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The Apocalypses That Might Have Been

Article #298 • Written by Dan Gillis

NORAD - Keeping an eye towards the sky to protect the United States.
NORAD - Keeping an eye towards the sky to protect the United States.

In the early dawn hours of November 9th, 1979, just a month and a half after the inexplicable Vela Incident, crews manning the underground missile silos along the American Great Plains received an urgent alert. Early warning satellites had detected that Soviet nuclear missiles were in flight, soon to rain apocalyptic fire and death upon the United States. This was not a drill (repeat, this was not a drill!). The soldiers manned their stations, and braced themselves for the unthinkable: the possibility of launching their ballistic nuclear missiles in retaliation. There was little time for considering options, as there were apparently hundreds of megatons worth of atomic weapons en route at high speeds. It seemed the world was about to end, courtesy of the world's superpowers.

This alert was not limited to the US intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force. The entire U.S. air defense interceptor force was put on alert, and at least 10 fighters took off. The National Emergency Airborne Command Post-- the "doomsday plane"-- also took to the sky, although the president was not on board. The United States was falling into its doomsday contingency plan, preparing for the worst.

Fortunately, this nuclear nightmare was only an error in the United States' detection system, not an actual attack. A training tape that simulated the signals of a massive Soviet nuclear first-strike had been mistakenly loaded into a computer the U.S. Strategic Air Command's Cheyenne Mountain control center, nestled deep in the Colorado mountains. This mistake was discovered when U.S. leaders viewed the raw-data from the Defense Support Program's (DSP) early warning satellites. This was part of standard threat assessment protocol used before deciding to launch a massive counter-strike. The DSP satellites were capable of detecting the launches of Soviet missiles almost anywhere on the Earth's surface. None of these satellites reported any launches... and an accidental global nuclear war was narrowly avoided.

Although this was the first reported incident to bring the world to the brink of a nuclear World War, it was certainly not the last. Since the inception of the nuclear missile and early-warning systems, the US and Russia have each had at least two instances of faulty information leading to a near-launch of a nuclear volley.

A Minuteman missile launch.
A Minuteman missile launch.

Less than a year after the training tape incident, U.S. commanders received another warning that the Soviet Union had launched a nuclear strike. On June 3, 1980, launch crews for Minuteman missiles were given preliminary launch warnings, and bomber crews went airborne. This time, however, the displays did not present a recognizable attack pattern or even a consistent number of incoming missiles as they had during the training tape episode. Instead, the displays showed a random number of attacking missiles, changing frequently. The displays would show that 200 had been launched, then zero missiles, and then 2 missiles. Also, the number of attacking missiles displayed at different command posts were not the same. This random display of missiles firing left the crews manning early-warning radars scrambling to find an answer.

Again, data from the DSP satellites and other early-warning systems were reviewed, and it was found that no missiles had been launched. Later investigations revealed that a single computer chip failure had caused random numbers of attacking missiles to be displayed.

Not to be outdone by the capitalist pigs, the Soviet Union established their own error-prone early-warning satellite system. However, the Soviets had chosen a different method to spot these launches. The Soviets chose not to look down on the entire Earth's surface the way the U.S. DSP satellites do. Instead, the Soviet satellites look at the edge of the Earth, reducing the chance that a naturally occurring phenomenon would look like a missile launch. When a missile rises 5 to 10 miles, it appears silhouetted against the black background of space. Also, when the edge of the earth is viewed, light reflected off the top of clouds and snow banks has to travel through much more of the atmosphere, which reduces the chance that this light would set off a false alarm.

To view a recently launched missile against the black background of space, a unique type of orbit is needed for the satellite. To achieve this, the Soviet Union placed their early-warning satellites in a Molnyia orbit. A Molnyia orbit comes very close to the earth as it passes the southern hemisphere, but as it approaches the northern hemisphere and its apogee, it extends to nearly 1/10 the distance to the moon. From this position high above northern Europe, the Soviet Union's Oko ("Eye") early-warning satellites spend much of their time observing the missile fields of the United States. This practice nearly led to nuclear disaster.

A hypothesized Oko Satellite view of the U.S. missile fields at the time of the "Autumn Equinox" incident.
A hypothesized Oko Satellite view of the U.S. missile fields at the time of the "Autumn Equinox" incident.

Shortly after midnight in Moscow on September 26th 1983, the satellite's field of view lined up perfectly with the sun and US missile bases. They were arranged in such a way that the maximum amount of sunlight was reflected off high-altitude clouds towards the early-warning satellite. Lt. Colonel Stanislav Petrov was the officer in charge of "Serpukhov-15", the secret bunker from which the Soviet Union monitored the satellites' signals. In subsequent interviews he described the dilemma he faced when the system suddenly indicated the launch of several missiles from the U.S. continental missile fields.

Disobeying his standing orders, Lt. Col Petrov decided not to sound the alert. Petrov later spoke on the incident, explaining why he did not pass the information on to his superiors: "When people start a war, they don't start it with only five missiles. You can do little damage with just five missiles."

The last such near-disaster that the superpowers are willing to acknowledge occurred on January 25th, 1995. Shortly before sunrise, the Soviet early-warning systems sang out a warning that an American missile was incoming. The missile originated near Norway, suggesting that the Americans were executing the classic Cold War first-strike scenario: surfacing a sub off the coast and lobbing a nuclear missile to be detonated high over the Soviet Union, thereby blinding Russian radar stations. In theory, this action would be shortly followed by an all-out attack.

Unlike the previous alerts, this event wasn't an error in the early-detection system, this missile was confirmed as real. Fearing the worst, the Russian military prepared to launch a full-scale counterattack against the United States. Planes were readied, and missiles sat waiting to launch a nuclear volley on selected targets in the United States at a moment's notice. Tensions were running so high within the Russian leadership that Russian President Boris Yeltsin activated his nuclear briefcase, enabling him to communicate with his top military advisers and review the situation online. This was the first time he had ever done so.

Amidst this uncertainty, as many fingers nervously hovered over death-bringing buttons, word was received from Soviet military observers: the missile, while real, was not en route to Russia. It was a harmless research rocket headed for space. NASA had launched the four-stage rocket in partnership with Norwegian scientists for the purpose of studying the northern lights, and somehow the men at the Soviet radar stations had not received the memo. The rocket was not the first to be launched from the island off the coast of Norway, nevertheless it was indistinguishable from a Trident missile to Russia's low-resolution early-warning radars.

An early warning radar, ready to detect a nuclear nightmare.
An early warning radar, ready to detect a nuclear nightmare.

Nuclear inter-continental ballistic missiles are almost quaint by today's risk-assessment standards; the nuke of the future is more likely to originate in an atomic attaché than a missile silo. But as long as the number of nations with nuclear weapons steadily increases, early-warning systems are an unpleasant necessity. Considering the purpose of these detection systems-- to defend nations from the unthinkable-- it is ironic that they are responsible for bringing the world to the brink of an inappropriate apocalypse on at least a few occasions. Sometimes, it seems, an ounce of prevention is worth a megaton of cure.

Article written by Dan Gillis, published on 22 October 2007. Dan is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.

Article design by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.
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98 Comments
mjunk
Posted 22 October 2007 at 03:10 pm

Well written and DI. Thanks, Dan.


J2daROC
Posted 22 October 2007 at 03:26 pm

Complete annihilation at your fingertip...it must have been maddening to be sitting in one of the rooms with 'the button' at your disposal. I wonder if it was just like the movies, with annoying horns and red lights flashing...

Makes you wonder about the stuff they won't acknowledge.

JRoc


lemon
Posted 22 October 2007 at 03:46 pm

those who play with fire....are bound to get burnt

or in this situation everyone gets burnt

nukes are so destructive it just seems mindless to have them - if I get frazzled by a soviet (or middle eastern nuke these days) I'll be dead so I won't care if the other side got it as well

disarm now!!


Kiwi
Posted 22 October 2007 at 03:58 pm

Wow this is scary stuff! Nice article


1c3d0g
Posted 22 October 2007 at 04:14 pm

No, disarming is for pussies. If you can't handle the situation, crawl back under the rock you came from and keep watching the Brady Bunch. Meanwhile real men will deal with these serious issues if/when they arise. Do you think any superpower in this day and age would stand a chance in a full-scale assault without some type of Nuclear weapon? Are you insane?!? It's those same warheads you loathe that have kept North America free from massive armies invading the continent.

I'm not an American (I was born and live on a Caribbean island), but boy am I glad that America possesses these weapons, otherwise some stupid freak like Chavez or Castro would definitely have "acquired" a few islands (and their inhabitants as personal slaves) for themselves.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be living in - and thus automatically protected by - a big country with a huge army and an even larger arsenal of weapons. It's the U.S. that thas provided us with this "blanket of freedom and peace" and shall continue to do so for the foreseeable future, however fragile that freedom/peace may seem.

Please look beyond your nose before commenting on grave matters like these.


texnation
Posted 22 October 2007 at 04:46 pm

That was a great article.


