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What We Can Do About Massive Solar Flares

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the resistance-may-not-be-futile dept.

Power 224

Reader resistant sends in an update to our discussion a month back on the possibility of violent space weather destroying power grids worldwide during the upcoming solar cycle. Wired is running an interview with Lawrence Joseph, author of "Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation into Civilization's End," and John Kappenman, CEO of electromagnetic damage consulting company MetaTech. The piece brings two new threads to the discussion: the recently discovered presence of an unusually large hole in Earth's geomagnetic shield, magnifying our vulnerability, and possible steps we can take over the next few years to make the power grid more robust against solar flares and coronal mass ejections. There's also that whole Mayan 2012 thing. Quoting John Kapperman: "What we're proposing is to add some fairly small and inexpensive resistors in the transformers' ground connections. The addition of that little bit of resistance would significantly reduce the amount of the geomagnetically induced currents that flow into the grid. In its simplest form, it's something that might be made out of cast iron or stainless steel, about the size of a washing machine. ...we think it's do-able for $40,000 or less per resistor. That's less than what you pay for insurance for a transformer. [In the US] there are about 5,000 transformers to consider this for. ... We're talking about $150 million or so. It's pretty small in the grand scheme of things."

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224 comments

There's only one solution (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27722655)

We must blow up the sun. But we must be quick, since there's only about 12 hours of darkness a day during which we can do it.

Re:There's only one solution (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722663)

we could always do it during a cloudy day.

Re:There's only one solution (-1, Offtopic)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722719)

But there aren't enough sharks in seattle to attach the frickin lasers...

In other news, I saw this on digg a couple days ago. Grats to slashdot on shamelessly reposting digg content.

Re:There's only one solution (4, Informative)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722755)

In other news, I saw this on digg a couple days ago. Grats to slashdot on shamelessly reposting digg content.

Digg doesn't create content.

Re:There's only one solution (3, Funny)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722903)

Nice, you made a "score:2 Offtopic". I'm trying to generate a "score:3 Troll" myself.

I think you need a +1 weapon to damage a +3 Troll. And needless to say, you're going to need either fire or acid to kill it.

Re:There's only one solution (3, Interesting)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722987)

surely there is nothing to stop a +5 offtopic (-1 offtopic, +4 underrated)

Re:There's only one solution (2)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723087)

When you say "there is nothing to stop a +5 offtopic", do you mean there's nothing to stop it happening, or that you would need a really powerful +5 magical weapon to stop it?...

Re:There's only one solution (4, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723183)

Specifically, a +5 intelligent Holy Avenger in the hands of a purely lawful good female virgin paladin riding a winged unicorn. And she must look hot in a chainmail bikini.

Re:There's only one solution (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723209)

I think he's saying his -1 Offtopic armed with a +4 underrated weapon can beat up your +3 Troll. Me, I think it's an even match.

Unless of course his Offtopic also has a +2 bias calculator.

Re:There's only one solution (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27722907)

"reposting digg content"? you're a sad, confused little man.

Re:There's only one solution (-1, Troll)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723971)

Hardly, I've been here longer than the most of the active slashdot readers.

It gets tiring sometimes when I see a majority of stories are simply repostings of digg stories.

Maybe the editors should do more editing instead of browsing digg all day looking for things to accept submissions on.

Re:There's only one solution (0)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722725)

This would also have the advantage of solving global warming and make the hole in the ozone not a problem. Jeezus, why haven't we done this already?

Re:There's only one solution (5, Funny)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722813)

The sun will see this coming from a MILE away. More than enough time to launch a counter-flare.

And then, the sun will get angry. You wouldn't like it when it's angry.

Re:There's only one solution (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27722905)

Does it turn green?

Re:There's only one solution (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722985)

Actually, if you go by where in the EM spectrum the sun's strongest output lies, it already is.

Re:There's only one solution (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723035)

I think that if you go by power output, technically it's purple(ultra-violet).

(And no, you can't post a comment saying that by power output it's "X-ray" -- that's not a color)

Re:There's only one solution (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723097)

The highest peak of the sun's energy output is actually in the green part of the visible spectrum (although far more total power is outside of it, but that's apples and oranges... the highest peak is a linear distance straight up from the X axis to the curve on the graph, where the total energy emitted would be the entire area underneath the curve.

