Carrington event

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pages: 259 words: 73,193

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris

4chan, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Andrew Keen, augmented reality, Burning Man, Carrington event, cognitive dissonance, crowdsourcing, dematerialisation, disinformation, en.wikipedia.org, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Google Glasses, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, Loebner Prize, low earth orbit, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, moral panic, Nicholas Carr, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Republic of Letters, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social web, Steve Jobs, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test

Our own Machine has been similarly threatened before, though we were far less reliant on communication technologies then. On September 1, 1859, a storm on the surface of our usually benevolent sun released an enormous megaflare, a particle stream that hurtled our way at four million miles per hour. The Carrington Event (named for Richard Carrington, who saw the flare first) cast green and copper curtains of aurora borealis as far south as Cuba. By one report, the aurorae lit up so brightly in the Rocky Mountains that miners were woken from their sleep and, at one a.m., believed it was morning. The effect would be gorgeous, to be sure.

Frank, 94, 100 BBC World Service, 168 Beauvoir, Simone de, 176 Beethoven, Ludwig van, 203 Benjamin, Walter, 83, 100–101 Berners-Lee, Tim, 47, 152n Biderman, Noel, 175–76 Bieber, Justin, 90 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 130 Blackmore, Susan, 42–44 Blendr, 173 Bloomberg, Mike, 90 BMW, 59 Boll, Uwe, 89 books, 12, 13, 20–21, 28, 33–34, 103, 115–18, 149 Google Books, 102–3 printing press, 11–13, 16, 20–21, 33–34, 43, 83, 98, 145n, 202 Unbound Publishing and, 88 see also reading Borges, Jorge Luis, 154 boyd, danah, 64n brain, 25, 27, 35, 36, 54, 118–19, 146, 193 of children, 36–40 Internet and, 37–38, 40, 142, 185 memory and, 139, 140, 142, 146, 151–53, 155, 158 multitasking and, 119, 121 orienting response in, 120, 121, 125 passive learning and, 39 plasticity of, 36–38, 47, 141, 159, 193 reading and, 33–34 synesthesia and, 62–63 techno burnout and, 10–11 Bregman, Peter, 127–28 Bryson, Lyman, 179 bullying, 53, 62–66 Todd and, 49–53 ByWard Market, 88 cabinets of curiosities, 147 Cain, Susan, 204 Capek, Karel, 56–57 Carr, Nicholas, 38, 86, 193 Carrington, Richard, 107 Carrington Event, 107–9 Carson, Anne, 198n Catholic Church, 12, 20 cell phones, see phones Chapdelaine, Morris, 171–72 Charles V, King, 99n Chatfield, Tom, 119 Chatroulette, 167–68 Chicago Sun-Times, 115 children, 25–41, 45–48 brains of, 36–40 iPad and, 26–27, 45 multitasking and, 27–28 phones and, 28–30 Chip Vivant, 61 Chopra, Aneesh, 65 Christian, Brian, 61 Chunyun, 209 Clay, Cynthia, 61 Clementi, Tyler, 63, 67 Cleverbot, 60 clocks, 98–99, 204 Cocteau, Jean, 17 Computer Power and Human Reason (Weizenbaum), 188 computers, 16–17, 29, 108, 120, 188 empathy in, 61, 62, 67 intelligence in, 56–57, 60, 65 memory in, 148, 149, 151, 152, 154–56 computing, affective, 61, 62, 67 confessions, 54, 66, 70, 71 Todd and, 50–52, 72 Conquest of Happiness, The (Russell), 195 continuous partial attention, 10 conversation, 25, 39, 194 Cooper, Anderson, 52, 63 cortisol, 10 CougarLife, 175 Coupland, Douglas, 184–87, 194, 197 Coursera, 95–96, 98, 100 Cowan, Nelson, 154–55, 160 cowbirds, 125 Craigslist, 165, 167, 174 Craven, Dave, 77–78 Cruel Intentions (Valmont), 166 Cult of the Amateur, The (Keen), 88 Danielson, Dennis, 157–59 Darwin, Charles, 41, 42 data mining, 82 Dateline, 52 dating, 164–83 Dawkins, Richard, 41, 42 daydreaming, 8, 47–48, 194, 205 De Beers, 101 “Defend the Web” (Berners-Lee), 152n Dennett, Daniel, 41 digital immigrants, 15–16, 205 distraction, 30, 36, 113–17, 121, 124–28, 133, 135, 194 Dinakar, Karthik, 62–67, 96 D’Mello, Sidney, 129–30 DragonLance series, 117 dudesnude, 165 Ebert, Roger, 115–18 Economic Journal, 87 education, 94, 96, 183 Coursera, 95–96, 98, 100 dematerialization of, 97 massive open online courses, 95–98 edX, 98 18 Minutes (Bregman), 127 Einstein, Albert, 151 Eisenstein, Elizabeth L., 12n, 83, 145n, 202 Eliot, T.

