’s rocket made it into orbit? I hear conflicting reports, and N.Korean PR has a famously loose relationship with fact…

  70. I sincerely think that a bellicose world leader might launch a strike on the USA — believing our national leadership too weak to respond in kind. An EMP weapon that does not directly kill may embolden our more unbalanced enemies to take a chance.
    It is all about the “face” we present to the world. Our actions (or lack thereof) speak louder than words to those who only understand the use of force. I believe a historically “tough” line from USA Presidents keeps the USA (and western world) safer from those who cannot be “reached” by diplomacy. At best, there are always a few world leaders like that — and, at times, many. We better not encourage those that are nuclear armed by displaying a “weakness of will” — that virtually guarantees an eventual strike (now or decades from now) — a horror that would perhaps kill millions, cost trillions, and could start WW3.

  71. PS – While checking my Mencken quote, I discovered this, which seems wonderfully prescient when applied to AGW:
    “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
    🙂

  72. Alan the Brit (00:24:46) :
    “a small version”
    IIRC, attempts have been made to produce a directional beam generator for use on a police vehicle, to knock out the electrics of other vehicles during pursuit. I’m not sure if this was shelved for technical reasons, or because it became apparent that if stolen or copied, it could make life very difficult for law enforcement. Or maybe it just fried the police car first!

  73. Sorry folks but I am going to disagree with the article and most comments. While EMP is real I believe it is being hyped for the same reasons AGW is. When the populace is scared they fork over the money. A fission nuke detonated over the US will probably do only a tiny fraction of the damage claimed by the alarmists. The 1963 blast was the largest nuke ever tested by the US at 60 megatons. It tripped some fuses in Hawaii which were repaired in short order. Most microelectronic systems that will be effected by EMP will not be fried and will just need to be rebooted.
    The military are the old pros at the alarmist game. The global warmers are the new kids on the block. That being said money would be much better spent on hardening electronics then be wasted on carbon mitigation.

  74. TonyS,
    The US made a calculated decision to save millions of lives by using the bomb to quickly end WWII, which had already cost tens of millions of lives due to the mindless aggression of “the Axis” Japan and Germany. Unlike some, the US does not go around threatening to wipe countries “off the map.”
    Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who kept their swords
    -Benjamin Franklin
    “We have woken a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve.”
    – Admiral Isoruku Yamomoto – December, 1941

  75. Think about those new energy sources. Imagine that this last winter you should have had a 90% of the grid powered by windmills….Wake up!, the enemy is in your neighbourhood.

  76. Lindsay,
    That is good that you feel the threat is “overstated.” Neville Chamberlain did too, and as a result of his optimism was able to confidently pronounce “peace in our time” in 1939.

  77. This is scaremongering FUD. Once again I am disappointed that someone who has clearly no expertise on the subject has felt the need to publish this on this website. Go read this:-
    http://www.empcommission.org/docs/A2473-EMP_Commission-7MB.pdf
    For example :-
    “We tested a sample of 37 cars in an EMP simulation laboratory, with automobile vintages ranging from 1986 through 2002. Automobiles of these vintages include extensive electronics and represent a significant fraction of automobiles on the road today. The testing was conducted by exposing running and nonrunning automobiles to sequentially increasing EMP field intensities. If anomalous response (either temporary or permanent) was observed, the testing of that particular automobile was stopped. If no anomalous response was observed, the testing was continued up to the field intensity limits of the simulation capability (approximately 50 kV/m). Automobiles were subjected to EMP environments under both engine turned off and engine turned on conditions. No effects were subsequently observed in those automobiles that were not turned on during EMP exposure. The most serious effect observed on running automobiles was that the motors in three cars stopped at field strengths of approximately 30 kV/m or above. In an actual EMP exposure, these vehicles would glide to a stop and require the driver to restart them. Electronics in the dashboard of one automobile were damaged and required repair. Other effects were relatively minor. Twenty-five automobiles exhibited malfunctions that could be considered only a nuisance (e.g., blinking dashboard lights) and did not require driver intervention to correct. Eight of the 37 cars tested did not exhibit any anomalous response. Based on these test results, we expect few automobile effects at EMP field levels below 25 kV/m. Approximately 10 percent or more of the automobiles exposed to higher field levels may experience serious EMP effects, including engine stall, that require driver intervention to correct. We further expect that at least two out of three automobiles on the road will manifest some nuisance response at these higher field levels. The serious malfunctions could trigger car crashes on U.S. highways; the nuisance malfunctions could exacerbate this condition. The ultimate result of automobile EMP exposure could be triggered crashes that damage many more vehicles than are damaged by the EMP, the consequent loss of life, and multiple injuries.”
    Hardly Armageddon, is it? Even though the authors who are trying to exaggerate the effects. Setting the bomb off in a major city would cause many more deaths, and wouldn’t have the need to shoot the thing 400km up into space.
    FWIW, readers might be interested to know that magnetic field strength falls off with the cube of distance, so the electric field is the one to shield against. A conductive box will fix this.
    Cell phones? Here’s another extract:-
    “The analysis suggested that damage to telephones, cell phones, and other communications devices would not be sufficient to curtail higher than normal call volumes on the civilian telecommunications network after exposure to either low or high E1 EMP levels. As such, the remaining operational network would be subjected to high levels of call attempts for some period of time after the attack, leading to degraded telecommunications services. Key government and nongovernment personnel will need priority access to use public network resources to coordinate and support local, regional, and national recovery efforts. This will be especially problematic during the interval of severe network congestion. Services such as GETS will be crucially important during these periods of high call demand. The Commission’s expectation is that the impact of a low E1 EMP level exposure would be dominated by the inability to handle the spike in call traffic on landline networks, because the direct impacts on equipment are expected to be largely transient and short term in nature (minutes to hours) with minimal manual restoration. For cellular networks, the impact will be greater (minutes to days) due to the expected levels of manual recovery, more limited backup power at cell sites, and the large number of cellular base stations that serve as key controllers of communications between cell towers and cell phones. The results of limited testing on cellular base stations indicate EMP vulnerabilities that require further examination. ”
    A return to the dark ages? Give me a break.