GusTheMus
Posted 22 October 2007 at 05:14 pm

Kiwi said: "Wow this is scary stuff! Nice article"

It sure is. I actually posted a comment here about an hour or so ago ( I was fourth!!!!) and now I come back, and it seems David Copperfield was here, and somehow made it vanish!! Now, my comment was basically saying that I approved of Iran having nuclear weapons, purely as a deterent to "the good ol US of A" who just can't seem to stop itself meddling in other countries affairs, starting illegal lie fuelled wars, and generally making the world a very unsafe place, perhaps that's why it vanished. Quite odd, I had always had this place down as an unbiased site where you could express opinions etc, I mean look above, there is talk of America and it's nuclear arsenal "being a blanket of freedom" and "some freak like Chavez or Castro", excuse me, but Mr George Bush has already done more damage than those two could ever hope to!! Castro is hardly a freak, but I suppose thats how some people in your country (USA) see other countries and their political systems. Ah well, nevermind, David will be back in, and this article will vanish again. God bless the Iranian's.... :)


treflar
Posted 22 October 2007 at 05:28 pm

first?


Silverhill
Posted 22 October 2007 at 05:58 pm

1c3d0g said: "It's those same warheads you loathe that have kept North America free from massive armies invading the continent."
North America, or even just the USA, is too big for an invading/occupying force to succeed. The sheer scale of the place is a very strong deterrent. The nuclear deterrence is more important for things like major cities (which are indeed worth protecting!).

DI, Mr. Gillis, and thanks! I didn't know that there had been that many "Fail-Safe moments"...indeed chilling.

[copy-editor mode]

...the chance that a naturally occurring phenomena... [phenomenon]

...light reflected off the top of clouds and snow banks have to travel... [has to travel]

...a very unique type of orbit is needed for the satellite... [strike 'very'; 'unique' cannot be qualified]

[/copy-editor mode]

Carry on! :-)


ChrisW75
Posted 22 October 2007 at 06:13 pm

Great article. It makes you glad that there's real, rational people working in these places and that it's not just computers doing all the thinking.
Personally, I think that nuclear weapons are the tiger we've grabbed by the tail. Now we've got them, we can't very easily let go, whatever your viewpoint on them.


Stead311
Posted 22 October 2007 at 06:51 pm

Excellent article and very well written. Truthfully though, not thoroughly DI. The government making a mistake is hardly news. It was unique because I haven't heard of it before or any false detections but one can assume with such new technology for the era, it was bound to cause some sort of failure.


boolean
Posted 22 October 2007 at 07:00 pm

This is probably one of the most interesting... and scary...articles I've read on DI. Damn good work.

I'm going to go hide in a bunker now =(


tednugentkicksass
Posted 22 October 2007 at 07:33 pm

GusTheMus said: "It sure is. I actually posted a comment here about an hour or so ago ( I was fourth!!!!) and now I come back, and it seems David Copperfield was here, and somehow made it vanish!!"

Paranoid much? Maybe you previewed but didn't post. In any case, please don't try to turn this into a quasi-political, propaganda (from either side) filled discussion.
The article said: Sometimes, it seems, an ounce of prevention is worth a megaton of cure.
Nice, I like it.


HiEv
Posted 22 October 2007 at 08:32 pm

1c3d0g said: "No, disarming is for pussies. If you can't handle the situation, crawl back under the rock you came from and keep watching the Brady Bunch. Meanwhile real men will deal with these serious issues if/when they arise."

Right, because "real men" can't solve problems with words or brains. "Real men" tend to be in short supply of brains anyways, so they think force is the answer to everything, and they tend to belittle anyone who disagrees. Oh, and by "real men" I mean "bullies." Yeah, that Gandhi sure was a "pussy" wasn't he? ;-)

1c3d0g said: "Do you think any superpower in this day and age would stand a chance in a full-scale assault without some type of Nuclear weapon?"

Heh, in a full-scale assault involving nuclear weapons, having your own nuclear weapons is not a defense, it's merely means that you can make sure the other side loses too.

1c3d0g said: "Are you insane?!?"

A question you should be asking yourself considering the point this article is making. Nuclear weapons are a danger to us all, and we're damn lucky they've only been used in war twice so far. They're very expensive to create and maintain, dangerous as heck, and no nation could use one in war anymore without immediately painting themselves as a danger to the rest of the world. Basically they're the white elephant of war now.

1c3d0g said: "It's those same warheads you loathe that have kept North America free from massive armies invading the continent."

I think you've been watching too many bad '80s movies.

1c3d0g said: "Please look beyond your nose before commenting on grave matters like these."

Please consider that maybe we have, but we just came to different conclusions than you did.


HiEv
Posted 22 October 2007 at 08:47 pm

Silverhill said: "...a very unique type of orbit is needed for the satellite... [strike 'very'; 'unique' cannot be qualified]"

I kind of disagree with this one. Technically, every object is unique, no two have the exact same arrangement of atoms. But the larger the difference from the rest, the more unique something is. If a famous dollmaker makes humanoid dolls, but only ever makes one with red eyebrows, that one is unique, right? But if he only ever makes one "monster" doll, isn't that one very unique? I mean, technically speaking, you're right, but I think it ignores the spirit of what was written and the intuitive way most people understand the word "unique".


drizen
Posted 22 October 2007 at 08:57 pm

Well that is a tad worrying. Lets just hope Skynet doesn't become fully aware, or if it does lets hope for an Arnie, angsty Edward Furlong and a Guns and Roses sound track.


Catkilller7
Posted 22 October 2007 at 09:30 pm

Just a few quick comments-

A. Great article, but I seem to remember one other soviet mistake- A rookie was in the command room when a simulation of an American attack was going on. His supervisor was just out of the room, and the rookie, ignoring the 'big red phone' which is used to confirm attacks, was just about to hit the launch button when his supervisor grabbed his had yelling "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" at the top of his lungs.
B. I've met a lot of Americans who believe that Canada is their entitlement, and that at anytime they could nuke the hell out of us and take it back. Just a happy reminder- It was us Canadians that fueled a huge amount of your uranium and plutonium used in your bombs. Also, we beat you in 1812. 200 years different is not much ^^
C. I'm an anti-nuke guy. Excuse my ignorance please =D

Again, great article.


Joe Buck
Posted 22 October 2007 at 09:58 pm

You write: "Although this was the first reported incident to bring the world to the brink of a nuclear World War, it was certainly not the last." Did you forget about the Cuban missile crisis?

My uncle was an attache at the British embassy in Washington at the time. He had orders to evacuate along with the rest of the embassy staff to West Virginia because the UK government believed that Washington, DC would be hit by a Russian missile strike. He was packed and ready to go, as were diplomats from other countries. And this wasn't just a case of nervousness; many don't appreciate just how close we came (in particular, those who now claim that Islamic terrorism is the worst threat we've ever faced have a bad case of amnesia).


Nezbitz
Posted 22 October 2007 at 10:05 pm

''Not to be outdone by the capitalist pigs, the Soviet Union established their own error-prone early-warning satellite system.''
Classic.
Are we sure it was their own error, or another great double cross from the CIA re: The Farewell Dossier


Silverhill
Posted 22 October 2007 at 10:30 pm

HiEv said: "If a famous dollmaker makes humanoid dolls, but only ever makes one with red eyebrows, that one is unique, right? But if he only ever makes one "monster" doll, isn't that one very unique?
No; they're equally unique. Where many people nowadays use unique, what they really mean is unusual---which can indeed be qualified. The red-eyebrows doll is somewhat unusual; the monster doll is very unusual.

Similarly, people misuse 'instantaneous'---technically, "happening in no time at all"---for 'instant'---"happening with very little time lapse".

I think it's from a tendency to get carried away with hyperbole. But we have such an abundance of Right Words*...we shouldn't abandon them in favor of the extrema.

*Mark Twain: "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter---it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."


marcx77
Posted 23 October 2007 at 04:11 am

Interesting and scary stuff.
I believe that nuclear weapons serve no purpose great enough to justify their existence. I cannot think of a single scenario where using a nuclear weapon would result in a better outcome of a conflict than not using one.

Also a small correction: in the paragraph about the 1995 incident you mention 'Soviet' and 'the Soviet Union', which didn't exist any more at that time (although I can see why you would use it when referencing a 'classic cold war scenario').


kwiksand
Posted 23 October 2007 at 04:13 am

Joe Buck said: "You write: "Although this was the first reported incident to bring the world to the brink of a nuclear World War, it was certainly not the last." Did you forget about the Cuban missile crisis?

I took that passage, as "Although this was the first reported incident due to equipment malfunction to bring the world to the brink of a nuclear World War, it was certainly not the last."

Whether or not I'm right, I'm not sure. But if memory serves me correctly, there was no mistake about Kruschev (Spelling), and the missle silo setup on Cuba, it was an intentional scare tactic to get back at the U.S for their silo's in Greece pointed straight at the U.S.S.R. Not what will be damn intersting is that if I've remembered that correctly after all these years (High School history), and whether I was taught the truth anyway.


kwiksand
Posted 23 October 2007 at 04:22 am

Also a small correction: in the paragraph about the 1995 incident you mention 'Soviet' and 'the Soviet Union', which didn't exist any more at that time (although I can see why you would use it when referencing a 'classic cold war scenario')."

