Image:  By David Adams –

What’s New: A reminder that rare events happen. They are not “never” events.

Why It’s Important: Essential systems, like our national PNT, must be built to withstand rare but powerful impacts.  Severe solar weather, accidents, or attack by adversaries, as examples.

What Else to Know: 

  • Severe solar weather that will disrupt GPS is inevitable. See: “Is the Sun Our Biggest Enemy in Space?”
  • This isn’t the first time a ship has hit a bridge and damaged or destroyed it. Bridge builders can’t control what ships do, but they can design in barriers that keep ships from striking the supports. We can design in features of our national PNT that will allow it to withstand huge shocks.
  • People have a hard time envisioning and preventing rare adverse events.
    • This is true even when the events aren’t all that rare.
      • Before 9/11 there were over 140 commercial airliners highjacked. One group of terrorists threatened to fly the aircraft into a nuclear power plant. But no real improvements to airliner security were made until after the twin towers fell.
    • See: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Events 
  • This article was in the print version of today’s Washington Post. We could not find it in any of the on-line versions.