Paranoid Preppers and Faraday Cages

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In 1859, what became known as “The Carrington Event” stemmed from a Solar Mass Coronal Ejection or CME coming from the sun. The Carrington Event was powerful enough to destroy the telegraph systems throughout Europe and the United States. It may be easy to laugh off the idea of losing the telegraph, but it should be noted that there was no electrical grid in existence at the time … had there been, it would have been completely destroyed as well.

 

“The Great Geo-Magnetic Storm of 1921” is considered to be one of the five worst recorded events of solar storms, it disrupted communications traffic from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River. On May 15, it not only disrupted but knocked out of operation, the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad below 125th street. This outage then was followed by a fire in the control tower at 57th and Park Avenue. The same storm burned out a Swedish telephone station and interfered with telephone, telegraph and cable traffic over most of Europe.

 

1958 – In the last century, there also have been other events such as the Feb. 11, 1958, solar storm which resulted in nationwide radio blackouts. According to various reports, auroras were visible in Boston, Seattle, Canada and Newfoundland. The storm reportedly was so intense over Europe that newspaper reports at the time said that there was concern for fires and the fear that war had broken out again.

 

1989 – The entire province of Quebec was blacked out from a glancing blow from a passing plasma storm. (The latter portion of the “tail” of the storm was likely the only portion that passed through the atmosphere of the earth … had the storm hit directly, the damage would have been substantially greater.

 

2012 – A geomagnetic plasma cloud resulting from yet another CME, barely missed the earth. This one was deemed to be larger than both the events of 1859 and 1921 which adversely impacted vast swathes of Europe and the US. The estimated damage and financial impact of a direct hit was estimated by the US government to be over two trillion US dollars … but that would not be the worst of it these days. This is also added to by some accounts, of vast rioting, looting and incessant violence in the years it would take to repair such damage, that would presumably include the loss of some hundred million lives or more. 

 

Unlikely Events

Imagine either the East or West coast of the USA struck by such an event. Major population centers would lose power completely. There would be no ATM, no credit cards, no EBT cards, no banking and financial trade would effectively be brought to an immediate halt. The new generation, having grown up surrounded by electronic devices, many to a point of addiction, would be left without these devices. (It may be easy for some of us old farts to laugh off such a seeming farce, but the reality and the devastating psychological impact at the sociological level would indeed add to the chaos and mayhem that ensued) It is very likely that rioting and chaos would rapidly ensue. Add in the loss of large swathes of Europe and the chaos would inevitably spread around the globe.

 

While such a nightmare scenario may seem “unlikely”, according to a NASA Report authored by Dr. Pete Riley, there is a twelve percent chance of just such a scenario throughout the current decade and extending out to about 2024. Furthermore … and even worse still, scientists differ on exact numbers, but depending on the storm, there would only be anywhere from fifteen minutes to at best, fifteen hours warning of such an impending catastrophe. If the government would try to warn the people, the resulting chaos would likely begin the death and destruction as part of the immediate panic. Thus, it is very unlikely that the government would issue any real warning at all to anyone outside of those individuals deemed to be necessary for the continuation of government.

 

The Paranoid Prepper

When the subject of a Faraday comes up in discussions about homesteading, I am often reminded that my clients are not “the proverbial paranoid prepper” but rather, merely people seeking to live more in harmony with nature. While that may be all fine and dandy, the fact remains that each and every day we wake up, there is roughly … just better than … actually … a one in ten chance that today will be the day that Coronal Mass Ejection spits out an angry cloud of plasma directly at the face of the earth. If I only have a one in ten chance of getting a deer, I am still going hunting. If I only have a one in ten chance of catching a fish, I am still going fishing. If there is a one in ten chance of something really bad happening and I can be easily prepared for a very small investment … rest assured I am going to be prepared … even if some people will call me crazy for doing so.

 

The Faraday Cage

The faraday cage does not have to be any fancy contraption. There are ample examples online wherein even everyday storage containers can be converted to faraday cages with nothing more than aluminum foil and/or some metallic tape. A faraday cage can be built inexpensively and used to store anything and everything that will be necessary to re-power the homestead … which has probably always been off the grid anyhow. We had numerous boxes that were used for little more than storage, and since we rarely had occasion to dig into them, wrapping them in well-sealed and interconnected pieces of aluminum foil and sealing them up with some metallic tape did as much to keep the parts clean and safe, but also allowed us to rest assured that even in the event that something bad did happen, we could be back up and running and fully powered in only a day or two.

 

What to Store in your Faraday Cage

Probably the most expensive item we stored in a faraday cage, was a smaller wind generator that we had purchased new for about six hundred dollars. We had one in operation and we had purchased an additional wind generator as a spare. Since it was to be stored anyhow, storing it in a place that protected it from virtually any threat just seemed to make sense. We also had four or six deep cycle marine batteries that we had, again as nothing more than spares. Add in a couple of car alternators and some speaker wire and toggle switches or light switches, and light bulbs, and everything needed for the basic creature comforts of home off the grid were readily available and easy to put back together.

 

My dad and I both also had an affinity for shopping in second hand stores, auctions, flea markets and other bargain basement shopping places for the homesteader. As such, we had a fairly good selection of spare electronics. Among these were two ham radios … as we could never see any need to operate more than one at a time anyhow … a few CB radios that were good enough for local communications, a few spare laptops that we had picked up at an auction, car stereos and speakers and other “luxury” items. If better equipment and better deals were come across later on, old stock could be sold, generally at a profit, and the proceeds would be used to build up the homestead even more.

