“17 Misconceptions about the Effects of Electromagnetic Pulse”: half-hour film seems the best explanation of the real threat to ordinary Americans so far


I usually review “YouTube” films on my legacy blogs on Blogger, and the following 25mnute video by “Reality Survival” would normally go on my “Films on Major Threats to Freedom” blog. But I thought that this particular technical explanation of the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat so cogent as to need to be brought over here as a significant longer short film that ought to be offered in festivals.

It is titled “17 Misconceptions about the Effects of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)” by Reality Survival

He (the presenter) does not list his point, so I trust that his strike count is 17.

He starts out by pointing out that a high altitude nuclear blast from a thermonuclear weapon (hydrogen bomb) who have a “source area” below where the effects are severe, and a “tangent” area surrounding it where they are much less severe.

The most widely touted damage is the “E3” phase, or third phase, lasting perhaps a minute, where Earth’s magnetic field around the event is severely disturbed.  This is the phase that overloads transformers and knocks out the power grids (there are three in the U,S.)  He says there are about 370 major transformers in the United States that are too large for conventional transportation and have to be built in situ.  It could take two to three years to rebuild them all.  That presumes that the components could still be manufactured in other parts of the world and shipped.  But he says that a solar storm that was severe enough (larger than Carrington in 1857) could envelop the Earth even on the night side and prevent any remanufacturing anywhere, so that rebuilding would take maybe 10 years.  We may have had a close call with a huge coronal mass ejection in late July 2012.  So from the power grid perspective, the solar storm risk may be greater than what is posed by North Korea (although Russia and China are capable of wiping out civilization for good, as are we).

But the EMP from a nuclear blast has two other components, E1 and E2, where it is much easier to provide some protection. Furthermore, (at least according to Resilient Societies) fission nuclear weapons produce only these first two effects (a fact touted by “EMP deniers”).  That is one reason why North Korea’s claim to have a hydrogen bomb is strategically significant.

The HEMP E1 is a fast pulse that destroys magnetic data and personal electronics.  These devices might be protected by “nested Faraday cages”.  He notes that solid state electronics (like thumb drives) can be destroyed by E1 even though they are not ordinary harmed by household magnets or ordinary magnetic fluctuations in the environment (like by nearby transmission towers).  He recommends people back up their data on optical data, like single-sided CD’s.  Automobile ignition systems are often touted as vulnerable (as in the book “One Second After”).  He says that most cars made before 2003 would probably run, and some newer cars still have the proper shielding.  He says that sometimes a car will start if the battery is disconnected and then reconnected.  But of course you would run out of gas eventually, and electrical charging stations presumably would not work.

The speaker hints that old-fashioned electronics of early stereo and HiFi enthusiasts in the 1960s might work (when I was collecting classical phonograph records) but some vacuum tube components could be undermined by “selenium rectifiers”.

The E2 pulse is more like what a lightning strike to an existing power line does.  Your surge protectors may actually shield from these.  The E2 pulse is the easiest to deflect.

It’s noteworthy that the E3 pulse (like from solar storms) does not normally threaten personal electronics.

James Woolsey, as noted before, has warned that North Korea could launch an EMP attack (possibly in retaliation if Trump strikes the DPRK mainland) from one of its “Shining Star” satellites.  But it does not appear that it would have a thermonuclear weapon on one of these satellites, but it might be capable of an E1 strike.  So consumers need to back up their data on optical data now, even this week?  Remember, an E1-only strike would wipe out devices without wiping out the power grid, apparently.  As a purely geopolitical matter, I note that some other videos on YouTube suggest that China could actually goad North Korea into a high-altitude thermonuclear E3 EMP strike over the US so that China could then conquer the US.  The Domino Theory is back.

There is no information that I am aware of as to whether big cloud companies (Google, Apple, etc) have physical protection of their data with faraday-like covers.

It’s also possible for non-nuclear magnetic flux devices deployed by terrorists in local areas.  It is not clear which effects they have, but they might mainly be E1 and E2.  This was covered by a now largely forgotten Popular Mechanics issue around Labor Day of 2001, one week before 9/11.   The Washington Times wrote about this in 2009.  The US Army uses these devices in Afghanistan now, and one is on display in the Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, MD.

All of this suggests an enhanced kind of cultural hygiene that we have already gotten used to in meeting cyber threats and hackers (particularly, recently, ransomware as well as doxing and release of PII).  Protection of personal data with optical devices or with Faraday cages could become part of the culture that people need to learn to deal with.  I plan a visit to Best Buy soon to discuss this with Geek Squad.  But that seems applicable only against one kind of threat: older fission nuclear weapons.

The larger point is that society has become much more technology dependent than it was, again, say in the 1960s, the time of the last Cuban Missile Crisis.  While the Pentagon seems to have protected its own systems, protection of consumer and commercial use of technology seems to have lagged behind the serious threats.

It’s noteworthy that “Resilient Societies” has claimed on Twitter that the power grids could be protected with an investment by the utility industry of about $5 per consumer (about $2 billion nationwide), but I can’t yet find any statement as to what the technology at the transformer protection level would be.  However, many utilities (Dominion Power in Virginia for example) have recently announced unspecified security enhancements to their grids against both cyberterror and direct physical threats.

That’s one reason why the “doomsday prepper” and survivalist crowd has developed its somewhat extreme vision of personal morality (that we sometimes associated with the alt-right):  that everyone needs to learn to deal with the immediate physical world and participate in a familial social hierarchy to protect others before seeking global fame through modern civilized living.

The Wikipedia article on nuclear EMP is here.  Note the 2013 bill proposed in the House.

This article by Motoko Rich and David E Sanger about the geopolitical strategy is quite chilling. The Domino Theory of the Vietnam ear draft (my DADT I book) is indeed back.

I have to ask, also, where is the mainstream media on this?  It’s hardly ver mentioned.  But Newt Gingrich and others have testified about this threat before Congress as recently as March of this year. It’s not just North Korea, it’s also space climate (which doesn’t change.)

(Posted: Monday, September 4, 2017, at 10:30 AM EDT)

Update: Sept. 5

The filmmaker has sent me the link of his followup:
How to Build a Nested Faraday Cage: Protect Your Electronics from an EMP

(28 Minutes)

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