In the future, it's incredibly likely that the sun will fart out a huge cloud of charged particles and cripple our electronics indefinitely via an electromagnetic pulse. It's already happened once before. In 1859, a series of coronal mass ejections caused a geomagnetic storm, causing telegraphs to short out all across the U.S. and Europe. If this happened today, we'd be looking at the widespread disruption of satellites and electrical grids and our lives, trillions of dollars of damage, and a complete takedown of Twitter. So there's one thing to get excited about, at least.
So how do you solve a problem like the sun? Well, seeing as we can't kill the bastard, we have to find a way to protect ourselves from the radiation. Quite poetically, the very thing these storms would take away from us might be what will saves us: communication. Very Low Frequency (VLF) signals are a special type of radio signal that is mostly used by submarines because it can easily travel through salt water. However, another property of VLF signals is that after they're sent, they get stuck in the atmosphere. As a result, these signals have created a low-level radiation shield capable of protecting us from the vast majority of solar ejections. And all this because submarine crews are such a chatty bunch.
Discovering the VLF bubble isn't only good news because we've discovered an accidental shield against the apocalypse. We can now build a way better one by just trying. According to a recent paper by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, creating such a shield simply would be a matter of installing a magnetic deflector at distance of 205,000 miles from our planet. The downside is that this deflector would have to be a planet-sized ring of copper wiring powered by a solar farm. The upside is that not only would humanity be saving the planet, but we'd also finally be putting a ring on it.
Strangely, the issue here isn't the complexity of building a planetary ring of metal, which might sound crazy but is already doable. Instead, it's the fact that we're looking at a bill estimated to be upwards of a hundred billion dollars. As with everything else, however, the cost can probably be justified by the fact that it's going to be cheaper than having the sun reset the world and plunging us into another Dark Age. We'd rather be poor and still be able to check Facebook than be poor and have to figure out how to grow turnips again.
Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook, and has a newsletter about depressing history that you can subscribe to. It's really good, honest.
Even if Red Lobster does go out of business, there's no way they stop selling the Cheddar Bay biscuits, right? Right? Save our oceans.
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For more ways the Earth is doomed, check out 5 Major Cities That Are Going to Be Destroyed and 6 Horrible Historical Disasters (We Actually Saw Coming).
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