I watched you sleep
While other galaxies circled the sky,
The taste of your goodnight kiss
Fresh on my breath, still.
A feathery, warm wind
Gently lifted the locks
Of your shadowed hair,
Then let them fall.
Your sealed eyes fluttered,
I thought, like monarch butterflies
Over a summery earth,
Then lay still, again.
I didn’t dare speak,
Let alone believe,
That fateful word
Of capture and demise.
Best to let you and I
Fly as free as
Just good friends have—
Yes, that’s it.
S.A. Bort/28 October 2015
Photo from Wikipedia
What’s YOUR brain age? Take this test to find out and discover how simple lifestyle changes can knock years off it
- New brain test is being developed by Public Health England
- It takes into account weight, exercise levels, cholesterol and alcohol intake
- Lifestyle factors including how you socialise and how much you sleep you get each night affects a person’s risk of developing dementia in later life
Every new wrinkle reveals how our skin is aging, while our creaky joints and thickening waists tell the same story about the rate at which our bodies are growing old.
But what about our brains? What is happening within our heads as we age is far less obvious.
While many of us are familiar with the feeling of being less sharp as the years pass, or slower to process information, doctors have traditionally found it difficult to assess the rate at which our brains are aging.
But that could be about to change, as a new tool to calculate people’s ‘brain age’ is being developed by Public Health England.
A new tool to calculate people’s ‘brain age’ is being developed by Public Health England. It will look at information including weight, exercise levels, cholesterol and alcohol intake
It will look at information such as weight, exercise levels, cholesterol and alcohol intake, as experts are increasingly aware that lifestyle factors — from how much you socialise to how many hours you sleep each night — can affect how our brains decline, as well as our risk of developing certain forms of dementia.
These factors can determine how many brain cells we lose and how fast, for as we age our brain literally starts to shrink as we lose more and more brain cells.
‘The older we get, the faster these brain cells are lost,’ said Dr Stuart Ritchie, a research fellow at the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.
‘This leads to shrinkage in the size of the brain, and we now know that this shrinkage is linked to a loss of cognitive ability.’
The hundreds of connections between each of these cells, which help relay information, also start to fall apart.
‘The brain is just like any other part of your body — it can wear out with age,’ said Professor Michael Swash, emeritus professor of neurology at Queen Mary University of London.
‘After 60 we will all have some age-related changes to our brain.
Among the factors determining brain age is whether or not a person gets between seven and eight hours (or more) sleep each night
‘For some these changes will come earlier, and for some they will come later.
‘Some people even have genetics that protect them from having virtually any changes at all.’
Yet the new lifestyle-based test under development shows it is not just genetics that play a part; so too does the way you live your life.
So just how is your aging brain faring, and what future does it face?
Complete the test below, which has been developed by Dr Vincent Fortanasce, clinical professor of neurology at the University of Southern California, to find out your brain’s ‘real’ age — and see how your lifestyle could be hastening your cognitive decline…
ANSWER EITHER ‘TRUE’ OR ‘FALSE’ TO THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS:
1. I get between seven and eight hours (or more) sleep each night.
2. I eat at least five or more servings of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants daily.
3. I eat at least one serving of blueberries, raspberries or blackberries daily.
4. I eat baked or grilled fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least three times a week.
5. I take fish oil supplements high in omega-3 fatty acids or flaxseed supplements at least five times per week.
6. I take folic acid supplementation and a daily multivitamin.
7. I take a low-dose aspirin daily.
8. I drink red wine or grape juice at least five times a week.
9. I exercise most days of the week for at least 30 minutes each time (total of three hours or more of strenuous exercise weekly).
10. I read challenging books, do crossword puzzles or Sudoku, or engage in activities that require active learning, memorising, computation, analysis and problem solving at least five times a week.
11. I have ‘longevity genes’ in my family, with members who have lived to 80 and older without memory loss.
The quiz asks whether a person eats at least five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day
12. My total cholesterol is below 5.2 mmol/l.
13. My LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol is below 3.3 mmol/l.
14. I am not obese (less than 1.4 stone overweight for a woman; less than 2.1 stone overweight for a man).
15. I eat a Mediterranean style diet — one high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, with olive oil as the source of fat and little red meat.
