What is a sunstorm?

A sunstorm is a combination of a solar flare. That is to say, it’s an explosion on the surface of the sun, and a plasma cloud thrown into space from the sun. Like sunspots, solar flares follow an eleven-year cycle and are common. On 1 and 2 September 1859, one of the most extreme sunstorms in the last five hundred years occurred.

The English astronomer Richard Carrington observed an unprecedentedly large plasma cloud erupting from the surface of the sun. A plasma cloud normally takes about three to four days to reach Earth at a speed of between 1000 and 2000 kilometres per second, but the plasma cloud of 1 September took just under eighteen hours. This was one of the most extreme sunstorms in history and some scientists warn us that it could happen again. And this could have serious consequences. Due to the excessive reliance on satellite data for communications and travel routes, a solar storm could turn roads into gigantic car parks.

Unexpected disturbances

Engineers of self-propelled vehicles are therefore taking precautions to ensure that unexpected disturbances caused by sunstorms can be dealt with. Some automated cars, for example, have regional maps, so that cars can at least find a motorway exit if satellite navigation fails. According to technology companies, self-propelled cars would, in the worst case scenario, stop themselves on the emergency lane.

But according to those same engineers, self-propelled cars are also safer than human drivers. Yet people have already died because of such self-drivingcars. So imagine a sun storm in 2022. All the people with electric cars already have a problem. Most companies would be in trouble too. Our world is becoming more and more digitised. Shops are also switching to self-scanning instead of cash registers. It can be dangerous to switch to full automation. The consequences of a solar storm may resemble the corona crisis. The world may lie flat with serious interference. Perhaps we should not write people off too quickly and modernise society little by little with more respect for the work of humans.

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