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Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Dependency Creep"

Just found the above phrase in an editorial on New Scientist. Got there via a piece on a recent (January) National Academies report on severe space weather.
Now, the idea that Ol' Sol, our 93 million mile distant friend could turn on us in a fury is most emphatically NOT the stuff of science fiction fantasy. In fact, a sudden, severe solar eruption in the direction of Earth represents the greatest threat mankind faces, barring a cataclysmic space body collision.
Severe Space Weather Events--Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts
Workshop Report
is described thusly:
The adverse effects of extreme space weather on modern technology--power grid outages, high-frequency communication blackouts, spacecraft anomalies--are well known and well documented, and the physical processes underlying space weather are also generally well understood. Less well documented and understood, however, are the potential economic and societal impacts of the disruption of critical technological systems by severe space weather.

As a first step toward determining the socioeconomic impacts of extreme space weather events and addressing the questions of space weather risk assessment and management, a public workshop was held in May 2008. The workshop brought together representatives of industry, the government, and academia to consider both direct and collateral effects of severe space weather events, the current state of the space weather services infrastructure in the United States, the needs of users of space weather data and services, and the ramifications of future technological developments for contemporary society's vulnerability to space weather. The workshop concluded with a discussion of un- or underexplored topics that would yield the greatest benefits in space weather risk management.

Space weather risk management: to a ham radio operator like me, that means buying a nice tube radio!
But back to "Dependency Creep." The Coast Guard recently announced the demise of LORAN-C. Now, as an old Coastie who helped build USCG LORAN Station Tok, I am kinda bummed. The fact is that when we start getting sunspots again, (which I personally hope come back with a vengeance since I would like to work some DX before I die,) and GPS satellites start having problems, LORAN-C will represent the best game in town.
Since it's a Departmental (DHS) budget decision, maybe Congress can take a good, hard look at the significant historic investment in LORAN-C and keep this fine system alive for another decade.

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