Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

Summary:2012. The end of the world. Or, maybe, the end of electronics. Or, maybe not. Maybe it'll be 2013.

2012. The end of the world. Or, maybe, the end of electronics. Or, maybe not. Maybe it'll be 2013. It could be the end of civilization as we know it. Or, maybe not.

For the record, I'm not making this up. These are the sort of third-hand, reasonably imprecise dire warnings we're hearing from some sources.

Follow along, because either we're doomed -- or duped.

According to an article in Monday's issue of New American, an Australian columnist and "lecturer" named Dave Reneke is claiming that 2012 (or maybe 2013) could be the year that the sun flares to a level that it destroys global electronics.

Reneke bases his analysis on interpretations of a $31 research report published by the National Academies Press, based out of Washington, DC.

Another report claims, and I couldn't make this up if I tried, that a "Sun storm to hit with 'force of 100m bombs'".

This one, too, goes on to quote Aussie "lecturer" Reneke, who states that a coming Solar Max storm "will be the most violent in 100 years".

Sigh.

I got involved in this story when one of my favorite fellow ZDNet bloggers (who shall remain nameless as I'm about to put my mock on) suggested I write about what the American government was going to do about our impending doom.

Okay, okay. Fine. First, the obvious disclaimers. I am not an astronomer. My engineering degree is in computer science, which gives me some technical cred, but I did not take even one course on the subject about which I'm writing today.

That said, I am a darned good researcher. I have not found much credible information that backs up Reneke's claim. There are a lot of blog spoutings on the topic, one article by an ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) affiliate claiming it's all rubbish, but nothing tangible that supports Reneke's doom and gloom story, especially as he's managed to situate it in the middle of 2012.

Of course, that doesn't mean he's not right. History is filled with stories of renegade Renekes who warned about impending doom, only to be ignored and later proven correct.

This brings us back to my fellow blogger's question about what the American government is doing about it. Let's chunk that question up and ask what the American government is doing about any of our crisis areas?

Are they fixing our roads and bridges? No. Are they really solving our health care crisis? No. Are our politicians able to stand in a room together for even a few hours without making sophomoric outbursts? No.

America is having a focus problem. Right now, the left is fighting with the left. The right is fighting with the right. Neither side is putting America first for problems that are provable, urgent, and tangible right now.

In that light, has American prepared its infrastructure for an influx of solar radiation?

Um, no. Outside of a few structures and systems hardened for any eventuality, if we're hit by the Mother of All Solar Maxes, we're probably screwed.

On the other hand, 2012 is an election year, and we could wind up with President Palin.

I guess you just takes your chances no matter how the world turns.

Go ahead, TalkBack. But before you do, know that I really like Sarah Palin. I don't want her to be president, but I do like her. Okay, now go ahead and let 'em rip.

Topics: Health, Browser, CXO, Government, Government : US, IT Employment, Legal

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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