This poses and interesting question too (once again, forgive my lack of knowledge on the subject). I assumed (wrongly?!) after the fall of the Soviet Union in '91, that the government, military and administration would be in tatters. Did they still have the capability to launch an attack response in 1995?


another viewpoint
Posted 23 October 2007 at 05:04 am

...so, how many other incidents too place that we DIDN'T hear about? Sounds like a made-for TV movie kind of stuff. WAIT...they did already. It was called WAR GAMES! All praise Fredonia and The WOPR!


shanachie
Posted 23 October 2007 at 05:22 am

marcx77 said: "...I cannot think of a single scenario where using a nuclear weapon would result in a better outcome of a conflict than not using one."

Given that they exist, the only practical way to ensure the not-use of them is the threat of their use in response, AKA MAD.

The quality of discussion on this board has gone downhill, way downhill.


MonkeyBones
Posted 23 October 2007 at 06:42 am

The quality of discussion on this board has gone downhill, way downhill."

So sorry. Go join MENSA, maybe they are the answer. I hope your

way
superior intelligence has not been too damaged. I'm sure your respect for others will compensate though.


dwibby
Posted 23 October 2007 at 07:20 am

Silverhill said: "Where many people nowadays use unique, what they really mean is unusual—which can indeed be qualified.

I hate to break it to you, but this is all the evidence needed to prove that "very unique" is indeed a correct usage. We are quite fortunate to be the users of a language as live as English is. But when it comes down to the bare bones of the argument, any given language is a protocol--a structured way of doing things--to communicate ideas. Unfortunately, most, if not all, languages are 'lossy'--something is lost in changing ideas to words.

While the rules for a given language help offset some of the loss, the most important aspect of any language is getting the ideas across. Sometimes this means a steadfast use of the rules. Other times, it means completely disregarding the rules--for example, poetry by e. e. cummings.

That being said, it's always good to have someone around who has a firm grasp on the rules to be able to check for the more insidious mistakes of language--the kinds of mistakes that completely change a message.


Nicki the Heinous
Posted 23 October 2007 at 07:57 am

1c3d0g said: "disarming is for pussies. "

And hiding behind a nuclear arsenal is what brave 'real men' do?


marcx77
Posted 23 October 2007 at 08:21 am

shanachie said: "Given that they exist, the only practical way to ensure the not-use of them is the threat of their use in response, AKA MAD.

The quality of discussion on this board has gone downhill, way downhill."


It appears as if you think that your statement somehow invalidates mine. It doesn't.

And surely, posting messages in that tone doesn't improve the quality of discussion on this board.


Radiatidon
Posted 23 October 2007 at 08:47 am

I’m not a big fan of weapons of war. It is just a shame that throughout history we fear our neighbors so much. Especially when that neighbor starts subjugating others. So we pickup a stick and notice that the neighbor has a bigger stick, which makes us seek out an even larger stick.

That this latest stick, the “N” bomb is so nasty. It is just the latest big stick we have. I am sure as time goes by, an even nastier stick will be found. One that will make the “N” bombs nothing more than a small rock among the many others in the various nations’ arsenals.

I have walked this planet through many different wars, though I have not been in the military. Because of my education I have been at potential Ground Zero many times, and carried the Nuclear Monkey on my back. I have experience both the fear of me because of my nationality, and those same people fearing their own leaders.

I could spend days writing my experiences. For instance, in one of many Soviet villages off the main roads during the cold war, the locals distrusted my friends and me. Even to regard us with weapons in hand (wooden pitchforks, knives, clubs in hand) from their homes (simple wood structures, even some made of sod and thatch).

Later we made friends with many of them. They explained that Pravda, and the People’s radio had misinformed them of what we really were like. The only American films they had seen were the more disagreeable, Gangster movies, Cowboy and Indian movies, nothing positive. If the film showed violence of authority to the common man, or to people from other nations, then they were allowed to view it, as long as the film portrayed a negative image of America and her people.

Yet they embraced my culture and many, once they knew we were American, would not accept Rubles and would only accept US green.

In other countries I have seen public executions because someone was the wrong skin color or the wrong religion. I have witness people maimed, even children, having various parts removed just because they made a simple mistake. For things that make no sense, even something so simple as to have sat down with some animal’s excrement of the bottom of their foot, and that foot innocently pointed towards some official. I have walked fields literally littered with human bones, many the remains of children. Lives not lost to the ravages of war, but because some local warlord’s men needed entertainment.

My body is a testament to both physical and emotional scars because I tried to intervene. Fear of my nationality did not always protect me. I can vouch from firsthand experience what agony one human can perform on another. I have lost over 30% feeling below my waist and a portion of my vision because I wandered into something innocently, and those there subjected me to mental and physical abuse using rope, nails, boards, and a tree. After they tired of me, I was released. Upon examination, it was discovered that my spine had been displaced so far that it was apparent even without the aid of any medical devices. Over a period of time it shifted back into place. X-rays later showed that a lower vertebra had been broken in half and that a portion of my spinal cord bruised and damaged. My skull showed minor fractures across the front and back though the sides looked fine. What was my crime, who knows, perhaps my skin color was wrong for the area that I had wandered into. Even today I still suffer pain from abuse performed those many years ago. On one hand my pinky never fully healed. I can pull it out like one of those rubber-banded toy figurines only to have it snap back into place (great at parties, really grosses people out).

Even this forum is a battleground. Though the weapons used are words and insults. There are times when a simple debate will degrade into a slugfest of verbal abuse, a flame war so to speak.

No, it is very unfortunate that we distrust each other to the point that we need to keep looking for the bigger stick to keep the monsters at bay. It does not matter if those monsters have a physical nature or only exist in our own minds. I post this not for sympathy, but as a reminder. There are things out there in the dark, and they don’t always just say boo.

The Don stumbles from the virtual podium, holding right arm out, he twists it causing the Nitrogen bubble that usually forms at the damaged elbow to pop. A left over reminder how an arm can be forced to bend backwards at the elbow, and the bones pulled apart without tearing the limb from the body.

As he shuffles from cyberspace, he mumbles about the various almost apocalyptic events he knew of…


ti83
Posted 23 October 2007 at 08:52 am

Nicely written! Finally, one of the ideas I submitted was written about! Sweet.


another viewpoint
Posted 23 October 2007 at 08:59 am

...Radiatidon, I see your comments and add the following...

Isn't it amazing that George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's - could write
something so very eloquent...and so very appropriate.

A Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter
tempers, wider Freeways , but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have
less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families,
more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more
knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine,
but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive
too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV
too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced
our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned
how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years.
We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street
to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've
done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted
the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but
learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to
wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies
than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character,
steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but
more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips,
disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and
pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much
in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology
can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this
insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to
be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you
in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember,
to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can
give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember, to say, "I love you" to
your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace
will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands
and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time
to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that
take our breath away. If you don't send this to at least 8 people....Who cares?

...way to go Mr. Hippy Dippy Weatherman...thanks George!


wargammer
Posted 23 October 2007 at 09:37 am

J2daROC said: "Complete annihilation at your fingertip…it must have been maddening to be sitting in one of the rooms with 'the button' at your disposal. I wonder if it was just like the movies, with annoying horns and red lights flashing…

Makes you wonder about the stuff they won't acknowledge.

JRoc"

please tell me where one nuke has gone off that was not planned?

people are the best defense in any system, over computers


kwiksand
Posted 23 October 2007 at 09:48 am

people are the best defense in any system, over computers

Shame a person can't detect an incoming ICBM and destroy it, then I'd believe you..

For now, Pacman rules.


JWasiJR
Posted 23 October 2007 at 09:53 am

kwiksand said: "Whether or not I'm right, I'm not sure. But if memory serves me correctly, there was no mistake about Kruschev (Spelling), and the missle silo setup on Cuba, it was an intentional scare tactic to get back at the U.S for their silo's in Greece pointed straight at the U.S.S.R."

I really don't think it was a "scare tactic" on their part, I'm pretty sure Nikita Khrushchev was serious about placing the missiles in Cuba and keeping them there.

29 September 1960
I still remember the sight of him pounding his shoe on the table after the Philippine delegate accused the USSR of imperialism in Eastern Europe at the U.N. Those types of outburst made him look a little crazy which was a intentional scare tactic.

FYI: The Cuban missile crisis was resolved after we agreed to remove our missles from Turkey.


seamus54
Posted 23 October 2007 at 09:56 am

One minor comment - in the first paragraph it says soldiers were on high alert. The Air Force controls the land-based 2/3 of the nuclear triad. The Navy has the other 1/3.


Glenn
Posted 23 October 2007 at 10:09 am

kwiksand said: "... the missle silo setup on Cuba, it was an intentional scare tactic to get back at the U.S for their silo's in Greece pointed straight at the U.S.S.R. ..."

