NASA is warning that as the Sun wakes up from its "deep slumber," a massive solar storm could wreak havoc on our electronics, from satellites to the electrical grid, causing damages up to 20 times the cost of Hurricane Katrina.
But the Sun isn't the only threat to our electronic lifeline. National Geographic explorers the risk and consequences of the "electronic Armageddon" that could be caused by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bomb. An EMP bomb, National Geographic explains, is "a bomb that's designed to go above the atmosphere and release huge amounts of energy," some of which in the form of gamma rays.
Such a weapon would cripple electronics, but not kill people [directly]. "In less than a billionth of a second, the electrical intensity on Earth's surface would become so hot that microchips would fry, power lines would overload and the electric grid would collapse," says National Geographic, describing . "Everything with microelectronics in it would stop: your car, your computer, the subway. There would be no electricity."
Any such attack would be utterly crippling to any country in the 21st century. The aftermath, however, would be the true horror, as millions could never adjust to life without electricity and would die horrible deaths due to it, many of them very quickly. Most of us do not think or even consider the endless ways in which we currently use electricity in daily life. This is a blackout that would last for months and years, not days.
A single, well placed, nuclear war head could send the United States into a giant time machine placing us all back into the 1800's in one fell swoop. The retaliation for any such attack would be equally devastating if not more so, as America would most likely strike back in an all out nuclear bombardment, against any and all enemies, perceived and real.