China has not built an effective iPhone-killing EMP weapon

Sad news for those who get off on particularly geeky ways to be frightened

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China does not have a magic bomb

Headlines all over the place are giving a really bad example of why information needs to be free.

The National Security Archives posted a summary today of material in recently declassified documents in which U.S. intelligence analysts talk about their interest in whether China has an interest in building electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons that could fry every piece of circuitry anywhere around and our leave brave, technologically well-equipped American boys helpless before the charging hordes of fanatic Chinese.

To de-hype a little (after reading the dox): yes, the Chinese appear to have been trying to build weapons that use EMP or projected High-power microwave (HMP) radiation to ruin electronics – specifically to help an attack or simply to damage electronics in Taiwan as punishment for doing something horrible to China, like not admitting they're part of it and should give up this silly "freedom" thing.

It's not news that China would like to have EMP weapons. The U.S., Russia and half the undergrads at MIT and Stanford have worked on them, too.

EMP is the giant burst of electromagnetism that usually accompanies something like a nuclear explosion. When the Air Force still depended on bombers to deliver nuclear weapons, their wiring and electronics had to be shielded, lest a burst of the stuff from a bomb they dropped fry their instruments and cause them to crash before they could return safely to base and die of radiation poisoning from retaliatory nuclear strikes. (To be fair, they might have survived and been eaten afterward by wandering hordes of football-pad-and-kinky-headdress-wearing barbarians or zombies out of a Mad Max apocalyptic dystopia. They probably would have preferred to go during the more noble, respectful part of the movie, not the one with the Gay Pride Parade costumes and "check it out, I'm a Visigoth" attitude from former citydwellers.)

Non-nuclear EMP would make a great weapon because it would kill relatively few people, but fry all their digitally controlled weapons systems and media players, leaving them both helpless and bored.

This would be tremendously effective against large, established armies like those of Russia or China, whose military systems are nearly as sophisticated as ours.

Photo Credit: 

Pretty picture, but still just a horrifying nuclear weapon, not an iPhone killing EMP.

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