Close; it was (at least partly) in response to the U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey, not Greece.


Reaper
Posted 23 October 2007 at 10:16 am

I try to think of our nuclear arsenals as a necessary step toward a greater good. By which I mean we can blow up everybody we don't like!

KIDDING! Nuclear energy is the wave of the future, and it simply cannot exist without nuclear armaments; no warlord would let that happen. Heck, even researching more efficient means of killing another with these weapons is vicariously advancing the "nicer" side of nuclear power. The more juice we can extract from the atom, the more homes it can power with less of that vile material. Eventually we'll master fusion, and if it doesn't envelop the world in a fiery hellstorm, we'll have ourselves the quintessential clean power source.

But again, even if the nuke came first, it is more of a necessary evil toward a greater good than it is anything else; as the power of the atom becomes easier to harvest, it'll be easier and easier for smaller and smaller people to harvest it to kill. It is a danger we have to learn to live with if we are to advance into an age of cleaner energy.

PS: Radiation, I can't imagine how it feels to be the victim of someone (or someones) sick enough to treat another person like that. Killing outright I can understand; death is an end, but causing someone pain -- much less permanently evident pain -- is a mindset I cannot comprehend. In my mind, that is why we need sticks. Those kinds of people will never simply go away, so the best we can do is deter as best we can and equip ourselves to fend those kinds of people off.

Also, another viewpoint, I've read a few of those chain letters from George Carlin. He's a very eloquent fellow when he wants to be (you'd never guess it from his comedy shows!) and I only wish that his words could truly touch the masses. I don't think I've ever read anything so profound in my life.


smokefoot
Posted 23 October 2007 at 11:57 am

The "paradox of our time" essay was not written by George Carlin (who called it a "sappy load of (censored)") but rather by Dr. Bob Moorehead. Carlin is way more cynical - he would probably say that tempers and viewpoints have always been short and narrow.


InterestedOne
Posted 23 October 2007 at 12:10 pm

Excellent article Dan , although wasn't the piece re Colonel Petrov recently posted?
Radiatidon: I always enjoy reading your posts - this was no exception. In reading the part of 'your story' you shared, the (apparent) truism is not lost on me - That sometimes the biggest warmongers have never been in war and experienced it's horrors, while those that have experienced the horrors of war, do not wish it on any. I'm thankful for people like you telling your story because while many learn, at least to some extent, experientially, we do not all need to really experience things first-hand, when good communicators allow others to vicariously learn experientially. Those that do not learn from the past (mistakes) are doomed to repeat it.


adastra
Posted 23 October 2007 at 12:39 pm

I seem to remember another near fatal mistake. Sometime after upgrading the DEW line radars, the launch of a large number of missiles was detected coming over the horizon. However, the computers were coming up with no impact solutions. Someone noticed that launch time roughly corresponded with moonrise. The powerful new radars were getting reflections from the mountains of the moon.
I, dunno, maybe I dreamed that one.


Mememe
Posted 23 October 2007 at 01:54 pm

DI article indeed, though I've read about it in the newspapers before. However Soviet union didn't exist in 1995 and yet it says "Shortly before sunrise, the Soviet early-warning systems sang out a warning that an American missile was incoming"


1c3d0g
Posted 23 October 2007 at 05:43 pm

HiEv: yes, while words are usually able to resolve a conflict, sometimes, just sometimes, brute force and extreme damage on a massive scale is necessary to achieve "victory". Now that may be open to debate, as nobody wins in a war, but the point is this: there has to be a weapon in place which can be called upon when a situation goes out of hand. Something which is so devastating the mere thought of its detonation brings quarreling parties to a stop and forces some sort of a truce/deal/peace.

This is the sad, ugly side to world we live in, but someone has to deal with it. Being naive about current world affairs and thinking "this is not going to happen to us etc." is exactly the mentality that made 9/11 a reality. Hopes and dreams don't achieve anything other than giving you a false sense of security. And I'm a big proponent of being prepared - there's nothing wrong with being prepared.

Nicki the Heinous : no, we don't hide behind them. When the time calls for it, they WILL be used, as it happened before with Hiroshima/Nagasaki - to end a world war. I wish they'll never be used again, but there's a demon born every minute who wants to see the world burn, so unfortunately for you and I, Nuclear weapons are a necessary evil and are here to stay.

Silverhill: interesting point indeed.


supercalafragalistic
Posted 23 October 2007 at 09:37 pm

Wow! Thank you Radiation for your heartfelt comments. Your autobiography will be a best seller if you ever write one. It's almost as though you are beating entropy. Hats off to you! This article for me brings up the question of how do people deal with rage, anger, and hate? There are so many sides and nuances to these types of questions. It's difficult to imagine for some people who don't have this perspective, but let me try to bring it to light here... Imagine for a moment that someone murdered your best friend/spouse/parent. How would that make you feel? What kinds of emotions would you have? A lot of people experience rage and anger in these situations and never get over it. It's sad but true. It says a lot about the nature of human beings that many people have this type of instinctive reaction in these extreme situations. (I know more than a dozen people personally who suffer from this type of anger) Misplaced anger can do a lot of damage. The desire for revenge can be fierce in some people over the smallest of things sometimes. There are a lot of people out there using sledge hammers to kill flies so to speak. These nuclear bombs are similar, and I think there could be many things said about them as far as their cause being from the depths of our collective psyches.


nsrmbo
Posted 23 October 2007 at 09:50 pm

There will never be a full-scale nuclear war between superpowers, thanks to Mutually Assured Destruction. Which is not to say some crackpot like Korea Kim won't set off a few at random.

Now what I'd be scared about these days, is Biological Weapons. I can't wait until we open that can of worms... fun times!


Skydive
Posted 24 October 2007 at 04:44 am

Radiatidon said: "... all that suff ..."

Radiatidon - your posts are always interesting and add to the discussion taking place on any topic. One question I have for you tho is why do you spell Radiatidon that way? I've always found that odd (Or am I completely mental?)

Back on topic ... I never understood why the 'superpowers' built so many nuclear weapons. I think the number was 65,000 ... seems a bit high to me really (didn't the US have over 30,000 at one stage?). Did they ever seriously think they would need all of them? Could you even realistically use them all before the world was completely destroyed ... or at least rendered useless.
Unless of course someone at the pentagon sat down with a map of the world and counted the number of 'N bomb' circles needed to completely blanket the globe.


kwiksand
Posted 24 October 2007 at 06:54 am

Back on topic … I never understood why the 'superpowers' built so many nuclear weapons. I think the number was 65,000 … seems a bit high to me really (didn't the US have over 30,000 at one stage?). Did they ever seriously think they would need all of them? Could you even realistically use them all before the world was completely destroyed … or at least rendered useless.

Perhaps their misunderstanding of other cultures made them believe that the Russians, or Japanese were as resiliant and Radiation resident as Cockroaches so each city would need to be nuked again and again, until nothing moved...

err!

In all seriousness, I think it was a pointless numbers game, he who has the most rockets wins. Like school yard Marbles, only with less marbles.


Nicki the Heinous
Posted 24 October 2007 at 09:00 am

1c3d0g said: "Nicki the Heinous : no, we don't hide behind them. When the time calls for it, they WILL be used, as it happened before with Hiroshima/Nagasaki - to end a world war. I wish they'll never be used again, but there's a demon born every minute who wants to see the world burn, so unfortunately for you and I, Nuclear weapons are a necessary evil and are here to stay."

If there are demons born every minute like you say, then it's likely that some are born in America. No nation is more or less evil than another. If one nation has nuclear weapons, another nation can get them too.

In my opinion, nuclear weapons are the absolute power. One person can decide that tens of thousands will die and many thousands more will suffer from illness for a possibly infinite number of generations. This kind of power does not belong in human hands. It creates an unfair advantage during negotiations of any sort, which leads to disparity and away from peace.

Even a good person could be corrupted by this power, because knowing you could nuke the opposition doesn't inspire compromise. It would be the equivalent of the President sticking his fingers in his ears and saying "la la la la la! Not listening! I got the REALLY BIG STICK!". And when the button is being pressed, do you think the man doing it is gravely telling himself 'this is for the greater good of mankind'? If he is, does he believe it, or is he deluding himself? And who let him decide what is better for mankind?

The suffering of the world did not end or improve when those bombs went off in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I sincerely doubt that anyone burning alive was a demon who deserved it.


smokefoot
Posted 24 October 2007 at 09:21 am

Skydive said: "Back on topic ... I never understood why the 'superpowers' built so many nuclear weapons. ... Unless of course someone at the pentagon sat down with a map of the world and counted the number of 'N bomb' circles needed to completely blanket the globe."

I read a really interesting article by a retired nuclear analyst which covered this. In reality, the USA and USSR never pointed their weapons at people, per se - killing as many as possible was never a goal, so no one ever tried to blanket the globe with circles. Instead the targets were other nuclear weapons, military command, communications and transport. Nuclear missiles were usually buried and would need a direct hit to take out, likewise command posts like Cheyenne Mountain would need a direct hit; so dozens of warheads might be allocated to each target to maximize the chance of success. If the other side got a surprise attack off, the number of surviving missiles needed to be enough to make them regret starting a war, again usually by targeting military and political command.

