Tuesday April 9, 2013
Although I like to think that an attack on America using EMP devices is an incredibly small percentage-wise possibility, I nevertheless will be putting our home in the outback on 'Faraday-Ready" status Friday of this week due to Clif's data gap and recent events driven by North Korea.
I recognize that the odds of something happening which could impact the US are smaller than even single-digits. Yet the potential payoff is huge, looking at things the other way. After all, North Korea's recent mention of Austin, Texas is - to my ears - a clear warning that they have designs on the US power grid. I don't trust 'em even a tiny bit.
What are they up to this morning? Well, they are now warning foreigners in South Korea to seek shelter or consider evacuating because the Korean Peninsula is on the brink of nuclear war.
There's a very insightful Alexander Gillespie column in the New Zealand Herald this morning that suggests "North Korea's young leader must be allowed to claim small victory in order to avert a crisis nobody wants."
Sadly, there are only a couple of missing pieces left before war results from the inertia which continues to build: Japan is deploying missiles, is one such move and we can tick that off our checklist as of about three hours ago.
We don't know if the North Koreans have called up reserves yet, but that would give us about a "three-day fuse" to the commencement of hostilities. However, bear in mind there's the Moshe Dayan/Yom Kippur War lesson about whether making a reserve call-up public would constitute an act of war we discussed last week...
And from there, a million and one personal questions come up: If I think that putting a few bits of electronics in a metal garbage can this weekend is a good idea, wouldn't buying a few out-of-the-money puts which are dirt cheap ahead of next week's options expiration be a no-brainer?
No.. I don't think so: The whole point of an EMP attack on the US would be to kill our financial system, so the best investment of the week may - paradoxically - be a good 33-gallon metal garbage can.
Kinda says something about the world, though, doesn't it?
Observation of the Starfish test on Hawaii.
Although such a high altitude nuclear explosion would not directly endanger human life, it is
common, in military and governmental circles to credit the HEMP with devastating effects on the
communications and electric power networks of a whole continent, which could disable the society
and the ability to respond to such an attack, unless these devices are especially shielded or
protected. The effects to be expected from such electromagnetic pulses are however far from
obvious, and difficult to calculate or to evaluate experimentally.
July 8 1962, 11 PM the “Starfish” test, a 1.4 Megaton nuclear explosion at an altitude 400 km
above Johnston island, could be “observed” from the Hawaiian islands, 1200 km to the west. This
event had been announced previously and according to the newspapers, the population joyfully
anticipated it. According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of the next two days , the sky lit up bright
blue, as in daylight, for some seconds, streetlights on Ferdinand St. In Manoa and Kawainui St. In
Kailua went out the instant the bomb went off, and “police were sent off to a South St. warehouse,
when a burglar alarm started ringing at the time of the blast”.. Fuses blew out in Kasmuki, Kahala,
Kaluji, Maili, Wajanae, Makaha, Wahsaura, Kailua and Sandy Beach, and the Federal Aviation
Agency reported occasional radio communication blackouts over a period of two hours.
These reports, of Honolulu street lights going out, burglar alarms sounding, and circuit
breakers popping are frequently cited as evidence for the danger posed by the HEMP, but such
things happen also without nuclear bomb explosions, and the connection cited with the nuclear
explosion of these incidences are far from clear. The outstanding fact seems to be that life went on
normally in Hawaii, during and after the Starfish test, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin appeared normally
the next day. In response to such an article citing these alleged Starfish effects 9), there are answers
by Alan S. Lloyd, Manager, Consumer Services, Hawaiian Electric Company 10) stating categorically
that ”there was absolutely no adverse effect on our utility power and communications system on the
island of Oahu where the city of Honolulu is located”, and by E.C. Schoen, Chief Engineer, Hawaiian
Telephone Company, that, in connection with these nuclear bomb tests “No one, that I have talked
to, can recall any increase in troubles associated with telephone sets or any other type of difficulty
Damage to microelectronics.
