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LQD- Armageddon Days?

by RogueTrooper Wed May 13th, 2009 at 08:11:24 AM EST

In today's Guardian Larry Elliot is throwing a little scorn onto those who are saying "happy days are hear again"

Panic over. Six months ago, you could not pick up a newspaper or watch the TV without sensing that the global economy was imploding. Banks were being bailed out, the stock market was in freefall, ­factories were being mothballed. Shaken to its very foundations, capitalism would never be the same again.

But that was then. Capitalism, it appears, has made a deathbed recovery. It is out of intensive care and, while not quite fighting fit, is doing well in the recovery ward. Another few months should see it as good as new.

Don't be fooled into thinking this is something flammed up by a media suffering waves of ennui after two years charting the path from boom to boost. While Depression chic is now last year's thing, there are reasons to believe the worst of the crisis may be over, certainly for now. Estate agents say buyer interest is running at its highest level in a decade; retail activity last month was the strongest for three years; the decline in factory output in March was just 0.1% - the least bad performance since early 2008.

In case you are going to be easily gulled by the happy talk. Mr. Elliot has given us five key pointers to judge the economic state of Britain by...

One. Dig deeper into the data. While it is true, as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors reported yesterday, that fewer estate agents are reporting price falls than six months ago, the rise has only taken the market back to levels seen during the property crash between 1990 and 1992. As DH Lawrence once said: never trust the artist, trust the tale. Two. Watch what the central banks do. Last week, the Bank of England kept the bank rate at 0.5%, but more significantly it announced that it was stepping up its quantitative easing programme creation of new money to compensate for credit lost to the economy from foreign banks and specialist lenders by 50bn. Threadneedle Street fears that a banking system which has suffered its most grievous shock in a three-quarters of a century remains fragile. Three. The labour market matters. Optimists seized yesterday on news that the number of people out of work and claiming benefit rose by 57,100 in April smaller than the 73,700 increase in March and less half the record 136,600 jump in February. But the government's alternative measure of joblessness the labour force survey showed unemployment up by almost a quarter of a million in the first three months of the year, the worst performance since 1981. What's more, the halving of City bonuses and the pay freezes imposed by firms means that average earnings are falling for the first time in living memory. That will affect consumer spending power. Four. Keep an eye out for China. Economic figures from the world's most populous country are notoriously unreliable, with an announced 8% rise in March industrial production sitting oddly with a 3% drop in power use. A sustained rise in Chinese exports would suggest that demand in the rest of the world particularly the US has turned. Between March and April, exports fell by 3.5%. Five. There will be no real recovery until the US housing market stabilises. There have been tentative signs of activity picking up, but mortgage rates are still high, property prices are still falling, the number of people in trouble with their home loans is increasing, and losses for Wall Street banks are mounting. As Gordon Brown never tires of telling us, this crisis began across the pond. And that's where it will end.
There is so much despair still to come. Update [2009-5-13 8:16:19 by RogueTrooper]: Posted before I had finished copying and pasting someone else's work.

We should survive until 2012. But then...

The 2012 Apocalypse - And How to Stop It | Wired.com

For scary speculation about the end of civilization in 2012, people usually turn to followers of cryptic Mayan prophecy, not scientists. But that's exactly what a group of NASA-assembled researchers described in a chilling report issued earlier this year on the destructive potential of solar storms.

Entitled "Severe Space Weather Events -- Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts," it describes the consequences of solar flares unleashing waves of energy that could disrupt Earth's magnetic field, overwhelming high-voltage transformers with vast electrical currents and short-circuiting energy grids. Such a catastrophe would cost the United States "$1 trillion to $2 trillion in the first year," concluded the panel, and "full recovery could take 4 to 10 years." That would, of course, be just a fraction of global damages. 

Good-bye, civilization.