The other interesting thing the analyst noted was that every country that has gotten the bomb has always gotten much more cautious about their foreign policy, even ones that had a reputation for craziness beforehand. I am still waiting to see if this plays out with North Korea - some of the news on that front seems hopeful.


smokefoot
Posted 24 October 2007 at 09:26 am

Another interesting thing - Mutually Assured Destruction was never the policy of either the USA or USSR. Instead, the goal was to keep the other side too scared to do anything. MAD was the result of both sides being somewhat successful at this.


Nonesuch
Posted 24 October 2007 at 09:47 am

*Mark Twain: "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter—it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.""

Thank you, Silverhill. Enlightening comments such as yours (and Twain quotes) in combination with unusually interesting subject matter is precisely why I continue to read this feature and smile, shiver or just ponder at what I find here. Additionally, this one has provoked a grateful response and a means of calibrating my own catastrophic english early warning system, so as to avoid a false launch of total incoherence on subject matter and language alike, not to mention as a deterrent to being struck by lightning bugs. Thanks again for the article and entertainment, DI and readers.


Inti
Posted 24 October 2007 at 12:54 pm

Almost all of you should know this one, but I think it could be a nice finale for this interesting thread.

""I do not know with what weapons World War 3 will be fought, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones." (Albert Einstein)

That summed with...

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." (Albert Einstein)

...makes me wonder if nuclear weapons were ever truly justified as a means to "secure peace".

The nuclear weapon proliferation could be seen as circumstantial prove of our deepest nature. We are just a bunch of tribal primates unable to break free from the genetic dictate to oppress and kill everyone who is different. Our only hope is to put reason on command of our inner apes.


oldmancoyote
Posted 24 October 2007 at 07:25 pm

marcx77 said: "Interesting and scary stuff.
I believe that nuclear weapons serve no purpose great enough to justify their existence. I cannot think of a single scenario where using a nuclear weapon would result in a better outcome of a conflict than not using one."

I can think of one scenario. When no one else has the capability of nuclear weapons. That was the scenario that ended WWII.

smokefoot said: " In reality, the USA and USSR never pointed their weapons at people, per se - killing as many as possible was never a goal, so no one ever tried to blanket the globe with circles. Instead the targets were other nuclear weapons, military command, communications and transport. "

For starters, we have no idea what the Soviets were aiming their missiles at. We can't even know where all of the U.S. missiles were aimed (even those people who served in nuke units didn't know all of the targets).

Recently the Air Force found themselves in hot water because a bomber was flying over CONUS with nuclear weapons onboard. No big deal. During the cold war, U.S. bombers were flying out of our bases with nukes every few hours.

Those bases were likely targets of Soviet ICBMs. Bases such as Carswell Air Force Base. Without traffic, that is five minutes from downtown Fort Worth, Texas. Remember, multiple nukes were aimed at each target in order to insure total destruction. The soviets tried to make up for lack of accuracy with higher yield. Aim at Fort Worth, hit Carswell and vice versa.

Radiatidon said: " There are things out there in the dark, and they don’t always just say boo."

Well said. Once again, my hat's off to you Don. You said you were not military. Too bad. Our military always needs wise leaders. You would have made a better CO than a number of the ones I served under.

As a child, when my mother told me not to be afraid of the dark, I would tell her it wasn't the dark that scared me. It was what was in the dark.


rev.felix
Posted 24 October 2007 at 07:56 pm

There's one more incident you forgot to mention. In the summer of 1969, the Soviets were alerted to a volley of ICBMs being launched from the US and they got ready to press their Big Red Buttons. As the missiles came hurtling toward Russia, they acquired a good visual of them and realized that the ICBMs were actually ICBAPs (Intercontinental Ballistic Apple Pies). At this point they were considerably relieved but they still didn't want a bunch of giant pies smashing into their country so they launched MAAMs (Microsoft Anti-Apple Missiles) and neutralized the pies. As the debris rained down hey discovered that the intense heat and absurdity of the explosions had created Applesoft iZunes and the people rejoiced because previously the Russian government had only allowed them to listen to their MP3s on sheep.


Ahuva
Posted 24 October 2007 at 10:23 pm

Don, I am in awe of the knowledge you always display in your posts, your eloquent presentation of it and the underlying love and respect for humanity that is reflected in them. I often read the comments, just to see what you had to say. Thank you.


another viewpoint
Posted 25 October 2007 at 04:53 am

...hmmmm, I love mankind too. It's people I can't stand!

If it weren't for all the people in the world, we wouldn't have half the problems we do have. And remember this, 99% of all people are caused by accident. :)


fvngvs
Posted 25 October 2007 at 06:18 am

Aaaahh!

All the satisfaction of yet another DI article well written, well read, and well argued over. High drama, spirited debate, grammar lessons and pie. May I have a slice too, please rev.felix?


Anonymousx2
Posted 25 October 2007 at 06:52 am

1. Novel: Failsafe - incredible book. Illustrates how a first strike can happen erroneously. Movie version was decent, too, even though it's old and in black and white.

2. Novel: On the Beach - also incredible. Describes the end of world after a nuclear war caused by a series of mistakes. Two movie versions -- one old and one modern -- both are acceptable.

3. Movie: Dr. Strangelove, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb. Very old movie (early sixties, at least; black and white), and I didn't understand all of the references to things going on at that time. Still hilarious. Scary, too. One of the actors -- somebody named Peter Sellers -- plays two or three parts. It took me a while to realize that it was the same actor.

4. Mensa: I belonged to it for about three months. Not impressed with the people who were active in the organization. From what I could tell, they were skilled in taking IQ tests but not skilled in working with others or in actual life. Perhaps Mensa has changed over the past few years, but, at that time, I found that the truly smart people were busy accomplishing things, not belonging to an organization that proclaims the intelligence of its members. (Don't think for a second that I have a high opinion of my accomplishments. I don't ... because I don't have any. However, I find Web pages such as this one to be far more interesting than was Mensa.)


supplex
Posted 25 October 2007 at 09:09 am

Joshua: Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess?
David Lightman: Later. Right now lets play Global Thermonuclear War.
Joshua: Fine.


helmett
Posted 25 October 2007 at 09:10 am

Nuclear weapons possessed by the USA and the old USSR were controlled by men with common ground. Both loved their countries and their children and beleived in a future where their way of life or society would and should continue. Neither side wanted to wantonly kill and create a wasteland when there was the slightest chance it would be visited upon them as well.

Crackpots and Radical Islamists do not share these qualities. I fear them possessing these capabilites more than a military supported by a superpower state.


Radiatidon
Posted 25 October 2007 at 12:08 pm

Skydive Said “Radiatidon - your posts are always interesting and add to the discussion taking place on any topic. One question I have for you tho is why do you spell Radiatidon that way? I've always found that odd (Or am I completely mental?)

At one testing facility one of the many hats I wore was Radiation Safety Specialist. Not only did I test containment systems, radars, transmitters, and so forth, I also tested microwave ovens.

At one site I found the rubber seal was defective and the microwave was emitting radiation from the front, in dangerous levels. I unplugged the unit and wrapped it with yellow “Danger – Hazardous Radiation” tape. A supervisor of that site asked what the blankety-blank I was doing. I explained, but he became aggressive. Told me to get the hell out of his building along with some other choice words. I made a phone call, gave him the phone, he turned white and hung up.

As I was leaving the building with the microwave, I overheard someone ask the supervisor whom I thought I was. He replied that I was a mafia boss, the Don of Radiation. The word spread across the base and soon I received the nickname Radiatidon. ;)

The irony of this just tickled my funny bone.

Anyway, here is the story…

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a hot potato with the alert level at DEFCON 3. Interesting enough, it was just 5 days shy of Halloween on October 25, 1962. Just prior to midnight, a Duluth military guard realized that someone was trying to climb over a security fence. He challenged the figure, but it did not respond and continue to scale the fence. He fired off a shot at it as it disappeared into the compound. He reentered the Sector Direction Center and activated the sabotage alarm.

The klaxon sounded, also activating other sabotage alarms at all the bases in the area. This included the alarm for the Volk Air Field base located in Wisconsin. Now, for those that don’t know, military alarm systems are designed to give off various types of warnings. The message for the personnel is delivered by how the long the wails, short barks, and so forth from the klaxon, a type of Morse code if you will.

Unfortunately the system was miss-wired at the Volk Air Field. When the Klaxon sounded, it gave the call for F-106A interceptors to scramble. F-106As that bore nuclear armed missiles and select targets. No verification was taken when the level was at DEFCON 3, the drill was to get the birds hot and in the air. Enemy ICBMs had either been detected being launched, or an allied country, if not the USA, had been hit by an atomic bomb. This klaxon signal was saying that WE WERE AT WAR. So it was launch ‘em or lose ‘em. Otherwise welcome to WWIII or Armageddon is our friend.

