College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

ECpE’s Ian Dobson quoted by National Geographic

Ian Dobson
Ian Dobson

It’s scary enough to envision the nation’s electrical grid collapsing under an enemy attack or because of a powerful solar radiation onslaught. But it’s even more disturbing, perhaps, to think that we might someday suffer a massive nationwide blackout because the grid simply breaks down on its own.

“What happens is, a failure occurs somewhere and weakens the system a bit,” Iowa State University engineering Professor Ian Dobson explained in a 2012 article. “On a bad day, something else happens. Usually it doesn’t, but on that day, let’s say, it does. If it’s a really bad day, then a third thing happens and the system becomes degraded. You’re in a situation where it’s more likely that the next failure is going to happen because the last failure already happened. That’s the idea of cascading failure.”

Read the full story in National Geographic