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The Man Who Literally Saved the World 796

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the close-calls dept.
99luftballon writes "Today is an important anniversary for Russian hero Stanislav Petrov, the Soviet missile commander who saved the world from nuclear destruction in 1983. Sadly there are plenty of other examples of this kind of thing. How long will we keep getting lucky?"
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The Man Who Literally Saved the World

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  • by GrumpySimon (707671) <email.simon@net@nz> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @07:58PM (#16208373) Homepage
    To make up for my horrible over-cliched joke above, let me just say that this guy deserves to be an international hero, and there's a much better article than the TFA about him [] on the wiki. Another example is Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov ( _Arkhipov []) who stood up to a superior officer during the Cuban Missle Crisis and convinced him not to launch a nuclear weapon.

    It's kind of lame to say to someone who literally saved the world, but thanks guys.
  • Lucky? How so? (Score:3, Informative)

    by susano_otter (123650) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @07:59PM (#16208379) Homepage
    I figure, if there are that many examples of OMGARMAGEDDONWTF?!, then it's probably not luck that kicks in every time disaster is averted.
  • luck? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ElephanTS (624421) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @08:23PM (#16208619)
    Google for port chicago explosion ie, q=port+chicago+explosion&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 []

    Seems to me that the first nuclear explosion did actually happen by accident in 1944.

    Very eery if one does a bit of research.
  • by El Torico (732160) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @08:25PM (#16208627)
    ...why are they all tied to the U.S. & Russia?

    Here's number 21 - Pakistan and India were both considering using nuclear weapons during the Kargil conflict of 1999. Fortunately, the United States persuaded Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan to order a withdrawal.

    Here's the Wikipedia article - []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @08:41PM (#16208787)
    Don't forget about milw0rm [].
  • Re:luck? (Score:2, Informative)

    by colinnwn (677715) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @08:55PM (#16208915)
    Ummm, probably not. Read Wikipedia entry under Conspiracy Theories #Conspiracy_theories []
  • Re:How long? (Score:3, Informative)

    by gameforge (965493) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @09:00PM (#16208963) Journal
    The answer isn't less nuclear weapons, per se -- we'll always find a new way to kill each other.

    Really? The way I see it, this is kind of a new thing for humanity.

    Life in 1900 was, technologically, probably closer to the year 100 than life today is, at least for our species as a whole. Looking at the increase in technological level as an exponential curve, we are approaching the vertical slope.

    Take your favorite weapon from or before the year 1900; bombs, grenades, poison gas, whatever. No country had the capacity to produce such a large number of that type of weapon to truly demolish the species. Sure trillions of hand grenades could at least make a dent, but what country has the ability to produce trillions of hand grenades? What country did 100 years ago?

    This is not the case with nuclear weapons, or many other well researched and refined weapons (certain toxic chemicals & biological weapons, etc.) Today, wiping out humans (meaning every human) really is a matter of producing the right weapons, and detonating them in the right areas at the right times.

    We will always find new ways to kill each other; but only VERY recently in our timeline as a species have we had the capacity to kill everyone.

    Stopping weapons of this capacity has to be part of the solution. Putting world leaders and people in power on the honor system alone isn't going to work any more than telling a four year old to stay away from the cookie jar when nobody's looking. No single country can accurately monitor the activites of every government and world leader at once.
  • Re:luck? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @09:06PM (#16209043)
    If you read the links from the search you posted, you will find that the Port Chicago explosion was not nuclear, nor is there any reason to believe that it was. Vogel has no evidence whatsoever, other than it was a big explosion, but conventional explosives can and have produced even larger explosions than that.
  • by evil agent (918566) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @09:16PM (#16209149)
    Hi Mr. Troll. Thanks for not giving any sources for your "facts"

    The nuclear non-proliferation treaty requires that nuclear powers work towards nuclear disarmament. The US rejects all proposals calling for nuclear disarmament.

    See this graph. []

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @09:20PM (#16209185) Homepage Journal
    Now, 200+ nukes launched at the same time between India and Pakistan would cause some immediate localized damage.

    There's no doubt 200 nukes would make the Middle East might inhospitable, mighty fast. However, I merely sought to "reassure" the great-grandparent that 200 nukes would not end the world. Having done that, I'm going to go make myself a latte. :D
  • by Miguelito (13307) <mm-slashdot@migu ... minus herbivore> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @09:23PM (#16209227) Homepage
    A time when you couldn't buy telephones in the store - they had to be leased from the Bells and from their stores.

    Oh and they knew if you got a black market phone and hooked it up too. My father worked for AT&T for >20 years and tells of stories where the company would detect unauthorized phones, and they'd go and confiscate them. His favorite story involved a family: The mother answered the door, he explained they'd detected a problem and wanted to check out their lines, so she asked him to wait. He could hear her running around unhooking the phones (there were 2 or more unauthorized ones) and hiding them. When she let him in, he noticed she had a little kid, so he asked the kid "Where'd your mother hide the phones?" Without missing a beat he answered, "in the closet."