As the jets taxied for take-off, the tower reached Duluth and discovered the error. The interceptor jets were under radio silence so could not be reached. A car was sent racing down the runway, chasing the jets with the occupants waving wildly at the pilots. As luck would have it, the jet-jockeys noticed the car and the unusual activity of the occupants. They returned to base and received the news of the mistake.

Meanwhile patrols were seeking out the unauthorized intruder back in Duluth. Tensions were high and trigger fingers cramped. Imagine the relief when this Soviet saboteur, this KGB infiltrator was not seeking national secrets, nor to damage some portion of national defense. It seems this vagabond was possibly looking to search the mess hall’s dumpster for something to eat. You see it was nothing more than a Red Blooded, Native American Bear.

Now for the irony: The symbol for the old USSR was a Bear. They even used it as a mascot during the 1980s Olympics in Russia.


HiEv
Posted 25 October 2007 at 12:18 pm

another viewpoint said: "A Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways , but narrower viewpoints."


Another email hoax post? George Carlin did not write that. In fact, he called it a "sappy load of shit" on his website (which appears to be down at the moment, it was here, but you can find an archived copy here.) He also said, "as true as some of the expressed sentiments may be, who really gives a shit? Certainly not me. [...] Another problem I have with 'Paradox' is that the ideas are all expressed in a sort of pseudo-spiritual, New-Age-y, 'Gee-whiz-can't-we-do-better-than-this' tone of voice. It's not only bad prose and poetry, it's weak philosophy. I hope I never sound like that." For more, see the Snopes page:

Snopes: The Paradox of Our Time
http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/paradox.asp


HiEv
Posted 25 October 2007 at 12:34 pm

I guess I should be embarrassed now. I didn't check to see if someone else had mentioned that before I wrote it. Sorry for the redundant notice.


Radiatidon
Posted 25 October 2007 at 01:42 pm

Dan I apologize for the following, as it does not relate to the story but relates to various comments. Good read though Dan!

Reaper Said “PS: Radiation, I can't imagine how it feels to be the victim of someone (or someones) sick enough to treat another person like that.”

InterestedOne Said “I'm thankful for people like you telling your story because while many learn, at least to some extent, experientially, we do not all need to really experience things first-hand, when good communicators allow others to vicariously learn experientially.”

supercalafragalistic Said”Wow! Thank you Radiation … This article for me brings up the question of how do people deal with rage, anger, and hate?”

oldmancoyote Said “Well said. Once again, my hat's off to you Don.”

Ahuva Said “Don, I am in awe of the knowledge you always display in your posts, your eloquent presentation of it and the underlying love and respect for humanity that is reflected in them.”

Thanks guys, with this I have revealed a piece of my puzzle to you. Because of the anonymity of who I am, I will post this. I seek not sympathy, fame, nor notoriety. Seek me out and I will deny these words as truth, as a fictitious creation of my mind, for with this I reveal an inner demon that is mine, and mine alone. I post this only to explain, perhaps to help another lost in inner darkness to find the way back.

My knowledge of books and movies were born of anxiety and dread of sleep. For three days I lived in Hell and my souvenirs from that trip lie like tattoos across my skin and ghostly images in my dreams.

I don’t usually share certain aspects of my past. What happened to me could be construed as rape, not sexual, but in the ease of others to forcibly take something personable and precious from me. My self-dignity. That post was in a sense an acknowledgment of the inability to always be able to protect myself. That time in my life a part of me was taken away, while a portion of whom I was… died. To that effect I am embarrassed and ashamed of what happened. Almost to the point that at times I feel responsible. Silly I know, but the mind is a strange land in its own thinking and inner-works.

I underwent therapy for the trauma to my mind. The doctors did their best for my broken body, now it would just have to finish the job on its own. Strangers, no, even friends and family were scary to me. Every time I went somewhere new, entered any building I would have to pause and try to slow my breathing, calm my racing heart. Every nook, cranny, shadow contained a threat. I became overly aggressive and – dangerous. Not just to those around me, but to myself. One night over a year later, my inner rage spilled out and I snapped.

Every face I now saw seemed to grow into a leer as the person nodded to me. Telling me in a secret way that tonight they would come for me, to play with me, to hurt me. I was becoming psychotic.

My inner demons were talking to me, goading me on. Those who had tortured me, their laughter rang in my ears as I once again felt the nails violating my flesh, the rope burning into my wrists. Once again I felt the board against my back with my elbows on its edges. They wagered how many bricks could be placed on the boards tied to my hands, before the bone broke. Alas my right elbow gave way before the bone. The game lasted perhaps an hour, for me, eternity. The losers took turns slapping me for being so strong. One amused himself at the sounds my elbow made as he rotated the arm.

My ordeal was not reported by any news agency, just a minor note in the back pages of some bureaucratic logbook now constrained to the ashes of history. The Internet, blah, personal computers were a new thing just for geeks. There were more interesting stories unfolding overseas at that time, mine was not. For me this was a blessing as I was not willing to share my experience, nor would I talk about it with anyone. Even with the psycho-doctor who was trying to fix the convoluted morass my mind had become.

I went home and contemplated killing the beast that was consuming me, and the only way to do that was to end my own existence. The face that stared back at me from the mirror, I didn’t recognize it. In my anger I punched the mirror. As I watched it break, so did that face.

I suffered an epiphany. This broken mirror was I, with each piece resembling a section of my life. As I slid the various pieces together, the image man became more whole. As each new puzzle piece was added to the mirror, the more complete the image that lived there. With each new section, the more in control his life was becoming. Before long, I finished assembling the reflection. He was not complete, and there were sections that had completely shattered into pieces too small to use, but damn, Mr. Reflection looked pretty good. Even happier somehow, better than when he was scattered across the bathroom floor.

That day I turned my life around. I came to the fork in the road. Luckily I choose the branch leading into the sunshine with a future, and not the one heading into the dark and creepy...

So understand that people who have undergone this type of torment, rather not talk about it. Realize that admitting to such seems also like admitting to a weakness. That to recall such, is pulling the scabs off the festering wound of those memories, allowing the dark sweats and sleepless nights to return. I think that sometimes it is best not to venture into the dank crypts of one’s past and chance awakening the demons buried there long ago...

My feelings for them, pity. That is the only emotion I feel they are worthy of. I have better things to do with my emotions, my life, than hate or seek vengeance. I embrace life no matter whose it is, and I weep at that which is wasted.

Me? Mentally unhinged… you be the judge. My posts speak for themselves. Sometimes highbrow, other times juvenile. I have seen death, the atrocities of man against his own, held the dying in my arms as their spirit, essence, call it what you will, departed the flesh. I myself had hung above the dark abyss by just my fingertips, and overcome. Each day something new will occur, no matter how small. I think its great to be around, just so I can look for it. So it is that they finally lost, and I prevailed by overcoming my darkest fears.


Silverhill
Posted 25 October 2007 at 04:18 pm

My metaphoric hat is off to you, sir. Congratulations on repairing "Mr. Reflection", and congratulations on having found, and followed, the path to the sunshine.
Live long and prosper.


Bewildered
Posted 25 October 2007 at 05:33 pm

Interestingly enough, an Australian designed the guidance systems for the latest ICBM's. His name escapes me at present. The new method reduced the time to deliver a weapon from around 2 hours to less than 20 minutes (usa to ussr). The missiles are launched into a low orbit, so with less wind resistance they can whip along many 10's of times faster than they could in the atmosphere, then drop down when they reach the target. From memory, some of the missiles contained up to a dozen separate missiles, some duds, others anti-anti missiles and the others were the real thing. I don't have any references and don't have time to google it again at present, but it's food for thought...


supercalafragalistic
Posted 25 October 2007 at 05:47 pm

smokefoot said: "The other interesting thing the analyst noted was that every country that has gotten the bomb has always gotten much more cautious about their foreign policy, even ones that had a reputation for craziness beforehand. I am still waiting to see if this plays out with North Korea - some of the news on that front seems hopeful."

Hmmm, that is something to think about. I'm impressed that you are hopeful and also inspired.


rev.felix
Posted 25 October 2007 at 07:17 pm

Of course you can have some pie fvngvs. Speaking of pie, what happened to floj?


Lista
Posted 26 October 2007 at 07:03 am

Frightening situations. And these are the ones that we know of - just imagine the ones we don't know of. Now, THAT'S scary!


HunterKiller_
Posted 26 October 2007 at 08:08 pm

I wonder just how many functional nuclear missiles are held by the U.S or the Soviet.


Kevin
Posted 26 October 2007 at 08:54 pm

HunterKiller_ said: "I wonder just how many functional nuclear missiles are held by the U.S or the Soviet."

I'm more worried about the ones being held by the developing nations with more radical leaders...


Fírinne
Posted 27 October 2007 at 09:50 am

I'm amazed that I'm still alive.


