A giant SPACE SNAKE is going to swallow the Earth! Wherein Fr. Z rants!

From Space Weather:

BIG SUNSPOTS: After more than a week of quiet, solar activity is picking up with the emergence of two large sunspot groups on the sun’s northeastern limb.  The active regions are crackling with C- and M-class solar flares.  So far none of the eruptions has been squarely Earth directed, but that could change in the days ahead as solar rotation turns the sunspots to face our planet. Visit http://spaceweather.com for images and more information.

Okay… it was about sun spots and solar flares, not a giant space snake.

This is a good opportunity to repeat a question I have offered before in different ways:

Since a very large solar flare can create an EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) which could strike the earth, and since strong EMPs can fry electronics, would you be ready?  Would you know what to do for yourself and your loved ones?

It is prudent to think about such things and to have plans.  I am mindful of the poor people in Joplin, MO, and Tuscaloosa, AL and many other places where people suffer suddenly from natural or man-made disasters.   If tornadoes, however, are bad for a relatively small group of people, a massive earthquake, such as that which produced the tsunami that struck Japan, or QUOD DEUS AVERTAT, an EMP, either from the Sun or from the detonation in the wrong place of a nuclear weapon, … these could catastrophically change life on the entire planet.  What would happen if, suddenly, all the electronics of a whole region, hemisphere, the whole world, suddenly became useless.  Think about how life would change.

At any time we could encounter something really bad, even devastating.  We have to think about these things, not obsess, but consider, and have a plan.

That plan has to include – and this gets me to my deeper point – frequent confession.

For centuries Catholics prayed in the Litany of Saints, and still do when the Litany is used, “from a sudden and unprovided death, deliver us O Lord”!  We don’t know the day or the hour.

“But Father! But Father!”, some of you may be saying.  “You ask this once in a while.  Do you want to scare the hell out of us?”


Or to put it another way, I want to scare us out of hell.   Would it be better to persuade you gently out of hell by urging you to love God and therefore avoid sin?  Sure.  Love is a higher motive for sorrow for sin than fear of punishment.  But if the scare works or the fear gets you to try something new, I’ll take it.

As baptized people of faith and disciples full of hope in the Lord’s promises, we have every reason to be buoyant even as we ponder the hardships of life, even catastrophes.

On a lighter note, these flares might cause some really cool Aurora Borealis!

And don’t forget to stock up on Mystic Monk Coffee.  I’d do it now, too. Believe you me.  One of these days you’ll thank ol’ Fr. Z.  You can sip your Mystic Monk or use it for barter!  “Mystic Monk?”, your trader will say. “Good as gold!  Here, have some ammo.”  Get a hand crank grinder or two. The coffee or tea from the Wyoming Carmelites will really be swell when the world’s economy dies and you are in your bunker trying to survive the looters and packs of starving abandoned dogs.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. RichardT says:

    “don’t forget to stock up on Mystic Monk Coffee” .. and, if all the electrics are going to fry, a hand grinder for it. [Good thinking!  Here’s one!]

  2. The Cobbler says:

    I was thinking about this the other day! A co-worker introduced me to a faraday cage. I had forgotten I wanted to look up whether they can block electromagnetic waves of the solar storm emp-like type; it seems like they would based on the principle, but then, it also seems like glass, benig solid, would block light (my point being, sometimes things lineup — or misallign instead — just right and stuff becomes permeable that you wouldn’t expect to be). I’ll let you know if I find out; but fankly, I’m not sure how I’d build one and get my electronics in it between learning of the impending storm and it hitting, let alone how I’d ever power them agani after (I guess the trick is getting a copy of your electronic records, e.g. backups of computer files, in a lead safe instead)… and the important thing is how we’ll survive without all the nice machines.

    It could happen, after all. Actually, I’ve been told it’s probable (so a question of when, not if), having been estimated that a major solar-born emp storm hits about every century give or take, and the last one was back when the major technology was telegraph lines (which spontaneously set their surroundings on fire during the event), and that that was mild compared to what they can be; etc. etc. However, I don’t know how we estimate the existence and strength of solar storms of prior times, so I’m not sure that’s hard science. Hard science does, however, tell us it _could_ happen.