  78. TonyS:
    If nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction ever used, maybe you’d have a valid complaint.
    Well this thread has turned into political mudslinging. I’m off to the others.

  79. Symon,
    Did you actually read the report you linked?

    The Commission has concluded that even a relatively modest-to small
    yield weapon of particular characteristics, using design and fabrication information already disseminated through licit and illicit means, can produce a potentially devastating E1 field strength over very large geographical regions. This followed by E2 impacts, and in some cases serious E3 impacts operating on electrical components left relatively unprotected by E1, can be extremely damaging. (E3 requires a greater yield to produce
    major effects.) Indeed, the Commission determined that such weapon devices not only could be readily built and delivered, but also the specifics of these devices have been illicitly trafficked for the past quarter-century. The field strengths of such weapons may be much higher than those used by the Commission for testing threshold failure levels of electrical system components and subsystems.

  80. Reid,
    The 1963 blast was thousands of miles from Hawaii, the integrated circuit had yet to be invented, and there were no satellites.

  81. Mike McMillan (22:01:22) :
    “With nuke EMP’s, airplanes should be OK, at least for getting back on the ground.”
    Except for Airbus (320 in particular) which is fly-by-wire.
    Small things, like watches and cell phones will suffer little damage, they don’t intercept enough of the EMP to generate large voltages. In this case, size does matter. The power grid can act like a huge antenna. That’s where surges will originate. MOV’s and other surge protectors may keep your house safe, and dark, as the grid will fail over a large area.
    I thought fission bombs didn’t produce much EMP. Fusion (Teller’s Super) is the way to go. H-bombs are a bit harder for the amateurs to build. At least for now.

  82. We should mandate that all critical infrastructure components be shielded; that is, surrounded by a Faraday Cage. It would be expensive, but what is the alternative? Doing nothing?

  83. Steven Goddard (19:55:57) :

    codetech,
    I don’t recommend that you try turning your engine off while driving 75mph to see what happens to the steering or brakes

    Not that I’m arguing, this is in the spirit of discussion, right? 🙂
    I have a 22 year old car with over 450,000 km on it… do you think it’s possible I’ve had the engine shut off at 75mph before? Heh… just a few times…
    Power steering is completely hydraulic and driven via a belt from the engine. As long as I don’t panic and hit the clutch, I have power steering. And brakes? Any vacuum booster that doesn’t give you several good stops after the engine stops turning (not running, TURNING, again keeping off the clutch pedal) is faulty and should be immediately replaced.
    Automatic transmission cars are not that different, lock-up torque converters will keep your PS pump moving until you’ve dropped below the dropout speed. Remember too, steering effort is minimal at speed since the amount of input required to change the direction of the vehicle is so small (variable assist reduces power steering pump pressures at higher speeds).
    I realize that newer cars are moving toward drive-by-wire and there are a few out there, but the vast, vast majority of ground vehicles I was referring to in a previous post are STILL mechanically connected for steering and braking. Both are only power assisted, using hydraulics and vacuum… both low-tech and not involving electronics.
    To the other question, yes I have butane soldering irons and rechargeable, and an emergency generator in the garage.
    And yeah, I’ve done an immense amount of work on engine controllers. One of our projects while decoding the Mopar ECMs was building an engine simulator, and building a engine controller simulator. A cobbled together analog engine controller won’t have the precision and mileage of the electronic one, but it WILL run the car. It’s easy enough to replace the Hall Effect pickup with points, and even if the fuel injectors are trashed there are millions of carburetors out there.
    Obviously my point is the same as many… yes, it would be nasty, but NOT catastrophic and would NOT result in every moving vehicle crashing into every other. I’d be more worried about the drivers blinded by the flash, or incapable of not panicking, and the potential damage to the grid… taking us back to the other thread where people are digging up generators to run the gas pumps…

  84. Gore Minimum will be a sort of baseline. Heap onto that the effects of global thermonuclear war. In an odd sort of way, Sagan had a point. But whereas he made war the main instigator I believe it will only be a heaping on, with the Gore Minimum being the main event. The Gore Minimum will probably expedite the onset of Great War.

  85. Electronics are not my strong point. As I understand things metal bodied aircraft get hit by lighting on a regular basis and only end up with pitting along the shell. They probably lose power control during the strike but of late I have never heard of one losing critical control.
    Also solar flares have shutdown power grids and no doubt disrupted avionic systems but again, no reports of a critical lose of control.
    Most computers are damaged by the power surge after the strike because the grid is earthed at cut out points. However if your home is not wired properly and if you don’t have the correct cut out points installed, then a direct strike on your home input line will fry most of your wicked capitalist carbon producing consumer products. Standard fuses are no good as the current will arc across the points. Wired telephone lines are not a part of the grid or your home wiring system and should also be protected by earthed cut out switches.
    Motor vehicles can also be struck by lighting but I have never heard of any fatalities or wiring damage done by any fully enclosed objects within the metal body.
    I think there need be little concern by most about an EMP surge as if the bomb had enough power to cause such a power surge in all things metal, the blast and fallout will kill you anyway.

