Essay on Electro Magnetic Pulse

Submitted By Wiersma1
Words: 2599
Pages: 11

It is a clear sunny day and as you step outside to pick up your mail you hear what you think to be thunder. Simultaneously, the man driving by in front of your house slows down to a stop and begins checking the gauges on his dashboard for signs of any mechanical problem. Thinking little of the events you have just witnessed, you walk back into your house to compose an e-mail to a friend. You step through the door into a silent house, which strikes you as odd because you had left the radio on. As you sit down at the computer, you notice that it also is not running. Assuming that a fuse must have been blown you check the fuse box and are surprised to see that every fuse has been blown. Thinking that you have found the problem, you flip all the fuses and head back to the computer only to find that it still is not working, nor is the radio, the TV, the refrigerator, the security system, or any electronic device in the house. This phenomenon can be explained by only one event: the detonation of an electro-magnetic pulse bomb. An electro-magnetic pulse bomb (EMP) is a non-lethal weapon capable of creating mass destruction and chaos. The purpose of an EMP is not to cause physical harm, but rather to disable, if not destroy, electronics by overloading the circuitry and creating a short circuit that damages semi-conductors. The EMP is an alternative to nuclear weaponry. It does not flatten cities and kill tens of thousands of people as would a nuclear weapon, but it can cause a great deal of damage and has the potential to take many lives. Anyone who depends on a pace maker or other form of life support would die as a result of the loss of power to their required mechanism. More obvious is the effect that an EMP would have on an airplane. With all the electronics required to fly a plane, it is certain that any planes hit by an EMP would fall out of the sky, killing all aboard. In a more long-term situation, massive amounts of food would spoil and it could become difficult for people to find good food and fresh water until power sources are returned to normal. Clearly an EMP attack would seriously impact a country by eliminating communication networks that are necessary for the military to operate, devastating the economy, and crushing the psyche of the citizens. In order to avoid such devastating impact from an attack involving an EMP, it is imperative that the civil sector hardens all its electronic systems so that they would be unaffected by an electromagnetic pulse. The effects of electromagnetic pulse have been known since 1963 when a 1.4-megaton nuclear device was detonated by the United States 250 miles above Johnston Island. This nuclear test unintentionally demonstrated the existence of and threat of an EMP. Over 800 miles away, in Oahu and other parts of Hawaii, several power outages occurred, hundreds of burglar alarms went off, and thirty strings of streetlights were short-circuited (CaJohn). These strange electrical malfunctions were caused by the electromagnetic pulse produced by the nuclear detonation. Each time a nuclear weapon is detonated an electromagnetic pulse is created. This occurs because the detonation of a nuclear device releases gamma rays that react with air molecules of low atomic number, such as Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen. As a result of this reaction, electrons are released from the molecules, which create a radiating electric field, or EMP. This movement of electrons, known as the Compton Effect, resembles the circular waves seen on the surface of a still pond when a stone is thrown in, except the movement is three-dimensional (“E-Bombs and Terrorists”). The intensity and power of the Compton Effect is determined by the number of molecules affected by the gamma rays. Similarly, the distance that the generated EMP travels is a factor in determining its destructive power. During the last half of the Twentieth Century EMPs have been developed to serve different…