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The Faraday Cage and EMP

With amazing foresight, Michael Faraday discovers that a static electric charge remains on the surface of a metal rather than traveling through it. He lines a room with foil and measures the amount of electric charge inside while hitting it from the outside with an electrostatic charge. He uses one of the oldest tools invented for measuring electric charge, the electroscope. Essentially, a non-conductive material is suspended by a fine thread of silk. Any static charge near it will pull the non-conductive material toward it. A similar effect occurs when your hair passes near a static charge. He proves that static charge is neutralized within the room. This discovery will have practical applications well into the electronics age such as reducing electronic interference, blocking radios waves and protecting electronic devices from the dreaded electromagnetic pulse or EMP. The electroscope will remain in use into the modern day measuring radiation dosage. My jaw is dropping. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
An EMP attack from North Korea seems unlikely, but a massive solar flare could do it. In 1859, such a flare fused telegraph wires. In 1989, a solar storm knocked out power across Quebec. Another barely missed the Earth in 2012, so it worrisome. Major electronics in 1989 were VERY EXPENSIVE and carefully shielded. Today, a sudden surge would destroy televisions, smartphones, GPS devices, most radios (except the ones with tubes), and the electronic ignitions of modern cars and trucks.... the trucks that will NO LONGER deliver spare parts nor groceries. You will need a small Faraday cage: a metal can, well sealed, insulated on the inside and grounded. You can store a small radio or electronic parts there. Shielding for larger areas gets expensive because it usually involves lots of copper. A more PRACTICAL use for a Faraday cage is to protect the modern credit card from thieves. A card can be activated when waved near a proper reader, Thus, a thief can wave a portable reader near your wallet and accomplish the same thing. You can buy a Faraday wallet for less than $20, or you can make one out of duct tape and aluminum foil. Regarding the effects of power lines, and wireless utility meters, I don't worry, but if YOU worry, building a Faraday cage is within the means of most people. You can at least surround your bed at night for peace of mind and store a few essential electronics underneath the bed.... just in case. [7] [8]

Remember the Alamo!

General Santa Anna is here and he has brought his army. The Republic of Texas has declared its independence. Their fortunes, their lives and their sacred honor are at stake and they know what it means if they fail. Col. William Travis is holding the fortifications at the Alamo, but he is having no better luck than Mexican General Cós had last year during the Siege. With forlorn hope (which is no hope at all) he draws a line in the sand. All who are willing to die with him shall cross it. Even Jim Bowie, almost dead from tuberculosis, has his bed carried over the line. One man remains... "Moses" Rose. Up to this point he has fought bravely alongside Jim Bowie which has never been a safe place to stand, but Rose says that he is not yet ready to die. He escapes westward through the town of San Antonio which is separate from the Alamo in these days. The defenders resolve to sell their lives as dearly as possible. Three days after Rose clears the wall, a cry goes up. "The Mexicans are coming!" It is March 6th, 5:30 in the morning. Travis shouts, "We'll give them Hell!" The Alamo cannon fire hits the Mexican troops with a sickening slap. Travis delivers two blasts from his shotgun and receives one to the forehead in return. It is a slaughter until the north wall is breached. The Texans fall back. Jim Bowie lays on his death bed and asks for no quarter. None is given. It is too late for that now. Former Congressman Davey Crockett is left to defend the chapel. He had told his constituents that if they insisted on going to Hell, he was going to Texas, presumably for an honest fight. He has found one as he and six of his men are the last to fall. "Remember the Alamo!" becomes the battle cry at the Battle of San Jacinto a few weeks later. Santa Anna is going to pay and Sam Houston is going to collect. [9] [10] [11]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Could the Alamo defenders have surrendered? Unlikely. Santa Anna needed to show resolve by crushing all opposition, ruthlessly. The wolves behind him would have taken him down, otherwise. Regarding Rose, he was Jewish as am I. I find him an embarrassment today although I think I would have been OK with him at the time. Like my father who fought in Korea, he had done his duty. If wanted to set down his musket, given a fair choice, that was his business, but I worry about the lesson it conveys today. It tends to paint Jews as weak and weakness draws enemies closer in... until the hammer falls. It is a mistake in tactics and I tell my fellows so. Regarding the Battle of San Jacinto, it was the major victory, but it would not have sealed Texas Independence alone. Fortunately, General Santa Anna was found the day after the battle hiding in the marshes. With his surrender his army was forced to capitulate. Later, Santa Anna was criticized for calling for liberty, but resorting to a dictatorship. He replied that, "A hundred years to come my people will not be fit for liberty. They do not know what it is, unenlightened as they are, and under the influence of a Catholic clergy, a despotism is the proper government for them, but there is no reason why it should not be a wise and virtuous one." I am not sure how the Catholic clergy held them back. As I recall, a Catholic priest led the Mexican revolution, at least at first. He was correct that a certain amount of rational decision-making by the people is required for a properly run democratic republic, though. [12]