 

Being Prepared is Not Paranoia

Being prepared for what many claim is an abject inevitability is not, as far as I can see anyhow, being paranoid in any sense. It is merely exhibiting common sense. According to Professor Paul Cannon of the British Academy of Royal Engineering; “Our message is, don’t panic, but do prepare – a solar superstorm will happen one day and we need to be ready for it.” Having a faraday cage is simply very little other than common sense. If and when this day does occur in our lifetimes, while everyone else is in full panic mode, you will by and large, be able to go on as if nothing had ever happened at all, and indeed, if your homestead off the grid is properly implemented, you should never have to worry about such an event at all.

Comments

The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 10, 2019 - 7:37am
Good stuff Ward 
Johnny Fever Added Jan 10, 2019 - 10:27am
We know with 100% certainty there are deer in the forest and fish in the sea.  No scientist can say with any probability data there will be a doomsday.  After all, there has never been a doomsday and we don’t know for sure if there ever will be one. 
 
In other words, I get the fact anything can happen, but that doesn’t mean we should be prepared for every possible thing.  So yes, I think preparing oneself for doomsday is crazy, but it’s a free country and if that’s how you wish to spend your free time and money, you should be free to do so.  I will be enjoying life as we know it.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 10, 2019 - 10:41am
You apparently missed the very beginning of the article where past events were documented and recorded. 
Dave Volek Added Jan 10, 2019 - 11:30am
Well written article Ward.
CMEs are a fact and we should expect a few each century.
I would like to take your suggestions, but my family is kind of broke. And my house is already too full. But I am thinking of stashing a few hundred cash away for the day when the debit machines quit working.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 10, 2019 - 11:38am
Aluminum foil and metal tape works just fine as long as the electronics inside are not touching either. Maybe twenty bucks. 
 
I would build one at least big enough for a twelve volt alternator from a car and a few little things along those lines. My first windmill was a 55 gallon drum and the rear axle from an old junk car attached to an alternator ... not as efficient as my dad hooking up the weedeater to the alternator but it did not require any fuel either. 
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 10, 2019 - 3:27pm
Ward, you have documented one of the existential threats that we as a technological and electrically-driven society are prone to. I've written about this several times in my blog. What is really going to cause hardship when this happens is that we are really vulnerable at our largest substations. The large step-up and step-down transformers at substations don't have spares handy, and you will not find many government regulators allowing utilities to take prudent precautions by purchasing spares "just in case". Thus once we have a really significant CME, it will drag our civilization down to its pre-electrified level for years. Riots are just the beginning of the upheaval we will face.
 
I had the opportunity to go inside of a very large Faraday cage at the Greenbank observatory. There, the need was to shield the sensitive detectors with the antenna from the emissions coming from the computer equipment inside of the cage. The room was probably over 100' long, and half as wide at least. I was accompanying my son's high school physics class, but probably only me and the teacher really knew what we were seeing as we entered the room via an airlock-like entrance.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 10, 2019 - 3:33pm
For home storage however, the faraday cage can be built inexpensively and very well. While it may not protect as well against an intentional EMP burst ... especially an atmospheric burst, it will almost fully protect from the CME. 
 
Either coast is estimated to take roughly two years to repair ... and that is presumably one at a time. If both coasts went? Two years in NYC with no power? And there is no way the government would try to warn the people either ... at least not in the US. 
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Jan 10, 2019 - 3:41pm
The Chelyabinsk meteor was a not-so-subtle reminder of what an insignificant speck we are.
Leroy Added Jan 10, 2019 - 6:27pm
No one's ever explained to me why a Faraday cage is needed in the case of a CME.  If your device is not connected to the grid or long wires or an antenna, it seems like there is little or no chance of it being destroyed.  Electronics are pretty well shielded today.  The grid is certainly vulnerable and I am all for hardening the grid.  A Faraday cage around your house might be a good idea but it won't protect you from what's coming down the power lines.
 
I suppose I have a prepper mentality, but every time I think about it, it just seems impractical.  What I buy today won't likely be useful ten years from now, and that includes food and computers and communications.  One has to put a whole lot of money into only to do it again a few years later.  A HAM radio might be useful.  Lots of guns with lots of bullets are useful.  An underground shelter is of limited usefulness unless it is an old missile silo.
FacePalm Added Jan 10, 2019 - 7:30pm
Hey, Johnny-
Do you have fire extinguishers in your home or apartment?
 
Ward-
Excellent and timely article.
i was a boy scout, and "be prepared" is an intelligent motto for any intelligent human being.
 
i have a powder-coated metal file cabinet.
 
If the drawers are not sealed with magnetic tape, will the EM radiation penetrate to the interior?
 
Any electronics in the drawers; should they be isolated from the metal of the drawers, say by being stacked on top of 2x4's or other pieces of wood?
 
Would running a ground wire from the exterior surface to a ground rod be advisable or inadvisable?
 
Back in the day, i did work in a secure facility at an IBM location; they had a huge vault, allegedly wrapped on all six sides with wire mesh interior to the walls/floor/ceiling which had a "white noise" field run through it at all times, such that if/when any electronic intrusion was attempted, it would meet impenetrable barriers to surveillance by either hostile or competitive actors.  Do you think such a room would also be invulnerable to an EMP or Carrington event? 
 
It is my understanding that if such a room had power cables coming into it from anyplace exterior to the room, the EM radiation would simply take that route in and destroy anything connected to it.  For example, an automobile, being a mostly-metallic cage, isolated from ground by rubber tires, would be ok - except for the antenna, which would likely serve as a conduit to the radio and via that, the rest of the internal electronics.  True?
 
Suppose you had a detachable ground wire run from a lug-nut bolt.  Would that run the EM to ground, and thus protect the vehicle from having it's internal electronics fried?
 