  86. Reid (04:04:47) :
    Sorry folks but I am going to disagree with the article and most comments. While EMP is real I believe it is being hyped for the same reasons AGW is. When the populace is scared they fork over the money. A fission nuke detonated over the US will probably do only a tiny fraction of the damage claimed by the alarmists. The 1963 blast was the largest nuke ever tested by the US at 60 megatons. It tripped some fuses in Hawaii which were repaired in short order. Most microelectronic systems that will be effected by EMP will not be fried and will just need to be rebooted.

    Need a little correction here.
    The U.S. has never detonated a 60 MT device. The former Soviet Union detonated a device in the 50 MT range “once” on 10/31/1961 This is the so called Tsar Bomba shot and is the largest air burst device ever used to date.
    The Hawaii incident involved the tripping of fuses on 30 strings of street lights in Hawaii, and hundreds of burglar alarms tripped, when nuclear test shots over the Johnston Islands area of the Pacific in 1962.
    There were a total of 5 high altitude bursts in that test series the biggest being the shot codenamed Starfish prime which was announced as a 1.4 mt device it was the first and largest of the series. The other four shots were a pair of “low yield” and “submegaton” shots.
    Source : “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons” 1962 Glasstone pg 677e appendix B
    “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons” 1979 Glasstone pg 522-523

    James P (03:54:22) :
    “This is not supposed to be a political blog”
    But you can’t really separate the EMP discussion from the political story and, as we know about AGW, politicians are only too keen to make hay with anything they can use to scare the pants off the electorate.

    Which is a good reason why this “science” should be discussed here. Both EMP effects and Solar flare events have a lot in common with regard to electronic upsets and both have a very real potential for serious upset to modern electronics systems we all take for granted. Like AGW it can easily be exaggerated to extreme levels but relatively modest protective measures can very substantially reduce vulnerability to the threat. The good news is any efforts to provide hardening to EMP/solar flare effects also provides very good protection against direct lightning strike, ESD (Electrostatic Discharge), and EMI (Electro- Magnetic Interference) from RF devices.
    All three of the above are everyday threats to your personal and the countries infrastructure electronics. The direct threat of EMP is one of those unlikely but real and severe impacts that although unlikely like a 100 year flood should be included in a reasonable persons planning.
    For example I spent over a decade working in Emergency Management, taught classes on Nuclear Weapons Effects, am a radio amateur and during that time worked as the assistant communication officer, I took common sense measures to protect my radio and computer equipment from power line surges (from all threats).
    I took a direct lightning strike to my HF antenna. The HF radio was turned off, the power surge came in on the ground side of the COAX crossed the back plane of the radio and went to the ground side of the power supply. The surge passed down the ground wire of the power lead and when it hit the plug in surge protector at the wall socket it physically blew the surge protector apart and out of the wall socket. The surge then passed through the power run to the power panel to ground. On the way to the power panel it hit the wall socket for my PC and blew that surge protector out of the wall also and flashed some power to the computer and nuked the PC mother board even though it did not kill the PC power supply. No other electronic equipment in the house was damaged. I lost 2 surge protectors and one computer from that direct lightning strike.
    I now have a UPS between the surge protectors and the computer (lesson learned)
    It is a very wise investment to spend a few dollars for high quality power surge protectors for all your consumer electronics. Peak surge currents and voltages from EMP rival a direct lightning strike so protective measures for one will provide substantial protection for the other.
    By the way I do not throw out old mother boards, If I lost a PC due to a surge I could rebuild a working computer of slightly less capability in a matter of a few hours.
    Larry

  87. Haven’t read the whole thread. What is “hardening”? How has it been shown to protect against EMP?

  88. Ohioholic (20:25:25) :

    Is it just me, or does that map look like a very bizzare clown face?

    I thought it was a weather map. I just spent three hours analyzing it.

  89. Why the senseless fearmongering on WUWT? Such an attack would require a fairly advanced warhead mated to the most advanced delivery systems possible. I’m not going to sit around worrying about a rogue state or terrorist group carrying out such an attack, because frankly if they had the ability, then we would have much more serious concerns.
    But seriously, LOL at the idea of fanatic, suicidal jihadis lashing out at our personal electronics instead of incinerating millions of infidels in major population centers.