    On a similar note, if space aliens ever attack Earth, they won’t touch our cities. They’ll do the General Sherman thing: destroy our crops so we starve and beg them to enslave us instead. Probably just poison the major water supplies to the largest agricultural areas (there are fewer areas isolated water-wise from others than you may realize; what goes into the water in the Rockies affects large swaths of the country) and they’d have us. (Also, anything smart enough to get all the way over here is going to find us doofi by comparison; this is why they will think of poisoning the water for our crops rather than fighting a difficult if one-sided battle in our cities. Assuming they aren’t benevolent, which is, after all, the more terrifying possibility…)

    My point? We live under the illusion that technology has freed us from Providence. It has not. [Good point!] It has, if anything, left us more vulnerable than we would be hiding out in the mountains or whatever men do when they have no iPods (I imagine the mountains because it’s where I’d go if I could live that way, but that’s a romantic fancy).

  3. LarryD says:

    Would you know what to do for yourself and your loved ones?

    Read Dies The Fire by SM Stirling for an imaginative story on such a circumstance – although it wasn’t an EMP per se that caused global electronicide. Great story – and series.

  4. The Cobbler says:

    http://www.faradaycage.org/ suggests that they do. Wonder if I can get more… research on the matter; the particular sentence mentioning it makes it sound like EMP is the name of a villain who’s on his way over here.

  5. Banjo pickin girl says:

    There is an electronically insulating material that you can buy to put in or on the walls of your house, kind of making it a huge “screen room” (as in electronics-working screen room, not the recreational Florida room kind). It is very expensive though. And you would have to do the garage too to protect your car’s electronic ignition.

  6. Maltese says:

    Although an EMP would be devastating, it would carry one advantage: no more electric guitars at mass! Gregorian Chant might have to be turned to once again! [Or would they just play regular guitars louder?]

  7. Papabile says:

    You could insulate your electronics all you want, but all the power lines would arc and you would be without electricty… probably for months, if not a couple of years. [And the melt down happens.]

    We actually created an EMP commission to study these issues in the 2001 Defense Authorization. (I was working for a member of House Armed Services then.). They have a couple good reports which can still be found at http://www.empcommission.org/ .

    Wikipedia has an excellent get smart quick page on EMP:

    Additionally, there is a future history novel on EMP which draws largely from the Commission’s report. It is called One Second After.

    I spent a lot of time studying this and technical documents/specifications on what it would take to shield, and it IS a real concern.

    I have a plan in case it ever does happen.

  8. The Cobbler says:

    Banjo: More or less expensive than opening your walls and putting chicken wire through all the outer ones, over the attic, connecting them across floors somehow and getting them grounded at the bottom? (I would have to find out whether you’d have to put it under the basement floor or grounding it would allow the ground to close the cage.) I’m wary of anything fancy-schmantzy that allegedly has to be bought when a simple tool applied properly (which, granted, requires a certain amount of knowledge and possibly a certain amount of trouble on the individual’s part) could, at least in theory, be made to work as well. ([Rabbit hole about applying this principle in computer programming and OSes redacted.]) Granted, lots of chicken wire can get expensive too; the question is, more or less than specialized materials? (Being directed to these materials so I can look at the price would give me all I need to find out; I’ll just hunt around for costs of large quantities of chicken wire, compare costs for a given area to cover…)

  9. The Cobbler says:

    Papabile reminded me of something I missed: unplug your house, or there’s no point. (Surge protectors are meant for lightning, not for solar storms.) Also, as I said, goodness knows when you’d be able to _use_ your technology again… Might help if you know how to make your own generator, which can also be done with the right resources and knowledge, and is also relatively difficult. No matter what you do it’s the same story: know how it works, you can theoretically build it, but practically that’s another matter.

  10. The Cobbler says:

    On third thought, if you have time to unplug your house, you have time to gather the computers and stuff them in a metal mesh bag that’s grounded somewhere in the basement, right? That’s easier than sealing the whole house.

    But maybe I should actually read those documents Papabile kindly provided us. Excuse me while I go geek out.

  11. JenB says:

    But Father! But Father! What you are suggesting is a world… without WDTPRS! How will I get my slavishly accurate translations, my informal Latin lessons, and my updates on the important news in the world?

  12. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Chicken wire is way too big. You are trying to stop a EM pulse, not catch a lightning strike with a lightning rod. Go to a university chemistry department and see what their screen room for their electronics testing is made out of. It is much smaller than chicken wire. More like screen door material in size.

  13. JenB: The more pressing question would be how do you get water, food, not freeze to death, or avoid very bad people.

  14. kevinf says:

    And it begs the question did NASA end the Space Shuttle program to replace it with a giant space mongoose program?

  15. ok… the only thing of value (and sentimental at that) is my family photo album of 95,624 pictures and about 300 original music compositions and 10,000 pages of PD organ music. will i commit suicide if an EMP hits my town? Naaaah… All we need is love.