Any EMP from whatever source these days may not be a "doomsday" scenario, as it won't cause immediate death - however, with no electricity, sewage pumps won't work, so that'll soon back up and cause disease.  No unprotected cars would run, so bicycles or pedal-carts would likely be the only transpo available - and if you DID happen to have prepared a vehicle to run after an EMP event, mobs would likely soon descend to steal it or destroy it...or gov't agents would "confiscate" it to serve law enforcement, what little there would be of it...or at least, that would be their claim.
 
Cooking anything would also be a problem.  With no electricity, there would be no pumps for natural gas, assuming one has that instead of an electric stove.
In the aforementioned boy scouts, i learned how to make a "buddy burner," an empty can filled with cardboard strips(though only 1 is preferable), hole-side up; one pours melted paraffin wax into such a thing, lets it cool, and voila!  A cooking/heat source, albeit a dirty one(coats pots and pans with a black char in short order, but if one first coats the exterior of the pot/pan with soap, that makes it much easier to clean, later).  Though i haven't tried it yet, i suspect that several of these, made from cat-food cans, would fit under the grates on most stoves, and allow for food/water to be heated while the emergency lasts.  Of course, i laid in a 20lb chunk(roughly 18x24"x2" thick) of paraffin a good while ago.  One method of safely making liquid out of the wax is to boil a pan of water and put another pan in it which contains the paraffin; heating the parrafin directly in a pan is likely to cause an unfortunate flash-fire, which can be put out by putting the lid on the can, but why endanger yourself?
As to water purification, which would also become a priority should such a scenario ensue, it's best to have a gravity-fed water filter and plenty of spare filters, but in a pinch, one can dig a 4x4x4' cube in the earth, put a clean and empty 5-gal bucket in the center of the hole, cover the hole with a sheet of clear plastic held down at the sides by rocks/bricks, and put another stone in the center of the plastic, such that it forms an inverted cone; as the sun heats the area, water will condense on the plastic and drip into the bucket.  In arid conditions, one might also urinate around the area; when it evaporates and condenses on the plastic, it will have been distilled enough to make the water potable.
 
It would be inadvisable to drink rainwater these days, unless you're certain that air traffic has been stopped(for at least a week).  Many pollutants are in it, some not good for humans or animals.  If you have an excellent water filter, however, you should be ok.  Having a bulb-type siphon would also be handy to pump rain water out of the aforementioned ground distiller.  The water can be put under the plastic sheet, and after the sun distills it into the bucket, it'd be safe(r) to drink or cook with it.
FacePalm Added Jan 10, 2019 - 7:31pm
(sorry, not "magnetic tape" but perhaps the REAL "duct" tape, the reflective, metallic kind.)
Jeff Michka Added Jan 10, 2019 - 8:30pm
Gee, here comes the asteroid strike to ruin your day, too.  Ward, I'm beginning to think can tell you how to make a good aluminum foil hat.  Life tends still to be a little more than unpredictable and uncertain, so why shouldn't we put on our tinfoil hats and boost the creds of "preppers.".  Isn't there someone here selling freeze dried food?  Ward, obviously has nice tinfoil hats for sale.
Tamara Wilhite Added Jan 10, 2019 - 9:07pm
A nuclear bomb would trigger an EMP, as well. And terrorists could build an EMP weapon that doesn't rely on nuclear materials.
Leroy Added Jan 10, 2019 - 9:47pm
An (N)EMP isn't likely to cause mass damage either, other than the grid.  Harden the grid and the problem is solved.
Ana Ross Added Jan 10, 2019 - 9:57pm
Ward , this is brilliant. The best rational for prepping I have ever seen because it doesnt invent some bad guy scenario but calmly and rationally tells the factual basis that our society is one catastrophe away from chaos.  Another thing that might cause it would be a corn blight.  Corn is so ubiquitous and is planted in such densities in the United States that it makes famine a plausible scenario in the case of an unforeseen blight on the corn.
One question though,  I would have thought that any electronics not in use at the time of a solar event would be immune from it and would not need a faraday cage.  So long as the generator was not in use or online in wouldnt need any special protection.  Am I wrong about this?
FacePalm Added Jan 10, 2019 - 10:48pm
Anna-
One of the ways to generate electricity is to have magnetic waves pass through a conductor.
 
Once upon a time, a power company wanted to put transmission lines across a farmer's property, and offered to buy a right-of-way; he counter-offered that he'd sell them the pads on which to build their transmission towers.  They agreed, and built it.
 
The smart farmer built his own pad once they were done, and built his own tower, placing a large inductor coil next to the high-tension lines, and thereby powered his entire farm.
 
The power company found out, sued, and lost, as nothing he built touched anything they built.
 
Told you that to tell you this:  Any EM pulse of sufficient magnitude will induce voltages in any wires it cuts - anywhere, including on circuit boards -  unless said devices are secured inside Faraday cages, which pass the EM around what is contained in them.  Those induced voltages, if anywhere NEAR what was experienced in the Carrington Event, will literally destroy all electronic devices it touches, just as voltages were induced in the telegraph lines sufficient to ignite papers in the telegraph offices.
 
So, cellphones, modern appliances, computers in cars, EVERYthing that has an integrated circuit aboard - ruined, permanently.  Only 19th century "tech" will still work(and prior), and Very Bad things will happen.
 