    So many people alive today in the US don't remember when there was only the one phone company. Sure it had some good side effects, like the almost limitless amounts of money they spent on Bell Labs and the stuff that came out of there. But one has to wonder how different the telecom field would be today if they hadn't been broken up... or if they'd been broken up far sooner.

    Life before VCRs; and yeah, the Wizard of OZ was on every Easter and that was your only chance to see it.
    Life before the internet.
    Hell, computers in general, not just the internet. Sure, technically computers existed, but before mini computers and the home computer revolution, how many people in the general population really had access to a computer, or really knew what they were (aside from magical things in movies and TV)? Then again, plenty of people who have them still think they're magical things, so maybe that's a bad way to describe them. :)
  • chernobyls (Score:2, Informative)

    by zogger (617870) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @09:43PM (#16209389) Homepage Journal
    If any of even the little ones are targeted on existing nuclear facilities you would have a downwind chernobyl effect, a bad one most likely. That's one of the things about the possible upcoming iranian fun - n - games that we will be facing. They will *specificially* target existing nuclear research and production facilities.
  • by Mistshadow2k4 (748958) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @09:58PM (#16209525) Journal
    Uh... because those were the only two countries that had more than enough ICBMs to actually result in a global world-ending nuclear war.
    Huh? What about China?
  • by intnsred (199771) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @09:59PM (#16209543) Homepage
    For sources, all it takes is a Google search; is that too difficult:

    USSR's call for disarmament []

    Non-proliferation treaty's requirement for nuclear powers to disarm []

    *stan nuclear free zone [] (and US hypocrisy [])
  • by charnov (183495) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @10:05PM (#16209587) Homepage Journal
    "The USSR, when it existed, several times suggested getting rid of all nuclear weapons. The US rejected their proposals."

    This never happened. I don't even have to cite a source on this one. I would like to point out that at least as current as Yeltsin, Russia still had a first strike nuclear doctrine. Russia's nuclear arsenal has dwindled rapidly, however due to economic issues and the hard work of Senator Lugar and his Nunn-Lugar Cooperative which has been using US tax dollars to PAY the Russians to disarm (on fo the few use of my tax dollars I approve of). Russia's current nuclear arsenal is used as deterrant towards China, North Korea, and Iran (cited from Jane's and CDI)

    " The nuclear non-proliferation treaty requires that nuclear powers work towards nuclear disarmament. The US rejects all proposals calling for nuclear disarmament."

    The NNP Treaty actually has three parts: non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear tech. Part one allows for all of the then current nuclear powers to remain so. Those nations just happen to be the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council. The rule states that those nations will not give the technology to any other nation and will not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear nation (although France, the US, and Britain have recently said "rogue states" are fair game.). Part two deals with disarmament. The US has decreased it's stockpile considerably and continues to do so. The Bush administration was the first to try and reverse this although they seem to have had that idea squashed in Congress. The NNP specifically states that disarmament is voluntary and any nation may opt out for a time if they have a perceived threat that necessitates it. I, and a hell of a lot of my fellow citizens, think we do. The idea of the treaty was to reduce pressure on other nations to develop their own weapons in response to perceived "pressure" from nuclear powers to do so. It has worked so far but more needs to be done. To say the US has not reduced it's stockpile is bull, however.

    " Presently, 4 of the Central Asian *stan countries are organizing to declare themselves a "nuclear free zone" forbidding all nuclear weapons from their territory. What country is working diplomatically and is pressuring them to scuttle the nuclear free zone idea? The US."

    The Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (CANNWFZ) is being opposed by the US, France, and the UK on grounds that four of the nations are part of the 1992 Tashkent Collective Security Treaty with Russia which requires Russian nuclear weapons to be used in the event of ANY hostilities as aid to those nations. The CANWFZ specifically allows that treay to stay put. So even though those nations agree to not develop or deploy nuclear on their soil, they are, by proxy, armed with nuclear weapons. It's a have "your cake and eat it, too" situation. The nations involved with the treay are in the lousy position of possibly pissing off both Russia and the US which are both working partners in the region. I do believe this will be resolved as some concessions where made just this year with the treaty and that the US will sign on, but only after tensions with Iran, a neighboring nation, subside a little. The US has signed three other NWFZ treaties and is, at least in spirit, for the idea.

    "Considering the US has the most nuclear weapons, engages in the most wars, threatens non-nuclear countries with nuclear weapons, other countries have an incentive to develop nukes. The ironic thing is that only the US has hundreds of thousands of Marines that can be deployed and a strong worldwide military deployment capability -- eliminating nukes will not weaken that capability."

    You are mostly correct in the beginning of that statement. By most estimates, Russia still has the most nuclear weapons. The US has more ICBM's. Russia lacks delivery methods for most of it's arsenal, though. There is a real effort and pressure to reduce our stockpile not only of nuclear but of chemical weapons as well. I
  • by Mydron (456525) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:05PM (#16210011)
    What about China? Current thinking is that China has less than 400 [] nuclear weapons. However, most of those are based at fixed sites, unfueled and their warheads in storage []. In otherwords, China would not survive a first strike (its fixed sites would be hit) and does not have the to capacity to launch an effective first strike.
  • by toadlife (301863) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @11:17PM (#16210075) Journal
    I believe the nuclear winter scnenario as you describe it has long been disproven.

