Crossing fingers had worked pretty well in the past

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021

Bret Weinstein paints a picture of how the sun could wipe us out:

The world began to end on 12th May 2024, though another 309 years would pass before our species finally went extinct. The apocalypse was not the result of one thing, unless that one thing was that we repeatedly ignored signs that industrial civilisation had become increasingly fragile, even as it grew ever more powerful. But our end very definitely had a trigger. A burst of charged plasma from the sun caused the sudden, simultaneous collapse of numerous electrical grids across the world, setting in motion a cascade of devastating failures from which humanity would never recover.

In one regard, this was perfectly predictable. In any given decade since the grid’s invention, there was a one in eight chance that such an electrical collapse could occur. In 2013, a report had warned that an extreme geomagnetic storm was almost inevitable, and would induce huge currents in Earth’s transmission lines. This vulnerability could, with a little effort, have been completely addressed for a tiny sum of money — less than a tenth of what the world invested annually in text messaging prior to the great collapse of 2024.


The burst of plasma leapt from the Sun’s surface on 9 May, 2024. It was detected by Earthbound space-weather observers, who track these dangerous Coronal Mass Ejections. They made the usual calculations and issued the standard warnings. Had the grid been promptly disconnected, the crisis might have been lessened. But as was invariably the case with geomagnetic storms, they could not say how seriously — or even if — this burst would disrupt power, so the scientists’ warnings were largely ignored by grid managers, who don’t like blacking out vast areas on the remote chance of a severe problem. Crossing fingers had worked pretty well in the past. This time it did not.

The plasma cloud had hit the Earth just so, inducing violent current fluctuations that burned up numerous electrical power transformers from the inside. The blackouts that started in May 2024 were not universal at first. The eastern third of North America was among the most extensively affected areas, with 30 massive transformers completely destroyed. In ordinary times, a single replacement transformer took three years to deliver. Suddenly the world faced an emergency need for more than 100.

Apple TV+’s recent Finch stars Tom Hanks as a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world where a solar flare has destroyed the ozone layer and kicked off massive climate change.


  1. Gavin Longmuir says:

    From the article: “They [forest fires] filled the atmosphere with smoke, noticeably cooling the Earth for several years, delaying and masking a much bigger and more devastating effect. Vast quantities of carbon were transferred during the fires from living plants into heat-trapping gasses”

    Greta approved this message.

    Alternative version — the smoke and the CO2 offset each other’s effect on global temperature, delivering no net change. In the meantime, the higher CO2 resulted in an explosion of plant growth (see: The Carbon Cycle, which apparently Greta & Algore have never heard of) providing lots of food for the human race.

    Aside from that, the issue of solar effects on the electric grid is serious — as is outsourcing the manufacture of transformers to other countries. But it would not be the end of the human race — Bangladeshi peasants would carry on as before while more technically-advanced civilizations crumbled. The phoenix would arise again — and probably make the same mistakes! We are human, after all.

  2. Sam J. says:

    There’s a massive black matte all across North America. I think it corresponds to the extinction of a large number of Megafauna. Of course “scientist”, I say that loosely, say that humans wiped them out hunting. Snicker.

    Flare???? Comet hitting Greenland (possible best guess).

    Of course not all scientist think it was human hunters

  3. Jim says:

    So true.

  4. EdH says:

    I suspect the difficulty in replacing big transformers is a bit over exaggerated.

    We only build six a year because we only need six a year. They are fundamentally very simple machines that can, in an emergency, be built with very simple materials.

    Getting a PERMIT from the government to install might take years…

  5. Sam J. says:

    EdH says,”I suspect the difficulty in replacing big transformers is a bit over exaggerated…”

    To build exact replacements would take forever but you are right that something could be rigged up. In fact smaller transformers can be paralleled and added in series to get the same voltage matching of larger ones. It would be a mess and there would be a few impressive explosions but I expect they could rig something up.

    Of course a lot of people would die because it would still take months.

  6. Sam J. says:

    They really should have some sort of spark gap everywhere. I know they have some overload systems. It may well be that they have plenty enough already to keep most stuff running.

    Transformers are not weak wimpy things. Of course like everything I’m sure they make them closer to the edge now than they used to.

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