Ever see the panic buying when a large storm is forecast to arrive, and the fights that break out?  Multiply that panic by at least a thousandfold, and you may have a hint of how bad it could be, and just how thin the line between civilization and savagery.
The Burghal Hidage Added Jan 10, 2019 - 10:55pm
And the power companies - just like the rest of our "order"- do not want you to know how unthinkably vulnerable they are
Ana Ross Added Jan 11, 2019 - 4:33am
Facepalm, I'm no expert but if inductance is a function of the applied emf and the area of the conductors the power required to knock an offline circuit off would be unrealistically large.  The reason that power line go down  in these cases is because the area of conductors in substations effected is cumulatively hundred of square meters and thousands of miles of cables. A device powered on would only need a couple of volts to fry the circuits but unplugged the area of conductors would be . measured in micrometers and any would be shunted to ground. I still may be wrong on this but I don't think it would be possible for enough voltage to accrue on an unplugged circuit.  I don't know if you've ever been around a substations for an industrial building but there is really high voltage being stepped down to 440 volts and the induced voltage isn't high enough to ruin your cell phone. Ifind it hard to believe that the amount of energy floating around in the air after a solar flare would be more than 300mW per micrometers. That kind of voltage in the air would kill anyone in the area.  Am I wrong about this?
 
Ward Tipton Added Jan 11, 2019 - 5:16am
There are some major differences between the hit of a CME vs the hit from an EMP ... I primarily focused on the CME as it is a statistical inevitability. However, I will address all the points one by one ... just have to fill up the water and get some coffee first. 
Webmaster Added Jan 11, 2019 - 5:18am
Unusual, but timely topic. In fact, the dependence of modern man on electronics and the trouble free operation of the electrical grid is so great that if all this fails at one point, he will find himself on another planet. It is unlikely that modern youth at least once in their life sent a letter on a paper sheet, which must be sealed in an envelope and thrown into the mailbox. And it is unlikely that a modern cashier can quickly get used to the cash register machine or start using accounts.
FacePalm Added Jan 11, 2019 - 5:41am
Ana-
Have you read about the Carrington Event?  Websearches can be your friend.
AFAIK, there are only 2 ways to make electricity: rotate magnets around fixed conductors, or rotate conductors inside fixed magnets.
At the risk of redundancy, the last CME induced currents in telegraph wires so great that they caused papers in the telegraph offices of some to catch fire.  That's a helluva lot of wattage(current x voltage).  Electromagnetic solar discharges are 3-dimensional in nature, so as they pass by any conductive surface, voltages are induced; the stronger the wave, the more voltage pushing more current.  Plugged in, not plugged in - makes no difference at all.
It could be compared to a nuclear blast(because that IS what it is); EVERYthing in it's path is irradiated.
 
One analogy that works for me is to place a large grapefruit on the floor.
Nine feet away, place the ball out of a Bic pen.
Now, you have the approximate relative sizes of Sun and Earth, as well as their approximate distances.
If when you click the link above, you'll be able to read of some of the quite dramatic effects.
In sum, and as all history proves, those who don't prepare are caught unawares.
FacePalm Added Jan 11, 2019 - 5:56am
Due to the inspiration of Michael B:
Chelyabinsk Meteor
Ward Tipton Added Jan 11, 2019 - 5:59am
Jeff - In reading the article, there is no mention of asteroids because an asteroid does not result in a Coronal Mass Ejection. If you choose not to believe the reports or pay attention to the numerous historical events that have already transpired, you are apparently in very good company along with the rest of "civilized society". Perhaps however, you can understand that some people prefer to wear a seat belt because some other idiot may screw up to an extent that it impacts the driver directly. This has nothing to do with paranoia and everything to do with common sense in mitigating the potential losses in what may or may not be a likely occurrence. I thought you supported the Statists that sought to keep us safe from ourselves through oppressive law? The difference here is that, despite ample evidence that this is a very likely event, there is no effort to create laws to force you to be prepared. 
 
Tamara - The electrical grid is vulnerable to strikes from either, but I chose to focus on the CME as it is well understood to be an inevitability ... merely a matter of when, not if ... though not quite as likely during this period of a solar minimum ... but still very probable. 
 
Leroy - An EMP would actually do substantially more damage than a CME as it will fry all electronics, where as ostensibly at least, the CME will largely destroy primarily the infrastructure and anywhere that has exceedingly long electrical wiring ... potentially including homes, warehouses and any other place that is wired for electrical use. As for hardening the grid, the US government has understood this likely since the early nineteen hundreds, yet still not only has nothing been done to harden the grid, even the new systems that are being built remain vulnerable. I believe it would perhaps not be overly wise to depend on the government to make any concerted effort to protect us from such an event ... but perhaps that is just me. 
 
"No one's ever explained to me why a Faraday cage is needed in the case of a CME.  If your device is not connected to the grid or long wires or an antenna, it seems like there is little or no chance of it being destroyed."
 
As I noted with Jeff, there is statistically a very small chance of being involved in a vehicular accident, but we make laws requiring people to wear seatbelts ... just in case. I agree that the CME would not be as detrimental as an EMP but it would still destroy transformers, substations, and according to the military preparedness docs I saw, leave either or both coasts without power for roughly two years ... and since the vast majority of the population lives on the coasts ... the rioting, empty store shelves, inability to trade ... millions of millennials with no gadgets ... the ensuing chaos would be ugly to say the least. 
 
More to come after breakfast/dinner.
 
 
Leroy Added Jan 11, 2019 - 6:45am
"Plugged in, not plugged in - makes no difference at all.
It could be compared to a nuclear blast(because that IS what it is); EVERYthing in it's path is irradiated."
 
It may be true that everything gets irradiated, but it also makes a huge difference in whether something is plugged in or not.  A transformer in use in the grid is suspectable.  One not in use is not.  A generator not connected to transmission lines is not vulnerable.
 
You're trying to take what happened to telegraphs connected to long transmission lines and infer that the same with happen to anything not protected by a Faraday cage.  It simply is not true.  FP's farmer example simply isn't true.  Everything does not get fried. 
 
