One Second After: The EMP Danger No One is Talking About

Posted: September 26, 2009 in Entertainment, Science, Security
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One Second After by William R. Forstchen (forward by Newt Gingrich). When the book about the danger of an electromagenetic pulse (EMP) was suggested to me the reference to EMP I could think of was The Matrix. EMP was the only weapon the humans had against the machines (until the second and third movies when they suddenly had large machine guns that could shoot some down). The real-life principal works essentially the same as the movie – a pulse of electromagnetic energy wipes out anything electrical in its path. But that was a movie, so why should we be concerned?

The book One Second After takes a look at life after an EMP attack, which is a distinct possibility. When a nuclear warhead is detonated high in the atmosphere the Compton Effect is created in which gamma rays interact with air molecules produce positive ions and recoil electrons. Charge separation is produced from the radiation and the recoil electrons are ejected leaving the massive positive ions to rain down. The earth’s magnetic field reacts the the ejected recoil electrons and produces a charge acceleration and a pulse is created that is faster than lightening. Science jargon aside, if a nuclear weapon were to be detonated high over Kansas, the resulting EMP would wipe out electricity and electronic equipment for virtually all of the continental United States.

The book is a survival story after such an event has happened. Imagine no power, no cell phone, cars stall out and won’t start again, no radio station to find out what is going on. What happens to a society that has been pampered with electronic and luxuries and suddenly has to fend for itself? That’s what One Second After is about and it isn’t pretty.

Dr. Lowell Wood, a commissioner of the Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, stated that an EMP event would be like a “continental time machine that would move us back to the nineteenth century,” and that “the population [would] shrink until it [could] be supported by the technology.” The coasts which have so much of their food transported in from the Midwest would be ravaged.

One Second After tells the story of John Matherson and his family in the western part of North Carolina and how they try to survive a situation for which no one was prepared. At the outset his daughter is a Type-1 diabetic and his father-in-law is in a nursing home and requires a feeding tube. With no electricity and medicine dwindling (and subject to looting by junkies salivating for a fix), their predicaments become dire. How does a community react to the looting and the food shortage? Do they come together or fall apart, are they able to negotiate at all with other nearby towns, and is there anyone still around that remembers how to live without power?

These are serious questions we have to ask ourselves because the possibility of getting hit with an EMP are real. Consider Iran and their race to become a nuclear country. There’s North Korea lurking. Venezuela is also now asking Iran for aid in seeking out uranium. We’re not ready for such a threat.

When I first entered the U.S. Air Force in 1992, we were still handling a number of TEMPEST computers, systems that were “hardened” with heavy-duty metal and screening to help prevent against unsecure electronic emissions, but would have also provided some protection against EMP. Throughout the 1990s we switched that out for newer, faster equipment from the likes of Sun, IBM, and Dell, but the hardware acquired was the same that any of us could purchase at home – small metal casing with plastic around it. It was cost-effective, but no longer as protected.

We’re not prepared, but if an EMP was to happen, it’s not the computers that I’m worried about. As a society, we’ve lost the knowledge of how to live off the land. How many of us know how to grind wheat and make bread? How to preserve food for long durations of time without a refrigerator or freezer? Most of us don’t hunt and we have a regulatory czar that favors outlawing it. What do we do without properly working indoor plumbing?

We should enjoy the blessings and luxuries that we have , be we should also start educating ourselves again in what we now consider some of the more simplistic things in life. They’re no longer very simplistic when we’ve lost the knowledge and are suddenly thrust into having to use the skills.

  1. tracking back – One Second After: The EMP Danger No One is Talking About… tracking back – One Second After: The EMP Danger No One is Talking About…

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