Even if this weekend’s solar storm destroyed civilization, Bitcoin would survive

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Even if this weekend’s solar storm destroyed civilization, Bitcoin would survive Even if this weekend’s solar storm destroyed civilization, Bitcoin would survive Kadan Stadelmann · 4 seconds ago · 3 min read

Impending severe geomagnetic storm poses significant threat to global electronics and crypto infrastructure, highlighting the robustness of decentralized systems.

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Updated: May. 11, 2024 at 3:23 pm UTC

Even if this weekend’s solar storm destroyed civilization, Bitcoin would survive

Cover art/illustration via CryptoSlate. Image includes combined content which may include AI-generated content.

The sun can produce massive flares of particles and radiation that can have a significant impact on Earth. Scientists have studied these flares for 150 years, focusing on what’s considered the largest such event of all time: the Carrington Event of 1859, named after British astronomer Richard Carrington.

The sun erupted and pumped enough energy into our planet’s magnetic field to ignite a massive geomagnetic storm and auroral display. Telegraph lines burst into flames, and the event was reported globally. Back then, electronic systems were not the center of daily life. Today, a Carrington-sized event could completely alter the complexion of daily life.

Mississippi State University professor David Wallace wrote on Astronomy.com the potential ramifications could be disastrous:

“It is only a matter of time before Earth is hit by another geomagnetic storm. A Carrington Event-size storm would be extremely damaging to the electrical and communication systems worldwide with outages lasting into the weeks. If the storm is the size of the Miyake Event, the results would be catastrophic for the world with potential outages lasting months if not longer.”

That time could be this weekend. A huge solar storm is barrelling into Earth, bringing the threat of possible disruptions to satellites and power grids. As the world faces a “severe” geomagnetic storm, according to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, infrastructure operators are on edge due to the possible fallout of the solar event, which has significant implications for the crypto industry.

As the first of six solar waves hit, the Earth was already experiencing a G4 electromagnetic storm–the highest in 19 years. The present storm affecting electronics, etc. would not be entirely unprecedented, as geomagnetic storms rated as “extreme” led to blackouts in Sweden and damaged power transformers in South Africa in October 2003.

Scientists warn that these events happen at higher frequencies than believed and could be catastrophic. For instance, tree rings studied by scientists revealed two solar solid proton events that happened in 7176 and 5259 BCE, which were not previously known.

Solar storms of increasing frequency have implications for the electronics on which crypto depends. Geomagnetic storms can disrupt satellite communications and power grids. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) could damage computer hardware. These sudden bursts of energy can release radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum, including X-rays and ultraviolet light.

The high-energy particles induce electric currents in the components of a computer, possibly causing damage or data corruption. The Central processing unit (CPU), random access memory (RAM), and hard disk drives are most at risk due to their electromagnetic interference, possibly causing them to malfunction or fail altogether. Electromagnetic radiation can disrupt the communication between hardware components, leading to system crashes or errors.

At the very least, disturbances can cause crypto exchanges and wallet downtime. Even a little bit of downtime could lead to significant financial losses for market participants. Multi-signature wallets and strict authentication protocols can also protect companies against disruptions caused by space weather.

With that said, sufficiently decentralized blockchains–like the Bitcoin blockchain–would persist.

Bitcoin has been broadcast over radio and MESH networks, though the use of its blockchain would be very slow. Even Lightning payments have been sent over the radio.

CMEs would, in the worst-case scenario, take out electronics on the side of the planet facing the sun at the time of the explosion. That part of the planet, however, would face some serious setbacks. Power lines, consumer electronics, and medical devices would all be rendered useless.

Solar storms with the potential to disrupt life on Earth make a great case for a decentralized financial system. A blockchain would carry on with blocks being produced and transactions validated by all the nodes that happened to be on the dark side of the earth when the solar storm hit.

Crypto’s decentralized nature would prove superior to the mainstream banking system’s centralized structure. The internet was designed in a distributed fashion with enough redundancy so as to survive a nuclear attack. Bitcoin, for instance, has thousands of Bitcoin nodes, which means it’s actually more likely to survive a catastrophic event than a financial system based on centralized data servers. If even one node survives, the entire system can be reconstituted from that seed.

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