  90. AKD, I’ll point out that there was no mention of “fanatic, suicidal jihadis” in the article, only North Korea and Iran, each of which is developing missile systems and nuclear warheads. That phrase is of your own creation.
    If the case is to be made for hurting America, while one city could be vaporized, an EMP attack could affect the entire country, in power and communications systems. Your claim of “lashing out at our personal electronics” is your own, and not part of the article.
    The idea of a terrorist is to cause mass instability, and EMP weapon has the greatest far reaching ability to do that. And yes, if your “personal electronics” are fried, then it “hits home” for you even more. The reason terrorists chose 9-11-2001 is because that number “911” is known to almost every American, it was their way of making it “hit home” for everybody, not just then but for well into the future. – Anthony

  91. “Obviously my point is the same as many… yes, it would be nasty, but NOT catastrophic and would NOT result in every moving vehicle crashing into every other. I’d be more worried about the drivers blinded by the flash, or incapable of not panicking, and the potential damage to the grid… taking us back to the other thread where people are digging up generators to run the gas pumps…”
    I really, REALLY tried to not respond to this thread…but my fingers got the best of me.
    Of course every singe vehicle would be impacted. And attempting to quantify the number is a rough exercise at best, but…
    I believe that the Prius is “drive by wire” technology, meaning no mechanical linkage between the steering wheel and the wheels.
    And I don’t know about where you live…but here in Massachusetts, take a ride on the Mass Turnpike any morning between Worcester and Boston (about 40mi) and see how many Prius’s (Priui?) are on the road, and then imagine every one of them losing control or shutting down at precisely the same instant.
    That’s catastrophic in my book.
    And I WON’T post in this thread again…
    Really.
    JimB

  92. Actually such an attack would require a nuke designed to emit the maximum possible energy in the desired EMP energy profile range. As for delivery systems, an airplane would be quite effective too as we’ve seen from earlier incidents. If a 15 year old science geek can build a device at home and all that’s missing is the hot stuff we’ve got plenty of other potential sources of the problem since just about anyone can learn to fly a plane.
    It’s easy to imagine the worst. It’s easy to destroy. What is hard is peace. What is hard is defusing situations without escalating them into the very situations you fear. What is hard is not acting upon your blood fears for when you act upon your blood fears often what happens is exactly what you wanted to avoid in the first place, or some nasty variant of it with blood on your hands.
    What I don’t understand is why the North Koreans are acting the way that they do. No I don’t buy all the reasons given on the tv propaganda machine channels.
    Certainly a caged animal is dangerous, especially when it potentially has fangs. The zoo keeper needs to tread lightly or might get bitten which means that South Korean will get nuked, and there goes our western civilization based upon electronics much of which is, oh dear, built in South Korea! Yikes, the threat levels are high but North America needn’t be the target directly to be seriously wounded.
    Tread carefully America and don’t plunge the world into WW IV (or is that WW V by now) with reckless bravado and delusions of the bully with the bigger stick. A small knife in a fight can do serious damage to the biggest of foes.
    ps. Oh, when did we all forget about Neutron Bombs?

  93. If you are really worried about transportation after an EMP, just keep an old diesel powered vehicle with mechanical fuel injection. Hard to fry the electronics on those old guys, since they didn’t have any.

  94. “Rich countries have already committed to paying poor countries to help them adapt to climate change but they have been at loggerheads over the best way to raise money and distribute it.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/06/aviation-climate-change-tax
    In other words, we’ll tax our travelers and give the money to politicians in poor countries to urge them not to develop their industries. We need all the energy for ourselves so you poor nations can have our welfare and live in huts. We might even outsource some jobs to keep you happy. Just don’t develop, ok?

  95. AKD (07:52:19) :
    Why the senseless fearmongering on WUWT? Such an attack would require a fairly advanced warhead mated to the most advanced delivery systems possible.

    Actually just the opposite is the case. Even a very primitive device of low yield could impact a huge area. It only needs to be detonated at very high altitude to have large coverage. A small device in a small commercial or business jet, or small military jet detonated at is peak operating altitude could impact a large fraction of the country (like everything east of the Mississippi).
    Altitude of burst is the most important factor as the generation of EMP at lower altitudes depends on non-symmetrical development of the gamma ray absorption area (deposition region) around the burst that generates the Compton electrons .
    In bursts over about 19 miles altitude the gamma rays moving upward are essentially free to escape the atmosphere due to its low density at this altitude so most gamma ray absorption and Compton electron generation occurs in a pancake shaped zone below the burst point as the atmosphere thickens and becomes most effective at absorbing the energy and becoming ionized. The effected area is roughly equal to the ground area that has line of site to the burst point, with the characteristic horseshoe shape in the illustration due to the dip angle of the earths magnetic field to the north (in the northern hemisphere — the sense of the horseshoe shape would be reversed south of the equator.) The range of effects also depends on the frequency of the pulse that most effectively couples with conductors. Long conductors that couple efficiently with low frequency RF will be effected at larger distances than short conductors that only couple with high frequency RF.
    A burst at 50 miles altitude would effect approximately a 600 mile radius, a 100 mile altitude burst 900 miles. As you can see the first few 10’s of miles altitude would be the most important. These sorts of altitudes are well within the range of high performance aircraft in a ballistic climb or even a crude low tech missile, or cruise missile.
    This is one of the reasons that small hand held devices have relatively low sensitivity to EMP (and other EMI effects like solar storms). They simply are not very good antennas for the energy available. Long conductors like fence lines, power and phone lines, long pipe runs etc. will couple efficiently and can develop very high currents and voltages to ground with very fast rise times on the initial pulse (on the order of 5 nano second rise times). Maximum induced currents and voltages usually require conductor lengths (effective antennas) of 10’s of meters in length.
    Larry

  96. Anthony,
    If you can come up with a plausible scenario in which a non-state actor could deliver a nuclear weapon to create widescale EMP effects, I will buy into it as a potential threat, otherwise we are left with state actors, and there the logic fails.
    And anyways, disruptive as an EMP attack might be, turning on the television to find out that New York/LA/Houston was just incinerated is a far more effective agent of terrror than turning on the television just to find out it won’t turn on.