  16. The Cobbler says:

    Banjo — True, I am not surprised chicken wire is too gappey for something like this. It was the simplest thing I could think of that fit the general idea. I had taken your post to suggest something more specialized than wire mesh with the consistency of door screens, however; if that’s all the specialization needed, I may have drawn a distinction without a difference (aside, of course, from my example being bad; I am new to this subject matter, fascinating as I find it… some examples I’ve seen look like chicken wire to me, but they weren’t for pulse wave sorts of things).

  17. The Cobbler says:

    “…and my updates on the important news in the world?”
    WHAT important news in “the world”? If there are no electronics, ninety-nine percent of the world is irrelevant to you; and the one percent that’s relevant is near enough you won’t need any help seeing it. Like Fr. Z says, the meltdown is the real danger. On the one hand, there are countless people who drove across the country wanting to help in the wake of 9/11; on the other, there are countless people living around New Orleans who went pillaging in the wake of Katrina… The first truly civilization-threatening disaster to strike us is going to make life very, very interesting to say the least. I’m glad there are farms in the general area in which I live; I’m not so glad there are also cities, I have no idea if the city folk will think whether those farms can feed them all (it’ll certainly be difficult starting the tractors, there’s just enough gadgetry in a sparkplug and ignition wiring…).

  18. APX says:

    @Maltese & Fr. Z
    Although an EMP would be devastating, it would carry one advantage: no more electric guitars at mass! Gregorian Chant might have to be turned to once again! [Or would they just play regular guitars louder?]

    Don’t worry. I’m sure the church has one of those 400 watt battery powered guitar amps for back-up, and a back-up generator to recharge it between Masses. If not, they’ll just have an acoustic set while the ambiance given off by the lit candles cause them to break out into Kumbaya and Michael Row the Boat Ashore. By the time they get to the Our Father they’ll be in such a groovy swaying mood that they’ll all hold hands and sway back and forth while singing it Carey Landry style.


    This is the one thing that has me somewhat concerned. A couple years ago on the last day of classes all the power and water in the entire city (it was a small city) went down for the entire day. They had to close the school, my exam that day got cancelled, I had to melt snow into water and manually fill the toilet tank, all the traffic lights were out and no one remembered the 4-way stop rule when that happens, so driving was chaos and there were several accidents, I had no internet or TV and this was before I owned an iPhone, so no 3G network to tether off of, I couldn’t cook any food. Oh man, it was terrible! Had I at least been back home, I would have had the back up generator.

  19. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I wish I could remember where I saw this mesh material. I recall it was incorporated into panels or something. I believe it was from Scandinavia (the land of overengineering, like my Nokian W/R “tyres”).

    Anyhoo, God is not expecting us to expend time and effort dealing with things that may never happen. This is Satan distracting us from the task at hand.

  20. kevinf says:

    Imagine if such a thing were permitted by God as a chastisement. Impurity addictions would be cured cold turkey. A massive horse industry would arise. People would move out of the cities. Oil would become irrelevant to the countries hit. There would be a massive societal change as the full value of children became universally apparent through their temporal realities–big families wouldn’t just be wiser, but safer in many ways. There would be a renaissance of live performances, even live debate like in the days of GKC. Penmanship would again become important. Letters would become precious anxiously awaited things, not just vowel-free gruntings emitted as a vague curse. People everywhere would greet each other by asking “what news have you learned?” Imagine the lineups at Catholic Churches on Saturday afternoons. Imagine every single Mass everywhere with SRO. Imagine Priests so busy with prayer and the sacraments that the laity simply take over everything about administering parishes that he has no time for. Imagine the respect for the Church that would suddenly re-assert itself among everyone. Neighbors would teach each other how to grow vegetables and sit out on the stoops talking all evening. But it would be nasty at first, that is certain. Wow. What if it were permitted by God as an opportunity for millions to really see what is essential and what is not. I think professions of atheism would drop sharply.

  21. Papabile says:

    Not to be a downer….. but the EMP Comission estimated 80-90% dead within a year to 18 months.

  22. JenB says:

    So, I was attempting to be humorous. I guess that failed. As far as important news in the world, that is news of the Church usually. I can find the other stuff from other sources, usually. I too live within walking distance of many farms, and my family easily lives within bicycling distance of two churches (hey, we can cycle over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge if there are no cars) I’m just not sure the pastors live within a reasonable distance to the churches. As we live on the border of a rural area, the communities near us are already fairly tight-knit and people still care for each other, help each other out, and are used to concepts like bartering. I think the surrounding area would quickly find ways to be of service to each other and find solutions. The big cities are over a large bridge and far away by foot (or bicycle). Most of my family is within a day’s trip by bike, so we can still care for my grandfather, who is on hospice. The most immediate problem would be finding a source for fresh water.

