How it Could Happen
America’s grid runs without a hitch—most of the time. Exhibit A: the 2003 North-east blackout, when glitchy software and overgrown trees knocked out the eastern seaboard. “We’re running as near to capacity as often as possible, and that leaves no room for abnormal events,” says Daniel Baker, Ph.D., who led a grid review by the National Academy of Sciences. The report found one nasty gremlin: geomagnetic storms—featuring plasma balls hurled from the sun—which could knock out power to 130 million people. The next wave of storms is expected in 2012 or 2013.