Anyone Read One Second After?

  • Thread starter Nebula815
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Anyone Read "One Second After?"

I wasn't sure if this was the right forum for this thread or not, if not, then mods feel free to move to the appropriate forum; I figured it relates to national security and thus policy and hence "politics."

Anyways, so I just finished this book called "One Second After," basically it is about the United States gets hit with an EMP attack by a nuclear weapon launched off a container ship from the Gulf of Mexico and detonated high up in the atmosphere above the United States, causing an EMP that destroys all electronics in the United States. So "one second after," all cars stop functioning, electrical power grid is gone, all airplanes in the air crash as they are knocked out, etc...

Well as you can imagine, the book then describes the social breakdown that occurs. It is a very gut-wrenching story and I found it rather frightening.

The book of course claims that we are wide open for such an attack, and also names a report done by scientists on this subject, you can read about it at this website: www.empcommission.org [fixed .org].

So I was wondering from maybe any people who know some about this subject, could this be a threat, totally fantasy, or maybe a near-future threat, etc...I have been reading various opinions on the Web, some say only the U.S. and Russia have the capability to do such an attack, others say not so, and so forth.

I thought the book makes a good point, that many of the same statements made regarding it, such as it's "technically possible" but "highly improbable," "there is no real intelligence pointing to something like this and we must remain focused on near-term threats," etc...were made before the 9/11 attack occurred as well, and then we were all wondering how we didn't see it coming. But if such an EMP strike ever occurs, and is successful enough, it would likely destroy the nation, as a modern nation of 300+ million people cannot survive being thrown back into 19th century conditions instantly.

I have read some say that it is not true that the electrical grid couldn't stand up to an EMP strike, or at least that cars most likely would withstand it, the problem would be getting them gas if the power shut off (no gas pumps).

Here is the website for the book: www.onesecondafter.com
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
russ_watters
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I'm not sure it is even possible for a single weapon to blast the entire US with an EMP strong enough to knock out all our electronics, but the technology required for such a weapon, if it exists, would certainly be beyond the capabilities of all but the largest nations. Certainly no mere terrorist could do such a thing.

According to the report on that site, the Starfish nuclear test (1.4 MT) produced minor effects in Hawaii, some 860 miles away. I doubt ordinary terrorists could get their hands on even a 100 kT weapon much less launch it from a ship to 100 miles in altitude, but figure maybe most of the state of Florida could be at risk from such a thing.

I'm not saying there is no risk or losing much of the electronics in Florida wouldn't be a big deal, but I'd be far more worried about someone driving a container ship with a Fat Man type 10 kT nuclear bomb in itup the East River.
 
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  • #3
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I'm not sure it is even possible for a single weapon to blast the entire US with an EMP strong enough to knock out all our electronics, but the technology required for such a weapon, if it exists, would certainly be beyond the capabilities of all but the largest nations. Certainly no mere terrorist could do such a thing.

If Iran was to develop a nuke, could they maybe do something like this, perhaps in the future?
 
  • #4
Pengwuino
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As far as I know, US military systems are shielded against EMP (it's apparently not hard at all) so no country would dare try.
 
  • #5
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As far as I know, US military systems are shielded against EMP (it's apparently not hard at all) so no country would dare try.

Well a few things:

1) What if isn't a country, but somehow terrorists can pull it off in the future?

2) According to the book (which could be inaccurate on this, I don't know), EMP hardening for the military has been put on the backburner by every administration since the end of the Cold War, so the military isn't really sufficiently hardened against it.

3) Even if the military could still function, if the whole country got knocked out, anarchy would result.
 
  • #6
russ_watters
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If Iran was to develop a nuke, could they maybe do something like this, perhaps in the future?
If a country like Iran is still futzing around with maybe making a first generation, fission only nuke after a couple of decades at it, I can't see how a terrorist organization could make a multi-stage thermonuclear weapon a hundred times more powerful, and an ICBM capable of launching it into space.
 
  • #7
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If a country like Iran is still futzing around with maybe making a first generation, fission only nuke after a couple of decades at it,

Good point.

I can't see how a terrorist organization could make a multi-stage thermonuclear weapon a hundred times more powerful, and an ICBM capable of launching it into space.

On the latter part, couldn't they acquire the ICBM from somewhere else, as opposed to make it themselves?
 
  • #8


On the latter part, couldn't they acquire the ICBM from somewhere else, as opposed to make it themselves?

I believe that they are rather expensive, require fairly large quantities of expensive fuel, tend to be large and difficult to transport, and most likely require technicians who know what they are doing to make sure that they work properly.
Terrorists getting a usable ICBM does not seem very likely.
 
  • #9
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I thought EMP hardening was just a matter of building a Faraday cage. You just surround the equipment in chicken wire. How expensive can that be? And the title is just meant to scare you. I don't think the EMP would cover the entire US in a second, it takes me 45 minutes to get to work and that's just in NJ.
 
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  • #10
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I thought EMP hardening was just a matter of building a Faraday cage. You just surround the equipment in chicken wire. How expensive can that be? And the title is just meant to scare you. I don't think the EMP would cover the entire US in a second, it takes me 45 minutes to get to work and that's just in NJ.

In the time in takes for you to insert your key in the car door and just unlock the door electromagnetic waves have travelled around the world 7 times. What's you're point?
 
  • #11
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In the time in takes for you to insert your key in the car door and just unlock the door electromagnetic waves have travelled around the world 7 times. What's you're point?
My point is that the title of the book is wrong. What else about the book is wrong?
 
