EMP is actually very scary!

Recently while traveling I talked with someone about EMP. They had seen it in a TV show and though it was more or less like what was in the TV show. In the TV show the bad guys had a gadget (weapon actually) that could send out EMP waves and turn off electricity. When the weapon was turned off electricity came back.

They were serious so I changed topics. But, that situation has generated the idea for this article. I want to cover two things but first lets look at EMP.

EMP is electromagnetic pulse. The US military confirmed it many decades ago. It is a pulse that is generated when an nuclear bomb goes off. Depending on where the bomb is: on the ground, underground, in the air, or in the atmosphere can change the parameters of the pulse. Also the kind of bomb can impact what EMP turns out to be exactly. EMP generated from a bomb that is very high in the atmosphere is very bad  as it has a very big footprint on the ground.

In the ground footprint of where the EMP will impact, every single circuit is dead. So that means hospitals, power stations, cars, trucks, trains, smartphones, airplanes and anything else that has circuits or computers in it – such as spare parts. The death toll immediately is overwhelming. But over the next three months even more die as there is no more prescription drugs, no more medical gear, and food and clean water becomes an issue.

There are exceptions, for example cars made before 1985 generally have no circuits. Military airplanes and ships are often shielded – so they still work after the pulse. You could build a Faraday cage and that might block EMP if it was very well built ( it has not been tested!).

There is a very good book – famous in fact – that talks about what EMP over a wide area would mean. It is called One Second After and can be found at Amazon. I think it worth reading.

Wikipedia has a nice write-up too.

So while it is hard to do a serious EMP strike – meaning nuclear bomb and the means to put it up hundreds of miles in the atmosphere, it it worth knowing the truth about it.

The other point I wanted to make is that in the areas I know stuff about – like computers, and military, almost everything you see is wrong on TV / movies. Sometimes a little wrong and sometimes a lot wrong. Often it is distorted to make the story more interesting. TV and movies are entertainment and not education. People really need to understand that. It is sad when they don’t, and it does in fact cause them issues over time.  It is also worrisome how common this particular issue is.


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2 thoughts on “EMP is actually very scary!

  1. Hey Michael – I totally agree with you on this. I try not to even think about the issue. I got pretty familiar with EMP after reading ‘Lights Out’ by by Ted Koppel. That’s another excellent, very alarming read! Really great blog by-the-way.


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