Are you prepared for the solar storm that could knock out the power grid?

Me either.

NASA says a solar storm within the next few years could collapse the U.S. power grid.

Wired magazine offers some advice on how to prepare:

A Faraday cage is an enclosure of conducting material that blocks out external static electric fields. If the conductor is thick enough, and the holes are smaller than the incoming electromagnetic radiation’s wavelength, then that radiation won’t be able to pass through. This is the reason why phones don’t work in some buildings and lifts, why microwaves don’t cook you, and is why some shoplifters line their pockets or bags with tinfoil to confound RFID detectors.

So make or buy yourself a Faraday cage, and if you’ve got a computer or external hard drive you just can’t be without, then keep it inside.

I’ll certainly start storing my external hard drives in metal boxes inside plastic bags as this blog advises:

save those cookie tins; put your backups in a firesafe (which you should be doing anyway); if you have an old laptop around, wrap it in plastic and put it in a metal box; and have a plan to put your laptop, cell phone, digital camera, GPS, and 52" flat screen TV in, say, your microwave if you know an electromagnetic pulse is imminent!

The firesafe is also an excellent idea.

Wired further suggests cars, buses and trains could all grind (or crash) to a halt and the entire world financial system is at risk:

While every bank has vaults full of ingots and other valuables, your cash actually exists in a database, albeit one that’s backed up in multiple locations across the world, so that a disaster that’s confined to a local area can’t cause too many problems that won’t be resolved by a swift restoration of a backup.

However, that policy doesn’t work for global events. If that database, along with all its backups, gets wiped by a particularly nasty solar flare, then so does your money. Get it out of the bank, and in a safer, more physical, place instead. Bury it in the garden, hide it in your roof, or stuff it under the mattress. Just get it out of that database.

If the world banking system and the power grid both collapse, having stored all my cash under my mattress probably won’t save me from the ensuing global chaos. So I’m no fan of this idea. On the plus side, though, stuffing cash in my mattress would provide about the same return-on-investment as my bank accounts these days.

Posted by James on Monday, August 30, 2010