  • #12
Office_Shredder
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zomg's point is that electromagnetic waves WOULD cover the US in a second
 
  • #13
BobG
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The initial EMP burst would cover most of a continent in less than a second. This would blow out your semi-conductors and so on. A second type of EMP energy is very similar to the effects of lightning and therefore wouldn't have much effect, since just about everyone protects themselves from lightning. EMP bursts disrupt the Earth's magnetic field, but the Earth's magnetic field bounces back within a couple of minutes at most. The third wave of energy released by the rebound would occur within a couple of minutes and is similar to the energy caused by strong solar flares. The third wave of energy is what would be most likely to take out power transformers, etc (things connected to long conductors).

To be effective the nuclear blast would have to be a few hundred kilometers high. It would be hard for most nations to launch a nuclear weapon that high. The strength of the weapon would be important, too, but maybe not as important as where the explosion took place. EMP is a secondary effect and depends on the strength of the Earth's magnetic field in the region the explosion took place. The explosion in the Pacific was a 1.44 megaton weapon, but it occurred in a weak region of the Earth's magnetic field. The Soviets supposedly created an EMP that was more damaging using only 300 kiloton weapons simply because the explosion occurred in a stronger region of the Earth's magnetic field, plus it was closer to populated areas than the Pacific Ocean tests. Unfortunately, the US is located near a stronger region of the Earth's magnetic field. Of course, an enemy probably won't be able to launch their nuclear weapon from the US, making it even more difficult to create a nuclear explosion in a location likely to cause an EMP damaging to the US.

Doesn't mean than EMP can't be a threat. You can generate an EMP without a nuclear weapon (in fact, that's how you test EMP protection). It just won't be nearly as strong. That has some advantages since it could be targeted to effect just your enemy instead of an entire continent. For a weapon to be effective, the impact to your enemy should be worse than on humanity in general.

In fact, it's speculated that the US used EMP weapons against Iraq. Some of the speculation is definitely wrong, but some could at least conceivably be true (how did the US take out power in Baghdad, but not damage electrical generation plants, etc).
 
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  • #14
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My point is that the title of the book is wrong. What else about the book is wrong?

Maybe the initial effects of the EMP won't be seen after 1 second but the waves definitely could travel accross the USA in 1 second. A well placed nuclear device above America with enough energy could EMP the entire continental USA no problem.

The only thing is who's going to do it? Probably no one.
One thing with nuclear EMPs as well is that I'm pretty sure at first it gets blocked by various aspects of the nuclear blast.
 
  • #15
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The civilian United States would be effected by a large scale EMP attack, but the military sector would be fine. All important electronic devices used by the government are shielded from any sort of destructive interference.
 
  • #16
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The civilian United States would be effected by a large scale EMP attack, but the military sector would be fine. All important electronic devices used by the government are shielded from any sort of destructive interference.

In the book it says every administration since the end of the Cold War has put EMP hardening on the backburner, even though they use more sophisticated, more vulnerable electronics now, don't know how true this is though.

Also can you protect against EMP with a Faraday cage??
 
  • #17
mheslep
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As was alluded to in one the posts, the EMP has a range limitation. The field strength of a kiloton range (vs megaton) weapon would not be catastrophic after a few hundred miles, if that.
 
  • #18
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Also can you protect against EMP with a Faraday cage??

Not really. While the direct effects of EMP can be blocked by a faraday cage, if it's good enough, much of the damage would come from power surges from the power lines or any other wires or cables connected to the equipment. The length and orientation of those wires is also important in how much of a power surge will be induced in them.
 
  • #19
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The question for manufacturers of both military and non-military equipment is how large of a surge do you want to protect the equipment against? How do you weigh the cost of that protection against the probability that that protection will never be used in its lifetime?
 
  • #20
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As was alluded to in one the posts, the EMP has a range limitation. The field strength of a kiloton range (vs megaton) weapon would not be catastrophic after a few hundred miles, if that.

See starfish Prime. That knocked out telephones in NZ and Hawaii.
 
  • #21


If you like books like this, Nebula, you maybe interested in one called Quantico by Greg Bear. When the DHS brought in fiction authors to give more "creative" insight into possible terrorist attacks Greg Bear was among them and proposed an interesting theory in regards to the Amerithrax issue which he claims the DHS are starting to take more seriously. He wrote this book based in part on his theory. It is near future hard scifi (much harder at least than average).

Russ:When I first posted about this book on PF I mentioned that you may like it, though I am uncertain if you may have read the book review thread. I still think you might enjoy it. I think it has a Clancy sort of flavour though it is probably a bit slower and more thoughtful than your average Intel thriller.
 
  • #22
mheslep
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See starfish Prime. That knocked out telephones in NZ and Hawaii.
So? See my post.
 
  • #23
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It was 900 miles away from Hawaii. I am pretty sure that is more than "a few hundred miles"
 
  • #24
mheslep
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It was 900 miles away from Hawaii. I am pretty sure that is more than "a few hundred miles"
See my post. SP was a 1.4 MEGAton thermonuclear (i.e. fusion) weapon, 140x the Hiroshima fission bomb. For all that, SP knocked out a telephone link and some street lights.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/f/f4/The_Scream.jpg/220px-The_Scream.jpg [Broken]

No terrorist, nor even any third world rogue country is going to build a megaton range weapon in the near future that can be delivered into the high atmosphere on another continent.
 
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  • #25
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What if they develop a technology to control Americans' minds?

What if a meteor hits earth and kills all humans?

What if aliens invade earth?

Lots of things to be paranoid about .. Lots of bad things happen. As for 9/11, I wouldn't say US should have taken precautions had some science fiction story considered that possibility.
 

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