There’s a giant EMP blaster in New Mexico. Don’t worry, it’s here to protect us

electromagnetic pulse sandia friendly leonard martinez emp
Sandia National Laboratories

When you hear about the potential risk of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) disabling virtually every electronic device within a country, there’s a good chance you think, “Hey, I remember that James Bond movie plot.”

But just because the threat of an EMP emitted by a nuclear weapon exploded in the skies above us isn’t on the radar for most people doesn’t mean it’s not a real risk. With that in mind, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have installed a new “friendly” EMP emitter called the ElectroMagnetic Environment Simulator.

No, it’s not a movie-style, magical undo button that would reverse the damage caused by an actual EMP blast, but rather a machine capable of simulating a similarly intense effect without having to explode a nuke to do so. Described as a “hippopotamus-sized” Marx generator, the large capacitor bank stores up electrical energy and can then direct it at a target inside of a test chamber.

The reason for doing that? To use the chamber as a testing ground for electronics components to see if they could survive an actual hostile EMP pulse. Since it’s possible for devices to be modified to survive such a blast, this could prove a useful test to put gadgets through. Although military devices use special EMP shields to protect against this possibility, most consumer electronics do not. That could change if manufacturers discover the extent to which, say, the power grid could be knocked out of action in the event of such an attack.

Ultimately, carrying out such modifications on everyday electronics may, paradoxically, decrease the likelihood that they would ever need to use such modifications. As a Sandia National Laboratories spokesperson told Digital Trends, that’s because showing this kind of planning might be enough to encourage “a possible opponent to hesitate releasing such a pulse because its effect would not be significant enough to offset a U.S. response.”

This isn’t the first time that the U.S. has used a pulse-producing machine for training for an EMP attack. Earlier versions of this machine date back as far as 1978. The current test facility was largely unused from 1994 through 2001, when it was brought back following the 9/11 attacks. This machine represents the latest iteration of that tech.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

If we get a Nintendo 64 Classic, it needs to have these games

The Nintendo 64 introduced a long list of top-tier games, but which were the iconic platform's best? From Mario Party to Ocarina of Time to NFL Blitz, check out our picks for the best N64 games.

Still have holiday cash to blow? Grab one of these awesome Xbox One games

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

Dive headfirst into the best experiences available now on the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift brought back virtual reality and put a modern twist to it. Grab your Touch Controllers, put on your VR headset, and jump into the fun with some of the best Oculus Rift games available now.
Emerging Tech

Watch China’s moon mission touch down on the planet’s far side

Video has been shared of a lander's-eye view of China's Chang'e 4 mission touching down in the Von Kármán Crater on the far side of the moon. The craft captured footage of the descent with a camera which was attached to the probe.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX nails its first launch and landing of 2019, but job cuts loom

SpaceX has nailed its first launch and landing of 2019 with a mission that deployed more satellites for Virginia-based Iridium Communications. But the success was soured somewhat by reports of upcoming job losses at the company.
Emerging Tech

The enormous ‘Flying Bum’ moves toward a commercial design

A prototype of the world's largest aircraft is being retired as the company behind it prepares to build a production model. The new Airlander 10, also known as the "Flying Bum," could be ready for commercial use by 2025.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers for 2019

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Face-scanning A.I. can help doctors spot unusual genetic disorders

Facial recognition can unlock your phone. Could it also be used to identify whether a person has a rare genetic disorder, based on their facial features? New research suggests it can.
Emerging Tech

Lasers and bovine breathalyzer help determine how much methane cows produce

Cow farts and belches don't sound like catastrophic threats, but they contribute to the massive amounts of methane in the atmosphere. Recently, scientists set out to establish the numbers.
Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.