  97. Steven Goddard (05:17:53) :
    Lindsay,

    That is good that you feel the threat is “overstated.” Neville Chamberlain did too, and as a result of his optimism was able to confidently pronounce “peace in our time” in 1939.

    This kind of response is uncalled for in a science blog.

  98. Answer to self @ (07:22:58) :
    The link shows how they can test the success of various hardening processes.
    http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=george_h_baker

    1) Metal enclosures to occlude free electromagnetic fields and serve as a ground path for diverted electrical transients, and
    2) Enclosure penetration treatments to divert aperture and penetrating wire energy to ground.</blockquote.
    But this is pretty basic. What are the “penetration treatments” referred to? How do these protect public communications and power systems?
    @ Larrry (WRT surge-protection): I’m curious whether a whole-house surge suppressor would have saved your computer. In the event of an EMP?
    An electrician recommended researching these recently after I bought a washer with new electronic control panel (a transformer constantly humming away at 60 hz., even when the the machine is off). Since we have several computers constantly running, I thought it might be a good idea.
    http://www.smarthome.com/4860/Leviton-Whole-House-Surge-Suppressor-Surge-Protector-51120-1/p.aspx

  99. The ultimate result of automobile EMP exposure could be triggered crashes that damage many more vehicles than are damaged by the EMP, the consequent loss of life, and multiple injuries.”

    Wouldn’t have much effect on traffic around the DC Beltway. Traffic is at a standstill a good portion of the time anyway.

  100. and cars made since 1980 might instantly and permanently lose steering, engine and brake control

    They’ll temporarily lose steering and brake control due to the drivers all trying to make the radio or CD player work. Steering and brakes are power assisted so they’ll still work with more effort; many use mechanical power boosting which won’t be affected by EMP.

  101. CodeTech (08:55:16) :
    It’s more likely September 11 was chosen for historical reasons:
    http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=291605

    I don’t think they chose Sept 11 for any other reason than that they were finally ready. The historical Ottoman defeat context doesn’t work because the hijackers were Arabs who were oppressed by the Turks themselves. 911 emergency number connection, not so sure about either.
    Some have questioned the London attacks on 7/7 and thought that there was something significant about that (seven heavens, etc). But that attack was followed by two others in Britain which occurred on dates which can’t be linked to any esotericism or historical events. Neither can the Bali or Madrid attacks.
    Put any unusual dates down to coincidence. Terror is terror. If they were concerned about dates they would choose special events like Xmas.

  102. AKD,
    Even more frightening is if you can’t turn on the television or get any information.
    MartinGAtkins,
    Sorry you feel that way. The point is that we (still) can argue and disagree.

  103. CodeTech (07:15:35):
    After posting my comment about the clutch, it dawned on me that my comment is appropriate for the UK (mainly manual trans) but not for the US (mainly auto trans?). Thanks for filling in that gap for me!
    Symon (05:29:49):
    Gotta agree with most of this…
    ralf ellis (01:29:41) :
    >>When I’m doing 75 mph and the clutch is up, the engine isn’t going to
    >>stop turning, even if all the electronics were to burn out.
    Again not true.

    What? How on earth is burnt out electronics going to stop an engine mechanically connected to the road?
    My fuel control system is all electronic, and when the computer has a fit (once a year) everything stops. All lights and all accelleration dies and the servo brakes seem to disappear too.
    Obviously, the acceleration should die. The lights should not go out, and the servo brakes shouldn’t disappear – these suggest your car has some other fault.

  104. Larrry (WRT surge-protection): I’m curious whether a whole-house surge suppressor would have saved your computer. In the event of an EMP?

    It is hard to say with certainty.
    In that particular case it was a bit unusual since the surge was on the ground side and came from the load side of the power panel. An EMP induced surge (and most lightning surges) would come mostly down the power leads, so power panel protection would be the best first layer of protection and would clip the surge to manageable levels, then what ever got by the power panel would have again been clipped at the wall socket surge protector. Now that I include a UPS in line, that adds an additional layer of protection with the battery isolation and power switching it includes. You can also improve the effectiveness of wall plug suppressors by putting a 6 inch coil in the power lead between the surge protector and the load. Its added inductance increases the effectiveness of the surge protector, acting like a resistance to fast rising surges and improving the turn on characteristics of the surge protector (it is more likely to fire on very fast rising surges, and will fire earlier)
    At the time it happened, I had no antenna side protection. If I had placed a fast acting gas gap diode in the coax, the lightning strike would have been shunted to ground at the penetration panel and never gotten into the house wiring. I had the panel and UHF bulkhead connectors installed but had not gotten around to putting in a low impedance ground like a UFER ground ( http://www.psihq.com/iread/ufergrnd.htm ) and the gas gaps.
    Like any protective system (fire sprinklers, circuit breakers, safety belts, motorcycle helmets, life vests and life boats) you make your best guess about the nature of the threat and choose a protective strategy that you think is cost effective and will work “most of the time”) There is no way to guarantee protection all you can do is improve the odds.
    Larry

  105. JimB-
    I live in Calgary. We don’t much go in for those hippy priui…
    Not to mention, I consider the loss of the “pious” fleet to be …. a good start.