J.K.
Posted 27 October 2007 at 04:00 pm

Cliched I know, but as far as Radiatidon goes there I'd kill to find out who he is as I just keep getting more fascinated, or at the least at the anonymous level for his comfort would like to learn a lot more. Not sure if it's my age old curiousity only at play or perhaps my political science background in there pushing the interest more. I have to say though I haven't 'in text' met a person who has gone through more and was willing to share as much. I'd say he's a greater person and more traveled than the rest on this site as a whole.


Anonymousx2
Posted 30 October 2007 at 11:54 am

Radiatidon said: "Dan I apologize for the following, as it does not relate to the story but relates to various comments."

It seems that you and I share some characteristics. Apparently, you solved your problems without trying to use drugs as a cure or an escape. I used a lot of acid, along with a lot of weed. Stayed off of heroin and coke somehow. I drank no alcohol at all. The drugs didn't solve anything but they took me away from myself. One day I found that I had changed for some reason and didn't have anything to escape anymore. I stopped the drugs overnight.

Everyone has a beast inside, even the people who seem really happy. Some people can make it through tough times without thinking about themselves all of the time or using drugs. Some can't.


Aero
Posted 01 November 2007 at 06:26 pm

Interesting.... Makes me feel a bit scared of future mistakes...


Aero
Posted 01 November 2007 at 06:28 pm

Also, grammar in the english language can be tricky. For instance, some grammar books require one to put a comma inbetween two adjectives, except when dealing with colors, while other books allow you to use no commas at all. So please don't be too picky about grammar. Colloquial writing is just fine.


Anonymousx2
Posted 02 November 2007 at 05:54 pm

Aero said: "Also, grammar in the english language can be tricky. For instance, some grammar books require one to put a comma inbetween two adjectives, except when dealing with colors, while other books allow you to use no commas at all. So please don't be too picky about grammar. Colloquial writing is just fine."

Sorry, but I am completely lost. Who are you talking to?


Reaper
Posted 03 November 2007 at 07:50 am

Anonymousx2 said: "Sorry, but I am completely lost. Who are you talking to?"

There were some folks discussing the semantics of some controversial grammar rule the author may have broken.

Back to the topic at hand,

HunterKiller_ said: "I wonder just how many functional nuclear missiles are held by the U.S or the Soviet."

Tens of thousands between the two nations, I'm sure. I'm fairly certain we have been slowly dismantling them over the years, but I can't imagine we've dented our stockpile that significantly. As for the former Soviets' supply...well, counting them would be a matter of taking a census of the black market. Not gonna happen any time soon, I'll wager!


Anonymousx2
Posted 03 November 2007 at 11:12 am

Reaper said: "There were some folks discussing the semantics of some controversial grammar rule the author may have broken."

Thanks. In that case, I will mention this: All languages are always capitalized. Hence, Aero's "english" is spelled as "English" in formal English. Similarily, if anyone ever sees "french fries" on a menu, even though it is becoming accepted, the spelling in formal English is "French fries."

Please note that I never said that a certain spelling is correct. "Correct" in and of itself does not exist. All that does exists is what is accepted in formal English and, then, usually in a more informal vein, what is accepted in the daily usage of the masses. Eventually, the masses' version becomes the rule, but it takes a while. For example, few persons ever wince anymore when "hopefully" and "forthcoming" are used in their modern (and "incorrect") senses. Perhaps "english" will become the formal rule someday.


strongbad
Posted 04 November 2007 at 04:18 pm

I'm afraid for the future. We are Atlantis, eventually ...


Niladri
Posted 19 November 2007 at 04:09 am

It is well written and interesting too, but I want to know whether our India too have such defence mechanisms to prevent herself. However the article is interestring and i love it. One thing not related to this topic is that is it possible for the people living in other planet to come to the earth in a shortest possible time.


jollyreaper
Posted 07 December 2007 at 03:19 pm


Unfortunately the system was miss-wired at the Volk Air Field. When the Klaxon sounded, it gave the call for F-106A interceptors to scramble. F-106As that bore nuclear armed missiles and select targets. No verification was taken when the level was at DEFCON 3, the drill was to get the birds hot and in the air. Enemy ICBMs had either been detected being launched, or an allied country, if not the USA, had been hit by an atomic bomb. This klaxon signal was saying that WE WERE AT WAR. So it was launch ‘em or lose ‘em. Otherwise welcome to WWIII or Armageddon is our friend.

Damn! I've been looking for confirmation of this story for a while now! I'd heard it said "A truck on the end of the runway was the only thing between our bombers and WWIII" but couldn't find confirmation.

However, the F-106 is a fighter, not a bomber. It carries air-to-air nukes for popping bombers. Once those fighters were in the air, how could they be vectored in on their targets if they were observing radio silence? They certainly wouldn't be on their way to downtown Moscow as in the Fail Safe scenario, being defensive weapons in nature. Would not the scenario have been for them to setup an orbit at a holding area a safe distance from the base until incoming bombers were detected? I know that the Interstate system was planned with long, straight strips at fixed intervals so they could be used as temporary airstrips in times of emergency. Was there any plan to setup refueling and service areas away from obvious targets like air bases during a war or had they already given up on that scenario with the advent of ICBM's?


jollyreaper
Posted 07 December 2007 at 03:27 pm

helmett said: "Nuclear weapons possessed by the USA and the old USSR were controlled by men with common ground. Both loved their countries and their children and beleived in a future where their way of life or society would and should continue. Neither side wanted to wantonly kill and create a wasteland when there was the slightest chance it would be visited upon them as well.

Crackpots and Radical Islamists do not share these qualities. I fear them possessing these capabilites more than a military supported by a superpower state."

Don't give our people too much credit. Curtis LeMay was a fucking monster. Yes, he had a certain brilliance when it came to warfare but make no mistake, he was a monster and an egomaniac. He felt that the United States could win a nuclear war against the Russians and felt we'd better fight it now when the odds were in our favor than wait until such time when the war would be a loss for both sides. He deliberately ordered a Polaris missile test from Cape Canaveral during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the hopes that the Russians would twitch in such a way that he'd get his launch orders.

I don't know about the rest of you guys but I grew up in the 80's and my understanding of nukes is that there were missiles, had always been missiles, and whoever fired first, the other guy would shoot back before you got him and that was that. But later on I learned that LeMay could have been right! ICBM's at the time were few and inaccurate. The Russian missiles were liquid-fueled and required the kind of fuss and preparation you would expect for a space shot, nothing like the "push a button and the solid-fueled missile is ready to launch in under a minute." A decapitation strike could catch many ICBM's on the ground and reduce the Russian forces to the point where the warheads that did make it through to us via bomber or missile would be "acceptable." You know, lose maybe 20 or 30 major cities but by God, we'd have pasted the Reds! The funny thing about all this insanity is we can look back now and say that bastard was clearly in the wrong because see, we didn't have a nuclear war. But if we had one in the 80's, any survivors left with the inclination to play armchair quarterback would say we should have taken that chance because a limited nuclear war would be a whole lot better than an all-out one.

When you think about it, it's all pretty much insane, isn't it?


nameowner
Posted 12 December 2007 at 08:45 pm

You think you know "what USSR had", their bombs -"The Russian missiles were liquid-fueled"
;)
So, I see we don't need The End of the World from the Divine, We can do it ourselves.
Ey Allohim asragin dunyoni, San O'zing podshohlarning podshosi.
We did with the Uranium* and the Hydrogen* what we wanted, I hope they would not do with us what they want.


Amilie
Posted 07 January 2008 at 12:21 am

Don, the story of how you received your name is interesting. I had always thought microwave radiation was non-ionizing, and even as such worked on such low levels that even chronic exposure to a leaking oven wouldn't be carcinogenic.

I guess we learn something new every day. ;)


Nikom
Posted 10 January 2008 at 02:03 pm

SO cool. SO scary... Missiles are one of those things I would classify as "proof" of our common insanity and inclination to end ourselves. Let's not forget that modern day missile defense is a very real, pressing issue, especially with Iran and its claims. We ran an issue-of-the-day on the "National Missile Defense" at our site, The Issue, that takes a look at the current problems and environment surrounding this issue. Have a look if it interests you an let me know what you think. The link to this issue is
http://theissue.com/issue/7512.html

Cheers,
Nick
Editor | The Issue


Captain Splattergore
Posted 24 January 2008 at 12:38 pm

Warning: comment is of highly anal content...

Since it's the Air Force's job to watch for nuclear launches and to launch counter-attacks, the article should have stated that the "airmen" manned their stations, as opposed to "soldiers".

Carry on.


K8theGr8
Posted 23 February 2008 at 05:54 am

Wow! That was a really good article. I never would have imagined that the US/Russia would have started a NUCLEAR WAR because of tecnical glitches, ect. on at least 2 occasions.


