Modern Civ. Doomsday Weapon?

  • Thread starter one_raven
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  • #1
one_raven
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I was hoping for some help with determining the feasibility of a doomsday weapon that would not destroy all life, but would destroy modern civilization as we know it (for a short story idea I have been toying with).

What I was thinking was that if someone could create an electromagnetic pulse with enough power and sustained for enough time to envelop the whole Earth (possibly emanating from the Earth itself) it could do this.
How would someone go about generating a pulse with enough power for long enough to induce enough current in every metal wire (or other conductor) with a gauge of industrial chain-link fence and lesser throughout all of the Earth and all manmade satellites in orbit?

Such a pulse would destroy all modern conveniences, destroy all modes of electronic communications, and destroy all fences. Most modern buildings -even entire cities- would burn to the ground. All computers and magnetic media would be destroyed. There would be no sources of artificial light. The more reliant on modern conveniences a community was, the more they would be affected. Many millions would die instantly, followed in the short term by billions more. All technology would be at ground zero, save the knowledge of some scientists, of which many would perish in the melee.

The modern world would be laid waste. If humanity could ever "recover" it would take MANY years.

Essentially it would thrust much of the world backward in time by about a hundred years, but that would just be the beginning. The social fallout of such an event could, though not necessarily, push us back thousands of years.

Is this possible?
If so, how?
Could the Earth itself be "the bomb" that emanated the pulse (I don't know, maybe shorting out the atmosphere to the earth, somehow?)?
How else could it be done?
What kind of power would be required to pull this off?

Thanks for any help you can offer.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Danger
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Sorry that I don't have time to get into this other than to make one observation—don't worry about the satellites. If there's nothing on the ground to communicate with them, they're useless even if fully functional.
 
  • #3
Pengwuino
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Source: Electromagnetic pulse
Purpose: In one attack, send cities down in flames

Impossible.

Why do you even think that a building would burn down simply because it was hit by an EMP?
 
  • #4
moose
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Since when does EMP fully destroy electronic devices? I thought it was temporary...

Plus, even if somehow you destroyed all electronics, the knowlage would still be around, we would still know how to make and how to use transistors, etc.
 
  • #5
one_raven
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Pengwuino said:
Why do you even think that a building would burn down simply because it was hit by an EMP?
Because all the wire contined within the walls would burn.
 
  • #6
one_raven
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moose said:
Since when does EMP fully destroy electronic devices? I thought it was temporary...
If it was powerful and sustained enough it would induce a current great enough to burn the wires out.
Circuits would blow.
Plus it would scramble or erase and magnetic storage.
 
  • #7
Pengwuino
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I have not once in my life, ever, in all my years, seen a wires insulation actually produce a sustained flame. All I've seen is the magic built-in smoke containers decompress.
 
  • #8
one_raven
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Pengwuino said:
I have not once in my life, ever, in all my years, seen a wires insulation actually produce a sustained flame. All I've seen is the magic built-in smoke containers decompress.
I have.
I almost lost my car to a wire that shorted to the battery and was in flames.
Regardless, the insulation would not have to flame, it would simply have to burn hot enough to catch surrounding materials on fire.
 
  • #9
Pengwuino
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one_raven said:
it would simply have to burn hot enough to catch surrounding materials on fire.

And that's why many buildings have fire-retardent in them.
 
  • #10
one_raven
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Pengwuino said:
And that's why many buildings have fire-retardent in them.
Fair enough.
That is something I have to give close consideration.

What about the rest of it?
 
  • #11
Averagesupernova
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You're stretching it. Apparently you know very little about electricity. No means of artificial light? Do you mean nothing except sunlight? Because if you do you have forgotten about fire which you mentioned would be burning all of our stuff to the ground.
 
  • #12
one_raven
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Averagesupernova said:
Apparently you know very little about electricity.
What was the point of this?
Obviously I posted here looking for help.

Are you saying that an electromagnetic pulse would not induce current in wires?
If it will, could a massive and sustained electromagnetic pulse not induce enough current to overload wires?

If not, why not?

Averagesupernova said:
No means of artificial light? Do you mean nothing except sunlight? Because if you do you have forgotten about fire which you mentioned would be burning all of our stuff to the ground.
Making a pedantic point about the meaning of "artificial"?
 