One of the often cited dangers of electro-magnetic pulses is damage to microelectronics, a
very important element of our modern society. Given the modest sizes of electronic instruments,
such as computers radios, telephones, the effects of pulses such as those calculated above are
relatively easy to test in the laboratory, and some colleagues here at CERN, the European centre for
particle physics, in their spare time, are trying to study the effects of electric and magnetic pulses with
waveforms as expected in the HEMP, on several highly sophisticated microelectronic circuits as well
as some cell phones. Until now they have not succeeded in damaging a circuit, with voltages up to
130 kV/m, although at the higher voltages the processes in progress could be disturbed 12). This
work is continuing.
Damage to telecommunication and electric power networks.
As noted above, the Hawaiian systems were not disrupted by the Starfish (or other) high
altitude nuclear test. I am not capable to estimate the damaging effects to be expected. It should be
noted that although it is sometimes asserted that the voltages could propagate and build up on the
network lines for hundreds of kilometres, and therefore become extremely large, it is my
understanding that this is false, that the electric field cannot build up over greater distances than the
order of the coherence length, that is, the pulse length, 50 nanosec*c = 15m.
Strong electromagnetic pulses are produced by lightning currents.
The voltages are typically
greater than the EMP voltages calculated above, for distances within a few hundred meters of the
current, and since they are ~ 100 microseconds long, compared to the 50 nanoseconds of the
HEMP, their energy flux is correspondingly greater. Lightning strokes within several hundred meter
distances occur typically once per several years, yet I have not succeeded in finding clear evidence
of damage caused by lightning electromagnetic fields, as distinguished from the effects produced by
the lightning currents, to telecommunication networks, power distribution networks, or
Conclusion on damages.
It is not clear that spending billions, as some propose13) to congress, on hardening of
telecommunication, electric power networks, and public microelectronics to “protect” against a
possible HEMP, is in the public interest
Tabloids sharpen claws for North Korea’s ‘X-Day’
BY MARK SCHREIBER
APR 14, 2013
“Japan … has a very shallow depth for defense. No place can be safe from our rocket pounding.” — Kim Jong Son, writing in North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun (April 10)
“The American military has a plan to assassinate Kim Jong Un.” — Front-page headline in Yukan Fuji (April 7)
Three months before the present crisis on the Korean peninsula, Shukan Jitsuwa (Jan. 24) ran an uncharacteristically astute article predicting that in addition to potential for armed conflict with China over the disputed Senkaku Islands, North Korea, under its inexperienced young leader Kim Jong Un, posed a serious threat to Japan.
Although Japan’s Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces are qualitatively superior to their North Korean counterparts, a source in the Defense Ministry warned that the latter’s missiles, even if armed with conventional warheads, could wreak havoc on Japanese cities. “Such a scenario might be followed by landings by North Korean special forces in Kyushu or (a coast) on the Sea of Japan,” said the source.
“Considering the growing potential threat from neighbors, we are approaching a situation where we can’t defend the country,” he continued. “Under these circumstances, it’s clear that we need to establish a kokubo-gun (military for the defense of the nation) and supplement the defense budget to procure high-tech weaponry.”
Now in mid-April, articles about North Korea in the tabloids have increased exponentially and their tone has become increasingly shrill.
For instance, Shukan Bunshun (April 11) warned that — with shades of Thermopylae — only 300 warriors from North Korea might bring Japan to its knees.
A hypothetical attack, to be launched simultaneously with an assault against South Korea, might involve car bombs and VX toxic nerve gas aimed at the American air base in Misawa, Aomori Prefecture; laying of underwater mines outside Yokosuka Navy Base, home to the U.S. 7th Fleet; and plastic explosives targeting the infrastructure at U.S. naval facilities in Sasebo and Yokosuka.
In addition, teams of North Korean special forces saboteurs might also mount attacks on South Korean targets in Japan, such as civilian airliners and merchant vessels, along with guerrilla attacks at nuclear reactors, petroleum storage facilities, department stores and on rail transport and urban subway networks, aimed at turning Japanese public sentiment against the United States.
Finally, in an attempt to “decapitate” the political leadership, the forces would target key American and Japanese individuals for assassination.
Japan, the magazine also claims, has already worked out an emergency plan to evacuate its nationals from South Korea should war break out. Drills have actually been conducted on a plan that calls for such an evacuation to be carried out within four days, with helicopters and aircraft departing from Seoul airport for three hours a day, to evacuate Japanese civilians to the islands of Oki and Tsushima, as well as the cities of Sasebo and Fukuoka.
