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How a Monash academic saved downtown LA

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16 January 2012

Electromagnetic bomb mockup on a Los Angeles high rise rooftop helicopter pad prior to the NCIS LA episode shoot (Courtesy Shane Brennan Productions)
Electromagnetic bomb mockup on a Los Angeles high rise rooftop helicopter pad prior to the NCIS LA episode shoot (Courtesy Shane Brennan Productions)

An electromagnetic bomb has been stolen. Malign forces are intent on destroying the digital infrastructure of downtown Los Angeles. Will the authorities locate the destructive device in time to stop the carnage?

Sounds like a synopsis fit for a television series. And that’s exactly what it is. It’s the story line for an episode of the top-rating television series NCIS Los Angeles.

To ensure all technical aspects of the story line were believable, screen writer Dr Joe Sachs contacted Monash University academic Dr Carlo Kopp to act as scientific advisor during the development of the script.

Dr Kopp from the University’s Clayton School of Information Technology is a world authority on non-nuclear electromagnetic bombs or ‘E-bombs’ and was happy to lend his support to the project.

“Dr Sachs is best known as the executive producer and writer of the long-running award winning medical drama television series ER.  He strongly shared my view that authenticity was critical to the portrayal of the crisis the NCIS team had to overcome,” Dr Kopp said.

E-bombs are devices which produce an intense burst of microwave energy which can damage or destroy all electronic devices across large sections of built-up areas. Non-nuclear E-bomb devices can be used in conventional confrontations.

Dr Kopp has authored a series of research papers dealing with the deployment of and protection against E-bombs. The best known of these papers, published by the US Air Force, has since been translated into several foreign languages, including Russian and Chinese.

“The NCIS LA episode presented a wonderful opportunity to educate an enormous audience – NCIS LA is watched by more than 45 million people worldwide each week - and present an accurate picture of this problem, which has yet to be addressed by policy in any developed nation,” Dr Kopp said.

“In the United States, draft infrastructure protection legislation has been delayed by recent political events.”

"The pervasive use of high density digital chips throughout the complete infrastructure of developed nations, whether in handheld devices, domestic or office equipment, transportation, production, health etc, has produced an enormous vulnerability to any man-made or solar events which produce very high electromagnetic field strengths.”

The NCIS Los Angeles episode entitled ‘Higher Power’, aired in the United States on 13 December 2011 and is expected to air soon in Australia.