If it doesn’t happen soon, it’ll happen eventually. Great Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering has pegged the chance of a Carrington-type event within the next two centuries at about a 95 percent probability. Such an event almost took place in the summer of 2012, actually, and involved a particle stream larger than we imagine the original Carrington Event to have been. But it just missed the earth, shooting harmlessly over our heads (over the top of a STEREO spacecraft, actually). When we are hit, at any rate, we won’t be able to save ourselves with some missile defense system meant for meteors; no missile could halt the wraithlike progress of a megaflare.


pages: 171 words: 51,276

Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand: Fifty Wonders That Reveal an Extraordinary Universe by Marcus Chown

Albert Einstein, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Eddington, Carrington event, dark matter, Donald Trump, double helix, Edmond Halley, gravity well, horn antenna, Isaac Newton, Kickstarter, microbiome, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, Turing machine

KILLER SUN Once upon a time, people on Earth were electrocuted by a solar flare “If there is a solar flare or a nuclear war, a thousand cans of pickled turnips aren’t going to save you.” —SARAH LOTZ1 ACROSS THE WORLD, TELEGRAPH operators were electrocuted and, at low latitudes, a blood-red aurora borealis appeared, so bright a newspaper could be read by it at midnight.2 The Carrington event, named after amateur astronomer Richard Carrington, who from south of London noticed a flare on the sun at the same time that a magnetometer at Kew flew off-scale, changed forever our ideas about the sun.3 Before September 1, 1859, our local star was believed to influence the earth only through its gravity and of course the warming effect of sunlight.

The impact of the solar flare distorted the earth’s magnetic shield, so solar particles were no longer merely funnelled down at the poles but could reach anywhere on the planet. The collision of solar particles with atoms in the atmosphere caused those atoms to glow and create the aurora. 3. The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began by Stuart Clark (Princeton University Press, 2009). 4. “A Scary 13th: 20 Years Ago, Earth was Blasted with a Massive Plume of Solar Plasma” by Adam Hadhazy (Scientific American, 13 March 2009: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/geomagnetic-storm-march-13-1989-extreme-space-weather/). 17.

A more serious concern is Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), which should more accurately be called “coronal magnetic eruptions.” First recognized in the 1970s, these are missile-like ejections into space of vast amounts of solar plasma and magnetic fields. We are talking about something of roughly the mass of Mount Everest hurled into space at five hundred times the speed of a passenger jet. The Carrington event—the most violent solar event ever recorded—is now recognized to have been a CME. In 1859 the world was not dependent on electrical technology, so the CME caused no serious harm to civilization. Contrast this with the situation today. Changes in the magnetic field across electrical power grids can induce currents big enough to melt equipment.


pages: 315 words: 92,151

Ten Billion Tomorrows: How Science Fiction Technology Became Reality and Shapes the Future by Brian Clegg