16. Instead of butter and margarine, I use olive oil and no trans-fat spreads.
17. I have never smoked cigarettes.
18. I have normal blood pressure.
19. I do not have diabetes.
20. I do not have metabolic syndrome (high triglycerides, central obesity, and hypertension), also called insulin resistance syndrome.
21. I do not have a sleep disorder such as snoring or obstructive sleep apnea or untreated insomnia.
22. Daily uncontrolled stress is not a problem for me.
23. I have a strong support group and enjoy many activities with friends, colleagues, and family members.
24. I have no problems with short or long-term memory.
25. I’m ready to prevent Alzheimer’s and am willing to do whatever it takes.
And those taking part in the quiz are asked if they drink red wine or grape juice five times a week
NOW ADD UP HOW MANY QUESTIONS YOU ANSWERED ‘TRUE’ TO… AND SEE WHAT YOUR SCORES MEAN:
0-11: You have a high risk of Alzheimer’s. Add 10 years to your chronological age for your Real Brain Age. Right now, call your doctor and talk openly about health problems you have. Ask if you’re doing all you can to manage these problems.
12-14: You have a moderate risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Add five years to your chronological age for your Real Brain Age. While there’s not a lot of disparity between your Real Brain Age and your chronological age, you need to understand the risks you have that increase the chances of Alzheimer’s.
15-19: OK. Your Real Brain Age is the same as your chronological age. That said, you have a mild risk of Alzheimer’s disease, so pay attention. Carefully review the quiz to see what changes you need to make to your diet, exercise, mental stimulation or rest and relaxation.
20-22: Not bad! Subtract ten years from your chronological age for your Real Brain Age. You are doing a lot to take care of your physical and mental health. Check the specific questions that you marked ‘False’ and be sure to pay attention to changes you need to make.
23-25: Congratulations, you are aging well! Subtract 15 years from your chronological age for your Real Brain Age. You are presently healthy, with a youthful and productive mind. Unless things change in your life, your risk of Alzheimer’s disease is extremely low.
It’s important that you review the quiz and circle any of the statements that indicate some work is needed. Talk to your GP about your risk factors to see if treatment is indicated.
Having older relatives that have reached 80 years old without suffering memory loss can boost a person’s brain age, the test suggests
NOW… DISCOVER THE TRICKS TO KEEP YOUR BRAIN YOUNG
WORK OUT YOUR BODY
It used to be said that ‘Use It Or Lose It’ was the only way to keep your brain young.
And there does seem to be an element of truth in that. People who challenge their brain with crossword puzzles or Sudoku or by learning a new skill, such as a language, may help reduce the rate at which their brain ages, albeit only to a small degree.
What seems to work even better is having a fit body. Research shows that being physically fit will help keep your brain in good shape, too. Even just moderate walking for 30-35 minutes a day has been shown to help reduce the rate at which the aging brain shrinks.
And the idea that you are what you eat applies to your brain as well as your body.
Eating a Mediterranean-style diet, high in fruit and vegetables and low in meat and saturated fat, may have a protective effect. That is because the antioxidants in the fruit and vegetables may help prevent normal damage to the brain cells. Some experts believe that eating oily fish, rich in omega 3 oils, can also help reduce inflammation in the brain that may encourage damage to brain cells — although studies have not been conclusive on that.
And refraining from smoking has a positive effect on a person’s brain age
GET LOTS OF SLEEP
A lack of sleep is also brain-aging. A recent study found that people who work night shifts over a ten-year period age their brain by the equivalent of six-and-half years. It is thought that the lack of sleep can hasten the death of brain cells.
Poor diet can also have an aging effect. Studies have found that just a week of eating junk food can lead to problems with memory.
KICK BAD BRAIN HABITS
What is bad for your body is generally bad for your brain. Smoking, being overweight or having high blood pressure or raised cholesterol are all likely to increase the speed at which your brain ages. This is because all of these affect the health of the blood vessels in your body — and of blood vessels in your brain. The brain needs a good flow of blood, and even a tiny micro-bleed can lead to the death of cells.
HAVE A GOOD SOCIAL LIFE
An easy way to keep mentally young is to mix with others. People who stay ‘socially engaged’ seem to reduce the rate at which their brain ages.
‘This makes a difference — not a big one, but a difference nonetheless,’ says Dr Stuart Ritchie.
Studies demonstrate that those with a good social life fare better on cognitive tests as they age. Research has even shown that being part of a strong network can reduce the impact of Alzheimer’s disease.
