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Accidental Nuclear Wars: A Timeline of Close Calls

History Timlines Accidental Nuclear War Cold War Military History Failed Civilization

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#1
caltrek

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ACCIDENTAL NUCLEAR WAR: A Timeline of Close Calls

 

https://futureoflife...lls-a-timeline/

 

Introduction:

 

The most devastating military threat arguably comes from a nuclear war started not intentionally but by accident or miscalculation. Accidental nuclear war has almost happened many times already, and with 15,000 nuclear weapons worldwide — thousands on hair-trigger alert and ready to launch at a moment’s notice — an accident is bound to occur eventually.

 

The list of close calls above is too long for comfort, yet it’s likely very incomplete, given that these represent only America’s declassified events. Many other events may have occurred in the U.S. that we don’t know about, and we certainly don’t know about close calls the other eight nuclear countries have had. Many nuclear experts are concerned about a war between India and Pakistan, and if one of them were to accidentally start a nuclear war, the resulting nuclear winter could kill 1 billion people worldwide.

 

Moreover, there are signs of the Cold War restarting. The U.S. and Russia are both upgrading their arsenals, which means new weapons and new ways for something in the system to go wrong. The risk of accidental nuclear war is only growing, and barring major initiatives for risk reduction, it’s merely a matter of time until our luck runs out.

 

Most of the reports in the timeline above come from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nuclear Files, Eric Schlosser’s book, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safetyor Mother Jones. They are either paraphrased or directly quoted, and each links to the original source.

 See liked article for actual timeline.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#2
caltrek

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Here is an article with the same idea, but with the timeline in a different format.  I actually prefer the Mother Jones format for the sake of clarity.

 

 

That Time We Almost Nuked North Carolina

 

http://www.motherjon...ps-near-misses/

 

Introduction:

 

 

 

(Mother Jones) Thanks to a steep learning curve in the design and handling of nuclear weapons, a continuing emphasis on readiness before safety, and a history of mismanagement, the United States military has had a frightening number of near-misses. (Click on the box below for our companion story about the disgruntled young men who babysit our land-based missiles.) Here’s an abridged timeline  (see article linked above) of scandals and close calls gleaned from media reports, military sources, and from Eric Schlosser’s must-read book, Command and Control, which chronicles in terrifying detail just how close we’ve come to the abyss.

The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#3
Astralator

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Reading this I do have to wonder, how the hell is human civilization still a thing?


Playing God is actually the highest expression of human nature. The urges to improve ourselves, to master our environment, [...] have been the fundamental driving forces of all of human history. Without these urges to ‘play God’, the world as we know it wouldn’t exist today.” - Ramez Naam


#4
Yuli Ban

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Give it time.


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And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#5
BasilBerylium

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Give it time.

Human extinction New dark age or AI overlords?


This website has a magic that makes people draw back here like moths to light.


#6
Yuli Ban

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Possibly both! We shouldn't discount the possibility that World War III, rather than being the end of life on this planet, could instead be to modern neoliberal/oligarchical capitalism and liberal democracy what World War I was to nobility, aristocracy, and feudalism. In the wake of the latter, we got the former. And in the wake of the former, we get AI overlords.


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#7
CoolGuy23

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Curtis LeMay is one of my heroes lol


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#8
caltrek

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September 26 1983: The Day Stanislav Petrov Helped Avert World War III

 

https://futureoflife...us-denies-visa/

 

Introduction:

 

(Future of Life Institute) To celebrate that today (September 26, 2018) is not the 35th anniversary of World War III, Stanislav Petrov, the man who helped avert an all-out nuclear exchange between Russia and the U.S. on September 26 1983 was honored in New York with the $50,000 Future of Life Award at a ceremony at the Museum of Mathematics in New York.

 

Former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said: “It is hard to imagine anything more devastating for humanity than all-out nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Yet this might have occurred by accident on September 26 1983, were it not for the wise decisions of Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov. For this, he deserves humanity’s profound gratitude. Let us resolve to work together to realize a world free from fear of nuclear weapons, remembering the courageous judgement of Stanislav Petrov.”

