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Howard's End: Melting On A Desk Near You Soon?

First it was aircraft hijacking, now it is biological and chemical weapons threats. But in the blink of an eye electromagnetic bombs could throw civilisation back 200 years which terrorists can build for about $400. Maree Howard writes.

The Popular Mechanics magazine is reporting that the next Pearl Harbour will not announce itself with a searing flash of nuclear light or with the plaintive wails of those dying of Ebola or its genetically engineered twin.

"You will hear a sharp crack in the distance. By the time you mistakenly identify this sound as an innocent clap of thunder, the civilised world will have become unhinged," the magazine says.

"Fluorescent lights and television sets will glow eerily bright, despite being turned off. The aroma of ozone mixed with smoldering plastic will seep from outlet covers as electric wires arc and telephone lines melt. Your Palm Pilot and MP3 player will feel warm to touch, their batteries overloaded. Your computor and every piece of data on it will be toast."

"And then you will notice that the world sounds different too. The background music of civilisation, the whirl of the internal combustion engine, will have stopped. Save a few diesels, engines will never start again."

"You, however, will remain unharmed, as you find yourself thrust backward 200 years, to a time when electricity meant a lightening bolt fracturing the night sky."

This is not hypothetical. It is a realistic assessment of the damage the Pentagon believes could be inflicted by a new generation of E-bombs.

The first major test of an American electromagnetic bomb is scheduled for next year. The Army wants to explode artillery shells in mid-flight. The Navy wants to use the E-bomb's high-power microwave pulses to neutralise antiship missiles. And the Airforce plans to equip bombers, strike fighters, cruise missiles and unmanned auriel vehicles with E-bomb capabilities.

When operational, these will be among the most technically sophisticated weapons the U.S. military establishment has ever built.

But terrorists can use 1940's technology to build a less expensive low-tech flux compression generator to create the same destructive power - for about $400.

And don't think you can shield your computers, telecommunications or the national power grid - hi-frequency pulses in the microwave range can worm their way around vents in protective Faraday cages and a late-time EMP effect, occuring about 15 minutes after detonation, creates localised magnetic fields which, when they collapse, cause electric surges to travel through the power and communications structure.

So it's not just hijacking or chemical and biological weapons we have to worry about. It's now a low-tech and cheap E-bomb.


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