Socially active adults have healthier brain scans, too, perhaps because interacting with others stimulates the parts of the brain involved in planning and decision-making.
The test aims to predict a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, pictured above in MRI scans
RELAX, DON’T OVERDO IT
While stimulation is good for the brain, too much challenge or too big a workload can be detrimental, as stress has a direct effect on brain function.
Research has found that stress is bad for brain cells and can disturb cognitive processes such as learning.
The area of the brain called the hippocampus, where memories are formed, can be debilitated by chronic stress, while high levels of the stress hormone cortisone has a corrosive effect. It can speed up short-term memory loss in older adults and wear down parts of the brain crucial for memory storage and processing. Some research even suggests stress can accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Yoga, exercise and meditation can help reduce stress and thereby reduce its negative effect on our brains.
For nearly 20 years, Dr. James W. Pennebaker has been giving people an assignment: write down your deepest feelings about an emotional upheaval in your life for 15 or 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Many of those who followed his simple instructions have found their immune systems strengthened. Others have seen their grades improved. Sometimes entire lives have changed.
Dr. James Pennebaker
Pennebaker, a professor in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin and author of several books, including “Opening Up” and “Writing to Heal,” is a pioneer in the study of using expressive writing as a route to healing. His research has shown that short-term focused writing can have a beneficial effect on everyone from those dealing with a terminal illness to victims of violent crime to college students facing first-year transitions.
“When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker says. “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. If they are first-year college students, their grades tend to go up. People will tell us months afterward that it’s been a very beneficial experience for them.”
In his early research Pennebaker was interested in how people who have powerful secrets are more prone to a variety of health problems. If you could find a way for people to share those secrets, would their health problems improve?
It turned out that often they would, and that it wasn’t even necessary for people to tell their secrets to someone else. The act of simply writing about those secrets, even if they destroyed the writing immediately afterward, had a positive effect on health. Further studies showed that the benefits weren’t just for those who had dramatic secrets, but could also accrue to those who were dealing with divorces, job rejections or even a difficult commute to work.
“Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives,” Pennebaker explains. “You don’t just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are—our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing helps us focus and organize the experience.”
Our minds are designed to try to understand things that happen to us. When a traumatic event occurs or we undergo a major life transition, our minds have to work overtime to try to process the experience. Thoughts about the event may keep us awake at night, distract us at work and even make us less connected with other people.
When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable. Individuals may see improvements in what is called “working memory,” essentially our ability to think about more than one thing at a time. They may also find they’re better able to sleep. Their social connections may improve, partly because they have a greater ability to focus on someone besides themselves.
If writing can have such a dramatic effect on our lives, does that mean that we would all be best off keeping a daily diary? Not necessarily, Pennebaker says. While his work is not inconsistent with diary keeping, it acts more as a kind of life course correction. It allows people to step back for a moment and evaluate their lives.
“I’m not convinced that having people write every day is a good idea,” Pennebaker says. “I’m not even convinced that people should write about a horrible event for more than a couple of weeks. You risk getting into a sort of navel gazing or cycle of self-pity.
“But standing back every now and then and evaluating where you are in life is really important.”
Pennebaker’s research is benefiting people outside of those who participate in his studies. In 2004 he published “Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval.” The book is aimed at a general audience and offers a primer on writing and healing and numerous exercises that anyone who is capable of putting pen to paper can undertake. People across the country are giving it a try.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based company WordPlay recently offered a workshop titled “Writing to Heal” that borrows heavily from Pennebaker’s work. The participants were not necessarily people who came to writing with an intention to publish. But they each brought a life event they hoped to work through, whether it was a childhood trauma or a recent battle with cancer. Instructor Maureen Ryan Griffin said that each of the students came away feeling the writing had made a difference in their experience.
“They left with a new sense of the power of words,” she says. “They actually got access to using language as a healing tool in a way they had never used it before. Through writing they become active creators of their life stories. They are not simply people something bad or painful has happened to.”
Pennebaker has been looking at specifically how people use language in their writings and whether certain approaches to language translate into greater benefits from writing. To do so, he and his colleagues developed a text analysis program called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). Using LIWC they can look at the types of words people use in their writings. They are discovering some interesting patterns.
“People who are able to construct a story, to build some kind of narrative over the course of their writing seem to benefit more than those who don’t,” Pennebaker says. “In other words, if on the first day of writing, people’s stories are not very structured or coherent, but over the three or four days they are able to come up with a more structured story, they seem to benefit the most.”