Re:There's only one solution (1)

Entrope (68843) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723259)

The calculation for total energy would depend on the X axis. I think derGoldstein's point was that higher frequency photons have higher energy per unit of luminous flux, so that green light might have higher flux but not the most energy over a fixed width swath of frequencies.

Re:There's only one solution (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723339)

Is this true even outside of the earth's atmosphere, before scattering?

(now you have me googling around for graphs and charts of energy in relation to different parts of the visible spectrum, and the question becomes "visible to whom?"...)

Re:There's only one solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723741)

See for yourself [colorado.edu]. The sun's blackbody temperature is about 5800 K.

and that is, Duck and Cover !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723389)

Duck, and Coooover

Re:There's only one solution (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#27724031)

Recommend usage of a small-scale cloaking device.

When the missile is approximately 1.2 miles away from the sun, it will engage the cloaking device.

So when it's a mile away, it will be invisible. A half minute of cloak should do it, as the missile will be traveling far in excess of 1000 miles per hour; travelling that one mile will take a small fraction of a second.

There should be a law (4, Funny)

ukemike (956477) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723233)

We cannot go on with this threat to our infrastructure. Write letters to you congress people and demand that they pass a law BANNING ALL SOLAR FLARES! We should take to the streets in protest. We need sanctions! It's time to get tough! The UN should pass a resolution! Boycott all products that are sun related! Show 'em who's really in charge!

Re:There should be a law (1)

atrocious cowpat (850512) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723839)

We cannot go on with this threat to our infrastructure. Write letters to you congress people and demand that they pass a law BANNING ALL SOLAR FLARES! We should take to the streets in protest. We need sanctions! It's time to get tough!

Right on! But you're going way to far here, pardner:

The UN should pass a resolution! Boycott all products that are sun related! Show 'em who's really in charge!

What?! And have the New World Order dictate the American Way Of Doing Stuff(tm)? Nah, the only Truly American(c) way to solve this problem is to constantly shoot any and all of America's god-given(*) firearms at the sun while creating a protective cloud-layer by running all SUVs at full RPM.

a.c. ;)
______________
(*) Jesus wrote the 2nd Amendment. Bet you didn't know that, Pinko!

Easy to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723431)

re-elect a neo-con American president and tell that president that oil is in the core of the sun.

Act now! Avoid Doomsday! (5, Funny)

Chasmyr (1261462) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722675)

So, he has determined a doomsday scenario that his company can prevent for $150 million? Lets think about that for a minute...

Re:Act now! Avoid Doomsday! (4, Insightful)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722825)

Let's see, $150 million that the energy company executives can use to line their pockets, or to pay for something to prevent a disaster that might not really happen anyway but would cause damage that would be much more expensive to fix than prevent, and would cause utter chaos in the nation for an extended period of time.

There's only one outcome here. I don't know about you, but I'm gonna start outfitting my house like Chuck Heston's in The Omega Man.

~Philly

Re:Act now! Avoid Doomsday! (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723199)

You aren't thinking deep enough. Clearly the guy also has interests in companies that sell survival gear.

Re:Act now! Avoid Doomsday! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27722835)

Now the creepy thing is the ad for 2012-comet.com on the RSS.

Re:Act now! Avoid Doomsday! (0)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722837)

And this is the *nice* way to do it.

He could have said: "and I won't give you those resistors unless you give me ONE MILLION DOLLARS!"

I HAVE A BETTER IDEA! (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722989)

Cheaper too.

Give me 100 million dollars and I will pray to whichever deity you prefer to protect ALL the transformers in the entire world.
Fuck... I'll even throw in a good word for finding a cure to your favorite disease.
Well... actually your LEAST favorite disease but you know what I mean...

Re:Act now! Avoid Doomsday! (2, Interesting)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722995)

So if somebody is trying to sell you insurance, do you also assume that risks don't exist?

Whether or not the risk is real enough is something for scientists/physicists/engineers to determine; it has completely independent of whether or not somebody stands to make money from it. People have been making money selling solutions to actual problems for a very long time; the presence of a financial incentive doesn't automatically mean snake oil, as you seem to presume. In fact, the presence of financial incentive doesn't allow you to derive any conclusions at all - your thinking is highly unscientific.