 

Although the U.N. General Assembly, just blocks away, heard politicians highlight the nuclear threat from North Korea’s small nuclear arsenal, none mentioned the greater threat from the many thousands of nuclear weapons in the United States and Russian arsenals that have nearly been unleashed by mistake dozens of times in the past in a seemingly never-ending series of mishaps and misunderstandings.

 

One of the closest calls occurred thirty-five years ago, on September 26, 1983, when Stanislav Petrov chose to ignore the Soviet early-warning detection system that had erroneously indicated five incoming American nuclear missiles. With his decision to ignore algorithms and instead follow his gut instinct, Petrov helped prevent an all-out US-Russian nuclear war, as detailed in the documentary film “The Man Who Saved the World”, which will be released digitally next week. Since Petrov passed away last year, the award was collected by his daughter Elena. Meanwhile, Petrov’s son Dmitry missed his flight to New York because the U.S. embassy delayed his visa. “That a guy can’t get a visa to visit the city his dad saved from nuclear annihilation is emblematic of how frosty US-Russian relations have gotten, which increases the risk of accidental nuclear war”, said MIT Professor Max Tegmark when presenting the award.

petrov-award_fli-team.jpg?x93895

Stanislav Petrov’s daughter Elena holds the 2018 Future of Life Award flanked by her husband Victor. From left: Ariel Conn (FLI), Lucas Perry (FLI), Hannah Fry, Victor, Elena, Steven Mao (exec. producer of the Petrov film “The Man Who Saved the World”).

Max Tegmark (FLI)


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The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#9
Yuli Ban

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Accidentally one of the greatest men ever to live despite being such an ordinary guy. Right next to Vasili Arkhipov. 

petrov-day-bw.jpg


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#10
PhoenixRu

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Accidentally one of the greatest men ever to live

 

Maybe he "saved the world" but no, he wasn't great at all... just a coward, who violated his soldier's duty. That's worse, he inspired the enemy and moved the limits of possible: "Did you see that? Such was the typical Russian reaction! Now we can act bolder and go further, they simply will not dare to respond".



#11
caltrek

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Accidentally one of the greatest men ever to live

 

Maybe he "saved the world" but no, he wasn't great at all... just a coward, who violated his soldier's duty. That's worse, his inspired the enemy and moved the limits of possible: "Did you see that? Such was the typical Russian reaction! Now we can act bolder and go further, they simply will not dare to respond".

 

At least those Russians were alive to have such a reaction. 


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#12
PhoenixRu

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At least those Russians were alive to have such a reaction. 

 

Well, many people stayed alive (or even accidentally "saved" someone else) due to their cowardice or meanness or plain conformism. This still doesn't mean they deserve respect.



#13
caltrek

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Fear is a human emotion. One that has been important in our evolution as a species. To be afraid is not always to be totally irrational. In contrast, hyper-nationalism can be both highly emotional in nature and irrational.    

 

My fear, yes fear, is that the hyper-nationalist of the world are going to bring about World War III.  You may be indifferent to that possible outcome, but I suspect you are virtually alone among those who participate in this forum.

 

I appreciate your candor, which is very different from agreeing with you.  

 

Edit: Correction of a typo.


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#14
PhoenixRu

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My fear, yes fear, is that the hyper-nationalist of the world are going to being about World War III.  You may be indifferent to that possible outcome, but I suspect you are virtually alone among those who participate in this forum.

 

Not indifferent, but sometimes, some unpleasant and risky things must be done. The more that "avoid conflict" is not always a smart strategy: conflict will still happen, a bit later but in much worse (for you) circumstances.

 

Alone? No problem at all, I'll easily survive this "majority pressure" :)

 

I appreciate your candor..

 

I'm rather calm and timid person... "I'm talking about virtues, not about myself, I fight against vices, including my own. When I overcome them, I will live as I should" - Seneca



#15
caltrek

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Not indifferent, but sometimes, some unpleasant and risky things must be done. The more that "avoid conflict" is not always a smart strategy: conflict will still happen, a bit later but in much worse (for you) circumstances

 

I don't much disagree with the logic your statement.  It is just that there are logicians on both halves of the northern hemisphere of this planet.  So I wonder....will such logic some day result in miscalculation and nuclear war?