We have very little information about what happens if there is an (N)EMP.  Not everything will be fried.  We know that.  Transmissions lines are long conductors that will be susceptible.  No disagreement there.  Most electronics are well protected.  Most cars will continue to function.   Most of what we know about NEMP's is from one event.  It wasn't catastrophic.  Much of the conclusions have been disputed.  There weren't much in the way of electronics in Japan; nevertheless, I have never heard of radios being fried.  The idea that everything gets fried and we will be back in the dark ages simply isn't true.   Satellites will not fall out of the sky. Communications will be disrupted, however.  I wouldn't want to depend on a pacemaker.
 
The grid going down for a long period of time is a major event.  Communications will be disrupted.  Most everything else is fiction.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 11, 2019 - 7:07am
Communications, ATM machines, financial transactions, Wall Street ... yeah, no effect on the general population there. 
 
You are correct however, about the transmission lines from the point of a CME but there is major evidence regarding the EMI as well, which is a big part of the EMP blasts differentiating it from the CME. Ever set your cell phone of sub woofer or cell phone next to a television or computer monitor? There is decided interference even from such a relatively and comparatively minor EMI or Electro Magnetic Interference. It is not all just theory at all. 
 
That being said, I would rather be prepared, especially when I can do it for a few bucks with spare parts I am storing anyhow. 
FacePalm Added Jan 11, 2019 - 7:27am
Leroy-
Are you familiar with how inductors operate?  Transformers?  How about "air transformers" or "tank circuits"?
 
If you have a wire with electricity running through it, and place a coil of wire (or several) right next to it(or around it without touching it), the former will induce voltages/currents in the latter which are usable in any normal device.
 
People did this for YEARS, especially in rural areas, 'til they got caught, anyway.  Search results for "stealing electricity with coils."
 
But i suppose you'll have to keep pretending that nothing can go wrong - until it does.
 
It would not surprise me in the slightest to also discover that during the Carrington, people with change in their pockets found it got hot, too.  Silver, gold, and copper are quite good conductors, you know.
 
i used to work on and around electronic equipment, some high-voltage.  i was cautioned against wearing any clothing with metal in it - no zippers, no metal snaps, no change, no rings on, either.  Now, why would that be, do you think?
Leroy Added Jan 11, 2019 - 10:09am
'Are you familiar with how inductors operate?  Transformers?  How about "air transformers" or "tank circuits"?'
 
Of course I do.  I'm an electrical engineer.  Are you?  It doesn't necessarily make me an expert.  I have worked in substations.  I have designed drive systems including transformers.  I do know how to calculate short-circuit currents.  I know how it all works, either that or I was just lucky.
 
What you are implying is that enough power can be induced to power a farm from the overhead high voltage wires by a coil of wire in the base.  Nonsense.  If they were true, I could power my house by putting a coil of wire in the attic.  I have high voltage wires running as close to my house that are as close as they are to the base.  Remember, the magnetic field is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.  Even tightly wound transformers have iron cores.  The permeability of air is very, very low compared to, let's say, carbon steel.
 
"If you have a wire with electricity running through it, and place a coil of wire (or several) right next to it(or around it without touching it), the former will induce voltages/currents in the latter which are usable in any normal device."
 
Are you saying that if I attach a battery to both ends of a wire and place a coil next to it that it will magically induce voltage and current?  Nonsense.  If you move one of them around, you'll get something.  Is it useful in a normal device?  I suppose you have to define normal.  Would it run my refrigerator? My washing machine?  My dishwasher?  Nope.  It wouldn't even run my alarm clock properly.  You have to get the voltage and frequency right for starters, and that is assuming you can get enough current.  Ok.  So you mean a wire carrying an A/C current.  Go to your electrical box and open it up.  Place a coil near a hot wire in use and tell me how many devices you can power.  Zero.  You can induce enough for a measurement device.  That's about it.  It's a little more complicated than that.
 
"i used to work on and around electronic equipment, some high-voltage."
 
What do you consider high voltage?  Hint: 600V+
 
"i was cautioned against wearing any clothing with metal in it - no zippers, no metal snaps, no change, no rings on, either.  Now, why would that be, do you think?"
 
Ever heard of arc flash?  That is why we wore "lab coats" when we serviced electrical equipment.  They had no zippers or any kind of metal.  In fact, you couldn't wash them for fear of making them conductive.  Probably overkill but nevertheless, there is some risk.  Of course, that was just the low voltage stuff of 480V and below.  I wouldn't want to risk drawing an arc from high voltage for sure.
 
Ward Tipton Added Jan 11, 2019 - 10:57am
Having been zapped by 440 one time ... and getting fired for kicking the arse of the guy who poked me while I was working on it ... as he had done it intentionally ... when I regained my eyesight I decided it was most definitely not low-voltage ... though the biggest I have personally handled were eight hundred volt buss panels. 
 
There is definitely more concern with objects that are connected to the grid. That goes without question, though I do believe an EMP would burn out substantially more than that, though I do not believe an EMP attack would be nearly as likely. 
 
Since neither do I believe however, that government will ever actually "harden" the grid, when I store things, I make sure they are boxed up in non conductive materials and wrap the containers in aluminum foil, double seamed and with metallic tape. Since it is merely spare parts for the most part, no major expense or inconvenience. As to the disruption in infrastructure, I will trust the military threat evaluations I have read there, as it does seem that during an extended blackout, things may get a little dicey in the cities. Since I am off the grid anyhow, if the system burns up, no loss. If the system does not burn up, no loss. Worst case scenario, my spare parts are dust free when I need them. 
opher goodwin Added Jan 11, 2019 - 1:34pm
Interesting article Ward. 
BTW - a 12% chance in the next five years? - 'there is a twelve percent chance of just such a scenario throughout the current decade and extending out to about 2024.' That's a 12% risk in 1826 days.
That's considerably less that a one in ten per day. 
Personally I think it is a lot less of a risk than that but even so it is a risk that I hope scientists, energy companies, computer systems and the government are taking seriously. It could be a disaster.
I'm not losing sleep over this one though. I think that global warming and species extinctions are much greater issues.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 11, 2019 - 1:37pm
Point being, there have been many such instances in the last couple of centuries alone, but never before with a society so dependent upon the grid. 
 