And anyway, it's for the energy companies themselves to decide if the risk is real enough or not; they don't seem to be forcing this on anyone.

Re:Act now! Avoid Doomsday! (1)

Maelwryth (982896) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723089)

I wouldn't exactly call it a doomsday scenario. These flares happen fairly often. The last one to disrupt power was in March 1989 but there was a bigger one [nasa.gov] in April 2001 that missed us.

Can't wait for discovery channels "doco" on the star in the east being solar flares hitting Jupiter though. :)

Better idea (0)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722713)

I like much better that idea I read around here - something about boxes of viagra and hookers...

Fairly small resistors (5, Insightful)

ElMiguel (117685) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722735)

So their "fairly small resistors" are about the size of a washing machine? I'm sure that's pretty good in the power grid industry, but I'd hate to know what they call "huge resistors".

Re:Fairly small resistors (4, Funny)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722867)

They're not much bigger, but the larger resistors require a heatsink, and probably a few 12" fans. Preferably Zalman. With blue LEDs.

Re:Fairly small resistors (1)

Maelwryth (982896) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722971)

I would say that is fairly small when the problem is the Earths magnetic field getting pushed down far enough that it crosses the lines and induces a current. It's probably a far smaller solution than replacing the transformers, considering there isn't a surplus of transformers. I think the end of the current solar cycle is in 2012, that should be plenty of time to do this.

Re:Fairly small resistors (2, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723073)

I've got the contract for the "DANGER: 1,000,000 OHMS" warning signs.

Seriously, the ones TFA talks about are only a few ohms, but capable of dissipating kilowatts.

Re:Fairly small resistors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723575)

that might be made out of cast iron or stainless steel, about the size of a washing machine

And they would be stolen so fast..gone in 60 seconds using stupidmoviespeak.

Re:Fairly small resistors (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723775)

Well, considering resistance decreases with radius that makes perfect sense. Now, if they're referring to power capacity then it's a fairly large resistor. It's all about whether you're referring to Ohms or Watts.

Interesting point that I'd never heard of, but... (3, Informative)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722765)

When I hear our need for resistors to limit the damage of massive solar flares uttered in the same sentence as "the whole 2012 thing", the credibility for anything either one of these guys says is gone as far as I'm concerned.

I don't think they know what "science" is.

Re:Interesting point that I'd never heard of, but. (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722923)

I suppose it's good marketing practice if you're trying to sell electromagnetic damage prevention equipment to fans of Coast to Coast AM or the History Channel. They love them some 2012 "science."

I would say it's not such a great tactic if you're trying to sell to engineers, but let's face it: education doesn't protect you from teh stoopid. Surely most people here know at least one educated person that takes such things seriously.

Re:Interesting point that I'd never heard of, but. (2, Funny)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#27724201)

Actually, this is fairly sound. Archaeologists recently decyphered a Mayan text that details the need for large, blocky capacitors in 2012. The text also goes on about how those capacitors would be about half as high as a man and require completely new materials, either in cast or hammered form. It was all very professional.

Re:Interesting point that I'd never heard of, but. (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#27724239)

Note: Yes, the "resistor" in there is intentional. The Mayans messed up their calculations and wanted to use resistors instead of capacitors. Their faulty energy physics were one of the factors invonved in the downfall of their civilization. (In contrast, the European settlers made not a single wrong assumption about how to counteract solar flares messing with the electrical infractructure.)

The myans? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27722777)

Come on. Anything and everything this article has to say is now more-or-less worthless because of that bit.

Re:The myans? (1)

dunelin (111356) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723781)

Actually, the Mayan reference is in the original article along with the links that kdawson appropriated for the article summary. Note to editor: a quote is not the only thing due credit. How about giving credit to Wired for the links too?

Small Resistors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27722839)

Here we go, some thing like this would probably work:

http://www.jovyatlas.info/index_en.html?/produkte/13l_e.php

- can withstand high pulse loads
- short-term overload capability

Scale as required.

Small and inexpensive resistors (1)

theeddie55 (982783) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722849)

$40,000 and the size of a washing machine isn't exactly what you'd call small and inexpensive, certainly not compared to what most people would think of when you mention a resistor.