In Other News

  • Milton Bradly is born! In his "checkered" life he will no doubt be "gaming" the system soon. [13]
  • Finally, strike anywhere matches that don't explode are invented. Don't strike them, though. They use white phosphorus and that is ... toxic. A less toxic formula will be found later. [14]
  • Thomas Crapper is born to everyone's relief. He will not invent the modern toilet but he will make the discussion of modern plumbing more acceptable as a topic. [15]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1836, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Faraday cage - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 7 July 2016. “A Faraday cage or Faraday shield is an enclosure used in order to block electric fields. It is formed by conductive material or by a mesh of such materials. Faraday cages are named after the English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.”
  2. Faraday Cage Protects from 100,000 V :: Physikshow Uni Bonn. YouTube (January 6, 2007). Retrieved on 26 July 2016. “We demonstrate the protective effect of a Faraday cage from a voltage of as high as 100,000V at the Physikshow of the University of Bonn!”
  3. PHY294H - Lecture 6. pa.msu.edu (March 2, 1998). Retrieved on 27 July 2016. “A unique feature of a charged piece of metal is that, no matter what its shape is and if current is zero, then the electric field inside the piece of metal has to be zero. Free charges in the metal go to the surfaces of the metal and arrange themselves so that the electric field is zero everywhere inside the metal. Electrostatics is a linear theory, so the equilibrium charge distribution is unique, ie. there is only one arrangement of the charges on the surface which produces zero electric field everywhere inside the metal.”
  4. Faraday Cage - Faraday Shield: Low Current High Frequency Experiments. Gamry Instruments (2016). Retrieved on 27 July 2016. “So kudos to Sawyer, Sobkowaik, and Roberts [authors of "Electrochemistry for Chemists"] for the only mention we could find on a quick search. They also got the usage correct: noise-reduction, particularly important in low-current experiments (such as microelectrode voltammetry). Of course, there is no mention of set-up, grounding, or other experimental techniques that benefit from the use of such a nifty device, like EIS or corrosion measurements on highly resistant materials. Or really, even what a Faraday cage actually is.”
  5. Quartz fiber dosimeter - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 27 July 2016. “The quartz fiber dosimeter is a rugged form of a device called a Lauritsen electroscope.[3][5] It consists of a sealed air-filled cylinder called an ionization chamber. Inside it is a metal electrode strip that is attached to a terminal on the end of the pen for recharging. The other end of the electrode has a delicate gold-plated quartz fiber attached to it, which at rest lies parallel to the electrode. The ends of the chamber are transparent and the microscope is focused on the fiber.”
  6. The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. books.google.com 239-240 (1910). Retrieved on 27 July 2016.
  7. Solar storm of 2012 - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 27 July 2016. “The solar storm of 2012 was an unusually large and strong coronal mass ejection (CME) event that occurred on July 23 that year. It missed the Earth with a margin of approximately nine days, as the Earth orbits the Sun, and the Sun rotates around its own axis with a period of about 25 days.”
  8. Alex Shrugged notes: EMP used to scare the heck out of me until I understood that all I need to protect are a few small items like an emegency shortwave radio. Since a TV transmitter would be wiped out I wouldn't need a TV receiver. A small DVD player with screen can be tucked away in a metal box for my entertainment. An automobile is more troublesome. Most cars made prior to 1968 did not use electronic ignition to meet air pollution standards, but again... most gas stations will not work without those electronic meters. How far am I planning on going during a solar flame event? Not far. For Mythbusters episodes regarding EMP, I suggest Season 1, Episode 6: "Lightning Strikes-Tongue Piercings" and Season 4, Episode 6: "Cell Phones on Planes".
  9. Alex Shrugged notes: My remarks regarding the Alamo battle come from my reading of the book, "Texian Iliad". However, my errors in understanding what I read are my own. Corrections are welcome, as always. My ego is not tied up in this. My remarks regarding "Moses" Rose come from a second hand account of a Rose relative and presented to the Daughters of the Republic in Austin, Texas in 1901.
  10. Hardin, Stephen L.. Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292731028. 
  11. Davy Crockett - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 27 July 2016. “During his last term in Congress, Crockett collaborated with Kentucky Congressman Thomas Chilton to write his autobiography, which was published by E. L. Carey and A. Hart in 1834 as A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, Written by Himself .[133] Crockett went east to promote the book. In 1836, newspapers published the now-famous quote attributed to Crockett upon his return to his home state. He said, 'I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.'”
  12. Zuber, W. P. (July, 1901). "Escape of Rose from the Alamo, The". The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association (Texas State Historical Association) 5 (1): 1-11. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27784894. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  13. Milton Bradley - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 27 July 2016. “Looking for a lucrative alternate project, Bradley found inspiration from an imported board game a friend gave him, concluding that he could produce and market a similar game to American consumers. In the winter of 1860, Bradley released The Checkered Game of Life.”
  14. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 400-401. 
  15. Thomas Crapper - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 27 July 2016. “Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. He did, however, do much to increase the popularity of the toilet, and developed some important related inventions, such as the ballcock.”

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