“Wired” offers major article on the grave threat of major solar storms, and proposes a simple technical solution

Model Railroad power station, Timonium MD, 2015-10

The mainstream corporate media is slowly paying more attention to the risk our civilization can face from solar storms. This may finally be out of self-interest.

Now, Wired Magazine(Conde Nast), on pp.80-89 of what appears to be the July-August issue for 2022, on p. 80 in print (I get a physical subscription mailed to my UPS business address), Matt Ribel offers a detailed booklet article with illustrations by Mark Pernice, “Star Destroyer”, as part of a “Back Channel” series. Online, the title is “Here Comes the Sun—to End Civilization”, link (subscription paywall) above. (An odd quote from the libretto of Schoenberg’s “Gurrelieder”, at the end, reviewed here April 13, 2022 ).  Ironically, the title of the magazine reflects why huge solar storm incident could be so destructive to our modern way of life, when the Carrington Event on Sept. 1, 1859 was not so (indeed, the War Between the States to come would be, for half the country).  There was another storm almost as large in 1921, and a more moderate storm in Quebec in 1989.  It sounds plausible that latitudes closer to poles may be even more vulnerable.

Paul Beckwith and societal collapse, July 2022

The article starts out by the author’s pretending to be a photon “in a crowded nightclub”, although dirty dancing might not find much to strip away.  At 27 million degrees there is no COVID or monkeypox.  But pretty soon he is back into the discussion of the problem.  A large enough coronal mass ejection, with the Earth in the “right” place, and hitting when the Earth’s magnetic field happens to be polarized in the opposite direction (call it “heterosexual”) will cause enormous direct currents on transformers in our power grids, particularly in parts of the country where the rocks are more conductive (like the Northeast).  And transformers are not very easy to replace.

We had a narrow miss with a large CME that blew off in the Earth’s path about one week early in July 2012.

I had written about this topic on July 8, one of Bret Weinstein’s podcasts,  with a comment Aug. 3 adding a particularly graphic video showing how the western world would completely collapse over about three days.  The collapse would start in space, then gradually shut down Internet and cellular and other communications.  After power failed, many basic functions, like drinking water would fail.  Cooling of nuclear power plant ponds could fail.  There is some debate as to whether magnetic storage of data would be damaged (as it would from certain EMP attacks, mainly level 1), but a video by Anton Petrov about  a years ago warned that it would.

Anton Petrov and solar sunspot cycles

The article discusses some of the worst-case scenarios mapped out by John G. Kappenman (who spent a lot of time at Minnesota Power), and a DHS study called JASON. 

Kappenman and others have said that transformers could be effectively protected by certain kinds of capacitors.  It would cost about $500 million a year for about a decade, or about $2 per American a year. That reminds me of reducing the downstream liability (literally) risk for a water leak in a high-rise building by replacing a shower head or cartridge. 

The article discusses the apparent insufficiency of NERC standards and the general lack of progress in American utilities to come closer to meeting to the recommendations regarding capacitors.

Major power lines near Woodbridge VA 2019-6

The experience of the Texas grid (which is separate from the rest of the U.S.) in February 2021 is shocking, and it isn’t clear why it was so close to total collapse.  The performance in California with respect to wildfires starting is not good either.

Physics Girl has a recent video on the topic from April 2022, and calls a coronal mass ejection “Sun vomit”.

She mentions our likely future dependence on electric vehicles and charging stations for climate change.

Physics Girl on solar storms

Years ago, I visited the North Anna nuclear generating station in Virginia, SW of Fredericksburg, not too far from the Twin Oaks Intentional Community.

Every 11 years we have about a 10% risk of a destructive solar storm, a risk which adds up over a century (risk higher at the height of the cycle, to be reached next in 2025).  Do the math. (It’s a good test problem.)

An article I recovered off my old blogging platforms links to video links of talks by Sam Feinburg (2017) and Taylor Wilson (maybe 2015).

I’d say, the solar storm problem may well be even more urgent than climate change, and it certainly matters a lot more than pronouns and bathroom bills (on “The Left” and “The Right”, both).

The author ends the article by asking the utility industry to add the capacitors. “Soon, please”.  I concur.

(Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2022 at 6:30 PN EDT by John W Boushka)

Video on major nuclear fusion experiment in Germany

Colorado-Kansas border 2022-5

Future Unity offers the 10-minute video June 12, 2022 “Germany’s New Nuclear Fusion Reactor SHOCKS The Entire Industry!”.

The device shown in the video is interesting in that it has a twisted shape remind one of a Mobius strip.  Topology seems to play a role in making this process work.

The video channel took the precaution of station its Fair Use position for any claims possible for owners of components of the video.  It’s unusual to see this, but it may be a result of the CASE Act and the opening of the CCB (June 16).

The Environmental League of Massachusetts presents a panel discussion by Zoom Dec 8, 2021, “The Promise of Fusion Energy and the Challenges Ahead”.

Panel discussion in MA on fusion

On Twitter, you will find other energy experts say that fusion still consumes more energy than it can produce, for now at least.  But in the long run there seems to be a good chance that fusion energy could help considerably with the climate change issue and, together with decentralization, make the grid(s) safer from disasters (as in the previous post). 

Before, I had reviewed the book “The Boy Who Played with Fusion” by Tom Clines, about Taylor Wilson, who had built a small fusion reactor (essentially a “star”) in his home garage in Arkansas in 2008 at the age of 14.   I believe he works in Reno NV now at the University lab.  Taylor’s site is called “Sciradioactive”.

I made an announcement video today about the consolidation of my websites.

my announcement

I’ve give a narrative progress report and more details about my reasoning soon.

(Posted: Friday, July 8, 2022 at 7 PM EDT)

Bret Weinstein offers disturbing warning about unpreparedness for severe solar storms in a discussion video in London

tornado footprint in a park in Bowie MD 2022-7-5

Bret Weinstein, in a short video conversation in London with Russian-Brit comedian Konstantin Kisin, wars us “There’s something out there with the power to unleash things that it cannot keep under control”.

“Heading to Extinction”? our civilization’s existential perils, with Bret Weinstein

Bret is referring specifically to the possibility that a Carrington-sized solar storm, if it made a direct hit on Earth, could knock out the power grid for much of North America (and Europe).  It might take months to recover, or recovery of civilization as we know it might never happen.  Imagine the twenty-something YouTuber’s whose influential lives have been destroyed and they have to take their turns becoming proles.  The Marxists would love it.  Except for the spoiled, fragile Generation Z.

Bret says the problem could be fixed for less than the cost of a major bomber.  But he also notes that without electricity, water stored in conventional fission nuclear power plants would overheat and contaminate the country with radiation.  Bret says he didn’t know this until Fukushima happened to Japan from an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. 

Bret makes the point that gradually our technology has built up mass that, if mishandled, increases the risk of an annihilation (like the 2018 movie title).  Gain of function research probably led to COVID, which has killed over 20 million people worldwide.  There are other examples.  Well, obviously, the development of nuclear weapons which might have ended civilization with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 (when I was at NIH and was the only patient who knew what was going on).  In fact, a PBS documentary about ten years ago maintains that a Russian submarine commander swallowed the keys to the red button to launch a nuclear attack against the eastern US after the blockade started. (He would have choked or gagged). 

Bret maintains our most critical infrastructure vulnerabilities are managed by “fools” who think only of short-term budgets.

Jason Morton has many essays on the solar storm problem on Medium, for example this one on May 24 discussing Carrington.  He says it would cost $7 trillion to recover.

There is some controversy as to whether a solar storm could damage magnetic storage and electronic devices (an EMP type 1 would). 

Watch “The Carrington Event”, 13 minutes, from the Magnus Archives, posted May 2021 by Fascinating Horror.

“The Carrington Event” short film doc

Ironically, civilization a century ago was much less dependent on electricity and wouldn’t have trouble recovering.  But today’s people would not be able to adjust to years without electricity (as in the NBC miniseries in the early 2010’s, “Revolution”). 

NBC “Revolution” 2012 opening

One could imagine a movie or screenplay about how a spoiled American (me) would react if the world was warned that a hard-stopping coronal mass ejection would arrive in two days after seeing the flare.  Probably things wouldn’t be that certain.  If you tried to write a screenplay about this idea, imagine the Harmon story circles and character arcs and philosophical flips (without a full NBC series for two years).

(Posted: Thursday, July 7, 2022 at 10 PM EDT)