Making a story out of a messy, complicated experience may make the experience more manageable. Linguistically, Pennebaker looks for words that are associated with more complex thinking, including certain prepositions such as “except,” “without” and “exclude” and causal words such as “cause,” “effect” and “rationale.” An increase in these types of words over the writing process suggests that the experience is becoming clearer and more narrative.
Pennebaker has also found that the ability to change perspectives during the course of writing is also a potent indicator of how well the act of writing will benefit an individual. Using LIWC, he can analyze the types of pronouns an individual uses. A shift in pronouns means a shift in perspective.
“So one day they may be talking about how they feel and how they see it,” he says, “but the next day they may talk about what’s going on with others, whether it’s their family or a perpetrator or someone else. Being able to switch back and forth is a very powerful indicator of how they progress.”
It’s not clear whether people who are able to construct narratives and change perspectives can be guided to do so in their writing, or whether doing so is simply a reflection of an emergent healing process for them. In “Writing to Heal,” however, Pennebaker offers exercises to help people experiment with both skills. After their four days of writing, individuals can analyze their own writing and try writing from different perspectives.
Griffin used Pennebaker’s exercise in changing perspectives in her class and found that it was one of the most profound things her students did.
“I was really struck by how amazed everyone was after writing about an event from more than one perspective,” she says. “It made a huge difference for them and their sense of the story to do this, and they were surprised by the power that had.”
Pennebaker is quick to point out that the act of confessing or expressing trauma has been part of healing for virtually all cultures, ranging from Native American indigenous cultures to those based on both Western and Eastern religious beliefs. He also notes that writing should be used cautiously. He doesn’t recommend trying to write about a trauma too soon after it happens and says that if a topic seems like it’s too much to handle, don’t try to tackle it before you’re ready. The effects of writing can be subtle, but sometimes they can be dramatic.
As an example, Pennebaker speaks of a young woman he worked with who had lost her husband very suddenly in an accident. The woman was praised by her colleagues in graduate school for how courageously and smoothly she had handled her husband’s death. She came to Pennebaker because she felt she needed to write about her loss. By the last day of writing she said she was transformed.
Within two months the woman had quit graduate school and moved back to her hometown. The writing experience had made her realize she was on a life path she no longer wanted and that she had been putting on a false, cheerful front with her friends.
“As a researcher, I could say, ‘Well here I have a technique that made an individual drop out of school, stop pursuing an advanced degree and return home,’” Pennebaker says. “It was a dramatic change, and it sounds like a failure. But from her perspective, it wasn’t.”
In fact, the woman felt that those four days of writing had saved her life.
Office of Public Affairs
Photo of Dr. Pennebaker: Marsha Miller
I’d like to add some comments on a political science subject, with a bit more emphasis on the science–which is not to say the political implications are less important in our present day.
I write a lot, more non-fiction than fiction, but I have written fiction and still have ideas along those lines. I had an idea, about 12-15 years ago, that I have yet to fully develop, which I titled “Without Power.” The premise was that suddenly during morning rush hour, all power goes out around the globe. Wherever you happen to be at the moment, you’re stuck there. Your car won’t work, your cellphone, anything with electronics including microchips won’t work. NPR goes out. Talk radio goes out. BBC is down. Your cigarette-lighter powered shaver goes out during a last-minute cleanup up in the rear-view mirror. So, what do you do? You get out of your car and walk. Where do you walk? Home. How do you survive without communication, conveniences, ease of mobility, all of the things we take for granted? Not just that, but the infrastructure of world power goes out as well. How well is that one going to work out?
One of my thoughts that I never fully researched was how electrical systems would just suddenly go out throughout the world. One early thought was that it would remain unexplained, mysterious and supernatural. The story, instead, would focus on the drama of everyone suddenly being “equaled out.” Struggles for power would form on local and regional levels. What system(s) would develop out of the crisis?