Worse yet, the next period of intense solar activity is expected in 2012, and coincides with the presence of an unusually large hole in Earth's geomagnetic shield. But the report received relatively little attention, perhaps because of 2012's supernatural connotations. Mayan astronomers supposedly predicted that 2012 would mark the calamitous "birth of a new era."

Whether the Mayans were on to something, or this is all just a chilling coincidence, won't be known for several years. But according to Lawrence Joseph, author of "Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation into Civilization's End," "I've been following this topic for almost five years, and it wasn't until the report came out that this really began to freak me out." 

The Solar activity is extremely low now (the minimum of a very week cycle?), and global warming skeptics love to link that to any low weather extremes or trends. Scientists fear of a very strong next cycle, or freak pulses amidst continuing Sun quietness.

Serious faced or sensational reports are few, but even governments seem to be concerned:

The Government was urged today to make contingency plans for a freak solar flare that could 'knock out' the National Grid and create severe water and food shortages.

Labour former minister Graham Stringer said Britain should be prepared for a repeat of the solar storm of 1859, which hit Earth and paralysed much of the telegraph system.

In a Commons motion, Mr Stringer said such an event could now 'knock out the National Grid, which would lead to a loss of water supply, transport and food and therefore create a national emergency'.

So, what's up? Were Mayas indeed into deep understanding of cosmic cycles? Or is it more probable that Earth is communicating its stress to mother Sun? ;-)

Do civilization lords rely on 2012 stories for timely distractions? Or are they performing a Mayan trick of aligning all possible Earthly crises with a calculable cosmic effect?

Here is another rendering of the same interview of the author of "Apocalypse 2012...":

.... I'd always thought that the Earth's inhabitants were largely protected from solar-sourced EMI pulses by the planet's geomagnetic field.

My understanding may unfortunately be overly simplistic, at least according to Lawrence Joseph [...]. A number of factors converge to make us especially vulnerable during this particular solar cycle, which will likely climax sometime in the 2012 timeframe:

  • A NASA satellite recently discovered a massive 'leak' in the geomagnetic field, which appears whenever the Sun's magnetic field is aligned with that of the Earth (sunspots' magnetic fields 'flip' at the beginning of each active solar cycle)
  • The current active solar cycle, approximately 1.5 years in duration so far, is unfortunately one in which the Sun and Earth's magnetic fields are aligned, and
  • Increasingly power-dependent cultures across the globe are increasingly reliant on ultra-high-power transformers as critical links in the power distribution 'backbone'...transformers that (in conjunction with power lines acting as antennas) are particularly at risk due to solar-generated EMI, and that are extremely expensive and time-consuming to replace. As Wired's interview says (and yes, I already know that they meant volts, not kvolts, and I think they meant to say 'Around 50 percent already handle more current than they're designed for'!):
Ultra-high voltage transformers become more finicky as energy demands are greater. Around 50 percent already can't handle the current they're designed for. A little extra current coming in at odd times can slip them over the edge...The 500,000- and 700,000-kilovolt transformers are particularly vulnerable. The United States uses more of these than anyone else. China is trying to implement some million-kilovolt transformers...When the transformers blow, they can't be fixed in the field. They often can't be fixed at all. Right now there's a one- to three-year lag time between placing an order and getting a new one.
Say, will the control installations of nuclear warheads be safe?
by das monde on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 01:10:00 AM EST
I am not an electrical engineer, but, IIRCC damage from sunspot activity is similar to the electromagnetic pulse, EMP, from nuclear and thermonuclear detonations.  This is strongly characterized by a very short rise time which implies high frequency energy.  As the damage is done by currents induced in long transmission lines, it would seem that inductive fuses capable of interrupting transmission on either side of the transformers could protect the transformers from such events.  Given that the transformers are relatively few in number, this should be a feasible solution.  But it would still have to be done.

I can see that this scenario could be an argument for off the grid power.  I can also see that those who have solar panels and/or windmills of their own would want to have a fuse between them and any grid to which they were also connected.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 14th, 2009 at 09:03:31 PM EST

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