2013 – The Day Computers Die

Here is the million dollar question of the week: Are we too dependent on technology? And, do we need to be? Or, are we just overgrown kids who love our toys? What would you say if someone told you, you would need to live without your computer for a week, or a month, or three months? Let us go one step further, how would you feel about going without electricity for that same week, month, or three months? What would be your first thought? Running around screaming with our hands on each side of our head is what we would do too. We know, we know, you think you could deal with it, but you would probably “lose it” after just a few hours without email and Internet right? May as well ask how long we could all stand to be without air?

So, why are we bringing this up? 2013. Let us put aside year 2012 for a minute, since we have no real scientific proof the Earth is going to “disappear” and all life on it is going to die. However, 2013 is, scientifically, a very important year. Everything begins with our very important planet – the Sun. Since it is pretty active, every now and then solar activity reaches its maximum and basically what happens is the energy “explodes” sending waves of radiation and magnetic energy out towards the planets. These explosions, as we understand them come from solar flares (sun spots). Every 11 years, the number of sun spots reaches its upper limit, and the Sun’s magnetic cycle reaches its peak every 22 years. This time those two activities will overlap, which will in turn produce huge levels of radiation. This could also be seen as an enormous “bolt of lightning”, which could look really amazing (we are reminded of Aurora Borealis or the “northern lights”, a beautiful natural phenomenon). However, the consequences of this phenomenon may not be so charming.

According to NASA scientists’ predictions, this solar activity could knock down power grids by overheating them and causing a power collapse. Since the flares change the magnetic field on the Earth, all electronic items, from cell phones to satellites, could simply stop working. Let us put it another way, the Sun’s “sneeze” could affect hospital equipment, bank systems, air traffic control devices, and even iPods. Sadly all we can say in that moment is: Bless you! Seriously though, imagine this scenario: the whole world without power for months. Even though this is not likely, some of the scientists sound pretty pessimistic in their predictions. Once the power grids were affected, it would take some time to get them back up and running. Of course, not all scientists agree about how long this could last. Most likely, northern Europe and Britain would be without power for hours or maybe just days since they have weaker power grids than the U.S. Maybe being a “super power” is not such a good thing after all. Ok, I admit it, bad joke.

So, going back to the original question: how dependent are we on technology? Will we even recognize our more primal instincts when they appear? Will we react properly? Worst case, a lot of us will not be able to go to work, travel, go to the bank, and so on. And what will it mean for us, as individuals? How many of us communicate more electronically with instant messages, emails, and telephone/ cellular phone calls than face to face? However, there may be some bright spots in this very dark tale (yes, pun intended). One positive, if you have a mean boss, you can legitimately be unavailable. Same thing goes for your bossy mother in law, meddling mom, nosy aunt, et cetera, et cetera (unless you live with any of these folks, in which case our sympathies). On the other hand, Internet gamers and those who live for Facebook may find themselves at the mercy of a nasty thing we all know as BOREDOM. Maybe it is not too late to start learning how to crochet? You know that deck of playing cards grandma gave you? You might not want to put them in this year’s garage sale.

Economically, we do not even want to think about all the damage this event could cause. Hurricane Katrina (2005) caused an estimated damage of more than $125B; and scientists say the Sun’s “hiccup” could cost us twenty times more!

So, is there anything we can do to prevent this event? We are afraid not. However, there are certain precautions that can be taken in order to lower the damage, and therefore the costs. Such as sending satellites away from the (big) flares and possible radiation current, that way power grids could be temporarily shut down to improve voltage levels and communication networks could be additionally protected against this type of radiation. As for us, we should not use electrical devices during the time the wave comes to the Earth, and unplug all appliances as you are supposed to in thunderstorms, for example. Although personally, having to replace my stereo will be the least of my concerns if this event does take place.

In any case, whatever happens, if this scientific prediction is correct, it will affect us. So the best we can do is hope our president, other world leaders and the scientific community can devise a solution; and, perhaps more importantly, start getting along with our families and friends, and those we live with or near since we may soon get a lot of “together time”.

Geeks On Site provides computer repair and support services to homes and businesses nationwide, both onsite and remotely. Services include but are not limited to: PCs/Macs, networks, printers and scanners, PDAs and MP3 players, software and hardware.

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