Thursday, October 28, 2010

EMP vs. the sun

USA Today had an article on EMP blasts a couple of days ago; the author says one good one and we'd go dark.  My understanding, from talking with someone knowledgeable about electricity, is that things shielded by metal would be safe, which typically includes computers on your desk and in cars.  I suppose if you were still concerned, you could build a Farraday cage and put your electronics in there.

A bigger problem than your BlueTooth device going on the fritz, however, is the vulnerability of the country's electrical grid.  Thanks to years of conservatives insisting upon and working toward the goal of shrinking the government to the point it can be drowned in a bathtub, our infrastructure, which our tax dollars pay for, is crumbling.  That includes the electrical system. 

If there were a major solar flare, it could seriously hamper our ability to function in the modern world we've created.  Scientific American says that "[a] recurrence of the 1859 solar superstorm would be a cosmic Katrina, causing billions of dollars of damage to satellites, power grids and radio communications."

Bear in mind that the 1859 storm knocked out telegraphy, which is little more than two Morse code keys, batteries and some wire. Today's power substations are full of transformers which could be fried.  Good-bye, electricity...lights, heat, cooking, transportation, and a host of other things would be affected.  It would take months if not years to repair the damage.

Repairing and strengthening our infrastructure would create jobs, and jobs = sales for businesses.  Sales for businesses = needing more people to make the widgets and sell them.  That, not tax cuts, are what small business wants and needs.  Cutting a small business' taxes does it no good if nobody's buying its wares.