  • #13
Pengwuino
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one_raven said:
If it will, could a massive and sustained electromagnetic pulse not induce enough current to overload wires?

The worst theoretical weapon known to a civilization outside of a hydrogen bomb is a highly effective EMP weapon. Currently, its a far fetched idea in of itself. a SUSTAINED pulse borders on the impossible. You'd have to gather a large enough charge capable of actually penetrating the earth. It takes hundreds of thousands of volts to send current a few inches through air so god knows what kinda power your talking about going through the entire Earth and having enough strength on the other end to do anything to electrical equipment.

What your basically asking is if you could punch the ground in Wisconsin and make a skyscraper in Tokyo collapse. Nothing impossible about it but you're never going to do it with anything man can reasonably conceive of.
 
  • #14
one_raven
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If there was a conceivable way of harnessing the potential power in the Atmosphere, do you think that would be enough, or would it still fall short?
 
  • #15
KingNothing
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What do you mean by potential power? Do you mean energy released by breaking the molecules apart? (chemical reaction, such as that used an a hydrogen fuel cell engine)

While I can't answer your question with certainty, my guess is that it would fall well short of being enough energy. Have you thought of using another method of this weapon, one that does not require penetration of the earth?

On a side note, if you used fission to harness the PE of the atmosphere, there wouldn't be any atmosphere and the world would be doomed before the weapon even 'shot off'.
 
  • #16
one_raven
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I was referring to the difference in charge between the Earth and atmosphere.
Tap it like a huge capacitor somehow.

I was trying to think of other ways to implement teh weapon, but it would have to cover destroying underground facilities as well, and cover the whole earth.

Simply detonating smaller weapons in major cities, for example, would miss far too much.

I suppose I was hoping for some odd Tesla invention that would cause the Earth or atmosphere itself to be the source of the pulse. :D
 
  • #17
Pengwuino
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One Raven, the Earth just does not have any non-nuclear power capable of creating a sustained EM field that powerful. Look at lightning, its a tremendous source of voltage but it can't go anywhere relative to the Earth and the current transmitted is miniscule.
 
  • #18
LURCH
Science Advisor
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Does it have to be a weapon? You could write it as an unforeseen effect of the Earth's magnetic poles reversing. Just say that the reason there was no evidence of major calamities resulting from previous polar inversions was because there were no civilizations relying on electronic technology, and no high rise buildings that relied on refined metals for their skeletal structure. Or, you could forget about the construction metals; the overloaded wiring starting fires is believable enough, and with no engines or pumps functioning, firefighters would be pretty powerless to stop them. Just let it all burn down.
 
  • #19
Gir
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one_raven said:
Because all the wire contined within the walls would burn.

that isn't how emps work.
 
  • #20
Pengwuino
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Gir said:
that isn't how emps work.

He's talking about a sustained field though ... yah, its crazy
 
  • #21
Mk
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So, one_raven, the bottom line is, its damn near impossible to create a sustained electromagnetic pulse, big enough to do what you say.

Lightning, in all its incredible power has only miniscule Amperage, and its field doesn't even hurt any of our electronics that much.
 
  • #22
Pengwuino
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We have much more effective ways of destroying large parts of our civilization :-/
 
  • #23
Integral
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Mk said:
So, one_raven, the bottom line is, its damn near impossible to create a sustained electromagnetic pulse, big enough to do what you say.

Lightning, in all its incredible power has only miniscule Amperage, and its field doesn't even hurt any of our electronics that much.

Here

and

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2003/05/18/new25.html [Broken]

Are some references which place lightning current in the range of 30kA to 300kA, this is NOT minuscule. Why if the lightning current is small do people, animals and even trees DIE when struck by lightning? What is it that burns things? Why is there so much damage attributed to lightning... It is extremely HIGH current. The current is so high it can induce currents in nearby wiring without directly striking it.
 
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  • #24
Pengwuino
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Isn't the actual energy delivered per lightning strike only a few kJ?
 
  • #25
OnTheCuttingEdge2005
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Emp

Here's a kicker!

A new age of weapons will come when science has mastered the temperature dependancy of super conductors.

one by chance is an EMP explosive built with controlled super conductivity.

