What Is An EMP? 'Fate Of The Furious' Is All About Stopping This Weapon

Over the course of eight films, the Fast & Furious franchise has eclipsed the simple car chases and gang wars of the original The Fast and the Furious. In the newest installment of the franchise, The Fate of the Furious, Dom, Letty, and the gang aren't just racing in the streets, but jumping over tanks and submarines, stopping bombs and stopping international villains. And the movie finds the gang going up against a brand new threat that cannot be defeated by their driving skills: an EMP. But just what is an EMP? Fate of the Furious never really explains the answer, but fear not: I've got you covered.

For some context, know that in Fate of the Furious, the hacker villain, Cipher (Charlize Theron), is after an EMP. In fact — spoiler alert — Dom's first act of treason against his Fast & Furious family is stealing an EMP for Cipher. Sounds benign, until you find out what an EMP actually is — and, worse, what it does. EMP is an acronym for an Electromagnetic Pulse, and for the purposes of Fate of the Furious, an EMP is basically an electromagnetic bomb that sends out a pulse of energy capable of disrupting any electrical device in its impact radius. It might not sound as impactful as a traditional explosive, but EMPs are considered massively dangerous. What would happen, for example, if all the traffic lights went out? Or all the machines keeping patients alive in hospitals went dead? What if both those things happened at the same time?

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EMPs aren't toys; in fact they're potentially lethal, but it's unclear whether any country or military or research facility has been able to harness an EMP as a weapon, like the one used in Fate of the Furious. But Peter Pry, the director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security, is confident EMPs will be weaponized in the near future. "For the first time in history, failed states such as Iran or North Korea, or terrorists could use a blackout war to destroy the most successful societies on earth," Pry wrote in a 2015 op-ed for The Washington Times. Electronic warfare, though still in the early stages, appears to be on the horizon. Sim Tack, a military analyst at Stratfor noted in an interview with Vice that EMPs are the logical next step for any weapons developers. "With the increasing importance of electronic circuits on the battlefield... There's only more and more reason to create weapons that specifically target networking ability and electronics dependence," he said.

Before you start freaking out about the possibility of EMPs crippling your entire, electronically-dictated life, keep in mind that they're still in testing stages, and incredibly costly. (Come to think of it, that's probably why Dom has to steal one in the first place.) An EMP attack is about as unlikely in the real world as seeing a muscle car fly over a submarine. It's not realistic, but it sure makes an awesome Fast & Furious movie.