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In the SF/post-Apocalyptic world that I'm building, the Earth is struck by interplanetary EMP bombardments that destroy most electronics. The year is around 2040~50, and the tech level is bumped back to late 19th c. and wars ravage and crumble civilizations due to lack of resources.

I initially considered the possibility where the Sun undergoes a strange plasmic transformation, emitting series of X-class EMP bursts much more frequently, but I'd like to ask if there could be more likely space events (e.g. EM ray from distant galaxy striking either the Sun or Earth, Earth's magnetosphere depletion causing ordinary solar flares to cause greater havoc, severe CME storms etc.) that can cause regular EMP bombardments that permanently make the production/maintenance of electronics severely more difficult on the Earth's surface.

In the world, biotech had developed before this global EMP event, allowing production of artificial organisms in shielded locations. So I'm trying to build a plausible world where biopunk tech replaces the current-world electronics tech due to EMP bombardments. Machines/electronics do function in shielded environments (e.g. Faraday cages, underground/water facilities), but can't function on the surface unprotected, necessitating biotech.

(I've looked into the Revolution TV series in which nanites cause a permanent blackout, but I'm not considering that tech or any artificial EMP strikes)

Thank you in advance

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  • $\begingroup$ As a sidenote: vacuum tubes respond very little to EMP. If useful for your setting, you could have them used for basic automation or radio communications without shielding being needed. $\endgroup$
    – spectras
    Nov 20, 2021 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ Why would you take the time to consider anything real, when you could more easily get on with Building your World? If you want EMP, state that this, that or the other weapon (or effect) causes EMP. $\endgroup$ Nov 20, 2021 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ To be clear: No man made EMPs? $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2022 at 0:46

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Handwavium, right? Like, lotsa handwavium, but with a plausible mechanism.

IK Pegasi is a binary with a secondary 1.15 M☉ white dwarf and A-type main-sequence star primary. They circle each other in a close enough orbit with only 21.72168 days as period.

Moreover, the primary is a Delta-Scuti variable, with an actual metallicity ratio of 1.17, about 17% richer in metallic elements than the Sun (so, maybe a tad older than the Sun)

Handwaving it accordingly, if you make the primary going a red giant, the system can become a cataclismic variable binary - in which the progenitor's mass form an accretion disk and falls into the white dwarf until the later bursts in a recurrent nova. It is plausible to happen in the near future, Wikipedia lists them among near Earth future supernovae ("as little as 1000 years" they say).

Because the two Pegasi are pretty close one to another, it just (handwave) happens that the periodicity is exactly 1 year and the effects happen on Earth just when the Sun, Earth and the two Pegasi are aligned. Periods that short aren't common in Milky Way, but it happened in the yard of our neighbor, Andromeda, with M31N 2008-12a, which went for millions of years and created a super-remnant of size in 100pc range (300+ ly).

So, Ok, the radiation of the nova explosion is not felt so intense at the IK Pegasi distance (154 ly and its a nova explosion, not a supernova, with an intense shock rich in gamma rays), however the super-remnant is made of highly ionized gas and it will (handwave) increase the amount of ionization in Earth ionosphere by quite a lot. Even without the Sun being "angry" and throwing its crown everywhere at that moment, but an influx of charged particles in ionosphere will create new radiation belts. Nukes with just a couple of kilotons exploding in near-space during the Argus operation established a radiation belt lasting for weeks and "damage or destroy arming and fusing mechanisms of intercontinental ballistic missile warheads, and endanger crews of orbiting space vehicles... degrade the reception and transmission of radar signals". Scale up, with a new front from the super-remnant arriving each year, lasting over times spanning of few weeks, and impacting the whole Earth surface.

If you still don't think that's enough for the "yearly EMP", handwave some side effects on the Solar activity cycle, with the coronal ejection more probable in the direction of incoming ionized super-remnant, due to the magnetic lines reconnection being enhanced by the "interstellar current" flowing in. One decadal Carrington event should keep the things at bay in regards with the use of electricity and electronics.

Bonus point if, during the yearly "global ionization fest", the super-remnant delivers to Earth a trace dose of extra radioactive elements, sprinkled over the entire surface of Earth and flipping memory bits 1000 times more frequent than today ("Internet's DNS system... up to 3,434 incorrect requests per day due to bit-flip changes for various common domains.") all year around and increasingly so every year.

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    $\begingroup$ That's one detailed string of events to make that occurrence possible even... Thank you Adrian for your answer. I've learned a lot. I guess I'll have to do some more research to make it work $\endgroup$
    – SFSyd1103
    Nov 20, 2021 at 12:11
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Q: "regular EMP bombardments that permanently make the production/maintenance of electronics severely more difficult"

A yearly EMP needs not be so big, to make production difficult.. some black hole far away, wagging its plasma jet** tail in a certain direction.. Earth travels through it every year.. refer to Adrian's answer for the options.

For me and my fellow computer programmers, these small, yearly EMP's pose an issue ! we will get the blame, when our bits start flipping. Bet it does not take that much cosmic energy, to organize subtle, annual ionizing events, resulting in slightly more say order 10e3 more flipping bits than usual. Everyday humanity will hardly notice these EMP's, computer users will.

It could already be happening.

Usually, the bugs pop up in September and computer programmers get fired in the first week of October. Most of the "bug fixing" is done in India, because India is not affected by the EMP's ?

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** ref. ChristopherJamesHuff comment below, indeed Hawking has nothing to do with it, the "tail" I referred to is the jet of plasma emerging from the rotational center of the black hole https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrophysical_jet

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    $\begingroup$ That's an interesting phenomenon - that Hawking tails could wreak havok in computers and electronics. I might be able to switch EMP bombardments to Hawking tails to make the world plausible. Thanks $\endgroup$
    – SFSyd1103
    Nov 20, 2021 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ Ow please refer to Adrian's answer for documented causes.. I've no link for my assumption black holes can do this. I worked out a different topic you mentioned, that is the economic consequences ! $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Nov 20, 2021 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ Hawking radiation is just black body electromagnetic radiation, so no tails. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2021 at 0:25
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @ChristopherJamesHuff, I have put a correction. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Nov 21, 2021 at 0:40

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