The pretty lights are deadly

When Morse’s dot-dash telegraph was in full swing in 1859, the strongest solar storm on record occurred. In a three-stage process X-ray and ultraviolet-soaked sunlight ionised Earth’s upper atmosphere, disrupting radio waves; followed by a radiation storm; and closing with a coronal mass ejection (CME) that collided with Earth’s magnetic field, causing powerful electromagnetic fluctuations. It is these fluctuations that caused telegraphs to spark and shock workers, disrupting communications across the globe.

Since 1859, there have been more solar storms. In March 1989, a CME caused a blackout across the city of Quebec, resulting in a halt of all trading on Toronto’s stock market.

Funny how the thing that gives us life could take away so much? It really makes you stop and realise how fragile this delicate network of nodes and servers is.

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8 comments

  1. I think it is a very interesting blog.
    There is no direct narrative of networking evolutionary, but with another thing to express, and finally return to the network topic.

  2. Hi Kae,
    Really interesting read and i couldn’t help but follow the links and read further into the subject! Like you said it’s interesting how the two seem to give contrasting affects. Perhaps this could be said about simple things such as severe weather causing damage to electrical components of household electricity, yet we still need the storms resources (rain) to extend life. It puts into perspective how controlled and dependant we are on these technologies and weather it’s a pattern referred to in your meme. In addition to this point, an article has surfaced which looks at how much damage has actually been done. Very enjoyable read and effective use of the meme 😀

  3. The fact that you engaged with something other than the history of the telegraph is very refreshing and the way you executed your memes was great, especially the decision to have a few in a series. I think your last two photos in the series are absolutely accurate and really humorous, a perfect way of depicting a modern take on such a crazy phenomenon. I was drawn in to the title and was not disappointed with the content. A great read!

  4. Hey,
    I loved how once the title of your blog first drew my attention I was caught by the series of memes preceding the text. It is interesting to think that if another solar storm of this scale occurred today the aftermath of that would probably send us into a global meltdown – at least if only for a short while. Our dependency on the internet and global communications is never more highlighted when we think of losing it, and I think you have encouraged others to think about this in a very interesting and captivating way, while also undertaking your own research into a topic that strays from and enhances thinking on the lecture and readings. Your series of memes is also very good because they do explain themselves without the need for the text in a way that is funny and fascinating.
    Thank you for a great post!

  5. The vulnerability of networks to a physical phenomenon is shocking (ha!). It reveals our naive understanding of its inception and its stable access in life. We forget it is a collection of nodes and people through wires. WIRES AND RADIO WAVES that can be disrupted. We marvel at the primitive nature of a telegram and the corded phone, but modern technology still works on the same principals: transmitted data through a medium. I love your presentation of the deadly pretty lights and our ignorance of them. I think all we can do is admire its beauty because we can’t conceptualise the potential risk they present.

  6. Wow. This really did paint a pretty clear picture into the fragility of the information networks that we have become so stupendously dependent on. We only need to look back on Ted’s metaphor of these information networks as a human body, to show the further illustrate this. Your post has definitely enticed me to read further into solar storms and what the repercussions would be on modern day life. Thanks for the read.

  7. Hahaha, we’ve spent so much time over the last two weeks talking about how the internet was at least partially designed as a decentralised network because it would resist being taken out in one hit, and here the Sun is just spitting in our faces!

    Oh, Sun… My old nemesis strikes again.

    I suppose a centralised network wouldn’t have fared any better though, and it’d be all up more difficult, more expensive and less useful for our current standards and purposes than what we’ve got.

    Bring it on Sun! Fight me! (Or not me directly, I’ll probably lose. So would the planet. You know what, scratch the threat, just leave our internet alone.)

  8. I love the way you connect the solar system and internet on this topic. It reminds me of some articles which I read previously, showed that the solar windstorm can affect numerous electronic devices on the planet, such as cell phones and internet as well. It makes me feel like internet is just nothing at the end of the day as it can’t beat the nature despite the invention of internet or telegraph causes a dramatic shift in the world. Of course, we can’t say that the internet is just nothing, it does bring a lot of benefits to us; however, it does bring more harm than good if we are too addicted to the virtual world. Anyhow, I start asking myself to have more fun and networks in the real world since it is not just about the global network on the internet is fragile, we human also are fragile. Meanwhile, I am not saying that internet does no good to us; but, having a balanced life style is vital. Nice post anyway!

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