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High-Altitude Nuclear Explosions Dangerous, but not for Reasons Gingrich Cites | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

Newt Gingrich has been warning the nation of the danger of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP)--a burst of radiation created by a high-altitude nuclear explosion. This pulse would take down electrical systems over hundreds or thousands of miles, the argument goes, knocking the U.S. back to the 19th Century. "In theory, a relatively small device over Omaha would knock out about half the electricity generated in the United States," he was quoted as saying by the New York Times. In Gingrich's view, the threat of an EMP attack justifies actions such as pre-emptive strikes on the missile instillations of nations such as Iran and North Korea.

The threat of an EMP attack is real--assuming, of course, that a nation or organization develops not only nuclear weapons but intercontinental ballistic missiles and the will to deploy them. Yet the primary target of an EMP wouldn't be ground-based power systems. It would be satellites.



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Dec 18th, 2011 at 12:38:38 PM EST
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EMP is one of those elephants in the living room that nobody likes to take seriously. Sort of like the thousands of missiles armed with hydrogen bombs and still on alert that nobody talks about.
by asdf on Sun Dec 18th, 2011 at 07:59:01 PM EST
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I always take the view that if somebody is gonna go to the trouble of creating EMP, you're already in bigger trouble with ground based explosions.

And fact is, it's far easier and less technologically challenging to put a bomb in a container and ship it to the US. Even if you restricted yourself to ship board detonation, you could still make a mess of several populous and strategic coastal cities.

The US is a techie country and is always guarding against hi-tech threats. Fact is, with the infrastructure in the state it is, you could probably cripple the US with one ton of C4 spread around the right places.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Dec 19th, 2011 at 03:47:42 AM EST
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