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Publication Date: 05/1/2010
Archive >  May 2010 Issue >  Tech-Op-Ed > 

Apocalypse Now
Walter Salm, Editor
We're only two years away from Doomsday, according to some soothsayers, historians and others who are reading numerous predictions. While the likelihood this actually happening is very small, there are any number of catastrophes that could overwhelm the Planet Earth now or any other year. If you've watched some of the History Channel's scenarios, you have already had the hell scared out of you.

There have been any number of end-of-the-world themes espoused by popular (and not so popular) authors over the years. Let's see, first there could be a catastrophic collision by a renegade asteroid; one wiped out the dinosaurs, another could do at least as much for our fragile civilization. Then there's the combination of disastrous weather caused by global warming, resulting in any number of possible outcomes. A deadly new highly mutated virus could find its way into the populace and wipe out all of humanity. It could evolve naturally, it could be unleashed by terrorists, it could arrive on a meteorite, or it could be deliberately introduced by some unfriendly aliens from a far off galaxy who want the earth for themselves. There's always the possibility of a nuclear war that would spell the end of humanity; there would be no winners in such a conflict, and it would for sure wipe out all the deadly disease germs. There could be a huge shift in our planet's tectonic plates, setting off a wave of monster earthquakes and volcanic activity, changing the face of the earth drastically. And there could come something more innocuous — a huge geomagnetic storm caused by a massive coronal mass ejection (sunspot) which could wipe out every electric and electronic device on planet Earth.

A massive ejection of this type happened fairly recently, in 1859, and all the telegraph systems in the world failed. There wasn't anything else electric or electronic at the time, so the disruption and recovery weren't too bad. In today's world, it would be quite another matter. Everything we do, everything we need, our entire existence depend on electricity and electronics. No power, no computers, no TV, no phones, no ipods, no automobiles, no heating or cooling systems, no U.S. Tech, no infrastructure — all gone.

Since 1859, less severe solar storms have occurred in 1921 and 1960 — causing widespread radio disruption. A large magnitude solar storm — we're not sure just how large — is expected in 2012, and this coincides very nicely with the classic Mayan calendar that shows the world ending on December 21, 2012 — just 4 shopping days before Christmas.

Granted this is a great deal of conjecture and worry-mongering; I'm an incurable worry-wart, and spend too much time watching the History and SyFy Channels, but some things are worth planning for. If we are indeed facing an electronic Apocalypse, wouldn't it behoove us to start hardening some of the circuitry used in our most sensitive electronics? This could be a boon for the electronics industry, reworking and rebuilding a lot of essential hardware. What about our satellites? Are they sufficiently protected from radiation, or will they just all be wiped out? Should backups of all of our civilization's records be placed deep in the earth, protected from rogue solar radiation?

There's a fascinating 8-minute clip from the History Channel on the Internet at: that will certainly give you some food for thought. I'm not sure what if anything can be done about it, but maybe I'll get lots of company to help me worry about 2012. At the very least, you'll probably be saying some unpleasant things about me for spreading all this wonderful information. Sure beats counting sheep.  

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