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Brownian motion, call centre, Carrington event, combinatorial explosion, don't be evil, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, game design, gravity well, hive mind, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, silicon-based life, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Turing test

So much modern business depends on the Internet and other electronic communications, while our food supplies are strongly tied into the availability of electricity to keep things running and chilled. It would, at least in the short term, be like a return to the Dark Ages. Luckily, such catastrophic solar events don’t happen very often. The most recent recorded solar EMP that did make it to the Earth was the so-called Carrington event of 1859, named after British astronomer Richard Carrington, who witnessed the original flare on the Sun. Several powerful coronal mass ejections hit the Earth at pretty much the same time. Back then, of course, dependence on electrical devices was much lower than it is today, but the primitive electric telegraph lines of the time, sometimes called the Victorian Internet, had high currents induced in them, causing sparking, setting fire to some telegraph offices and bringing the whole network down.

Research showing improvement of memory consolidation during sleep with transcranial stimulation is Lisa Marshall, Matthias Mölle, Manfred Hallschmid, and Jan Born, “Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation During Sleep Improves Declarative Memory,” Journal of Neuroscience 24, no. 44 (November 3, 2004): 9985–92, doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2725-04.2004, accessed September 29, 2014 The figure of more than $2 trillion as the cost of another Carrington event is quoted in a NASA Science News piece, accessed July 30, 2014, science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/02may_superstorm/. The use of high-altitude nuclear explosions to generate electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) is discussed in Edward Savage, James Gilbert, and William Radasky, The Early-Time (E1) High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and Its Impact on the U.S.

See Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton Blish, James AI governments by instantaneous transmitter by virtual learning and Borg (fictional characters) Bose-Einstein condensate Bostrom, Nick The Boys from Brazil (Levin) Bradbury, Ray brain to brain link to computer link electrodes in implants interface to programming BrainGate Brownian motion Brunner, John Bulwer-Lytton, Edward Campbell, John W. Campbell, Murray S. A Canticle for Leibowitz (Miller) Čapek, Karel carbon aliens and artificial muscles and Moon’s lack of nanotubes Carmack, John Carrington event (1859) Casimir effect Cayley, George cell phones Cernan, Eugene chaos theory chess computerized invention of mechanical Chiao, Raymond The Chrysalids (Wyndham) Cities in Flight series (Blish) Clarke, Arthur C. on Hal predictions of space elevator and Clegg, Brian Cleverbot cli-fi climate change cloaking device light and military attempts at real world attempts Star Trek’s view problem with The Clockwork Man (Odle) cloning DNA and failure rate of first cat human mammoths clothing, specialized.


pages: 293 words: 92,446

The Descent of Woman by Elaine Morgan

back-to-the-land, Carrington event, David Attenborough, Drosophila, Fellow of the Royal Society, Haight Ashbury, invention of writing, Norman Mailer, sexual politics, stakhanovite

If he was a grazer, and the grass was as short as all that, he could never have picked enough blades of it in his trunk in a working day to keep that great bulk going; and if he was (as he largely is) a browser, his mouth wouldn’t need to reach the ground, anyway. When he came to drinking water, he could have waded in, or knelt down—it would have been no more inconvenient than the giraffe’s straddle. Richard Carrington reports: ‘In Africa few rivers are sufficiently deep to cause so large an animal as an elephant to need to swim, and it is customary for the migrating herds to ford them. Sometimes the water will cover the animals completely; they will then walk across the river bed with only the tip of their trunks showing like periscopes above the surface.’

