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We're still here... all of us

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
It was pointed out on Slashdot today that it's the 23rd anniversary of the world not ending. It seems that on September 26th, 1983 a lieutenant colonel by the name of Stanislav Petrov was in charge of a missile bunker near Moscow when some Soviet satellites (the space kind, not the breakaway republic kind) sent an alarm claiming that American nuclear missiles had been launched.

Remember Mutually Assured Destruction? If we launch our missiles, they launch theirs, and we all die. If they launch theirs, we launch ours... and we all die. Was that what we really wanted? As contingency plans go, I see MAD as the option everyone wants but prays night after night they don't have to use.

Stanislav Petrov is credited for not using it. In an extremely tense few minutes as his displays were screaming "incoming American missiles" he decided - and passed along the information that the instruments were wrong. We are all still here because someone didn't believe the computer.

At 28, I remember once taking part in "air-raid" style exercise late one night. President Reagan was on the television and alarms were going off outside. I'm old enough to have caught the last part of the cold war and I don't want to experience it ever again. I'm also young enough not to have some deep-seated distrust of Russia - just a rational (I hope) fear of nuclear weapons, of the intense destructive capability that J. Robert Oppenheimer delivered to us like Prometheus disguised as Pandora.

Anyway, Mr. Stanislav Petrov, you have my thanks and gratitude. Thank you for stopping the war machine and injecting intuition into a terrible, terrible situation. Thank you.

1 Comments:

Anonymous mal said...

wow the things i miss when i am having fun in France. we never had air-raids in my school. just bomb drills - the school did blow up once and massive fire another time. but these guys were thoughtful..they at least waited until our school was empty before they blew it up.

11:26 PM, September 28, 2006  

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