Friday, January 30, 2009

Solar storm -- a worst-case analysis

=== this is not completely my own info/analysis. this includes info from various articles I read on this topic. ===

In simple terms, a solar storm releases huge amount of energy in terms of electro magnetic radiations of all wavelengths into space. This outburst is not a rare phenomenon. The earth's magnetic field apparently acts as a shield to the earth in deflecting a considerable amount of energy away from the earth -- thus keeping us safe in most cases. This is one of the reasons why a solar storm is not such a feared threat.

However, there are times when the solar storm reaches its maximum intensity. It seems that we are not completely safe against such intense storms. So how does it affect us? The intense EM (electro-magnetic) waves will have a huge impact on our ionosphere -- thus affecting all the communication methodologies that we use. This issue to me is not that catastrophic (actually it is, but when compared to the next issue) if the attack was known ahead. When imagining a world without communication during the period of the storm is seeming awful, would you be able to survive in a world without electricity for months/years?? huh!! but that's the next issue.

It is feared that the intense EM waves/field will have huge interference with the power-grids and blow them up. Be it anywhere in the world, high-voltage step-down transformers are inevitable in delivering the electricity to the household (Theorum studied in school: The lesser the current transmitted, the lesser the loss in energy -- so a high voltage is essential). The EM interference might blow up the heavy duty transformers across the globe. And if that happens, even after the solar storm ceases, there is no way to deliver electricity to the home until the transformers are replaced. It is not just the question of replacing the transformers but it is also about manufacturing those many (millions?) transformers across the globe. That's going to take realll time. And till then there is no electricity!!! OMG!! It seems the only way out of this is to shutdown the distribution of electricity (in effect the transformers) during the solar storm. But a planned total blackout is not a simple task nevertheless. Maybe better than the counterpart?

From what I read, a previous solar maximum occured in 1958 when there was not a big impact on the human race. Today that's not the case. This isn't a fictional possibility, but might become a reality. The next solar maximum is expected to occur around 2010-2011, so buckle up!

Along with the LHC experiment "seeming" unsafe now after the claimed discovery of a huge flaw in their safety assurance theory, I think it is better to enjoy the time we've :) the doomsday does not seem far ahead.