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 The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?

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nordmann
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PostSubject: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Sat 21 Sep 2013, 12:11

Tuesday, January 24th 1961. Nordmann in his then winter routine probably spent the best part of the day snoozing while miraculously avoiding sparks from the fireplace in his basketwork crib. Marilyn Monroe, having just felt elation upon being granted her divorce from playwright Arthur Miller, was possibly as plummeted into gloom as the rest of us upon hearing that Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweetie Pie, Sylvester et al, had been reported fatally injured in a California highway crash (he survived, though badly injured). The world watched as the Santa Maria, now under the command of Portuguese anti-Salazarian "pirate" Henrique Galvao ("hijacker" was jet to become a word for such people), evaded a posse of pursuing vessels from Brazil and the USA. Other than these items on the bulletins (excluding nordmann snoozing) for those with TV the anticipated highlight that day might have been the third ever episode of The Avengers (UK) or the last ever episode of Blake Edwards' Peter Gunn (US). And so to bed ...

But none could even suspect that they were lucky to have had a bed to sleep in that night, or even that they had lived to see bed-time. Very lucky indeed. A mere 2.5 volts lucky, in fact.

Earlier that day, while flying over the town of Goldsboro, North Carolina, a B-52 on a routine courier flight had suddenly begun to fall asunder in the dawn sky. The crew, with no option to save their craft, had abandoned her to her fate and baled out. Components of the craft, including her cargo, fell over a large area. One piece of cargo parachuted gently into the rural townland of Faro, ending up snagged in a tree in a farmer's field. This cargo, like its companion, was a Mark 39 Hydrogen bomb, 270 times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Its activation was controlled by four low voltage internal switches. The companion bomb's switches had behaved as planned. When it landed on Big Daddy's Road near Goldsboro it was basically a heavy, radioactive but inert metal canister. The Faro bomb however, for reasons we are as yet to be explained, was primed. On its descent three of its four switches, responding to their pre-programmed triggers of velocity and air pressure, one by one activated the internal controls to start the nuclear process whereby its combination of hydrogen fusion and uranium fission would translate into explosion. All it required was the final switch, activated by low altitude, to set the last part of the sequence in operation.

But this switch failed. Requiring a three volt impulse to trip, a fault in the mechanism sent only a fraction of a volt to the relay and the last minuscule metal gateway to oblivion sat stubbornly closed.



January 25th. Marilyn began the first day of life as a single woman, its tragic conclusion still over eighteen months ahead of her. The Santa Maria's corkscrew trans-Atlantic voyage continued to make headlines. The Queen visited Rochdale. The new US president drafted his country's first non-war non-deficit budget. Mel Blanc started the second day of a three week coma in intensive care. Nordmann, in his crib by the open fire with sparks flying, dreamed (most probably) of being burnt alive.

Have we ever come closer to making that baby's dream a universal reality?
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Sat 21 Sep 2013, 15:59

Yes, several times apparently. This Guardian article from last Saturday makes for terrifying reading - too serious even for the Daily Rant thread.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/14/nuclear-weapons-accident-waiting-to-happen

The Pentagon's official list of "broken arrows" – mishaps with nuclear weapons that might threaten the public – mentions 32 accidents. Yet a 1970 study by one of America's nuclear weapon laboratories, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, stated that at least 1,200 weapons were involved in accidents between 1950 and 1968. Most of these accidents were trivial, but a number of serious ones were somehow omitted from the Pentagon's list. Moreover, the risk of accidental nuclear detonations was not fully understood by American weapon designers until the late 1960s, and it proved far greater than expected. A plane crash, a fire, a missile explosion, lightning, human error, even dropping a weapon from an aircraft parked on a runway were found to be potential causes of a nuclear explosion.

Two of the more dangerous accidents occurred in one month. On 15 September 1980, one of the engines on a B-52 bomber caught fire at Grand Forks air force base in North Dakota. The plane was carrying four hydrogen bombs and eight short-range missiles with nuclear warheads. A strong wind kept the flames away from the weapons, and a fireman climbed into the burning plane, put out the fire, and averted a disaster. Three days later a technician dropped a tool in the silo of a Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile near Damascus, Arkansas. The tool hit the bottom of the silo, bounced, struck the side of the missile, pierced the skin and caused a fuel leak. The Titan II was carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the US. Despite a heroic effort to save the missile, it exploded – but the warhead didn't detonate. Both states could have been destroyed.


Thank you for starting this thread.

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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Sat 21 Sep 2013, 20:50

Another Armageddon "near miss" was the 'Able Archer' excersise in 1983. This started as a major, but fairly routine,  NATO military exercise designed to practice the West's response to a Soviet attack. Unfortunately it was very realistic ... and the Soviet Union acted accordingly.

In summary from Wiki - and for more details see:  Able Archer 83 :

"The realistic nature of the 1983 exercise, coupled with deteriotating relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and the anticipated arrival of strategic Pershing II nuclear missiles in Europe, led some members of the Soviet Politburo and Soviet military to believe that Able Archer 83 was a ruse of war, obscuring preparations for a genuine nuclear first strike. In response, the Soviets readied their nuclear forces and placed air units in East Germany and Poland on alert. Able Archer 83 is considered by many historians to be the closest the world has come to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962."


