Carrington event

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The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris


4chan, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Andrew Keen, augmented reality, Burning Man, Carrington event, cognitive dissonance, crowdsourcing, dematerialisation,, Filter Bubble, Firefox, Google Glasses, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, Loebner Prize, Marshall McLuhan, McMansion, moral panic, Nicholas Carr, pattern recognition, pre–internet, Republic of Letters, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social web, Steve Jobs, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, Turing test

Forster is describing a reverse Gutenberg moment. An undoing of the future. Our own Machine has been similarly threatened before, though we were far less reliant on communication technologies then. On September 1, 1859, a storm on the surface of our usually benevolent sun released an enormous megaflare, a particle stream that hurtled our way at four million miles per hour. The Carrington Event (named for Richard Carrington, who saw the flare first) cast green and copper curtains of aurora borealis as far south as Cuba. By one report, the aurorae lit up so brightly in the Rocky Mountains that miners were woken from their sleep and, at one a.m., believed it was morning. The effect would be gorgeous, to be sure. But this single whip from the sun had devastating effects on the planet’s fledgling electrical systems.

Frank, 94, 100 BBC World Service, 168 Beauvoir, Simone de, 176 Beethoven, Ludwig van, 203 Benjamin, Walter, 83, 100–101 Berners-Lee, Tim, 47, 152n Biderman, Noel, 175–76 Bieber, Justin, 90 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 130 Blackmore, Susan, 42–44 Blendr, 173 Bloomberg, Mike, 90 BMW, 59 Boll, Uwe, 89 books, 12, 13, 20–21, 28, 33–34, 103, 115–18, 149 Google Books, 102–3 printing press, 11–13, 16, 20–21, 33–34, 43, 83, 98, 145n, 202 Unbound Publishing and, 88 see also reading Borges, Jorge Luis, 154 boyd, danah, 64n brain, 25, 27, 35, 36, 54, 118–19, 146, 193 of children, 36–40 Internet and, 37–38, 40, 142, 185 memory and, 139, 140, 142, 146, 151–53, 155, 158 multitasking and, 119, 121 orienting response in, 120, 121, 125 passive learning and, 39 plasticity of, 36–38, 47, 141, 159, 193 reading and, 33–34 synesthesia and, 62–63 techno burnout and, 10–11 Bregman, Peter, 127–28 Bryson, Lyman, 179 bullying, 53, 62–66 Todd and, 49–53 ByWard Market, 88 cabinets of curiosities, 147 Cain, Susan, 204 Capek, Karel, 56–57 Carr, Nicholas, 38, 86, 193 Carrington, Richard, 107 Carrington Event, 107–9 Carson, Anne, 198n Catholic Church, 12, 20 cell phones, see phones Chapdelaine, Morris, 171–72 Charles V, King, 99n Chatfield, Tom, 119 Chatroulette, 167–68 Chicago Sun-Times, 115 children, 25–41, 45–48 brains of, 36–40 iPad and, 26–27, 45 multitasking and, 27–28 phones and, 28–30 Chip Vivant, 61 Chopra, Aneesh, 65 Christian, Brian, 61 Chunyun, 209 Clay, Cynthia, 61 Clementi, Tyler, 63, 67 Cleverbot, 60 clocks, 98–99, 204 Cocteau, Jean, 17 Computer Power and Human Reason (Weizenbaum), 188 computers, 16–17, 29, 108, 120, 188 empathy in, 61, 62, 67 intelligence in, 56–57, 60, 65 memory in, 148, 149, 151, 152, 154–56 computing, affective, 61, 62, 67 confessions, 54, 66, 70, 71 Todd and, 50–52, 72 Conquest of Happiness, The (Russell), 195 continuous partial attention, 10 conversation, 25, 39, 194 Cooper, Anderson, 52, 63 cortisol, 10 CougarLife, 175 Coupland, Douglas, 184–87, 194, 197 Coursera, 95–96, 98, 100 Cowan, Nelson, 154–55, 160 cowbirds, 125 Craigslist, 165, 167, 174 Craven, Dave, 77–78 Cruel Intentions (Valmont), 166 Cult of the Amateur, The (Keen), 88 Danielson, Dennis, 157–59 Darwin, Charles, 41, 42 data mining, 82 Dateline, 52 dating, 164–83 Dawkins, Richard, 41, 42 daydreaming, 8, 47–48, 194, 205 De Beers, 101 “Defend the Web” (Berners-Lee), 152n Dennett, Daniel, 41 digital immigrants, 15–16, 205 distraction, 30, 36, 113–17, 121, 124–28, 133, 135, 194 Dinakar, Karthik, 62–67, 96 D’Mello, Sidney, 129–30 DragonLance series, 117 dudesnude, 165 Ebert, Roger, 115–18 Economic Journal, 87 education, 94, 96, 183 Coursera, 95–96, 98, 100 dematerialization of, 97 massive open online courses, 95–98 edX, 98 18 Minutes (Bregman), 127 Einstein, Albert, 151 Eisenstein, Elizabeth L., 12n, 83, 145n, 202 Eliot, T.

