This is for a project where the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from early US atomic bomb tests is somehow much more magnified than the destructive blast- so much so that it destroys electrical devices all over the globe (for the moment how is a mystery). The questions I have about this include the following:

1) Roughly how long would it take society to rebuild its technology, assuming it even can (the post apoc tag might not apply, I included it because in earlier drafts the society that followed remained fairly low-tech)?

2) The gritty details involving the atomic tests at the time were likely classified- how do I make sure people within and without American borders connect the disaster to the testing and hold the US responsible (In all likelihood outside forces tampering with the bombs contributed to this effect but most people wouldn't know that)?

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    $\begingroup$ Well, that was surprisingly underwhelming. I'm going to turn on all the lights in my house, listen to the radio then drive around. $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2016 at 18:55

2 Answers 2


The problem is not that EMP is not possible, but that the sort of electronic devices in use in the 1940's were much less susceptible to EMP than the type we use today.

Most electronic items in this time period use vacuum tubes, which are far more capable of resisting the voltage surge than transistors and modern microelectronics. As well, the few electronic computers in existence are also powered by racks of vacuum tubes. They are far more likely to fail due to insects shorting out the circuits or vacuum tubes overheating or losing their vacuum.

Even long distance electrical generation and transmission is not as widespread as we understand this today. The transmission lines will pick up the pulse and deliver it to the end points, burning out transformers and generators, but the electrical grid does not connect as many people either in absolute numbers or percentage wise as today, a large fraction of the population might not even notice!

The only visible manifestation of the event would be a vary large and wide ranging aurora display in the night sky, probably extending almost to the equator if this is a global event. People will wonder what happened, but for scientists with no knowledge of the Manhattan project, they will most likely decide that this is the result of a solar flare, much like the Carrington Event of 1859.


Is this what you were thinking of? http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdetwiler/2014/07/31/protecting-the-u-s-against-the-electromagnetic-pulse-threat-a-continued-failure-of-leadership-could-make-911-look-trivial-someday/#7fd799af7fcd

Also look up faraday cages. Invented in 1944 these would have stopped the EMP from destroying all tech. However, I believe that most tech would be destroyed. However after all tech was destroyed this question answers the rest. If all our technology disappeared, how long would it take to make a smart phone?

For the second question you could...

  • angry scientists: Albert Einstein and quite a few other scientists knew about the Manhattan project. They may know how the EMP happened and rat on the US.

  • witnesses: Someone sees the atomic bomb explode. Sees all the electronics get destroyed. And connects the dots.

  • spies: There were spies... They would go back to their home countries and probably tell about how some top security project happened same day as the EMP.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, but this doesn't address the points Thucydides made- maybe if they tested another form of atomic weapon some years later... yeah,after following your link Aarthe III maybe the Bikini Atoll might be a better fit for this. $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2016 at 3:07
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    $\begingroup$ @king I actually wrote this at around two. I just realized I hadn't posted it around ten mins ago. When I posted it refreshed and I saw there already was an answer. XD $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2016 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ Wide ranging EMP was discovered when the high altitude "STARFISH" series of tests was conducted in the 1950's (of course by then the atomic bomb was pretty well known). The conditions are the X-ray pulse generates huge numbers of electrons in the upper atmosphere where they interact with the Earth's magnetic field. If Trinity was detonated after being fired from a rocket to the edge of space, everyone would have been in for a big surprise. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Mar 27, 2016 at 4:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Thucydides yeah, that's what my first link was about. Quite interesting. I +1 you for good thinking. $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2016 at 4:25

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