Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

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.

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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, Legal, IT Employment

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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Talkback

167 comments
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  • Forget Reneke. Remember Einstein!

    Recalling a quote from Einstein, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." (1947).

    Einstein was right on most counts. What do you think?
    varunh
    • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

      totally agree with Einstein, but this is off-subject.
      lcoleary
      • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

        @lcoleary Sticks and stones implies a post digital world, so not so off topic.
        boggs@...
    • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

      @varunh
      The thing about WW-IV implies a WW_III to come first !
      That could very likely cause a lot of destruction.
      hkommedal
  • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

    Duped.
    snberk341
  • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

    Actually, Americans love to be scared. You can sell stuff to scared people, and the American media knows this... so they feed Americans one scary story after another to build that fear up. Unfortunately for the rest of the world that scary stuff slops over the borders.

    Watch the international news outlets for confirmation. In the US a smash-n-grab at an Apple store news item becomes a chance to scare Americans about crime and guns and the chances for being caught in the middle of a vicious breaking of glass. In the rest of the world it would be a page 29 item about the theft of 8 iPhones.

    Boo!
    snberk341
    • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

      @snberk341

      That's about my take as well. To put a slightly different point on it I'd say most people don't actually love to be scared. They are more ruled by their ceaseless efforts to appear brave, smart, together, etc. Media sells to the degree it supports that effort as evoking by naming our fears gives the illusion of courage, power, smarts, etc. and those experiences as illusion are good enough for getting by which is all (sadly) most are left committed to.
      Bernard Shanfield
      • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

        @Bernard Shanfield

        I believe that you are putting a more positive spin on this than warrants. I don't believe it allows people to appear brave.... I think it allows them to justify the products bought and decisions made to enhance the illusion of safety. It makes them feel less scared.... not more brave. But that's just my opinion.
        snberk341
      • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

        @snberk341

        Yes, spinning gently as I write to be heard, words can impact as hard as fists, and I'm have no interest in being hurtful.

        Yes, feeling justified, avoiding external blame or internal condemnations in various forms all serve a sense of being in control of the moment and at least thinking we know what's going to happen. Moving from terror to just scared while still a perhaps low state takes great courage.

        Thanks for a gentle man's spirit in your words during these time of the sky falling before the world's end, again! ;)
        Bernard Shanfield
    • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

      @snberk341 Not sure Americans love it, but they eat it right up. That's how government and corporations sell you so much crap. There are at least a few of us who are not stupid enough to believe it all.
      Al_nyc
      • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

        @Al_nyc AAAAAAAAMEN!
        ItsTheBottomLine
  • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

    We can not have both ways Have a small government and ask the government to solve all our problems from health care to the oil speal to global policemen and defence from sun flairs. Think about taxes...
    ivan.sipos@...
  • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

    "<b><i>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.</b></i>"

    This is nothing new. It's just at a ridiculous and insane level right now.

    Like Y2K, I suspect we will address this issue about 12 to 18 months before a Solar Max is predicted to occur. However, a Solar Max is a force of Nature and not computer code. The protection(s) required had better have an achievable finish date to address something of this nature in a mere 12 to 18 months. My guess is we will argue and debate the solution to the place where we miss the tipping -point and end up in trouble of some kind. I will be more surprised if we actually get a fix in place that will work ahead of the ensuing collapse of electronics as we know it. This of course, is provided that the pundits are correct.
    The Rifleman
    • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

      Like I said....
      snberk341
    • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

      @The Rifleman all we need is a 24 or 48 hours notice, an a politican with the guts to order the shut down all unprotected electral equipement.

      Unfortuantly if Palin is in charge she probably just try to shoot the Solar flare with her shot gun or blame the Russians.
      Knowles2
  • When does the movie come out? - NT

    .
    HooNoze
    • Jan 11, 2013

      @HooNoze Jan 11, 2013
      Scubajrr
    • It already did -- it was called "2012"(nt)

      @HooNoze
      Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182
      • RE: Will the digital world be destroyed in 2012?

        @murphym@...
        nah! it was "Y2K"
        Mike.Moller@...
  • simple solution

    I'm fixin' to disconnect and hide all my electronical equipments under the bed. That ought to protect 'em just fine!
    pikeman666