Anthropositor
Posted 12 March 2008 at 03:18 pm

1c3d0g said: "No, disarming is for pussies. If you can't handle the situation, crawl back under the rock you came from and keep watching the Brady Bunch. Meanwhile real men will deal with these serious issues if/when they arise.
I'm not an American (I was born and live on a Caribbean island), but boy am I glad that America possesses these weapons, otherwise some stupid freak like Chavez or Castro would definitely have "acquired" a few islands (and their inhabitants as personal slaves) for themselves.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be living in - and thus automatically protected by - a big country with a huge army and an even larger arsenal of weapons. It's the U.S. that thas provided us with this "blanket of freedom and peace" and shall continue to do so for the foreseeable future, however fragile that freedom/peace may seem.

Please look beyond your nose before commenting on grave matters like these."


These remarks are volatile sentiments, not thoughts. Anyone engaged in reason would conclude that keeping the world on the brink of potential destruction for close to half a century is a good way to prevent local aggressions needs to review his thought processes.

We have gotten so deeply into the quagmire of this sort of knee-jerk irrationality, even at the highest governmental levels, that our prospects are quite grave. Brinksmanship and MAD (mutually assured destruction) are not viable solutions. They are the essence of the problem.

There have been other dangerous incidents, some of them major, which were not mentioned in the article. It doesn't matter. It only takes one. And the frequency of such incidents continues to increase. We must find ways of choosing our leaders with greater care and intelligence.

The accepted mantra in the ongoing American political campaign is "change." Both parties are using it as their slogan. The truth is, the changes that have occurred during the current administration have been tragically destructive, and there are no examples of sound thinking in any of the candidates. One may be better than another, but it is a photo finish. We must think beyond the sound bites and slogans.


Mjolnir
Posted 06 November 2008 at 09:38 pm

Amilie said: "Don, the story of how you received your name is interesting. I had always thought microwave radiation was non-ionizing, and even as such worked on such low levels that even chronic exposure to a leaking oven wouldn't be carcinogenic.

I guess we learn something new every day. ;)"

Nothing Don said would indicate it being carcinogenic. The issue is tissue damage. Too much microwave radiation will cook you to some degree. It's a standard demonstration to put a turkey on a pole, then raise it in front of a radar for like 30 seconds. Then take it down and have a turkey dinner. It's not an issue of whether or not microwaves _can_ hurt you, but rather how much does it take? In the case of a microwave oven, you have more than enough power to cause injuries, thus you have to take leaks seriously. After all, the microwaves are cooking your food, and if they get loose, they start cooking YOU.... The worst is that sufficient microwave exposure (and we're talking about rather a lot) can cause cateracts and reproductive damage.

Minor leaks from microwave ovens, however, and other short term lower level exposure, have not been shown conclusively harmful in any study that I know of. The jury is still out on long term low level exposure, though so far nothing really severe has shown up....


Neesie
Posted 07 November 2008 at 10:34 pm

This is my first post and I must say, this is one of the most intelligent sites I've ever visited! I literally spend hours on it reading article after article, then reading the posted responses that are damn near just as intelligent as the article itself. One of the things I find most refreshing about the replies are that most of them are free of spelling errors (one of my little pet peeves about most "post and response" sites).

With that out of the way, I'll move on to the topic at issue: I have often questioned why the US is allowed to have nuclear weapons, but no one else is. I've asked several knowledgeable people about this and they mention the Geneva Convention but it still doesn't quite satisfy my question.


Dan Gillis
Posted 08 November 2008 at 09:10 pm

It seems that the big players in the world decide who gets to hold a nuclear arsenal and who cannot...

If it's a country that the superpowers feel threatened by, or will feel threatened by when/if they obtain nuclear weaponry, they will go to great extent to eradicate this "problem". This can come in many forms- via the UN Inspectors, Sanctions (North Korea), or even a downright military invasion.

Is this justifiable? I will not say yes or no... everyone is entitled to their opinion on it.

Is it a smart thing to do? In most cases, yes- the countries that are trying to achieve nuclear status are the ones that we really need to be worried about. Countries have proven they can peacefully have nuclear reactors, when their thoughts turn to uranium and plutonium enrichment, that's when things get dicey.

As for the US being "allowed" to have nuclear weapons- we are currently in treaties to disarm our nuclear arsenal... which is slowly but surely being done. The surge numbers we were reaching in the cold war have dwindled, and as we disarm weapons or they come to the end of their shelf life. However, there is news circulating in the military circles of new designs for nuclear weapons to replace the aging nuclear stockpile. Keep your eyes peeled on the news... I'm sure if this does come to be, things will become quite interesting in the form of other nation's opinions on the matter...

To be honest, nuclear weapons scare the living hell out of me. But now that everyone seems to want them, it seems to be an assurance of peace. We can just pray they don't fall into the wrong hands...

As Einstein said...

"I do not know with what weapons World War 3 will be fought, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones."

-Dan


janedoe
Posted 16 January 2009 at 11:21 pm

Radiatidon, you are fascinating. I have often read your comments and regarded you as a highly eloquent and intelligent individual, now i have unending respect for you.
And although you made clear you were not after sympathy, my heart still aches at the trauma(s) you spoke of and still suffer :(
I'm actually shocked at the sheer cruelty of some people.


Mirage_GSM
Posted 24 March 2009 at 03:02 am

@Radiatidon:
I always enjoy reading your posts. They are always well written and show your knowledge about a wide range of subjects.
However the sheer amount of experiences you claim to have accumulated within one lifetime is beginning to overcome my SoD. If I remember correctly the things you have written in this thread and others, you have worked as a specialist for Radiation, Radar, Lasers, physical energy storage and at least two other subjects, visited more crisis areas than James Bond, in the course sustaining enough injuries keep several trauma teams busy for weeks.
Whether true or not - if you ever think about publishing a book or making this into a movie, Ian Fleming can start packing.


Amercitizen
Posted 06 May 2009 at 07:34 am

1c3d0g said: "No, disarming is for pussies. If you can't handle the situation, crawl back under the rock you came from and keep watching the Brady Bunch. Meanwhile real men will deal with these serious issues if/when they arise. Do you think any superpower in this day and age would stand a chance in a full-scale assault without some type of Nuclear weapon? Are you insane?!? It's those same warheads you loathe that have kept North America free from massive armies invading the continent.

I'm not an American (I was born and live on a Caribbean island), but boy am I glad that America possesses these weapons, otherwise some stupid freak like Chavez or Castro would definitely have "acquired" a few islands (and their inhabitants as personal slaves) for themselves.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be living in - and thus automatically protected by - a big country with a huge army and an even larger arsenal of weapons. It's the U.S. that thas provided us with this "blanket of freedom and peace" and shall continue to do so for the foreseeable future, however fragile that freedom/peace may seem.

Please look beyond your nose before commenting on grave matters like these."

It's good to see someone who doesn't hate us Americans if we were to disarm our missiles, it would be the stupidist thing ever, countries like Russia, China, and North Korea would take us over and America would be no more. If that happens which i hope doesn't all you 0ther countries that rely on us and help us will be in danger.
Were only having the missiles to protect ourselves from invasion. Were not like Russia who sees nukes as oversized toys.

Comment on this


TruthinSilence
Posted 17 July 2010 at 04:38 pm

This is pretty weird, but I honestly wonder if America, or any other country could get away with making a Metal Gear like weapon from the Metal Gear Solid series. A stealth nuclear projectile that circumvents all international law and leaves the world in a "Who done it?" cloud. Very interesting article indeed. Well with the research being done on Electro Magnetic Pulse weaponry, it'd actually make more sense to EMP someone before launching a nuclear attack...it'd be completely one sided, kinda scary on both ends really.


Benji
Posted 09 January 2014 at 08:35 am

1c3d0g said: "No, disarming is for pussies. If you can't handle the situation, crawl back under the rock you came from and keep watching the Brady Bunch. Meanwhile real men will deal with these serious issues if/when they arise. Do you think any superpower in this day and age would stand a chance in a full-scale assault without some type of Nuclear weapon? Are you insane?!? It's those same warheads you loathe that have kept North America free from massive armies invading the continent.
I'm not an American (I was born and live on a Caribbean island), but boy am I glad that America possesses these weapons, otherwise some stupid freak like Chavez or Castro would definitely have "acquired" a few islands (and their inhabitants as personal slaves) for themselves.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to be living in - and thus automatically protected by - a big country with a huge army and an even larger arsenal of weapons. It's the U.S. that thas provided us with this "blanket of freedom and peace" and shall continue to do so for the foreseeable future, however fragile that freedom/peace may seem.
Please look beyond your nose before commenting on grave matters like these."

What a load of tripe! what you are saying is true to some extent but this,

'Do you think any superpower in this day and age would stand a chance in a full-scale assault without some type of Nuclear weapon?'

If nobody had nuclear warheads, nobody would feel the need to have them? Its like saying,

'if he brings a sword to a fight then i'm bringing a sword to a fight' instead of fighting with bare fists and everyone walking away with a broken nose, people will lose limbs and lives?

I suggest you look abit further that your nose, sir


Primeaux
Posted 14 February 2014 at 07:43 pm

Given that the last incident occurred in 1995, isn't it inaccurate to refer to the various Russians involved as "Soviets"?


END OF COMMENTS
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