... it now seems that during that time, were it not for the common-sense of several people in critical positions of military responsibility, the US and USSR might have very easily slid into a full nuclear war.

And amongst other things it is interesting to read Ronald Reagan's comments (in his memoirs). Remember that Reagan was at the time widely seen as aggressive, and very anti-Soviet in his foreign policy, yet even he at the time, it seems, never really believed the Soviets would launch a nuclear strike ..... until it actually seemed that they were just about to do so!

From his memoirs written after the events: 
"We had many contingency plans for responding to a nuclear attack. But everything would happen so fast that I wondered how much planning or reason could be applied in such a crisis... Six minutes to decide how to respond to a blip on a radar scope and decide whether to unleash Armageddon! How could anyone apply reason at a time like that?"

Later in his memoirs, without specifically mentioning 'Able Archer 83', he also wrote of a 1983 realization:
"Three years had taught me something surprising about the Russians: Many people at the top of the Soviet hierarchy were genuinely afraid of America and Americans. Perhaps this shouldn't have surprised me, but it did...During my first years in Washington, I think many of us in the administration took it for granted that the Russians, like ourselves, considered it unthinkable that the United States would launch a first strike against them. But the more experience I had with Soviet leaders and other heads of state who knew them, the more I began to realize that many Soviet officials feared us not only as adversaries but as potential aggressors who might hurl nuclear weapons at them in a first strike...Well, if that was the case, I was even more anxious to get a top Soviet leader in a room alone and try to convince him we had no designs on the Soviet Union and Russians had nothing to fear from us."
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Sat 21 Sep 2013, 21:50

And there's also the 'Norwegian Rocket Incident' in 1995:

Again, I'm quoting from Wiki: Norwegian Rocket Incident 1995

"The Norwegian rocket incident, also known as the Black Brant scare, occurred on January 25, 1995, when a team of Norwegian and American scientists launched a Blank Brant XII four-stage sounding rocket from the Andoya Rocket Range off the northwestern coast of Norway. The rocket, which carried scientific equipment to study the aurora borealis over Svarlbard, flew on a high northbound trajectory, which included an air corridor that stretches from Minutemen-III nuclear missile silos in North Dakota, all the way to the Russian capital city of Moscow.

During its flight, the rocket eventually reached an altitude of 1,453 kilometers (903 mi), resembling a U.S. Navy submarine-launched Trident missile. As a result, Russian nuclear forces were put on high alert, and the nuclear weapons command suitcase was brought to Russian president Boris Yeltsin who then had to decide whether to launch a nuclear barrage against the United States."

....... In the end it seems Yeltsin declined, although all Russian nuclear forces were put on full alert ready to launch a nuclear attack, should he have changed his mind, perhaps as in one  of his habitual periods of being blind drunk! Then, who knows, he might well have pressed the proffered button-in-a-suitcase!


Last edited by Meles meles on Sat 21 Sep 2013, 22:32; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Sat 21 Sep 2013, 22:11

I know this is a very serious subject ... but I just keep thinking of this (and apologies for the Romanian subtitles):

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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Sat 21 Sep 2013, 23:03

It's 7pm in Bury St Edmunds on Friday, July 27th 1956. The pubs have filled with workers welcoming the weekend. In homes around the town mothers fulfill those final evening duties before relaxing, possibly to listen to Joe and Ethel's antics in "Meet The Huggetts", or for those lucky enough to have a TV maybe catching up with Tony Hancock's escapades in his newly televised half-hour. Children were bathed and put to bed. The pools man on his rounds collected his subs. Choristers at the then parish church of St James arrived to rehearse their Sunday concert to raise funds for its impending elevation to St Edmondsbury Cathedral and the massive extension work this would entail. Teenagers waited avidly for Benny Lee's "Record Hop" programme on Radio Luxembourg, the girls especially hoping to hear that week's number one - Pat Boone's "I'll Be Home".



Four young men who would not be home that night, or ever again, were the crew of a US Air Force B-45, at that moment making its approach into RAF Lakenhealth, just a few miles away. As they touched their plane gently onto the runway a sudden catastrophic failure in their landing gear sent their craft hurtling at over a hundred miles an hour off the concrete, over the grass ribbon and straight into one of the several "igloos" near the tarmac. These reinforced sunken containers, with only their domed tops above ground giving them their distinctive igloo appearance, each held three fully armed nuclear warheads. They were designed to withstand major impact, or so it was believed.

When the doomed B-45 slammed into the nearest igloo it did so with such force that the canopy was sheared completely off. The plane itself rode over the structure, disintegrating as it did so and simultaneously drenching the igloo and everywhere surrounding it with exploding aviation fuel. Firemen rushed to the scene and immediately saw the danger. All three Mark VI nuclear warheads were on fire. Even worse, one of the Mark VI's detonator shields had been sheared right off, the mangled detonation system now exposed and ablaze. Despite the main blaze being where the plane had finally rested they had the presence of mind to direct their efforts primarily on the warheads, seconds away from detonating had they not done so as it later transpired. The impact had happened at 07:45pm. By 08:05pm the blaze had been extinguished. By 08:20pm a specialist crew had managed to disarm the damaged nuclear bombs.