London, Peter Davies, 1963. Brecher, Ruth, and Brecher, Edward, eds., An Analysis of Human Sexual Response. Panther Books, 1969. Calder, Nigel, The Mind of Man. B.B.C., 1970. Cannon, Walter B., Bodily Changes in Pain, Fear, Hunger and Rage. 2nd edition. College Park, Md., McGrath, 1970. Carrington, Richard, Elephants: A short Account of Their Natural History, Evolution and Influence on Mankind. London, Chatto & Windus, 1958. Chance, Michael R., and Jolly, Clifford, Social Groups of Monkeys, Apes and Men. Cape, 1970. Comfort, Alex, Nature and Human Nature. New York, Harper & Row, 1967. Darwin, Charles, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

., 267 Brain, 100, 117, 128, 178; and quasi-race memories, 144–45 Breasts and nipples (breast-feeding), 11, 18, 23, 37–38ff., 59, 228–29 Brecher, Ruth and Edward, 90 Bushmen, 58,115–16, 156,163–64, 167 Butterflies, 241 Buttocks, 18, 55–58 Callicebus, 183 Camels, 51 Carmichael, Stokely, 237 Carpenter, C. R., 182 Carrington, Richard, 138, 142 Catarrhine monkeys, 44 Cats, 83, 92, 105–6, 159–60; hairless, 276 Cattle, 166, 257 Caves, 151 ff. Centripetal societies, 187–90ff. Chance, Michael, 173, 175, 187, 192, 195, 201, 213 Chesser, Eustace, 71 Chesterton, G. K., 117 Chickens. See Poultry Children (babies; infants), 35, 59, 191, 196, 201, 211, 218, 220, 222–33, 254–55 (See also Nuclear family; Pregnancy); and breastfeeding (See Breasts and nipples); food-gathering by Bushman, 163–64; and frowning expression, 47–48,49; love, attachment in mother-child relationship, 96, 104–5, 223–28 (See also Nuclear family); non-human (See specific species); and older women, 251ff.; the pill and women’s choice in having, 258–60ff.; pupil dilation in women seeing pictures of, 145–46, 223–24; webbed toes in 43 Chimpanzees, 45, 47, 61, 97–98, 132, 159–60, 185ff., 190ff., 211; and dominance by display, 194ff., 215; and fear of snakes, 148; and fear of water, 33; mother-young bond, 176–77, 179; and speech, sign language, 112–13, 123–24; and tools and weapons, 15 China, 133 Choukoutien, 133 Cichlids, 256 Clitoris; clitoral orgasm, 71–73, 83–84, 88 Cocks, 203 Coeval bond.


pages: 265 words: 76,875

Exoplanets by Donald Goldsmith

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Carrington event, Colonization of Mars, cosmic abundance, dark matter, Dava Sobel, en.wikipedia.org, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, Kuiper Belt, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, megastructure, Pluto: dwarf planet, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking

In the ­middle of September 1770, bright auroral displays appeared around the globe for nine consecutive nights, as streams of charged particles from a solar CME, guided by the Earth’s magnetic field, encountered atoms high in the atmosphere.4 Unlike almost all such displays, which last for only one or two nights, the 1770 auroras testify to an im­mense and long-­ lived solar outburst, perhaps one even more power­ful than the mighty solar CME that produced the better-­known “Carrington event” in September 1859. Named ­after the astronomer who actually saw the solar eruption that sent charged particles ­toward the Earth, the Carrington event generated auroral displays as far south as Cuba, some of which ­were so intense that many ­people believed their cities to be on fire. The flood of fast-­moving charged particles also disrupted telegraph communications (the “Victorian internet”) around the world.5 ­Today a Carrington-­like event would wreak havoc to the tune of $2 trillion (according to an estimate by the National Acad­emy of Sciences).

(The astronomer Courtney Dressing has remarked that if civilizations exist on planets like t­hese, the astronomers could live happily on one half, with every­one ­else on the other, beach-­y side.36) Also, the K2 spacecraft observed a flare from the star equal in energy output to the terrestrial Carrington event described in Chapter 12, which could pose serious danger to any of ­these civilizations. ­Because the TRAPPIST-1 observations extend over only a few years, in comparison with the centuries on Earth that recorded a single comparable event, its flare confirms astronomers’ knowledge that M stars often undergo extremely energetic outbursts that would threaten danger to life on any planets close to ­these stars.