  106. Well the hypothetical scenario; a rogue state nuke, is of course quite real; particularly since all the names have been changed to politically correct terms so we don’t have to scare the horses with this stuff.
    And EMPs are real; but they are not like a nuclear radiation pulse of say neutrons or gamma rays; which can go through a lot of anything and destroy electonic stuff.
    I’ve designed a lot of very sensitive analog CMOS circuitry, and some digital stuff as well. The most sensitive low light semiconductor photosensor amplifier I have ever heard of is one that I designed for a bar code reader. (I have the entire world supply of them in my desk drawer. It can easily respond to photocurrents in the low femtoAmp range.
    Every single pad connecting that circuit to the ouside world; (all three of them) contains pad protection cicuits, that can withstand 15,000 Volt surges; and that is applied to the bare chip itself. By the time you get it packaged and mounted on a circuit board or substrate; the surrounding circuit impedance levels are such that you’d need your own Boulder Dam power generator to get 15,000 Volts to any of those pins.
    Well I exaggerated that a bit; but if this chip was to be put into any sort of satellite system; it would first be packaged in a metal package that would suppress any nuclear radiation other than neutrons, gammas and high energy cosmetic rays; and it would also stop any EMP surges from getting to the chip at energy levels capable of zapping the chip. Even the light from a nuke blast falling directly on the photosensor diode which of course would be optically open to the world; but is also electrically Faraday shielded, would not kill the chip; but it certainly would saturate the amplifier; which because of its design can’t draw enough power from the supply to even change the junction temperatures of the transistors by any easily measurable amount.
    So yes, a lot of lousy circuit designs mugh get creamed; including a lot of consumer electronics like TVs; but virtually no production IC ever leaves a semiconductor manufacturing plant today without surge protection on every single pin that comes out of the chip. You can get circuit failures due to what is known as “latchup”, where an integrated transistor structure is designed with parasitic unintended circuit elements that turn the circuit into an SCR switch (Silicon Controlled Rectifier) which is a regenerative switching circuit that latches on when triggered; and if external circuits allow the switch to draw heavy currents, then it can melt that circuit and cause a malfunction. Such problems are the result of layout errors in the design. Most semiconductor processes have layout design rules that prohibit (by the laws of Physics) latchup parasitic circuits.
    So yes there is a lot of crap out there desinged by people who don’t know what they are doing, or don’t care about such defects in their designs; but the better players know better than that.
    Unfortunately there is a lot of stuff in circulation that is built literally with obsolete technology, that is underprotected. I’m not so sure that the newer super small geometry semi devices like modern computer and memory chips are any more vulnerable than their recent forbears. EM waves have an energy density, and you can’t just cram an unlimited amount of energy into a given space, so the smaller the circuit elements become the less energy you can force into the space they occupy.
    For example, ifa high Voltage power line happens to pass alongside your house; or your kids schoolroom; you can calculate the maximum amount of energy that it can cram into a body cell or even a cellular molecule, and possibly disrupt it, and cause cancer.
    Last time I checked the energy was too low by about 27 orders of magnitude; so no way that power line can affect living cells.
    George

  107. What are the “penetration treatments” referred to? How do these protect public communications and power systems?

    As mentioned above there are several methods to control surges.
    The first is engineering of the system itself. You design it to minimize its sensitivity to the surge threat and its effects. This is mostly done through designing around a single point ground system, minimize coupling between current paths (shielding and conduits etc.) Minimize loop volume in loop circuits and choosing components that are inherently hardened to surges (they have a safe mode of failure or by their nature have low sensitivity to upset.
    At the penetrations you are basically trying to either filter the surge out or clip off its peak. Series 1:1 transformers act as low pass filters and tend to limit most surges except when their internal capacitance between windings can act as high pass filter and allow the high frequency components of the surge to couple to the secondary windings.
    Ferrite beads or chokes act as low pass filters and resist passage of high frequency components on the conductor they are installed on. Shunt capacitors act as high pass filters that shunt high frequency signals to ground but do not pass low frequency signals. When combined together they become a band pass filter that easily allows the intended signal frequency to pass the choke point, but strongly limit out of band frequencies.
    Zenier diodes (Tranzorb) which is basically two Zenier diodes are used to clip low voltage DC lines limiting any spikes above the design peak voltage on the line.
    Metal Oxide Varistors are non-linear resistors that avalanch into conduction at voltages over their rated operating voltage for AC lines, strongly clipping voltages to slightly above their rated voltage.
    Zenier diodes, Tranzorb, and MOV’s all react very quickly (if installed properly with very short leads to a good ground) to effectively clip nanosecond rise time pulses.
    At the component level you again go back to basic design and engineering to use good grounding, shielding of leads and low sensitivity to upset components.
    Pretty basic high quality plug in wall surge protectors are a very cost effective consumer level protection.
    If you are building a house or have expensive electronics to protect and power panel protection system is a very good idea and not all that expensive at the time of construction, but less cost effective as a retrofit. At 950 Joules that Leviton system is a good start, but top end consumer plug in protectors come in higher energy ratings in the 3000 joule range like these:
    http://www.ecoustics.com/amz/reviews/B00005T3Q2
    http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=best+buy+surge+protectors&um=1&ie=UTF-8&cid=5973831175052065638&ei=R0vaSd_CBI7oMPTGkPgO&sa=X&oi=product_catalog_result&resnum=3&ct=result#ps-tech-specs
    You need a minimum of 600 Joules but I like to have over 1000 joules protection on all my expensive components.
    Low cost installation of discrete high power MOV’s at the power panel by an electrician that understands the need to install with short leads and good grounds is a good retrofit choice, as the components themselves only cost a couple dollars each. But most folks do not want to mess with power panel installs when after market plug in surge protectors are so readily available.
    Larry