That’s a one in eight chance of a massive digital dismantling. If it doesn’t happen soon, it’ll happen eventually. Great Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering has pegged the chance of a Carrington-type event within the next two centuries at about a 95 percent probability. Such an event almost took place in the summer of 2012, actually, and involved a particle stream larger than we imagine the original Carrington Event to have been. But it just missed the earth, shooting harmlessly over our heads (over the top of a STEREO spacecraft, actually). When we are hit, at any rate, we won’t be able to save ourselves with some missile defense system meant for meteors; no missile could halt the wraithlike progress of a megaflare. What will happen, exactly? Electricity grids will fail; some satellites will break down; aircraft passengers will be exposed to cancer-causing radiation; electronic equipment will malfunction; for a few days, global navigation satellite systems will be inoperable; cellular and emergency communication networks may fail; the earth’s atmosphere will expand, creating a drag on satellites in low earth orbit; satellite communication and high-frequency communication (used by long-distance aircraft) will probably not work for days.

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Ten Billion Tomorrows: How Science Fiction Technology Became Reality and Shapes the Future by Brian Clegg

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Brownian motion, call centre, Carrington event, combinatorial explosion, don't be evil, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, game design, gravity well, hive mind, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, silicon-based life, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Turing test, V2 rocket

So much modern business depends on the Internet and other electronic communications, while our food supplies are strongly tied into the availability of electricity to keep things running and chilled. It would, at least in the short term, be like a return to the Dark Ages. Luckily, such catastrophic solar events don’t happen very often. The most recent recorded solar EMP that did make it to the Earth was the so-called Carrington event of 1859, named after British astronomer Richard Carrington, who witnessed the original flare on the Sun. Several powerful coronal mass ejections hit the Earth at pretty much the same time. Back then, of course, dependence on electrical devices was much lower than it is today, but the primitive electric telegraph lines of the time, sometimes called the Victorian Internet, had high currents induced in them, causing sparking, setting fire to some telegraph offices and bringing the whole network down.

Research showing improvement of memory consolidation during sleep with transcranial stimulation is Lisa Marshall, Matthias Mölle, Manfred Hallschmid, and Jan Born, “Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation During Sleep Improves Declarative Memory,” Journal of Neuroscience 24, no. 44 (November 3, 2004): 9985–92, doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2725-04.2004, accessed September 29, 2014 The figure of more than $2 trillion as the cost of another Carrington event is quoted in a NASA Science News piece, accessed July 30, 2014, The use of high-altitude nuclear explosions to generate electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) is discussed in Edward Savage, James Gilbert, and William Radasky, The Early-Time (E1) High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and Its Impact on the U.S. Power Grid (January 2010), available at

See Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton Blish, James AI governments by instantaneous transmitter by virtual learning and Borg (fictional characters) Bose-Einstein condensate Bostrom, Nick The Boys from Brazil (Levin) Bradbury, Ray brain to brain link to computer link electrodes in implants interface to programming BrainGate Brownian motion Brunner, John Bulwer-Lytton, Edward Campbell, John W. Campbell, Murray S. A Canticle for Leibowitz (Miller) Čapek, Karel carbon aliens and artificial muscles and Moon’s lack of nanotubes Carmack, John Carrington event (1859) Casimir effect Cayley, George cell phones Cernan, Eugene chaos theory chess computerized invention of mechanical Chiao, Raymond The Chrysalids (Wyndham) Cities in Flight series (Blish) Clarke, Arthur C. on Hal predictions of space elevator and Clegg, Brian Cleverbot cli-fi climate change cloaking device light and military attempts at real world attempts Star Trek’s view problem with The Clockwork Man (Odle) cloning DNA and failure rate of first cat human mammoths clothing, specialized.