  23. Kerry says:

    Pictures: http://images.military.com/DT/images/Graham.pdf
    And thoughtful insights: http://www.futurescience.com/emp/emp-grounding.html
    However, prayers first. A Hail Mary of prevention is worth several pounds of grounded cages. Our Lady of La Salette; Our Lady of Akita; Our Lady of the Americas.

  24. Dr. Eric says:

    If Papabile is correct, then a solar EMP would be one of the instruments of THE END. After the EMP comes The Judgment.

  25. mike cliffson says:

    “…./.. Do you want to scare the hell out of us?”
    Or to put it another way, I want to scare us out of hell. ”
    Ten years we lived in a town with frequent tremors, tho the fault with common damage is a distance away. I miss the tremors. I need reminding I’m not God. How do Californians feel?

  26. I have to second LarryD’s suggestion of SM Stirling’s Dies the Fire…

    Stirling thought about people working together to build up a rural community- and the danger of people reacting like they did in New Orleans. It’s an absolutely fascinating (and at times depressing) read.

    After reading that book I started thinking about my plan.

  27. AvantiBev says:

    I would shoot the looters; the dogs I would feed. The angel telling Balaam that she would have killed him for his disobedience but sparred his poor donkey always tickles me whenever I read Numbers.

  28. AvantiBev says:

    Oops. Spare his poor donkey

  29. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Mike Cliffson, Californians are mostly in denial to protect themselves emotionally. I lived there for two years in what the local civil defense people determined was a liquifaction zone. I was on the first floor of a concrete slab three story apartment building with a garage underneath. In a 6 or over “event” I would have been turned into a pizza on the roof of someone’s Lexus.

    Ohio’s tornados are more three card montyish in their destruction.

  30. Tina in Ashburn says:

    So we have the coffee beans and the grinder. What about the water?? Anyone here an expert on distilling water over an open flame? It is apparently pretty easy but takes a while. Any suggestions for non-electric contraptions?

    Y’know leave it to Father Z to remind of the important things. How many of us put more effort into maintaining our electronics and possessions than we do maintaining the health of our soul with frequent confession?

    As far as EMPs, if you live underground, everything is pretty much ‘grounded’. There are bunkers for that. Ironically, before Father posted this article, I was reviewing a website of a company that builds underground bunkers and living spaces.

  31. Papabile says:

    People who think that because the live “next to a farm”, etc. will be safe — should reevaluate.

    The fact is, modern farming relies on vast amounts of technology to produce crops. I would plan on doing aggressive farming for yourselves. Canning will be important, and then being able to defend yourself from vast amounts of people who emigrate from the cities once they stop receiving food.

    Slaughtering, butchering, salting and preserving meat would be important. I would also organize neighbors into defense associations very quickly.

    Read: https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=449384

  32. Papabile: Not to mention hybrid seed.

  33. SouthTxMom says:

    Don’t forget rosaries and small prayer bks in B.O.B.’s for both parents and kids.

    Good site for prepping : http://www.thenewsurvivalist.com/
    [Hope it’s OK to post link]

  34. Brad says:

    Does anyone recall the news story from about a year ago about the small boy who died on the operating table and came back, and his dad, evangelist, I think, helped him write a book? Does anyone recall the name or the title?

    The scary picture for this thread reminded me of the quote from the book I heard. Someone asked him what’s God like, meaning the Second Person, and he said, as only a little boy could, “he’s sooooooooooo big…he can hold the whole world in his hand” and he said it very gravely.

  35. Supertradmum says:

    The early Christian communities faced persecutions, famines, war. And the reason why the Church flourished was not only because of prayer and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but because people were willing to join into communities and help each other. St. Benedict’s vision of monasteries came out of the decay and degeneration of the Western culture known for hundreds of years. May I suggest the type of community effort we saw at Y2K, wherein blocks of people got together to plan for the worse..which did not happen. However, the lessons learned are invaluable. Prayer and action, prayer and work…we need to be wide awake and yet peaceful, not panicking, but being aware of our duty to our neighbors and God.

  36. Banjo pickin girl says:

    You mean non-hybrid seed, don’t you, that will breed true from generation to generation without backcrossing?

  37. inara says:

    Brad, I think you’re referring to “Heaven Is For Real”…I haven’t read it, but noticed it at the store & it intrigued me…

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