Re:Small and inexpensive resistors (1)

maz2331 (1104901) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722937)

"That's less than what you pay for insurance for a transformer." - so relative to the transformer and insurance costs, it is relatively inexpensive. Plus, how big is the transformer? If it's much smaller than what it protects, it's "small".

Large and small are relative terms, not absolutes. A small planet is certainly much larger than a large potato.

Re:Small and inexpensive resistors (1)

theeddie55 (982783) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723863)

It's not a question of scale, but one of audience. If this article were just for industrial transformer engineers, then small and inexpensive may be a good description. But the article is aimed at the general public, or a sub section there of. And the majority of this sub section of the population, when they think of resistors, think of an electronic component 1/3" long and costing less than a penny.

ie. from the point of view of the average slashdot reader, $40,000 and the size of a washing machine is not a small and inexpensive resistor.

(not that I can't see where the description is coming from, it's just not appropriate for the articles audience)

Re:Small and inexpensive resistors (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722997)

$40,000 and the size of a washing machine isn't exactly what you'd call small and inexpensive, certainly not compared to what most people would think of when you mention a resistor.

Well, the transformers to which they'd be attached are also a wee bit bigger than your average wall wart.

Re:Small and inexpensive resistors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723747)

Can't we just shrink the people down to receive the positive benefits wall warts?

Re:Small and inexpensive resistors (3, Insightful)

dido (9125) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723099)

Well, when you have several kiloamperes of current flowing in a circuit of several kilovolts (several megawatts of power), typical in a power grid, a resistor the size of a washing machine is actually rather small. Think of the sizes of the transformers that you see in power stations. I'm sure you know what they look like, and how big they are. The resistors most people think of are designed to deal with milliamperes of current over about 5 volts or so, milliwatts or at best watts of power. The washing-machine resistor has to deal with power levels a million to a billion times greater than that, and must have a size to match.

EU safe? (4, Interesting)

AigariusDebian (721386) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722891)

As far as I know, the electrical grid in most of EU have always been protected against that. When government companies manage the grid according to set technical standards, it mostly is better managed than private contractors, that build as little as possible and as cheap as possible.

Re:EU safe? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27722991)

Somehow, I doubt they're protected in the same way, since these resistors are still in the "conceptual design phase".

I have to say, "Put up or shut up".

Re:EU safe? (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723025)

Oh bulldust, the electricity grids in many other countries were built by governments and are not protected - how on earth can you possibly claim that the EU represents proof that governments are automagically pure and saintly and do things right, when almost every other country is a glaring counter-example that disproves your point? This borders on insanity.

I put forth that if it's true what you claim, that it's been 'done right' in Europe, it probably has more to do with the fact that it is simply in the culture of Europeans to think carefully, to think long-term, and to plan accordingly, in most things they do. European private companies would probably exercise similar diligence, simply because they're European.

Re:EU safe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723091)

Anyone who has ever dealt with a veterans' hospital would laugh at the notion of having something run by the government induce higher standards rigor.

Re:EU safe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723093)

Hahahahahahahaha! You're funny... And so misinformed on so many levels...

Re:EU safe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723195)

Hurrican Katrina much? Pure government failure. Meanwhile, Walmart was business as usual.

Re:EU safe? (0, Flamebait)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723315)

You guys are paying so much more for electricity than we are, that's what I'd call the EU doomsday scenario. You Europeans are just insane.

Re:EU safe? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723805)

One of the problems in the US grid is the size-- there are some pretty big loops through which currents are induced. The EU has the advantage that no matter how you cut the grid, the loop size is quite a bit smaller. Less area means less induced current. So in a sense, yes, the EU is better protected than we are. Give it up for the little guy!

Call Mr. Burns for the job (2, Funny)

DirtyCanuck (1529753) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722909)

"Since the beginning of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun. I shall do the next best thing: block it out. "

What's the actual problem? (4, Interesting)

SamMichaels (213605) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722947)

Unless I missed it, TFA left out the technical details of the problem and was filled with FUD language instead.

From what I saw on wiki [wikipedia.org], it's a quasi-DC current. Why can't we just install massive inductors that give high impedance to 60hz and pass DC? Wouldn't that cost less than $45k? Don't we already have static drain chokes? How does this affect current lightning protection shunts (or when they say the protection circuits pop, is that to what they're referring)?

Linemen chime in!