In its April 7 edition, the Yukan Fuji claimed that the U.S. military, taking a cue from its success in eliminating Osama bin Laden, may use a surgical bombing raid to take out North Korea’s leader, perhaps with F15E fighters dropping “bunker-buster” bombs capable of penetrating concrete-reinforced shelters.
But Byon Jin Il, editor of the Korea Report, counters that notion, saying North Korea is particularly well dug in.
“Pyongyang’s subway is said to be the world’s deepest, built to ward off nuclear attacks by U.S. or South Korean forces,” Byon is quoted as saying. “The tunnels snake around under the city like a maze, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint Kim Jong Un’s location.”
But perhaps the biggest impediment to targeting its leadership is the regime’s total stranglehold on information, as evidenced by its having concealed the death of party secretary Kim Jong Il in December 2011 and the country’s third nuclear test in February of this year.
Shukan Bunshun (Apr. 18) quotes a U.S.-based journalist as saying the U.S. has secretly informed the Abe government that if the North Koreans launch a missile, it will react with a “preemptive attack.”
“The THAAD or Patriot antimissile systems are not 100 percent perfect, but U.S. spy satellites have the capability to detect and calculate missiles’ trajectories at the time they are launched,” the source said. “In other words, should it be clearly determined that the missiles are aimed at, say, Hawaii or Guam, I suppose the U.S. will launch a preemptive attack.”
“Japan’s media has been issuing optimistic reports, to the effect that North Korean provocations are just part of efforts by Kim Jong Un to wrest control of the north’s military,” remarks veteran Sankei Shimbun journalist Yoshihisa Komori. “But we cannot forget that they made good on their vows to develop nuclear weapons and missiles. The U.S. government feels the north’s rhetoric this time is different from the past, and has upped its alert.”
Should the oft-mentioned “X-Day” — the indeterminate date when something that’s expected to happen finally comes to pass — come and go without outbreak of full-scale war, the tabloids are already gearing up for coverage of the next scary crisis — the avian influenza outbreak in China and its implications for Japan.
“The American military has a plan to assassinate Kim Jong Un.” — Front-page headline in Yukan Fuji (April 7)
The sad tale of EMP scare-mongering illustrates two huge problems: how politicians use fear to drive policy, and the dismantlement of objective, institutional expertise. These two problems are intertwined. By sidelining objective expertise and utilizing biased experts who are quick to offer distorted, exaggerated pictures of a potential threat, politicians remove the checks built into the system.
This happened with EMP.
Some background on how Congress gouged out its own eyes on science issues: In the mid-1990s, when Gingrich was Speaker of the House, Congress dismantled its Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a highly professional and objective organization that advised Congress on complex scientific and technical issues. Republican Roger Herdman, a medical doctor who was OTA’s last director, was quoted by journalist Chris Mooney in the September/October 2005 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as saying, “There are those who said the Speaker [Gingrich] didn’t want an internal congressional voice that had views on science and technology that might differ from his.”
In OTA’s place, certain Members of Congress decided to rely on individual and often highly biased experts. The editor’s note in the September/October 2005 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stated that “most troubling of all is that absent a neutral arbiter of scientific facts, some members of Congress now surround themselves with their own handpicked ‘experts’ and allow the scientific consensus on vital issues to be defined by self-interested lobbyists and think tanks.”
Gingrich pushed this new practice of Congress cherry-picking scientific experts who provided views they favored—ideas which were not always the most scientifically sound.
To further quote Strauss’s editorial, “OTA would have likely raised a questioning eyebrow at the findings of the congressionally mandated panel, the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack.”
The membership of that Commission, upon which Gingrich relies heavily, is composed mostly of right-wing nuclear and missile defense hawks who exemplify the cherry-picked and ideologically-slanted approach to science expertise that Gingrich brought to fruition.
As we move forward, we need to consider whether we should continue to spend billions of dollars on programs like national missile defense because of fanciful threats like EMP, while we slash millions of dollars from budgets of experts who work for the public interest to prevent and stop boondoggles from starting in the first place.
Lights out: House plan would protect nation's electricity from solar flare, nuclear bomb
BY: PAUL BEDARD JUNE 17, 2013 | 6:45 PM
http://washingtonexaminer.com/lights-ou ... le/2532038
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