"I hope scientists, energy companies, computer systems and the government are taking seriously. "
 
Have you seen any evidence of ANYONE doing absolutely anything to "Harden the grid"? I certainly have not. 
Jeff Michka Added Jan 11, 2019 - 2:59pm
Yeah, ol Ward deleted my post, but replies to it.  This article is just another glofication of hand wringing "preppers" that by and disaster scenario because it makes them "right."  Once again is someone here peddling freeze dried food to preppers?  Well, I'll bet on asteroids getting us, because all the freeze dried food and semi-auto firearms won't help.  End of World?  Probably.  Live with the very uncertainty of life.
Leroy Added Jan 11, 2019 - 3:11pm
I have to apologize for misremembering what I read in FP's comment.  I thought I remembered it saying the coil was in the pad.  I see now that a separate tower was built to place it closer.  It changes things, but not much.  I came across an example from a theoretical calculation.  I'll post it when I get home.  It is slightly different in that the coil was on average 7.5 m away.  I assume with a tower, it could be closer.  So, from memory, as bad as it is, the farmer was able to get 72 Watts out of it after winding a coil with 143 km of copper at a cost of over $7,000.  Back in the day, a farmer might have been able to power a light bulb.  With FP's configuration, maybe ten or so.  One would have to calculate.  Would this power a farm and would a farmer go to this trouble and expense?  No.  I don't think so.  It would also be inconsistent.  It's an interesting read.
Leroy Added Jan 11, 2019 - 6:52pm
Here is the link to the article as promised.  I was off by an order of magnitude.  So much for my memory.  The estimated cost of the coil at the time of the article was $71,400, not $7,000.  The payoff time is estimated at 1000 years.  But, this is all theoretical.  An estimated 72 Watts is available, assuming a resistance of 200 Ohm.  It is more like 745 Ohm, if my reference is correct, so the available power is more like 18 Watts, neglecting inductive impedance.  If you accept their number for impedance, the real power approaches zero.  The farmer would get almost no real work out of it.  It would weigh nearly five tons.  The support tower would have to be pretty stout.  Looking at FP's situation with the tower, you could probably halve the amount of wire and therefore halve the resistance and the cost and double the power.  The power factor is still going to be near zero and no useful work can be done.  Barring error, no sane farmer would ever attempt this.
Leroy Added Jan 11, 2019 - 7:14pm
For grins, here is a MythBusters video on the subject
 
For even more grins, here is an analysis of what MythBusters did wrong.  I suspect it might be FP... :)
Ward Tipton Added Jan 11, 2019 - 11:55pm
"Yeah, ol Ward deleted my post, but replies to it. "
 
Ward has never deleted any comments and never will. If your comment is missing, it had to have been you that deleted it. 
 
But if you mean this one: "


Jeff Michka Added Jan 10, 2019 - 8:30pm







Gee, here comes the asteroid strike to ruin your day, too.  Ward, I'm beginning to think can tell you how to make a good aluminum foil hat.  Life tends still to be a little more than unpredictable and uncertain, so why shouldn't we put on our tinfoil hats and boost the creds of "preppers.".  Isn't there someone here selling freeze dried food?  Ward, obviously has nice tinfoil hats for sale.

"
 
It is still there ... look again ... your powers of observation have never been overly keen, but I am sure you will find it if you look. 
FacePalm Added Jan 12, 2019 - 6:49am
Leroy-
'Are you familiar with how inductors operate?  Transformers?  How about "air transformers" or "tank circuits"?'
 
Of course I do.  I'm an electrical engineer.  Are you? 
 
Nope.  Good to know, though.
 
What you are implying is that enough power can be induced to power a farm from the overhead high voltage wires by a coil of wire in the base.  Nonsense.  If they were true, I could power my house by putting a coil of wire in the attic.  I have high voltage wires running as close to my house that are as close as they are to the base.  Remember, the magnetic field is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.  Even tightly wound transformers have iron cores.  The permeability of air is very, very low compared to, let's say, carbon steel.
 
Ok, i just read where hi-tension power lines transmit anywhere from 34.5kv to 500kv of A/C power @ 60hz.  i've been unable to find gauss field readings so far, but i suspect that for kv volt ranges that high, a lovely 3D rotating field of usable EM power extends a good distance from one, albeit inversely proportional to the square of the distance. as you say.  Further searching revealed that for a typical 400kv line, the power draw can be nxs of 100Megawatts, and since W/V = Amperage, 250amps would be flowing through those lines at peak.  Further, i've seen vids of what appeared to be a 12' long fluorescent tube lighting up a good distance away from these typically 100' tall towers, like maybe 20' from the ground at most.
 
So let's say that within 3" of one of these 400kv lines, you place a good-sized coil, let's say 12" long, of 6 ga. copper wire wrapped around 1" rebar(now, an iron-core transformer).  Now, as best i recall, the formula for inductive reactance is 1 over 2piFL, or the inverse of 2x3.14159x60hzx the value of inductance in Henries...but i have no idea how to calculate or measure henries offhand; electronics school was a long time ago...i imagine that each end of this homemade transformer would be hooked to a step-down transformer, however, which would convert the 400kv down to 120v...or maybe 2 such transformers, or three, so as to step the voltage down in stages.  Since P = IE, or Power = Current x Voltage, the starting point is 100MW = 250a x 400kv.  So lets assume that at 3" from the wire, the resistance of the air is such that 99% of the power is lost.  That still leaves 1 MW of power...a fraction less, considering hysteresis and inductive reactance losses...
 