I found out recently, to my surprise, that country-wide power outages are possible, and I thought I would give some resources in case anyone is curious–because, as we all know, if the technology is there, then those who would use it are there. Any naysayers can just check out the villains in Austin Powers or any of the James Bond films:)
I’ve written, on this blog, about some results of fear (“Election Year Fear” and “Goodness Breeds ~ Goodness!”) The full truth is that fear can be a good thing. Generally, it’s true that good has a bad side, and bad has a good side. That’s why the balance of powers between Congress, the President and the Supreme Court is a good thing. Balancing power so that the bad can’t get an edge over the others is a good thing. On a current note, President Obama last night stated that he would seek more power for his executive branch and that he would bypass Congress, if necessary, any time they didn’t agree with his political agenda. This is not a good thing. Let’s say he does consolidate power around the presidency, and then Mitt Romney wins the November election. How well is that one going to work out for Democrats?
Fear is now and has seemingly forever been used politically from every direction as a bad thing, but it’s also a natural, human instinct. If you hear someone walking around your house at night, leaves are rustling around outside when they shouldn’t be, you’re probably going to get up and take a look. It’s natural.
So, the first step to eliminating any fear that develops is that you make yourself aware of what’s really going on outside. Probably a deer or racoon, or a stray dog, and then you can sleep good that night. That’s the same premise here, with the concept of suddenly being “without power.” Awareness is the first step. You know the technology exists. You know there are those who would use it for not-so-good purposes. You’re hearing the leaves rustling outside. Awareness allows you to sleep good each night–or, to take further steps toward your own, your family’s and your friends’ safety.
It’s simply saying that given that this scenario can happen, ask yourself: “What would I do if…?” It’s up to you. My aim here is just toward the awareness part. Or, to give some writers out there a decent story line about this dark premise. NOT! It’s my story. Actually, a thriller, titled “One Second After,” was written in 2009, and has been optioned a second time as a film. (A lesson that when you get an story idea, jump on it. I could have had a book out on the subject ten years ago if I had knuckled down.) The author of the 2009 book, however, is tied as a cowriter of separate books with a prominent politician now running for president, so it’s up to you if you want to check it out.
Here’s where to find the scoop on the technology itself, and its “already-tested” history that dates back to July, 1962. Funny how it usually takes so long for the “little people” to become more aware of what the “big people” have been up to. Makes you wonder what else they’ve hidden up their sleeves since 1962. A lot, I think. As an aside, I was seven years old, almost eight, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union detonated a series of these nuclear EMP devices over the Pacific and the Soviet Union. This was during the Cuban Missile Crisis with John F. Kennedy as president and Nikita Khrushchev as leader of the Soviet Union. Maybe because I’ve always been more on the arts side than the science side, I never became aware of those tests, and the technology, until now.
[Excerpts from the article]:
Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse by Jerry Emanuelson, B. S. E. E.
Futurescience, LLC Colorado Springs, CO
In testimony before the United States Congress House Armed Services Committee on October 7, 1999, the eminent physicist Dr. Lowell Wood, in talking about Starfish Prime and the related EMP-producing nuclear tests in 1962, stated,
|“Most fortunately, these tests took place over Johnston Island in the mid-Pacific rather than the Nevada Test Site, or electromagnetic pulse would still be indelibly imprinted in the minds of the citizenry of the western U.S., as well as in the history books. As it was, significant damage was done to both civilian and military electrical systems throughout the Hawaiian Islands, over 800 miles away from ground zero. The origin and nature of this damage was successfully obscured at the time — aided by its mysterious character and the essentially incredible truth.“|
The Starfish Prime Nuclear Test
from nearly 900 miles away
Although nuclear EMP was known since the earliest days of nuclear weapons testing, the magnitude of the effects of high-altitude nuclear EMP were not known until a 1962 test of a thermonuclear weapon in space called the Starfish Prime test. The Starfish Prime test knocked out some of the electrical and electronic components in Hawaii, which was 897 miles (1445 kilometers) away from the nuclear explosion. The damage was very limited compared to what it would be today because the electrical and electronic components of 1962 were much more resistant to the effects of EMP than the sensitive microelectronics of today. The magnitude of the effect of an EMP attack on the United States, or any similar advanced country, will remain unknown until one actually happens. Unless the device is very small or detonated at an insufficiently high altitude, it is likely that it would knock out the nearly the entire electrical power grid of the United States. It would destroy many other electrical and (especially) electronic devices. Larger microelectronic devices, and devices that are connected to antennas or to the power grid at the time of the pulse, would be especially vulnerable.
. . .
