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‘Internet apocalypse’ possible, scientist warns

Artist’s concept of Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun (NASA/Released)
November 14, 2023

The awe-inspiring Northern Lights might be a precursor to what Professor Peter Becker of George Mason University terms an “internet apocalypse,” a potential consequence of intensified solar activity.

Fromm Becker’s perspective, a new era of solar storms could threaten vital global technologies, including the internet, which the modern world heavily relies on. Becker’s team aims to create a warning system to alert people of solar dangers, according to Fox Weather.

Becker warned, “The internet has come of age during a time when the sun has been relatively quiet, and now it’s entering a more active time. It’s the first time in human history that there’s been an intersection of increased solar activity with our dependence on the internet and our global economic dependence on the internet.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center recently updated its forecast, suggesting that Solar Cycle 25 could peak earlier and more intensely than expected, possibly starting in early to mid-2024.

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Becker warned that the effects of solar flares could be significant. He explained that when the “sun brightens,” humans can observe the radiation as a kind of “muzzle flash.” He added that the “cannon shot” is the sun’s coronal mass ejection.

“So, we can see the flash, but then the coronal mass ejection can go off in some random direction in space, but we can tell when they’re actually going to head towards Earth,” he stated. “And that gives us about 18 hours of warning, maybe 24 hours of warning before those particles actually get to Earth and start messing with Earth’s magnetic field.”

According to Becker, the sun’s solar flares pose a serious risk to the power grid, satellites, fiber optic cables, GPS systems, and communication equipment.

“And then you get this kind of insidious thing where you could actually get current from the ground,” Becker added. “So everybody thinks, ‘Oh, my computer’s grounded, I’m okay,'” but in an event like this, if you drive inductive currents to the surface of the Earth, it can almost work backward, and you can end up actually frying things that you thought were relatively safe.” 

Becker emphasized the importance of preparation, stating that “every minute counts” in putting satellites in safe mode and taking transformers offline to prevent damage. He warned that most large companies currently lack the financial incentive to fortify their systems against risks from the sun’s solar flares.

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.