 Are you going to seriously suggest that the max power available after step-down transformer losses would be only 72w, less if there's a larger load?
 
"If you have a wire with electricity running through it, and place a coil of wire (or several) right next to it(or around it without touching it), the former will induce voltages/currents in the latter which are usable in any normal device."
 
Are you saying that if I attach a battery to both ends of a wire and place a coil next to it that it will magically induce voltage and current?  Nonsense.
Agreed; DC power doesn't induce voltages in coils if it's unchanging.  i was unclear by not specifying A/C.
 
If you move one of them around, you'll get something.  Is it useful in a normal device?  I suppose you have to define normal.  Would it run my refrigerator? My washing machine?  My dishwasher?  Nope.  It wouldn't even run my alarm clock properly.  You have to get the voltage and frequency right for starters, and that is assuming you can get enough current.  Ok.  So you mean a wire carrying an A/C current.  Go to your electrical box and open it up.  Place a coil near a hot wire in use and tell me how many devices you can power.  Zero.  You can induce enough for a measurement device.  That's about it.  It's a little more complicated than that.
 
Ok, a typical house can run everything in it simultaneously on 20kw or less.  But suppose that instead, the putative farmer had a large set of series-parallel marine batteries hooked up, and used the tapped power, after his rectifier/capacitor conversion/smoothing unit(ac>dc) just as a re-charge circuit.  The batteries themselves would provide the power, via inverters, to power everything you mentioned, maybe more, like milking machines and etc.
 
"i used to work on and around electronic equipment, some high-voltage."
 
What do you consider high voltage?  Hint: 600V+
 
How about 10kv, where wires weren't used - just approx. 2"H x
FacePalm Added Jan 12, 2019 - 6:55am
 3/4" thick bars of what looked like copper?  High enough for you?
 
"i was cautioned against wearing any clothing with metal in it - no zippers, no metal snaps, no change, no rings on, either.  Now, why would that be, do you think?"
 
Ever heard of arc flash?
Yep.  Felt many in my electronics career.
 
 That is why we wore "lab coats" when we serviced electrical equipment.  They had no zippers or any kind of metal.  In fact, you couldn't wash them for fear of making them conductive.  Probably overkill but nevertheless, there is some risk.  Of course, that was just the low voltage stuff of 480V and below.  I wouldn't want to risk drawing an arc from high voltage for sure.
 
Yep.  A friend of mine told me a story about how he smelled the color maroon.  The aforementioned 10kv area needed some PM(preventive maintenance), so he "Danger"-tagged the circuit breakers, then went to get a cup of coffee.  An operator, noticing his equipment wasn't working, ignored the Danger tags and flipped them back on.  My friend returned, set his coffee down, reached into the gear - and was knocked back about 8' into a wall, where, as he slipped to the ground, he smelled maroon. 
 
"What did it smell like?" i asked.
"Maroon," he replied.
"Scrambled a couple of brain circuits for awhile, did it?" i queried.
"Guess so."
 
Anyhow, the point of even bringing this up is that multiple testimonies from witnesses of the Carrington event said that the sky was so lit up that they got up and started working, some even laying brick, until they figured out that it was a little after 1AM.  Any EMP powerful and long-lasting enough to cause Aurora Borealis to be visible to the equator is powerful enough to do some amazingly serious damage to anything with an IC chip in it; i've R&R'd many an IC, and if i didn't wear static ground straps while standing on a non-conductive pad, i'd've ruined them while installing them.  The voltages in the air from such an event would most certainly exceed static electricity limitations on IC's, hence my claim that any electronic equipment dependent on IC's would be rendered useless virtually instantaneously in the event of another Carrington...same with an EMP.  The testimonies from the link above said that platinum contacts on their telegraph keys were melting, and that "showers" of sparks were coming out - and that even after disconnecting the batteries, they could still send and receive messages, albeit broken up, with zero power applied.
 
But hey, if you care about your electronics, protect them and/or get duplicates to put in Faraday cages; if you don't, don't - no skin off my nose.
 
i was just a tech, a repairman; talked to a lot of engineers, though.  Admired 'em, generally, although i got a chuckle out of one pissing on his own shoes one day after being slow to read a sign about the traps of the urinals being removed for maintenance.
 
i've heard of a resonant tank circuit being used to power houses.  Allegedly, what this entails as best i recall, is to use the appropriate-sized resistor(s), capacitor(s), and inductor(s) (an RLC circuit) to balance the input voltages/amps from the street, then use another transformer to tap off the tank circuit.  What i read was that since the tank circuit was resonant and balanced, it would essentially stop the meter from moving, yet still be able to induce enough voltage/current via the transformer to power various things in the house.
 
What do you think?  Possible, or utter bullshit?
 
Tapping of the high tension lines is obviously illegal, but what i've read is that the authority of the power company ends at the meter; everything you do past that point, you're free to do.
 
There is also allegedly a way to tap into your phone's power in the event of a line power outage, as well.  Seems that the phone companies have a separate power source than the electric companies.  Now, i understand that the power available would be quite small; one youtube vid showed a guy, allegedly in PR after the hurricane wipe-out, measuring 26.6vdc on the line with a combo ammeter/multimeter, then hooking the wire up to the battery-compartment in his LED flashlight, which turned on and worked.
Leroy Added Jan 12, 2019 - 10:00am
"So let's say that within 3" of one of these 400kv lines, you place a good-sized coil, let's say 12" long, of 6 ga. copper wire wrapped around 1" rebar(now, an iron-core transformer)."
 
I say that if you are within 10 ft, your farmer's a dead man...lol.  Now, you are getting into the absurd where the farmer will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain a little power for free.   Are you seriously suggesting that a farmer has tried this?  You're going from folklore to the absurd.
 