General James Walsh's report to Strategic Air Command that evening was terse, but one can still sense a real fear and relief in its words when relating what had so very nearly come to pass:

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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Sun 22 Sep 2013, 10:14

Meles meles wrote:
I know this is a very serious subject ... but I just keep thinking of this (and apologies for the Romanian subtitles):

Yes, but when you feel utterly helpless as you contemplate the extent (and power) of human madness, you have to laugh a little bit to stay sane.

The Bomb episode of The Young Ones (written in response to the ridiculous Protect and Survive leaflet) doesn't actually seem very funny any more, unlike the wonderful Yes, Prime Minister which will never date, but there are still one or two good bits. An unexploded nuclear warhead/bomb or whatever the thing is, mysteriously lands in the boys' kitchen (must have fallen out of a passing B-45) and the scene where Neil consults his Protect and Survive , whitewashes himself to "deflect the blast", and then hides under the kitchen table (which he has also whitewashed) still makes me laugh.  

The Eric Schlosser book Command and Control - has this publication inspired this thread? - is worth reading - I've just realised Schlosser is the guy who wrote the excellent Fast Food Nation.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/21/eric-schlosser-books-interview



PS I can't find it now, but one Guardian or Independent reader posted a comment suggesting that had there ever been a nasty nuclear "mishap" - which could well have been mistaken for an attack from a foreign power - the USA might have launched retaliatory strikes and wiped out the entire USSR. The poster went on: "And then where would we have got our Lada spares from?"


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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Sun 22 Sep 2013, 13:31

One can also  suppose that another reason for wanting no  nuclear devices in highly strung titichy fundamentalists hands is that they might be  just as careless in handling it as the nuclear powers appear to be. A top scientist I know working with deadly flu viruses for all her extreme care thinks she caught one and had an awful time of it - first putting herself into quarantine of course.
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Thu 26 Sep 2013, 21:51

And there's this 'near miss' too:

30 years ago today on 26 September 1983 (just six weeks before the Able Archer Incident, mentioned above).

BBC News - Stanislav Petrov: The man who may have saved the world
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 07:16

From today's Guardian newspaper - four of the "nearest" misses;

Washington, June 1980 A faulty computer chip triggered a nuclear attack warning on the US, giving the impression that more than 2,000 Soviet missiles were on the way.

Cuba, October 1962 Four nuclear-armed Soviet submarines were deployed in the Sargasso Sea at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. US warships had warned Moscow that they would be practising dropping depth charges, but the message did not reach the submarines. With his communications cut off and believing himself under attack, one commander ordered a launch of nuclear warheads, declaring: "We're going to blast them now." He was persuaded to desist by his second-in-command.

Soviet Union, September 1983 Shortly after midnight on 25 September an alert sounded at a Soviet satellite early warning station. The data suggested five intercontinental ballistic missiles were heading towards the country. Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich defied protocol by not reporting the incident to his superior, gambling that it was a false alarm. It turned out that sunlight glinting off US territory had confused the satellite.

Russia, January 1995 On 25 January Norwegian scientists launched a Black Brant rocket to study the aurora borealis over the Svalbard region. They warned Moscow but the message never reached the radar operators at the Russian early warning stations, who mistook the rocket for an incoming Trident submarine-launched missile. President Boris Yeltsin was discussing his decision with his top military commander when the rocket fell wide of Soviet territory.
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 15:39

26 asteroid impacts of between 1 and 600 kilotons since 2000;

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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Wed 30 Apr 2014, 18:41

Triceratops wrote:
26 asteroid impacts of between 1 and 600 kilotons since 2000;

So "someone" out there really is out to get us!
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Thu 01 May 2014, 09:38

Gil, it was only pure luck that the Tunguska meteor came down where it did and not in a populated area;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunguska_event
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Thu 01 May 2014, 10:04

I thought the general idea these days was that Tunguska was a cometary impact rather than a meteor?
I tried to get the local Scientific Society to visit this :-
http://spaceguardcentre.com/
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Thu 01 May 2014, 10:38

Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
I thought the general idea these days was that Tunguska was a cometary impact rather than a meteor?
I tried to get the local Scientific Society to visit this :-
http://spaceguardcentre.com/

 Meteor or Comet? an object from outer space hit Tunguska, and it's really a question of when, rather than if, that there's a repeat.

Thanks for the link to the spaceguard centre.
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Thu 01 May 2014, 17:29

Bearing in mind your avatar and name, I'm not surprised you are worried about this. I'm not - there's enough things that I can affect to worry about - if the Big Chap sends a big rock, there's nowt I can do to stop it.
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PostSubject: Re: The Nearest We Ever Came To The End Of Everything?   Thu 08 May 2014, 12:14

Should you not be worried about floods, Gil?

These people are;



Panic mongering by an American insurance company says these people;

http://www.lapalma-tsunami.com/tsunami.html
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