See Atacama Large Millimeter Array Alpha Centauri, 10, 19–20, 43, 183, 208 Aluminum, 137, 153 Ammonia, 161–62 Anaxagoras, 124 Andromeda galaxy, 208 Angel, Roger, 195 Ariel (Atmospheric Remote-­sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-­survey), 186 Arrhenius, Svante, 124 Asteroids, 16, 21, 54, 63, 136–39, 218–23 Astronomical unit, 21 Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), 48, 142–44, 147, 196, 202 Atmospheres of exoplanets, 42, 60, 106–7, 172, 181, 185 composition of, 107, 172, 181, 185 heat trapping by, 42 observation of, 60, 106 Baikonur Cosmodrome, 51 Barnard’s star, 20 Batygin, Konstantin, 22–23, 139–40 Beaulieu, Jean-­Phillipe, 81 Beta Pictoris, 71 Binary star systems, 96–97, 146 Biosignatures, 158, 171–73, 192 Borucki, William, 51, 53 Boss, Alan, 31 Boyajian, Tabetha, 92, 95 247 Index Brown, Michael, 22, 139 Brown dwarfs, 41, 69, 82 Butler, Paul, 2, 32 California-­Kepler Survey (CKS), 129 Campbell, Bruce, 31 Carbon, 106, 153 Carbon dioxide, 106, 137, 162, 164, 172–73, 199 Carbon monoxide, 60, 72, 137 Carrington event, 123, 168–69 Cassini spacecraft, 164 CCD detectors, 108 Center for Astrophysics, 46, 109, 157 Center of mass, 15–19, 37, 43, 96–97 Cerro Pachón, 72–73 Charbonneau, David, 55 CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite), 125–26 Chu, Stephen, 212 Copernican princi­ple, 32 Coronagraphic mask, 69, 72–73, 182, 190–93 Coronagraphy, 69–71, 205 CoRoT spacecraft, 53–54 Dark energy, 10–11 Dark ­matter, 10–11 Deep Space Industries, 222 Discovery Channel Telescope, 48 Domagal-­Goldman, Shawn, 174 Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, 31 Doppler, Johann, 30 Doppler effect, 30 Doppler tomography, 109 Draugr, 26 Dressing, Courtney, 123 Dust, 54, 68, 72, 90, 94, 97, 106, 115, 135, 137, 139, 143–47, 151, 159, 172, 204, 210–11 Dyson, Freeman, 94, 212, 224 Dyson sphere, 94 Eccentricity, 35–38 Eclipse, 75, 96, 173 Einstein, Albert, 8, 74–82, 205–6, 214–17 Einstein ring, 76, 205–6 Electromagnetic radiation.


pages: 112 words: 28,314

The Signal: Watch Out for the Darkness by Nick Cook

Carrington event, cuban missile crisis, low earth orbit, zero-sum game

‘And there was me thinking the signal was just disrupting the mobiles around here,’ Steve said. ‘If it were, we wouldn’t be taking this as seriously as we are. Now we need answers and we need them quickly.’ Graham tapped his fingers on his chin. ‘Could this all be down to some sort of solar flare activity on the scale of the Carrington Event back in 1859, which knocked out much of the telegraph network?’ ‘You know your history,’ Kiera replied. ‘I should hope so. Astronomy is my job after all.’ I managed to hold back a smile as Steve’s nose twitched. Kiera narrowed her gaze at Graham. ‘A major solar flare was our first assumption too.


pages: 213 words: 70,742

Notes From an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O'Connell

Berlin Wall, bitcoin, blockchain, California gold rush, carbon footprint, Carrington event, clean water, Colonization of Mars, conceptual framework, cryptocurrency, disruptive innovation, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Donner party, Elon Musk, high net worth, Jeff Bezos, life extension, low earth orbit, Marc Andreessen, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, New Urbanism, off grid, Peter Thiel, post-work, Sam Altman, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, surveillance capitalism, the built environment, yield curve

