90 Seconds to Catastrophe

IT IS midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.

A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation’s infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event - a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.

It sounds ridiculous. Surely the sun couldn’t create so profound a disaster on Earth. Yet an extraordinary report funded by NASA and issued by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in January this year claims it could do just that.

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I like how NASA used “22 September 2012” as the date: I’m sure it’s meant to remind us of another catastrophe - 9/11 - and make us afraid and want to fund NASA more. :shrug:

Well, people say the end of the world is due on December 21, 2012. :shrug:

Ironically Yours, Blade and Blood

I like how NASA used “22 September 2012” as the date: I’m sure it’s meant to remind us of another catastrophe - 9/11 - and make us afraid and want to fund NASA more.

And why would funding NASA more be a bad thing? Earth isn’t a safe harbor for current life on our planet. We’re sitting in a shooting gallery of cosmic bullets of one kind or another. We’ve been very blessed not to have had a major catastrophe of some kind in modern times. What the article says is true. We are unprepared for such an event, nor are we prepared for many others like it. As the article states just because it hasn’t happened and is an unlikely thing to happen doesn’t mean it won’t.

No one is ever prepared for a catastrophe; that’s part of the reason why catastrophies are catastrophies. But what NASA is doing is sensationlizing a possible future event. And I’m sure that those guys aren’t unaware of the 2012 end-of-the-world garbage. Heck, I bet they’re capitalizing it!

And if you want to be prepared for any catastrophe, than you first take care of your soul :wink:

Well, I don’t think it’s a good idea to assume the motivations of NASA, especially that they are nefarious in intent. Many good things have come out of space exploration for the benefit of humankind. So, bashing NASA isn’t necessarily a starter with those who know better. :wink:

It would matter to millions of people if we were to be hit with a solar blast of this kind–there’s nothing wrong with being prepared. I don’t understand your ire.

And sure we should always take care of our souls. Anyone of us could be hit by a bus or struck down with terminal cancer or die of a sudden heart attack. That doesn’t mean that as a country we shouldn’t try to be prepared for catastrophes.

If Louisiana’s state and local governments had pushed through getting the levies fixed instead of letting the naysayers have their way, the Katrina disaster might have turned out very differently. I could cite other such examples, but they’d all be telling us the same thing–if we can take reasonable measures to ward off such events, then we should.

What dose good things coming out of NASA have to do with NASA’s intentions? I’m afraid you’re using a fallacy, Della.

Yeah and actually I think the article did mention something similar happening in the 1850’s. *though they wouldnt have had the electrical issues to deal with then. But quoted hered,

**The most serious space weather event in history happened in 1859. It is known as the Carrington event, after the British amateur astronomer Richard Carrington, who was the first to note its cause: “two patches of intensely bright and white light” emanating from a large group of sunspots. The Carrington event comprised eight days of severe space weather.

There were eyewitness accounts of stunning auroras, even at equatorial latitudes. The world’s telegraph networks experienced severe disruptions, and Victorian magnetometers were driven off the scale.

Though a solar outburst could conceivably be more powerful, “we haven’t found an example of anything worse than a Carrington event”, says James Green, head of NASA’s planetary division and an expert on the events of 1859. “From a scientific perspective, that would be the one that we’d want to survive.” However, the prognosis from the NAS analysis is that, thanks to our technological prowess, many of us may not.**

And you’re not? How can you know anyone’s intentions without proof of their intentions, good or bad?

So, without knowing anyone’s intentions, we have to assume good will.

I see you didn’t respond to any of my other points. If you want to really discuss this issue I think you need to say more than NASA wants funding so NASA is putting this out.

[quote=Calliso]Yeah and actually I think the article did mention something similar happening in the 1850’s. *though they wouldnt have had the electrical issues to deal with then.

The date is important because it shows it can happen within the life of man. In geological time that’s not even a blip on the radar.

We are not safe from this kind of event. So, taking reasonable precautions is a reasonable thing to do. Yes?

Fallacies render arguments invalid on the whole, which is why I only had to point out your fallacy.

I never said I know NASA’s intentions. You are assuming that I know. I’m judging NASA by the article, not by some intentions. The article is very sensationalist; the first few lines give it away. It is using fear to scare people. If NASA really wanted to warn people, they wouldn’t use a hypothetical situation to begin the article; they would instead state that a catastrophe is coming. News reports facts, sensationalism exaggerates facts. The hypothetical sitatuon is an exaggeration.

I brought up motivation because YOU mentioned–you stated that NASA put out this article in a bid for our support. That’s ascribing a motive. Ball’s in your court, old thing. :wink:

I think you are getting yourself into a state over nothing. So an article starts out being sensational–lots do. But, the information in it is important for us to know. The threat is a real one whether it has been hyped or not. I’m truly puzzled why this is so upsetting to you. :shrug:

Some of this is overblown. Most towns’ water supplies, for example, flow by gravity, not by pumping. Notwithstaninding that the water is, indeed, pumped into the reservoirs electrically, they contain more than a half day’s water supply.