The Starfish Prime test (a part of Operation Fishbowl) was detonated at 59 minutes and 51 seconds before midnight, Honolulu time, on the night of July 8, 1962. (Official documents give the date as July 9 because that was the date at the Greenwich meridian, known as Coordinated Universal Time.) It was considered an important scientific event, and was monitored by hundreds of scientific instruments across the Pacific and in space. Although an electromagnetic pulse was expected, an accurate measurement of the size of the pulse could not be made immediately because a respected physicist had made calculations that hugely underestimated the size of the EMP. Consequently, the amplitude of the pulse went completely off the scale at which the scientific instruments near the test site had been set. Although many of the scientific instruments malfunctioned, a large amount of data was obtained and analyzed in the following months.
When the 1.44 megaton W49 thermonuclear warhead detonated at an altitude of 250 miles (400 km), it made no sound. There was a very brief and very bright white flash in the sky that witnesses described as being like a huge flashbulb going off in the sky. The flash could be easily seen even through the overcast sky at Kwajalein Island, about 2000 km. to the west-southwest.
After the white flash, the entire sky glowed green over the mid-Pacific for a second, then a bright red glow formed at “sky zero” where the detonation had occurred. Long-range radio communication was disrupted a period of time ranging from a few minutes to several hours after the detonation (depending upon the frequency and the radio path being used).
In a phenomenon unrelated to the EMP, the radiation cloud from the Starfish Prime test subsequently destroyed at least 5 United States satellites and one Soviet satellite. The most well-known of the satellites was Telstar I, the world’s first active communications satellite. Telstar I was launched the day after the Starfish Prime test, and it did make a dramatic demonstration of the value of active communication satellites with live trans-Atlantic television broadcasts before it orbited through radiation produced by Starfish Prime (and other subsequent nuclear tests in space). Telstar I was damaged by the radiation cloud, and failed completely a few months later.
. . .
A nuclear EMP attack could come from many sources. A missile launched from the ocean near the coast of the United States, and capable of delivering a nuclear weapon at least a thousand miles inland toward the central United States, would cause problems that would be devastating for the entire country. A thin-cased 100 kiloton weapon optimized for gamma ray production (or even the relatively-primitive super oralloy bomb of more than 56 years ago) detonated 250 to 300 miles above Nebraska, would destroy just about every unprotected electronic device in the continental United States, southern Canada and northern Mexico. Such a weapon would also knock out 70 to 100 percent of the electrical grid in this very large area. Nearly all unprotected electronic communications systems would be knocked out. In the best of circumstances, as completely unprepared for such an event as we are now, reconstruction would take at least three years if the weapon were large enough to destroy large power grid transformers.
The more that preparations are made for an EMP attack, the less severe the long-term consequences are likely to become. In comparative terms, being ready for an EMP attack would not cost a lot, and the benefits would include a much higher reliability of the electrical and electronic infrastructure, even if a nuclear EMP attack never occurred. Adequate preparation and protection could keep recovery time to a month or two, but such preparations have never been made, and few people are interested in making such preparations.
Hardening the electronic and electrical infrastructure of the United States against an EMP attack is the best way to assure that such an attack does not occur. Leaving ourselves as totally vulnerable as we are now makes the United States a very tempting target for this kind of attack.
By not protecting its electrical and electronic infrastructure against nuclear EMP, the United States invites and encourages nuclear proliferation. These unprotected infrastructures allow countries that are currently without a nuclear weapons program to eventually gain the capability to effectively destroy the United States with one, or a few, relatively simple nuclear weapons.
Severe solar storms can cause current overloads on the power grid that are very similar to the slower E3 component of a nuclear electromagnetic pulse. There is good reason to believe that the past century of strong human reliance on the electrical systems has also, fortunately for us, been an unusually quiet period for solar activity. We may not always be so lucky. In 1859, a solar flare produced a geomagnetic storm that was many times greater than anything that has occurred since the modern electrical grid has been in place. We know something about the electrical disruption that the 1859 Carrington event caused because of the destruction it caused on telegraph systems in Europe and North America. Many people who have studied the 1859 event believe that if such a geomagnetic storm were to occur today, it would shut down the entire electrical grid of the United States. It is likely that such a geomagnetic storm would destroy most of the largest transformers (345 KV. and higher) in the electrical grid. Spares for these very large transformers are not kept on hand, and they are no longer produced in the United States. Protection against nuclear EMP is also protection against many kinds of unpredictable natural phenomena that could be catastrophic.