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Is NASA really prepared for an 'internet apocalypse'?

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Is NASA really prepared for an 'internet apocalypse'?

Some researchers say there is a chance that a solar superstorm could cause a large-scale internet failure within the next decade.​

By Renee Yan
Updated Dec 26, 2023 2:37 p.m.


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A NASA probe may be the key to preventing a possible solar superstorm that could cause an "internet apocalypse," per a June report by The Weather Channel. What's more, the federal agency also recently announced a new system that trains artificial intelligence to help predict such extreme events.


Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi, a computer science expert at the University of California, Irvine, posited in a 2021 study that there is a 1.6 percent to 12 percent chance of such a months-long "catastrophic" internet disruption occurring within the next decade. Jyothi's paper estimates such a large-scale blackout could potentially cost the U.S. economy $7 billion per day. But NASA experts have reported that the Parker Solar Probe has uncovered significant new clues that help them understand the origins of solar winds—which, at high speeds, have the power to wreak havoc on Earth's satellites, radio communications, internet, and electrical grids—and prepare for them.
According to NASA, Parker, which launched in 2018, became the first spacecraft to "touch the sun" and enter its upper atmosphere, the corona. The goal was to help scientists examine how solar winds reach supersonic speeds and impact the larger space weather system. "Understanding the mechanism behind the sun's wind is important for practical reasons on Earth," said James Drake, physics professor at the University of Maryland, to Forbes' Jamie Carter in 2021. "That’s going to affect our ability to understand how the sun releases energy and drives geomagnetic storms, which are a threat to our communication networks."

Since Parker's deployment, scientists have learned that solar winds, made of streams of charged particles, are fueled by jets of energy that burst from the corona, also known as jetlets. "This changes the paradigm for how we think about certain aspects of the solar wind," physicist Craig DeForest said in the NASA report. This research, along with more data collected by Parker, could lead to future scientific breakthroughs. "We're not finished with the puzzle yet, but this is a major step forward for understanding a central mystery of solar physics," DeForest added.
On top of the typical flare-ups, scientists must also account for the 11-year solar cycle. At the cycle's "maximum," which is expected to be in 2025, electromagnetic activity on the sun peaks, bringing more risk of disruption to life on Earth. To help assess the danger, NASA recently created a new computer model that uses artificial intelligence to forecast extreme conditions. The new technology can predict where a solar storm will strike Earth with a 30-minute warning time, experts said. If adopted by power grid operators and telecommunication companies worldwide, officials can use it to protect their systems by moving them offline or issuing temporary shutdowns. "This could provide just enough time to prepare for these storms and prevent severe impacts on power grids and other critical infrastructure," NASA's site stated.
 

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so everything breakdown from traffic lights to mrt to mobile phones etc etc?
 
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