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls


#16
Erowind

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Risking court martial and probably a prison sentence to hold to one's ideals and save the world sounds like bravery not cowardice to me. 


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Current status: slaving away for the math gods of Pythagoras VII.


#17
Yuli Ban

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Accidentally one of the greatest men ever to live

 

Maybe he "saved the world" but no, he wasn't great at all... just a coward, who violated his soldier's duty. That's worse, he inspired the enemy and moved the limits of possible: "Did you see that? Such was the typical Russian reaction! Now we can act bolder and go further, they simply will not dare to respond".

I'd rather Russia be known for keeping mankind alive if the alternative is destroying the planet and our history. Russians don't dare respond because they are not insane. 

 

Now in a case of open hostilities where we have lost our minds and have chosen to throw it away, that is different. 

 

Risking court martial and probably a prison sentence to hold to one's ideals and save the world sounds like bravery not cowardice to me. 

Exactly. 

The only cowards are those willing to throw everything we've done and everything of which we are capable into blood soaked ashes for greed or pride. They are traitors to all mankind.

 

Petrov and Arkhipov are two of the greatest men in history for this reason. If they stuck to rigid order and pulled that trigger to the world's head, Russia would not be seen as the nation that held firm and defended itself. The remnants of history would speak of Russia in the same way Xenophon spoke of the Assyrian Empire. Yet thrice this century if we include Yeltsin in 1995, Russians held the world in their hands and chose the world. 

 

This is why I trust Russia more than America with these matters. We're at such a horrible point in our history right now that people are thankful that Trump was playing golf rather than paying attention to the news back in January when Hawaii had a false missile alarm. I can't imagine Putin inspiring the same relief over incompetence. 


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#18
PhoenixRu

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Exactly. 

The only cowards are those willing to throw everything we've done and everything of which we are capable into blood soaked ashes for greed or pride. They are traitors to all mankind.

 

Petrov and Arkhipov are two of the greatest men in history for this reason.

 

The nuclear weapon is a deterrent. But this may serve as deterrent only when other side is SURE that this weapon will be used. These two men devalued our nuclear weapon and clearly demonstrated that Russia can be attacked, the risk is not so high.

 

I fully understand why are they considered "greatest men" in the West. But no, they weren't. They studied and made a career in order to get where they were (responsible job, respect, high social status, privileges). And when their country was attacked (as it seemed) and the time has come to perform their duty, they instantly turned into "pacifist philosophers". They did not try to "save the world", they just tried to survive themselves: "well, Russia is already doomed, i can not change this, it's time to take care of myself, the winners will be grateful that I did not press this damn button".



#19
Outlook

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I don't think the guy was a hero neither, just a very lucky guy. I don't think he has the right to be called a coward though, considering the absolutely shitty position he was in. If he let loose the nuke, world-ender with a bad sense of judgement. If he had not let loose the nuke, bad soldier. I'd rather return to Russia a shunned soldier, than the soldier that accidentally obliterated hundreds of thousands of people over a hunch.

 

That being said, I HIGHLY doubt that the world would end had the USSR accidentally launched one nuke. The US wouldn't launch their whole arsenal over one nuke. What would have likely happened was that immediate communication would be made with the USSR to see what the hell happened, because if the USSR declared war, then all nukes would've been fired. If the USSR didn't communicate, which would be unlikely considering it would be an accident and the USSR would not like to be nuked over an accident, then the US would not fire its whole arsenal, but likely retaliate with a single nuke hoping to deliver the same damage as the nuke the USSR had fired, while at the same time mobilizing its army for further action. All steps would be made to ensure that it doesn't spiral out of control from both sides. Actually, such an event I'd hazard would actually promote anti-nuclear rhetoric and would've made denuclearization a much stronger and earlier force. 


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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: History Timlines, Accidental Nuclear War, Cold War, Military History, Failed Civilization

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