It assumes, as well, that none of the surge breakers would work. Possibly on the super high voltage lines, they might not. But they do not explain why they would not work on the lesser lines, particularly if the transformers melted down and allowed super high voltage to flow into a smaller line. The surge would burn through the immediate segment of the lesser line immediately and the current would no longer flow into it.

Still, something like this would surely be catastrophic. I don’t see what city dwellers would do. Truly I don’t. With their last gasoline (assuming their cars’ electrical systems are not also fried, which I assume they would be) they would have no alternative but to head out into the countryside, where people can draw water from even electrically powered wells, as well as springs, old dug wells, etc, and where food would be difficult, but not impossible, and heating fuel can be cut from woodlots. Been there, done that. But even in the country, it’s no picnic without power or access to gasoline or diesel fuel. Because of not infrequent power outages, most country people have wood stoves, fireplaces, generators and a fair amount of stored food. Most farmers have fuel storage tanks, kept reasonably full. It might take a lot to fix a car or pickup with a fried electrical system, and it might be impossible for all I know. But fixing fried wiring on most tractors would be a matter of replacing the wiring only. No electronics at all on most of them. Old vehicles manufactured before electronic elements might be the only ones running.

Every now and then, country people will talk about disaster scenarios like this, interestingly enough. Maybe because experiencing extended power outages in, e.g., ice storms, gives one time to consider such possibilities. Most agree that, in addition to keeping supplemental supplies of canned food and those medicines one can buy without prescription, the most valuable thing to keep on hand in quantity is ammunition, and many do.

But the whole thing wouldn’t be pretty. I know for a fact that big transformers are not kept in supply to any great extent. I recall an electrical engineer who is involved with public safety, pointed out to me one big transformer near here which, if bombed by a terrorist, would take days to replace, and whose absence would cut thousands off from electrical power.

It could happen-it happened in 1859, but there was no real impact because electricity was not generally available. A nuclear device detonate about 300 miles above the U.S. would have about the same effect. Think N. Korea and Iran! Ironically, the most survivors would be the populations in third-world countries, where they don’t rely on electrical stuff much, if at all. They wouldn’t even know anything had happened. 90% of the rest of us will be dusters…

Well, my opinion is just as good as anyone elses. Lets see, how about Oct 5, 2043! I probably won’t be around then anyway, so not to worry. Seriously, what are we going to do about it anyway? Go back to living like cave people? If all the electricity goes, so does the rest of the developed countries. We’d probably all last a week, at most.

YOU might last a week, My mother would certainly have some trouble as she is elderly and needs certain medicines. As for me, I have a number of skills and would get along quite well.

I would prefer not to return to the no electricity living of my childhood, but I do know how. I do think there are not enough backups for a lot of systems, though. The engineer’s statement to me did leave an impression. Too many of our systems do not have sufficient supplies or alternatives to deal with any really significant destruction. As an example, both electrical utility companies serving my area ultimately obtain their power from coal-fired stations in Kansas, coming through a single line loop. But there are also systems that obtain their power from corps of engineers dams that are nearer than the Kansas power plants. And they’re not looped together. A nearby city of some size has its own coal-fired generating plant. But it’s separate from everything else as well. The equipment and supplies one system has are not available to another, and none of them carry really significant inventories of necessary “ingredients”.

IT IS midnight on 22 September 2012 …

O-o-o-o - that’s a Presidential election year and it’ll be really gearing up by that time. Hmmm. Could make things really interesting. Unless, of course, Yellowstone blows in the meantime.

I think we’re gonna get a generator, more ammo (another firearm), a short wave radio, and figure out how to stock up more food for sure. Always pays to be prepared.

To be fair that site is newscientist not NASA. So Nasa might have not literally come up with that specific date. But I have little interest in reading what appears to be a 100 page report…

Yes. I hadn’t thought about that. It’s be interesting to see how BHO would deal with having to run a re-election while dealing with a national crisis–if the press would jump to conclusions instead of getting the facts like they did with GWB, or if they’d assume the best since they all but anointed him as a god. :rolleyes:

I think we’re gonna get a generator, more ammo (another firearm), a short wave radio, and figure out how to stock up more food for sure. Always pays to be prepared.

I’m with you there, except for the guns. I’m not against them, I just know we’d be more likely to blow our own heads off than any violent refugees. :blush: I do have my sword Sting and dh has a large pocket knife and a sharp dagger, so we aren’t completely defenseless, and a butcher knife will do in a pinch. On second though, maybe we (my dh and I) should forget personal self-defense, since neither of us is trained in it, and just get a Rottweiler instead. :nunchuk: :stuck_out_tongue:

How are you going to run your generator? There won’t be any gasoline or anything to run it on.

I’m with your mode of thinking, just not the exact same items. Long terms food storage, books on living off the land, water storage containers and MANUAL items just as hand saws, axes, hand drills, SOLAR powered items.

Nearly all of society has lost a sense of self-sufficiency and basic survival skills. A shame. Yes, we are to tend to our souls, that is the first order of business! After that, help one another, but like a prudent farmer who stores grain for the bad years and is responsible during the good years, we too must plan ahead (not worry) for the future.

We have brains and logic from God for a number of reasons. One of them is thinking ahead and planning. You plan on going to heaven, right? You doing something about it? Well, same thing applies for disasters, man-made or natural.

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