One EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse) to Destroy Them All

Posted: August 1, 2013 in science
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In an ongoing saga to make sure people are properly afraid, WND has been publishing a lot this week about EMPs, short for “ElectroMagnetic Pulses.” Their EMP guy is F. Michael Maloof, a guy who’s written a book on the subject (sold through WND’s store for only $19.95!) and who also happens to be a WND staff writer. Maloof has been on late-night radio show Coast to Coast AM talking about EMPs lately, as well.

In a pair of “articles” (or, to use Richard Hoagland’s term for some stuff, “fear porn”) I’m going to talk about, Maloof wrote, “DHS Taking National Security to New Lows” and Jim Fletcher wrote, “Will You Be Ready When the Lights Go Out?” As I said, fear porn.

At a base level, an EMP is just a burst of electromagnetic energy. Briefly turning on an electromagnet could be thought of as an EMP. A lighting strike is an EMP. You can also weaponize it, mounting it on a missile, and have both a non-nuclear EMP (NNEMP) or a nuclear EMP (NEMP). It’s only the NNEMP and NEMP that WND’s fear-mongers are trying to get you to be afraid of.

Why am I so certain about this? Isn’t it possible some nation could launch some sort of EMP attack on the US? Sure, it’s possible. But just like during the Cold War that began over 50 years ago, we’d blast any country that launched a missile at us back to the stone age before any EMP hit the US. That fear of other countries alone gives me some confidence on this issue. It’s more likely some country would hit us with nukes rather than an EMP — it would do much more damage. There’s no special “stealth” about an EMP … it’s a missile flying towards us.

In addition to that, there is a basic way to shield from an EMP, and it’s called a Faraday Cage. When I first moved to Colorado, my apartment was a Faraday cage (I got no cell reception). The basic concept is that a Faraday cage is an enclosure formed by conducting material or a mesh of conducting material. The enclosure protects anything inside by taking the electric charges within the cage’s conducting material and distributing them around the cage, canceling out the incoming field.

It’s basic physics that was figured out by Michael Faraday in 1836. And it’s used today to shield electronic equipment … as in, I can almost guarantee you that important military hardware is protected by Faraday cages. Heck, we have a computing cluster at my university that’s inside a Faraday cage. That protects against EMPs.

Now it is true that electric companies don’t have to harden their lines and protect their facilities with Faraday cages. And most probably don’t because it costs money. But we still have missiles aimed at any attacking country.

But they’re not going to tell you that in these WND articles. The Maloof article du jour is saying that the Department of Homeland Security is cutting back on training for electric companies on how to protect their hardware. That’s just the first few paragraphs. All the rest of it is fear porn, and there’s a lot of it. All trying to scare you about natural EMPs from the Sun or NEMPs or NNEMPs.

The commenters really have no common thread running through, so it’s not worth mentioning ’em. Well, except for the second-highest comment at the moment by “TomPalermo” who says, “Mr Obama never cared about protecting this country as he stated his contempt for America as being too powerful! His only concern is to protect his administration and those that will continue to erode the United States and our Constitution!”

Fletcher’s article is a “review” of Maloof’s book, “A Nation Forsaken.” He reminds us: “Keep in mind, Maloof not only expects something like this to happen – he [Maloof] expects it to happen soon!”

The comment section is people listing their kits for when the apocalypse happens. I find it fascinating that “MingBucibei” lists about 30 different items, and over half of them are weapons or armor, including “long bows,” “bowie knives,” “body armor & chain mail.” I wonder if they’re punking WND.

One person, “robert88871,” lists “Bible, water filter” as the only two items.

  1. Your apartment was most likely not EMP proof… unless it had no windows. The mesh in a Faradays cage has to be smaller than the wavelength of the EMP. So EMP is a problem, just not the kind outlined in WND. Much (most?) consumer electronic goods would be affected. (New mobile phones for _everybody_!) But military hardware is better shielded. Still, it is hard to shield anything with an antenna.

    But such nuances are lost on the WND crowd. I say: let them enjoy their fear porn as long as they don’t show it to minors or foster it upon other non-consenting individuals. After all, the internet is for porn, right?

    • Stuart Robbins says:

      I didn’t mean to say that my apartment was EMP-proof, but more to make the point that shielding from EM radiation (which is what an EMP gives off) is simpler than people think.

  2. Woof says:

    Somewhere out west there’s an Air Force base with a giant wooden platform (on the order of 200′ length/width/height), built with no metal parts such as nails, screws, or bolts. The AF parked aircraft on it and blasted them with a miniEMP to test their shielding.

    Quite impressive to see a B-52 parked on it!

  3. […] you should see my first post on EMPs if you are unfamiliar with the basic concept and […]

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