  108. Steven, of course I read it. Without trying to minimise the serious impact of a nuclear burst of this kind, a terrorist would do much better blowing up a major city.
    Furthermore, you claim that we could end up back in the ‘dark ages’. Total nonsense.
    I have no idea what you do for a living, but it is clear that you are not an electronics engineer. You seem to think that integrated circuits are peculiarly vulnerable to EMPs despite the fact that all modern ICs have built in protection on every pin from electrostatic discharge, which can have a similar field strength and rapid rise time to the EMP you’re so frightened of. Again, this article is scaremongering nonsense of exactly the same kind that this website tries to refute from AGW believers.

  109. What is rather frightening is that our president’s naivety appears so great that he wants to practically unilaterally disarm our nuclear inventories and rely on the good faith of other nuclear powers to do the same while apparently neglecting the terrorists with nukes.

  110. Early Volvos has an electronic ignition system. Truckers could pull up next to the Volvos on the freeway and key their high power CB sets and the Volvo engine died. All this demonstrates how vulnerable our computers systems are, even those early military computers. Huge efforts have been put into making military computers less vulnerable, but our home computers and many internet servers are very vulnerable to EMP.
    Well. No. Almost all eqpt these days is tested for emissions. The more protected against emissions the more protected against EMP. Autos are now hardened so they can drive near transmitting antennas and not fail. Multi KW transmitting antennas. Not puny little amplified CB sets.

  111. Rule of thumb in designing aircraft circuits: if it will take a direct lightning strike (aircraft are designed to do this) emp will likely not be a problem. Of course a lot of testing is done to make sure.
    Also note: the amount of energy absorbed depends on the orientation of the “antenna” with respect to the wave.

  112. Steven Goddard (22:58:19) :
    Mike, BBC NEWS | England | London | Airliner crash-lands at Heathrow
    17 Jan 2008 … A BA passenger jet from China crash-lands short of a Heathrow runway after reportedly losing power.

    Since that was the same type plane I flew, I’ve followed the investigation with interest. I had thought it was a misprogramming of the Rolls Royce engine controls that wouldn’t affect the GE engines that my airline flew, the investigators seem to have come down to fuel gelling or ice that cut off the fuel to both engines, nothing electrical. The engines will gravity feed from the tanks on their own without the boost pumps, but the extremely long flight time at high altitude supposedly dropped the fuel temp too far.
    While I still have my doubts, given that the engines feed from separate tanks yet quit at the same time, I doubt an EMP would have done as much damage.
    .
    Retired Engineer (06:44:33) :
    . . .“With nuke EMP’s, airplanes should be OK, at least for getting back on the ground.”
    Except for Airbus (320 in particular) which is fly-by-wire.

    Yes, they have a Nintendo joystick to wiggle, not a real yoke you get to wrestle with. I don’t know either way that they don’t have some mech backup. The only Airbus I ever rode was an Egypt Air A310, and their emergency backup system was a purple box on the bulkhead with a copy of the Koran inside. (Saw the box, so I asked.)
    .
    M. Simon (11:39:49) :
    Rule of thumb in designing aircraft circuits: if it will take a direct lightning strike (aircraft are designed to do this) emp will likely not be a problem. Of course a lot of testing is done to make sure.

    Not surprised to hear this. I’ve taken lightning strikes many times and never lost anything electrical.

  113. Steven Goddard (10:03:20) :

    Sorry you feel that way. The point is that we (still) can argue and disagree.

    I’m all for the freedom of speech but…..
    Skeptics have pointed out that there is no evidence that CO2 produced by man is causing climate change. Why should we introduce a carbon tax?

    That is good that you feel the threat is “overstated.” Neville Chamberlain did too, and as a result of his optimism was able to confidently pronounce “peace in our time” in 1939.

  114. You do realize the idiocy of Neville Chamberlain’s quote can be used both ways, correct?
    Try not to make such silly connections between two unrelated points and you’ll have a bit more traction with any point you are attempting to make.
    Mark

  115. Surge protectors,ferrite beads,zenner diodes,power steering,wrapping a laptop in tin foil.Come on chaps. If,and I say, if the whole infrastructure of a country collapsed in an instant, protecting a few household electronic gadgets would be the least of your worries.Finding something to eat and then keeping the rampaging mob from taking it from you would be a prime concern.Best advice try to find a bottle of rum and a quiete corner to drink it in.

  116. OK, I’m wrong. Many of the world’s military forces are not building EMP weapons and defenses because we have established here that they don’t work and are no threat.
    http://www.milnet.com/e-bomb.htm

    The mechanical construction of the FCG is actually quite simple — an effective design of such a device can be accomplished by a college graduate in electronics or physics. Because of this fact we will not discuss the details for security reasons. Suffice to say that the non-nuclear EMP device can be manufactured anywhere a machine shop and electronic supplies are available. The electronics and explosives, while not available at your local Radio shack or hardware store, are, never-the-less much easier to procure by terrorists than any type of nuclear materials. Build the device’s structure, add the electronics and explosives, and all you need is a timer to set off the explosion. Today, universities are already building prototype devices for further exploration of EMP weapons designs as well as non-lethal devices for use by police to disable vehicles. Countries such as India and several other asian nations are working on both devices and countermeasures.