If a selected super conductive material is selected with a specific temperature dependancy that becomes a semiconductor at a certain high temperature, then by charging up a super conductor electrical storage system with terawatts of electrical energy and then detinating the super conductor when fully charged will heat the Super conductor up to a semi conductor state and cause an EMP burst equal to the square of stored energy.

EMP weapons of this type can still be produced with refrigerated super conductive systems but would be much bulkier and less practical.

If you have ever saw a filiment in a flash bulb burn out with a bright flash then you just saw a small EMP, This is caused when the filiment is detinated with excess electrons on the filiments surface, The electrons are free'd from the surface of the filiment causing an EMP, but the initial energy is so small it has little effect.

P.S, If you feel that there is a need to produce an EMP of some huge magnatude then you may want to check with a local psycologist to see if you may have some disorder that is about to cause harm to someone!

This world will never have peace so long as people have genetic mental problems.

If you really want to mess up a picture perfect world then just put one crazy person in it and watch it breed!
 
  • #26
FUNKER
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one raven you have some mad capped idea dude that's not really possible. you can still use an emp, just not how your saying it. let them tell you how it can be done then put that one in your story.
peace :eek:
 
  • #27
OnTheCuttingEdge2005
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The only way to get the power you require to produce a world wide event is to setup GEO synced Hydrogen Bombs in space that are geometrically placed as node points in Earths orbit creating a type of polygon net in orbit with H bombs so that when all GEO synced H-Bombs detinated at the same time in orbit it would cause a line of sight EMP enveloping the Earth, The H-Bombs would wipe out Satellites and electronics here on Earth, The H-Bombs would have to be in the Mega tons and they will all have to fall into the Earth at the same time and detinated in the Ionosphere of the Earths surface at the same time.

You would still not get a substained reaction but, the reaction of detinating the H-Bombs in the Ionosphere would amplify the EMP effect by adding additional ionized energy to the initial reactions.

1. You cannot afford it.
2. Somebody would notice you.
3. You would be shot, Hung by your entrails while still alive and then the rest of the world will have their turn with your insides!

It is wrong and we do not need such weapons.

Besides it will not work for machines or electronics that are OFF at the time of EMP, Only devices that are ON will be effected.

If the public became aware of it then they'd simply turn off their devices until the danger passed or was detained by hacking its signals and busting the person responsible and or both.

We don't need this nonesence of harming anyone and putting ideas about this in books, It just gives fuel to terrorist and the psycologically impaired!

To many weak minded people these days.
 
  • #28
Pengwuino
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If you have access to hydrogen bombs... creating a worldwide EMP is probably not the most efficient way of destroying most of civilization.
 
  • #29
Pengwuino
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OnTheCuttingEdge2005 said:
We don't need this nonesence of harming anyone and putting ideas about this in books, It just gives fuel to terrorist and the psycologically impaired!

We should put it in books! Think of how much money terrorists would spend on completely impossible tasks...

and as a safety precaution, switch the hydrogen with silly putty in the materials list.
 
  • #30
LURCH
Science Advisor
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I like the Silly Putty TM idea. I think we should have put it into blueprints for spy satellites and allowed them to fall into enemy hands in the 50's. Other nations would now be functioning with "putty-based" spy satellites. These would attempt to fire a wad of silly putty at the intended target, with a long tether reeling out behind it. The satellite would then have to slowly peeled upon the off the target, and real it back in. Then, when passing back over homebase, the satellite would drop the putty with the image on it. This type of spy satellite would have the advantage of enabling data interpreters to tug at the sides, creating very silly images. These could then be used as propaganda for the general public to show that their enemies are just plain goofy-lookin'.

One Raven, if you use the geo-dynamic instability of Earth's magnetic field as the cause of your EMP, then you could say that for a period of a hundred years or so, new pulses occur every couple of days. This way, electronic devices that were "off" during the initial pulse would get hit by a later pulses. Also, it would delay the return of electronic technology to civilization, because no new electronic device could be built. To give the whole thing a real sense of Holocaust, you could have every Ford SUV with a cruise control burst into flame wherever it stands (People's garages lighting up without warning, whole parking lots engulfed in firestorms, miniature reading in for a nose hurtling down the expressway at high speeds, OOoohh tyhe carnage!).
 
  • #31
Integral
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This pointless thread has run its course.
 

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