In this universe I am developing for a game, I would like to learn the limits of technological development due the prevalence of frequent solar storms that are much more intense than the ones from our own sun.

From what I have noticed, the smaller the star is compared to our own, the more intense and frequent the solar storms, which here when they happen, are known to knock out entire electric grids.

How would this limit the level of technological development, and at what point would the advance of technology would no longer be possible? (IE Neolithic, Bronze Age Iron age, Medieval, Preindustrial, Industrial, Atomic Age, Space Age, and Information Age)

Note that it is type K stars, or orange dwarfs that these alien worlds would be around. also note I am not going with red or ultracool dwarf stars (type M stars) as even though there are quite commonly planets in the ecosphere of the star, they more often than not have their atmospheres destroyed by their parent star's CMEs, solar wind, radiation, and solar storms.


1 Answer 1


Society could progress quite far

Let's start by looking at what extreme space weather can do to modern technology. NASA's on the case:

Modern society depends on a variety of technologies susceptible to the extremes of space weather. Strong electrical currents driven along the Earth’s surface during auroral events disrupt electric power grids and contribute to the corrosion of oil and gas pipelines. Changes in the ionosphere during geomagnetic storms interfere with high-frequency radio communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation. During polar cap absorption events caused by solar protons, radio communications can be compromised for commercial airliners on transpolar crossing routes.

None of the affected technologies would exist before the widespread use of electricity. So technology could develop to Industrial Revolution levels with the exception of the telegraph.

Fortunately, there are ways of protecting equipment against damage. According to NBC, "Safeguarding the grid against solar storms and EMPs would cost between 10 billion and 30 billion [dollars]."

In the real world, scientists figured out how electricity worked through experimentation and good old fashioned trial-and-error. Frequent solar storms would add complexity. A scientist might invent something that works for days or weeks and then suddenly stops working. That might delay the R&D efforts until they figure out what's going on. At some point, scientists would realize how to protect their electrical wires and technology could progress at an accelerated pace. The effects of solar storms on radio means that wired communications might be preferred over wireless, which would limit some areas of development (like smart phones). But overall, you could have computers and high technology even with frequent and aggressive solar storms.

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    $\begingroup$ excellent answer $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 4:35

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