Re:What's the actual problem? (1)

usul294 (1163169) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723177)

Suppose you had a massive inductor, that was say 10H, in order to make a 60Hz filter you would need like a 100 ohm resistor, which in order to make to survive the huge currents/voltages while maintaining low impedance would need to be a big block of iron

Re:What's the actual problem? (1)

butlerm (3112) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723203)

Any inductor with sufficiently high impedance at such a low frequency would almost certainly cost *far* more and be significantly larger than the equivalent resistor setup. If the connection point was a line designed to carry 60 Hz an inductor would be the only way to go, however here the connection point is a neutral, so an inductor that filters out 60 Hz signals is overkill.

Re:What's the actual problem? (3, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723221)

No. Not inductors. Ideally, we want to provide the 60 Hz currents a low impedance path to ground, but block the DC currents. DC currents saturate iron core devices (transformers, generators, etc.) and can cause damage. Resistors limit both AC and DC currents, which is a trade-off. Ideally, a capacitor could block DC but allow AC to pass. But capacitors suitable for these voltage levels are VERY expensive.

In reality, simply adding resistors here and there is not the total answer. Although the DC currents will be reduced, the resistors can only dissipate power for a short time. And while they do so, they create a DC voltage drop which itself can cause equipment failure. What is needed is the addition of DC current sensing and protective relaying to trip breakers and protect the system. Sure, you'll have an outage. But one that may only last hours or a few days. Not the weks or months it will take to repair damage. Few utilities implement this kind of sensing, and then only on major lines. So they can't characterize their systems' DC current components during either 'normal' operations or solar storms.

The title of the book.... (5, Informative)

VinylRecords (1292374) | more than 4 years ago | (#27722993)

"Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation into Civilization's End"

So many things wrong with this title...first of all, the word Apocalypse derives from Greek 'Apokálypsis' which basically means 'lifting of a veil' or revealing something that was previously hidden to the majority of the population. Currently apocalypse enters into most people's lexicon in the biblical sense referring to the end of days (aka revelation).

2012...well I think we've all seen the movie (trailer). The Mayan calendar puts the end of time at approximately December 21, 2012. But that's not even the Mayan's interpretation of 2012...it just some projected wish that has exploded into popular culture. Many Mayan scholars simply think that the Mayans were simply going to reset the calendar on that day back to zero.

Either way the scientific exploration to the end of our planet or species (which are different things and scenarios) should avoid religious or theological possibilities (because they aren't real).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimate_fate_of_the_universe [wikipedia.org]
Heat death of the universe and the big crunch are the two most likely scenarios (don't worry you won't be around for either of them). Heat death is basically where the universe becomes void of heat and motion and there is nothing left but immobile objects. The other best theory is the big crunch, basically where gravity pulls all objects together from existence into one singularity.

I always though that that singularity would interact with infinite absolute zero and most likely creates another big bang. If this is true then that would mean it could have happened an infinite number of times before, meaning time is an infinite loop and everything has happened before an infinite number of times and will happen again.

I haven't studied hard science in an academic environment for a while (I went to an amazing science oriented public high school) as I did my undergraduate studies in......sports broadcasting...so here's my disclaimer: some things above might be paraphrased or summarized incorrectly (I did my best).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risks_to_civilization,_humans_and_planet_Earth [wikipedia.org]
This article covers almost everything. Natural disasters occurring from earth (earthquakes, floods, global warming), to space based (gamma ray bursts, impact events), to human based events (nuclear war), to diseases and pandemics, and even things like an A.I. taking over or a singularity from nanotechnology taking over all life (search wiki for Grey goo), and then of course there is the probability (though unlikely) of aliens obliterating our planet.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction_of_human_beings [wikipedia.org]
There was a recent poll on Slashdot asking everyone when the last human would be born...
http://slashdot.org/pollBooth.pl?qid=1749&aid=-1 [slashdot.org]
http://slashdot.org/pollBooth.pl?qid=1751&aid=-1 [slashdot.org]

Oh...here comes my boss time to submit and get back to cutting Mets footage.

Re:The title of the book.... (5, Funny)

kohaku (797652) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723141)

Many Mayan scholars simply think that the Mayans were simply going to reset the calendar on that day back to zero.

Referred to in Mayan texts as "The Great Mayan Integer Overflow".