"Ever heard of arc flash?
Yep.  Felt many in my electronics career."
 
Somehow I think you are talking about something else, either that, or you have defied death many times.
 
"The voltages in the air from such an event would most certainly exceed static electricity limitations on IC's, hence my claim that any electronic equipment dependent on IC's would be rendered useless virtually instantaneously in the event of another Carrington...same with an EMP."
 
Sure. But most electronics are well-shielded these days.  
 
"What do you think?  Possible, or utter bullshit?"
 
The latter.  If any real power is consumed, it will be measured.  If no real power is consumed, it won't be.  I've heard of people getting caught putting magnets around their meters.  I could see how this would interfere with its operation.
 
"There is also allegedly a way to tap into your phone's power in the event of a line power outage, as well.  Seems that the phone companies have a separate power source than the electric companies."
 
For sure.  Back in the day when I had a phone, I called the power company when the power was off.  There's enough there to give you a small zap.  Hadn't thought about that as an emergency source.
 
I read this on the internet:
 
"When the phone is not in use, this is a constant DC signal (about 50-60 volts). When the phone rings, the signal is a 20 hertz AC signal (about 90 volts). When in use it is a modulated DC signal (between 6 and 12 volts). The phones lines even have power during a blackout in most cases."
Mark Hunter Added Jan 12, 2019 - 4:51pm
Although this is an extreme event, being prepared as much as possible is always a good idea. Most of the ways to prepare for one disaster counts for most--having enough food, water, medicine, and so on. The larger the disaster, the longer it may take to get help.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 12, 2019 - 5:22pm
In honor of that comment, I posted an article about long-term food storage ... but beware the National Defense Authorization Act ... if you store too much food, you may be deemed to be a criminal or even a threat to National Security ... yeah, seriously. 
Logical Man Added Jan 13, 2019 - 1:00pm
Even if nothing on earth were to be damaged by a CME, imagine the chaos caused if all the world's satellites suddenly blinked off. Banking, GPS, Phone systems..... POOF.
I have water for about a month and water filters for after that, plus some food and a few heating and lighting options. Not had to use the water yet, but food, light and heat did once come in handy when power was down for a day or so a few years back.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 13, 2019 - 4:56pm
We have constant power outages where I live right now. Still, my very first windmill was the rear end from one of the old cars, a 12 volt car alternator power generator and a fifty-five gallon drum cut in half lengthwise. 
Logical Man Added Jan 13, 2019 - 6:07pm
An issue that is often ignored regarding the ability to cope is physical fitness. If I need to be 40 miles away I can do that in about 3 hours on my mountain bike, even at the tender age of 64.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 13, 2019 - 6:16pm
I like to stay in fairly decent physical shape, and I could do that on a bike, but I think I would prefer not having to go into town at all if I can avoid it. In the event that something like this did occur, I cannot imagine the chaos that would ensue in the cities ... now going out hunting or fishing? I can walk all day long :) 
Logical Man Added Jan 13, 2019 - 6:39pm
Ward, I can walk all day long too.
Not had the snow shoes out yet this winter, though.
Pretty chilly here Friday, -16ºC but dry and no snow, so OK for riding the bike.
The 40 I was getting at was getting out of town! - I live in the outer part and I know a lot of trails.
 
 
Ward Tipton Added Jan 13, 2019 - 6:49pm
I have traveled to a great many cities in my work, but I cannot for the life of me imagine living somewhere I cannot grow my own food without government stepping in to regulate every time one of my animals farts, much less living in the constant noise and rush of the cities. I realize a lot of people love living there, but certainly not for me. 
 
A cool 19 degrees or so last night ... Celsius ... just under seventy degrees. I miss the snow and hunting, but I do not miss driving in the snow ... especially with idiots thinking their 4x4 made them impervious to snow. 
Ana Ross Added Jan 14, 2019 - 8:09pm
Leroy thanks for the mythbusters link but the analysis is all wrong.  Mythbusters didnt set out to find the most efficient way to steal power from high voltage lines.  The purpose was to test a specific myth, namely can you draw usable power from a high voltage line by placing a coil of wires next to that line.  Mythbusters had access to the best engineers in the country and if they wanted to show the most efficient means of tapping power from a high voltage line I have no doubt they could have.  But then every power company in the country would have to hire a crew to scrape dead bodies off the powerlines every 6 weeks or so.  I can almost hear the final conversation now: "Dont worry honey,I saw this on youtube. If I insulate myself with my hip waders and my welding gloves I should be fine.  "  I suspect thats the reason the segment never aired originally.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 14, 2019 - 8:13pm
"Dont worry honey,I saw this on youtube. If I insulate myself with my hip waders and my welding gloves I should be fine.  "
 
Hahahahahahaahahahaha I could see people here doing just that ... or worse LOL
Leroy Added Jan 15, 2019 - 8:41am
Maybe Opher should start thinking about prepping.
 
"Mythbusters had access to the best engineers in the country and if they wanted to show the most efficient means of tapping power from a high voltage line I have no doubt they could have.  But then every power company in the country would have to hire a crew to scrape dead bodies off the powerlines every 6 weeks or so.  I can almost hear the final conversation now: "Dont worry honey,I saw this on youtube. If I insulate myself with my hip waders and my welding gloves I should be fine.  "  I suspect thats the reason the segment never aired originally."
 
Funny.  I suspect you are right.  When FP mentioned 500KV lines, I had visions of enterprising people being vaporized before they before they even knew they were in danger.  I can imagine them saying, "I'm not a lineman, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express once."
 
I haven't found any practical examples of people stealing power from overhead lines.  I have seen where they are placing cameras and other monitoring devices directly on the lines by drone.  The devices derive their power from the power lines.  

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