There was the prospect of hackers, motivated by political aims or pure demonic mischief, unleashing a virus on the systems that controlled the national grid, taking out society’s entire technological infrastructure. There were the massive solar flares that occurred periodically and could just as easily do the same thing without need of human agency. He was fond of mentioning the so-called Carrington Event, a massive eruption on the surface of the sun that had occurred at the turn of the last century and caused the breakdown of electrical systems across the world. It wasn’t a big deal back then, of course, for the simple reason that we didn’t yet have much in the way of electrical systems, but how much worse would it be now, at a time when the wipeout of the grid would mean the near certain collapse of the complex structures undergirding our world?


pages: 321 words: 89,109

The New Gold Rush: The Riches of Space Beckon! by Joseph N. Pelton

3D printing, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Biosphere 2, Buckminster Fuller, Carrington event, Colonization of Mars, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, full employment, global pandemic, Google Earth, gravity well, Iridium satellite, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, life extension, low earth orbit, Lyft, Mark Shuttleworth, Mark Zuckerberg, megacity, megastructure, new economy, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, post-industrial society, private space industry, Ray Kurzweil, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Thomas Malthus, Tim Cook: Apple, Tunguska event, uber lyft, urban planning, urban sprawl, wikimedia commons, X Prize

And, there is an even bigger threat, in terms of likelihood of occurrence, and that is coronal mass ejection. Today’s modern economies and patterns of employment have created a world that is increasingly dependent on access to electric power grids, application satellites and other vital infrastructures vulnerable to a solar storm like the Carrington event that occurred in 1859. At that time the Carrington telegraph offices were lit on fire and the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii. A repeat of this event today with trillions of ions traveling at a reasonable fraction of the speed of light would have blown out electrical transformers, crippled satellite networks, and disabled vital infrastructure across the planet.


pages: 384 words: 105,110

A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life by Heather Heying, Bret Weinstein

biofilm, Carrington event, cognitive dissonance, coherent worldview, conceptual framework, coronavirus, Covid-19, COVID-19, dark matter, delayed gratification, discovery of DNA, double helix, epigenetics, Francisco Pizarro, germ theory of disease, helicopter parent, hygiene hypothesis, meta-analysis, microbiome, Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay, phenotype, profit motive, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind

We will navigate through the fog, and we will not have a blueprint. We must start now. We can’t wait until the hazard is so clear that we all agree—then it will be too late. We are in the throes of a sustainability crisis. One thing or another will take us out. It might be climate change, or a Carrington Event, or a nuclear exchange set in motion by wealth inequality, a refugee crisis, or revolution, to name just a few of the awfully real possibilities. We are hurtling toward destruction. We must, therefore, with full consciousness, embark on something dangerous. We must seek the next frontier: the event horizon, beyond which we cannot see, from which we cannot return, but through which may be our salvation.


pages: 381 words: 120,361

Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili

airport security, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, Carrington event, cosmological constant, cryptocurrency, dark matter, David Attenborough, Fellow of the Royal Society, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invisible hand, Kickstarter, mass immigration, megacity, MITM: man-in-the-middle, off grid, pattern recognition, Silicon Valley, smart cities, sorting algorithm, South China Sea, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Turing test

Your scenario will only work if the CME is moving in a straight line from the Sun, but if it spirals in from a slight angle, as it can do, then an e.m. pulse would be much less effective.’ Deep down she felt the whole enterprise was futile. Defending Earth against a really powerful CME with electromagnetic pulses would be like standing in torrential rain and trying to stay dry under a cocktail-stick umbrella. The CME that caused the great solar storm of 1859 or the near miss of 2012, which – had it been ejected nine days earlier – would have met the Earth full on, frying the world’s electronics and bringing much of human civilization to a halt, would both, if they struck today, be catastrophic. With the magnetosphere in its current sorry state, civilization on Earth wouldn’t stand a chance.