Re:The title of the book.... (1)

hasdikarlsam (414514) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723813)

Amusing. :P

But in all seriousness, it's a positional number system.
They would have simply *gasp* added a digit.

Re:The title of the book.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723925)

Actually, they have yet another higher level of time measurement to count, I think. It was more like the great Mayan millennial celebration. Like we had in 2000/2001. Except they knew when it was. And cared. Maybe.

Re:The title of the book.... (2, Interesting)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723567)

The other best theory is the big crunch, basically where gravity pulls all objects together from existence into one singularity.

I dunno if I'd subscribe to the big crunch theory -> infinite loop, mostly because runs counter to the idea of losing energy. Either creating the universe costs energy or creating a giant gravity well costs energy, and one of those is the lowest state of equilibrium. Granted though we, as a species, are very ignorant as to the mechanisms of gravity, and there could be a cosmological perpetual machine out there, but it seems to run counter to the theories we have learned so far.

Heath death seems more likely, but too bad I'll never know. : P

Re:The title of the book.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723601)

>Oh...here comes my boss time to submit and get >back to cutting Mets footage.

Oh cripes! That's worse than goatse.

Balderdash (4, Informative)

anorlunda (311253) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723207)

The solution is to use a Delta-ungrounded-Wye transformer where needed to prevent ground currents. After the 1980's incidents, power engineers in the USA and Canada reviewed the need for these transformers and put them in where needed. The solar flare problem should therefore be solved already. Can you cite a power system engineering qualified source who thinks there is still risk?

Is "Knowing" Better? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723261)

After seeing the movie Knowing [wikipedia.org]. I couldn't help but think how screwed Humanity would be if the planet would be in the Wrong Place, at the Wrong Time. It would take about another 5 Billion years for Earth to get back to what it is today, but even that Polyanna [wikipedia.org] concept wasn't good enough. When it comes down to cold reality, only if humanity becomes a space faring culture will things like ELE [wikipedia.org] be unfortunate, but survivable.

Re:Is "Knowing" Better? (2, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723815)

After seeing the movie Knowing [wikipedia.org]. I couldn't help but think how screwed Humanity would be if the planet would be in the Wrong Place, at the Wrong Time.

After seeing the movie Knowing, I couldn't help but think that I wanted my nine dollars back. As end-of-the-world scenarios go, that one was pretty weak.

If you're going to attack the sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723497)

...and try to destroy it, you have to attack it on it's dark side where it's night time.

Nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723547)

is my guess.

Always the symptoms never the problems. (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723559)

Nobody looks at the real problem here:

The earth's core is slowing down and cooling off, causing a drop in the strength of our magnetic field.

Who's got the plan that injects boatloads of energy into the core in such a way that both increases its temperature significantly AND boosts the speed of its spin? That would fix us for hundreds of thousands of years, and yet nooooobody talks about it.

These patchwork fixes allow us to ignore the REAL problem. ;)

As Jon Steward said it best: (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723695)

"From this, on to our new segment: 'Shit that's never going to happen!'" :D

So are we Fox News now? Because IMHO TFA drips with sensationalist scaremongering. Or am I missing something here? (Not a rhetorical question.)

Re:As Jon Steward said it best: (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723887)

Well, to file this under "Shit that's never going to happen!" is probably not correct considering there's a very high likelihood that there will be solar flares in the future. Whether or not we need to take action to protect against it is another thing. But I would say that the world is going to end in 2012 because the Mayans say so is probably "shit that's never going to happen!" I guess we only have to wait three years.

Simpleton's sci-fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27723773)

Before anyone feels the urge to watch Knowing, I'm gonna warn you: don't.

Is my off-line data safe? (4, Interesting)

Cow Jones (615566) | more than 4 years ago | (#27723921)

At the risk of having my geek card revoked, I'll admit that I don't know zilch about solar flares and their impact on electronics. What concerns me the most is how my stored data will be affected. Hardware can be replaced, but data is volatile and (I presume) also susceptible to the sun's random bursts.

Will by HDDs keep their data? Is it important whether they're connected to the grid at the time of the flaare? Can solar flares harm optical media?

What good are backups on magnetic media (tape or disks or otherwise) if a single large flare could wipe them all out?

Please tell me I'm worrying about nothing...

CJ

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