  117. I wonder if they could counter it with as air burst of small metallic particles prior to the EMP ignition. If it could act as an air borne faraday cage?

  118. markus1234,
    What scares me most is the fact that we have a president with zero experience running anything. Terrorists have no fear of him at all. The situation reminds me of Iran when Jimmy Carter was president. The Iranians laughed at Carter for over a year. Then on the same day that Reagan was sworn in, Iran released every hostage.
    If a president who is currently trashing his country overseas isn’t a recipe for encouraging future attacks, I don’t know what is.
    And regarding your comment about using nuclear bombs in a war, maybe you should consider the alternative: click

  119. Steven G., just to be complete, the ‘small’ car I have that occasionally loses PS on a right turn (when the belt gets splashed with water) is a 4,000 pound RWD (rear wheel drive) V-8 powered Chevy Caprice. The first time it happened was a REAL eye-opener, the second occurance conformed my suspician of what had happened the first time, thereafter it was expected.

  120. marcus,
    The Germans didn’t get to build a nuclear weapon because they were trying to send all their top Jewish scientists to the gas chamber. They killed 30 times as many people with common chemicals as died at Hiroshima.
    Instead, Albert Einstein (the pacifist) wrote a letter to Roosevelt telling him how critically important it is for the US to make a bomb – which ultimately saved millions of lives in 1945 and has been a most effective deterrent against another world war – leading to 65 years of unprecedented quiet.

  121. Hey Ceolfrith, thanks for the warning. 🙂
    Actually, I once survived living in a disaster zone with no eletricity for over two months. I lived on the island of St. Thomas in 1995. On 9/15/95 hurricane Marilyn hit the island. Most of the electric lines were blown down. I was off island when the storm hit; I got back 10 days later.
    Restoration of electric service did not begin until 2 months after the storm. I was lucky; the house I was living in was just up the road from the resort that the power crews were living in (and the start point for repairing the power lines). My landlady made a point of going down to the resort with cookies every day to bribe the crews. As they were coming up the hill, they made a left turn at the corner where our house was. The crew made a slight detour and we were the ONLY house on the right side of that intersection to get power restored.
    Central power was down, but within a few weeks, everyone had an electric generator. I don’t know how long the gas stations were closed; they were fully functional by the time I got back on island.
    I suspect that there were probably more businesses down there with emergency generators than on the mainland, so my experience there may not be relevant. But, people adapted very quickly. LIfe was not back to normal for a very long time, but we were able to survive and deal with the basics pretty quickly.
    The day after the storm, I bought my first laptop. When I got back to the island, it was the only functioning computer in my office. Woo hoo! We had no electricity there…but another government office had a big generator so I went there every day to charge up my cell phone and laptop.
    However, I have absolutely NO desire to ever go through that exprience again. It was boring. It was uncomfortable. It was frustrating (okay, life on that island was like that even BEFORE the storm…but it was more so afterwards). I really HATE the sound of hundreds of generators running during the night. My landlord and landlady only ran their generator for an hour or two in the morning and an hour or two at night (just so they could charge up the fridge).

  122. “”” marcus1234 (14:18:47) :
    And lest we forget the only nation that has ever used a nuclear bomb on a civilian population – twice. “””
    Well Marcus,
    I still remember exactly where I was sitting when we saw the newspaper stories about that first bomb. As it turns out, I was sitting in exactly the same spot talking with the same kids on Dec 8th 1941 when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place; and a year earlier we were all sitting there marvelling about the successful recovery of the British Expeditionary force from the beaches of Dunkirk; so I remember what life was like back then.
    By the way; why on earth did the US have to drop that second bomb; how many seconds does it take to say “We quit” in Japanese. Had they known there was no third bomb; they would not have surrendered.
    It’s easy in 20-20 hindsight to condemn a decision that was not made lightly. The next such decision you can bet will be made as soon as it is physically possible for them to do it; with no thought for the consequences.
    George; who was there !

  123. And it was made on military targets; not on civilians who happened to be in the area.

  124. OT alert!
    > Zenier Diodes
    > ziener diodes
    > zenner diodes
    Come on guys, it’s Zener diodes. I heard him talk once at CMU. IIRC, he
    had very little to do with the development, but knew the people who did.
    They figured a name like Zener just had to be used for some device so they
    used it for their’s.

  125. If most people lose power-assisted steering and braking, they are going to crash. It takes more physical strength to control the vehicle than most drivers (females, elderly, or unfit) can muster.
    I had a mid-1980s Detroit car. When the power locks went out, it took my full weight, applied through my accounting textbook, to lock it.
    Besides the show of strength that will be needed, most such steering and braking systems have considerable “play” once the power-assist fails.

  126. Come on guys, it’s Zener diodes.

    Ooops amazing how your eye can just look right past simple misspellings like that, while you are focused on other stuff. Added that critter to my spell check dictionary —- I hate it when I do that.
    Larry

  127. I allowed this guest post from Steven Goddard because I found its
    technology content interesting.
    However, in retrospect I realized the post (and the comments it generated) is actually far more political than I first thought.
    Since that was not my intent and this has turned into more of political discussion than one of technology, which was the intent, I have decided to close comments.

Comments are closed.