    Here are some links... [] []

  • by BlueStraggler (765543) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @01:46AM (#16210983)
    World War II went nuclear, so at least one.
  • by toadlife (301863) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:17AM (#16211491) Journal
    My point rather, is that you would be more pursuasive if you brought scientific arguments to the table rather than extremist political ideology.

    It was not my intention to link to sites that feature misinformation. I just did a quick Google and linked to a couple of sites that seemed to coroborate with things read/heard/seen about the nuclear winter scenario. I had never seen those sites before, and to be honest the second one did look like it was run by some kooky Mormons. As for the first one, I never looked at any other part of than the text file. I see now that it's a conservative BBS, or something like that. Oops.

    I never said, nor do I belive that a huge nuclear exchange would not have a global affect on weather - only that the original nuclear winter scenarios touted by Carl Sagan were hugely overblown, and the affects would not be quite so prolonged.

    After Googling more, I see that (of course!) politics have gotten into this debate. That makes it a little harder to research it because you have to wade through tons of bullshit.

    Oh well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @03:27AM (#16211533)
    . And New Zealand - the land of 4 million people, 12 million sheep, and 2 million strangely satisfied men - defeated the US in the last America's Cup, which uses some pretty esoteric technology.
    Not quite true. The US lost to New Zealand in 1995. New Zealand succesfully defended in 2000 before losing to Switzerland in 2003. Wikipedia []
  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @04:04AM (#16211681) Journal
    They have boosted fission type devices - about two to three times the power of the Nagasaki bomb.
  • by Capsaicin (412918) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @04:17AM (#16211719)

    I must have missed when someone on this thread supported the idea of nuclear winter with a peer-reviewed scientific article.

    Probably because there is some general acceptance of the idea. But that wasn't my point anyway, my point was citing disreputable sources does nothing to bolster one's arguments.

    In any case that deficiency is easily addressed:
    Turco RP, Toon OB, Ackerman TP, Pollack JB, Sagan C (1983) 'Nuclear winter: global consequences of multiple nuclear explosions', Science 222:1283-1292
    Covey C (1987) 'Protracted climatic effects of massive smoke injections into the atmosphere', Nature 325:701-703
    Warner F, and collaborators (1987) 'Severe global-scale effects of nuclear war reaffirmed', Environment 29:4-5 & 45
    A B Pittock, K Walsh and J S Frederiksen (1989) 'General circulation model simulation of mild nuclear winter effects', Climate Dynamics Vol 3 No 4 pp 191-206

    If on the other hand you want something that doesn't necessarily support the idea (at least not to the extent proposed by Turco et al, here a review of the literature that forms the chapter of a book:
    William A. Kerr (1999), 'Nuclear winter, possible environmental effects', in Environmental Geology, Springer Verlag, p448-449

    From the abstract to that chapter:

    While the environmental effects of nuclear war were discussed in the 1970s (National Academy of Sciences, 1975) and early 1980s (Crutzen and Birks, 1982), the concept of 'nuclear winter' stems from the work of Turco et al. (1983) popularized by Sagan (1983). While the theory's main premises are generally accepted, there has been considerable debate regarding the assumptions for and sophistication of the underlying models used to predict climatic change (see for example Covey et al., 1984; Teller, 1984; Robock, 1984; Penner, 1986; Sagan and Turco, 1991).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @09:06AM (#16213355)
    Yes, it was originally based on Hawking, however he didn't want his medical condition exploited, so the filmmakers changed certain details but kept the similar name. The film makers also apparently had John Lennon in mind for the person to play Hawking.
  • by maxpublic (450413) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @10:04AM (#16214067) Homepage
    The US and Soviet Union are the only two countries which had enough nuclear power to destroy the world

    They weren't capable of destroying the world, or even human civilization. They were only capable of destroying civilization in the *First World*. That isn't even remotely the same as 'destroying the world'. While it probably would've sucked to be in the northern hemisphere for a few years, by all accounts the southern hemisphere would've been relatively unaffected (other than losing their trading partners and sugar-daddies).

    I think you are correct to fear nuclear proliferation in India & Pakistan, as I think they are more likely to use the weapons. However, the world will not end if India & Pakistan use their weapons. We will suffer, but the world would not end.

    The world won't end if every warhead on the planet is detonated simultaneously. These weapons lack the ability to pull off something that grand. In fact, no weapon in the human arsenal can do that job.

  • by Spinalcold (955025) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @10:40AM (#16214575)
    Actually, basketball as we know it was invented in Canada. Pffft, don't you watch your CBC and pay attention to those "Part of our Heritage" commercials?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @01:16PM (#16216707)
    That prediction came from Carl Sagan. The same man who predicted that if all the oil wells in Kuwait were set ablaze at once the black smoke that resulted would envelope the earth, destroy all crops, and put us back into the stone age. There was a reason why you never heard from him again (besides that whole death thing).

Life's the same, except for the shoes. - The Cars