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The US electrical grid is too crappy to be vulnerable to terrorist attack, say physicists

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The US government worries that terrorists could take down the country's electrical grid just by hitting a small node in the system. But a new study reveals the grid is too unreliable for that kind of attack.

Last year, network theorists published some papers suggesting that terrorists could take down the entire US electrical grid by attacking a small, remote power station. But new research shows that network theory models, which great for analyzing many complex systems, don't work for patchwork systems like the US electrical grid. Basically, the grid was set up so haphazardly that you'd have to take out a major node before you'd affect the entire thing. (Want to see a map of the US electrical grid? Check out this one on NPR.)


Science Daily sums up:

[The] electric grid is probably more secure that many people realize — because it is so unpredictable. This, of course, makes it hard to improve its reliability (in another line of research, [study co-author Paul] Hines has explored why the rate of blackouts in the United States hasn't improved in decades), but the up-side of this fact is that it would be hard for a terrorist to bring large parts of the grid down by attacking just one small part.


The researchers based their conclusions on real-world data from the power grid in the eastern U.S.

Read the full scientific paper via Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science (via Science Daily)