Can a solar flare end life as we know it on Spaceship Earth? Maybe, maybe not. There have been so many different kinds of Doomsday scenarios espoused in the popular press over the years, that almost anything seems possible. It's the stuff of science fiction, but so was space travel not too long ago. Remember the worldwide angst over Y2K before the turn of the 21st Century? My wife and I celebrated that particularly frightful New Year's Day by flying from California to New Jersey. The plane was not crowded. Nothing of note happened. We didn't even lose our baggage.
|Walter Salm, Editor
The latest Doomsday scenario talks about the recurring solar upheaval that comes at various times, and a really bad one could generate a gigantic EM pulse that could fry much of the planet's sensitive electronics. With electronics gone, so would go most of life as we know it. First the power grid would fail, then we would find that our cars wouldn't run, and even if they did run, there would be no power for the gasoline pumps.
The last time Earth was hit by a really devastating magnetic spike was in 1859, but that only shut down the world's telegraph lines for a few days. It did little to change our way of life which was rather primitive then. But now, the rise of our complex technology has made us very vulnerable.
There is a new gigantic spike threatening, around mid-December, if all the pundits and scientists are correct. This time, our vulnerability is enormous, since virtually everything we do today is done with electronics.
December will also see our solar system crossing through the "absolute center of the dark rift of the Milky Way." According to reports, the Rift is dark because it is littered with debris consisting of rocks, boulders and asteroids, even some planet-size objects. This could bring us not only a string of spectacular meteor showers, it could also yield some destructive meteorite crashes on our planet. Remember, one of those big meteorites caused the destruction of many life forms including the dinosaurs about 61 million years ago. Another one of those today could readily wipe out all life as we know it. And there's not much we can do to prepare for that, unless you?re Bruce Willis saving the Earth in the 1998 movie ?Armageddon?.
Because that dark rift is also the gravitational plane of the Milky Way Galaxy, it brings with it not only lots of space debris, but also the likelihood of increased solar activity. If directed at the Earth, such flares can create long-lasting radiation storms that can fry satellites, communications systems, and such ground-based technologies as power grids and electronic equipment of all kinds. The Rift would exacerbate what is already a frightening scenario.
On top of all this, we now know that our Milky Way Galaxy is currently starting to collide with the Andromeda Galaxy — an event that is intellectually interesting, but will likely have little impact on Planet Earth because of the enormously vast distances between the billions of stars in both galaxies. Will it affect the Rift collisions and the sunspot activity? Insufficient data for now.
What will really happen in December? Will we get hit by destructive meteorites? Will we have our electronics wiped out by a gigantic magnetic pulse? Our thousands of satellites might take a tremendous hit, although since many of them use MIL-spec hardened electronics to guard against the normally high outer space radiation, they might just survive better than our earthbound electronics.
Poking around on the Internet, I found numerous survivalist groups of varying degrees of sophistication and paranoia. Many have taken on the aspects of fringe cults, with members patrolling their compounds and survival bunkers with assault rifles and a great deal of animosity toward any intruders. But I have to wonder if perhaps they have the right idea. Should I make some basic preparations without upsetting my total lifestyle? Living as we do on the fringe of a small city, perhaps we might simply stockpile canned foods and bottled water; buy a small emergency generator and a jerry can or two filled with gasoline; and maybe a handgun for personal protection? Stuff just "to hold us" until the emergency is over. Maybe I should also construct a shielded room for my computers, put a shielded blanket over the TV set, and figure out some way to shield my wife's internal body electronics, now that she has become a bionic woman. (She recently had DBS — deep brain stimulation — surgery and now wears under her skin an embedded Pacemaker-like power pack/programmer to power two electrodes that are implanted in her brain.) Will our civilization survive? Will U.S. Tech survive? The possibilities are endless, and so is the guesswork involved. We won't know anything for sure until the end of the year. But in the meantime. . .