Friday, February 26, 2010

Hardening Our Susceptibility To Dark Ages 2.0+©

There was a great deal of interest in our Web 2.0 Saturday, 28 June, 2008 post "World Wide Web Growth" wherein we mentioned a concern over a solar flare possibly destroying all of our efforts in this digital age. It might simply 'wipe' all magnetic storage on the entire planet?

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"With the rate of conversion of all of the world's knowledge into digital format let's all hope that the earth does not get hit by a major solar flare; which with a concomitant electromagnetic pulse (EMP) (Wiki definition) might wipe out all data stored in this digital age."

Here we will look at this in more depth.

We have all learned over the years, sometimes the hard way, that we need to protect our electronics and more particularly magnetic (like computer/digital camera storage) devices from the influence of magnetic fields. An EMP is sometimes also used to describe one very strong pulse of electromagnetic energy.

History of magnetic impact:

Stories abound about the discovery of the effect of magnetism on electronics and magnetic storage devices:
  1. Microwave ovens were discovered by radar researchers who noticed the chocolate bars in their pockets would melt when they went by one of these devices: Ref. (Wiki) "Cooking food with microwaves was discovered by Percy Spencer while building magnetrons for radar sets at Raytheon. He was working on an active radar set when he noticed that a peanut chocolate bar he had in his pocket started to melt. The radar had melted his candy bar with microwaves."
  2. One property of magnetic media is that they are very sensitive to magnetic fields, due to there use of these fields to read and store data. This has long been an issue with magnetic disks being carried in / near hospital rooms that use medical equipment which emits high magnetic fields. If strong enough, a magnetic field can 'degauss' memory. (Wiki - Anti-computer forensics) - "Disk degaussing (see degauss) is a process by which a reversed magnetic field is applied to a digital media device. The result is a device that is entirely clean of any previously stored data. Degaussing is rarely used as an anti-forensic method despite the fact that it is the most reliable way to ensure data has been wiped. This is attributed to the high cost of degaussing machines, which are difficult for the average consumer to afford." But his might be unavoidable with a major EMP.
  3. We will not discuss to what degree information on magnetic media can truly be ‘erased’ since no information is available on the potential strength of (pulsed) electromagnetic fields. For now, we will just say that the data can be corrupted, or negatively altered, by the presence of strong magnetic fields.
  4. Historically, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) was associated with the cold war and the possible impact of nuclear war. Defense systems had to be 'hardened' against the effect of the EMP if a thermonuclear weapon went off. Unfortunately in Wikipedia, analysis stops at nuclear war scenarios (Wiki: Electromagnetic pulse)

Of course, other than thermonuclear war, there are other potential sources of strong magnetic forces:

  1. Electromagnetic Phenomena Related to Earthquakes and Volcanoes. (Ref: 2007 papers presented at AGU) ... AGU - American Goephysical Union - is a scientific society with a membership of 50,000 researchers, teachers, and students. AGU conducts meetings and conferences, publishes journals, books and a weekly newspaper, and sponsors a variety of educational and public information programs.
  2. EMP -Electro-Magnetic Pulse 'Tesla Weapons' (non nuclear) (Ref: Wiki - Electronic pulse; Non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NNEMP) is an electromagnetic pulse generated without use of nuclear weapons. There are a number of devices to achieve this objective, ranging from a large low-inductance capacitor bank discharged into a single-loop antenna or a microwave generator to an explosively pumped flux compression generator.)
  3. Lightening Strikes (Ref: Wiki - Lightening Strike) ... A bolt of lightening is a linearly extended source of EM radiation, and hence, the field falls of linearly with the distance, not with its square. And yes, your electronics will get damaged if your neighbors house is struck by lightening, unless you use surge protectors or are lucky.
  4. Meteor Impact. (Ref: Iowa DNR - Department of Natural Resources - Iowa's Manson Impact Structure) ...
  5. There is historical reference to such powerful solar magnetic activity on earth that created such powerful magnetic fields that in the 1800s telegraphs could be run without batteries, but by the influence of the solar flares, only. Ref. Wikipedia - Auroral events of historical significance
  6. - "Solar flare confirmed as biggest" Friday, 7 November, 2003 - Solar scientists have confirmed that Tuesday's explosion on the Sun was, by far, the biggest flare ever recorded, capping an energetic solar period. (Mankind has only been recording 'solar flares' for a few short decades.) There is much more in the historical record (see 5, above and (Ref: Wiki - ... between 330 and 320 BC. Pytheas is the first person on record to describe ... the aurora ...)
  7. In 1989, when a fierce CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) struck the Earth, it blew out HydroQuebec's power grid, leaving almost seven million people without electricity, and a multimillion-dollar damage bill. (Ref: University of Michigan)
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