The NORAD Computer Chip
During the Cold War, the entire world on was on a hair trigger, and there were tons of close calls and nuclear threats. This incident is one of the closest times we got to war. On June 3rd, 1980, at 3am, the U.S. President’s national security advisor for an emergency phone call that there was a missile strike inbound.
He called the President, put the country on alert and started to prime their nukes and deploy their Air Force. Luckily enough, someone decided to verify before giving the final launch order, only to find that a 46 cent computer chip had malfunctioned, and made it seem like there were missiles coming.
Because of that malfunctioning chip, the world almost ended.
The Minoan Eruption
This was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, taking place during the second millennium BCE. It had the destructive force of 40 atomic bombs, and was 100x more powerful than the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that devastated Pompeii.
As a consequence, the geography around the island of Thera was permanently altered, and the cloud of ash that went into the air and settled across Europe and Asia altered the climate and weather patterns for decades after.
CFCs and the Ozone Layer
During the 1960’s-1970’s, we were in a place where tech advancements were growing at a breakneck pace, but we didn’t really understand the environmental impact of them. During that time, where were tons of environmental disasters, like rivers catching fire and cities suffocating in smog. One of the most important issues, however, was the ozone layer.
In 1985, scientists found that a certain group of chemicals that were widely used, were tearing a hole in our atmosphere, and if we didn’t stop asap, there’d be nothing to protect us from harmful radiation from space. Thankfully, the world banded together to limit and outright ban the use of CFCs, to allow our ozone layer to grow back.
Asteroid 2018 GE3
We all know what happened to the dinosaurs and how catastrophic that was for life on Earth. Well, it turns out that it almost happened again on April 14, 2018.
On that date, an asteroid was detected, that would pass by us within 120K miles – half the distance between the Earth and the moon. Even scarier, scientists only got a few hours of heads up.
With an estimated diameter of 200-350 feet, it was the largest known object to pass so close to us, and it would have devastated our planet.
The Carrington Event
Back in the 1800’s, most people and telegraph operators were used to their telegraph lines going down due to thunderstorms and other electromagnetic disturbances, but on one instance, it seemed like the world was ending.
In 1859, one of the largest solar flares was seen and caused one of the wildest geomagnetic storms in history, wiping out communications all over the world and causing accidents and widespread panic, as well as weird weather.
As terrifying as that was in the 1850’s, an event of that magnitude would probably be apocalyptic.
The SAC-NORAD Communications Error
If you were gonna try to take out the United States with nukes, the first thing you’d need to do is take out their early warning system. It’s pretty obvious and when all the communications from NORAD went silent in Nov 1961, the US Strategic Air Command figured that an attack was coming.
They immediately prepped their missiles and sounded the alarms. Thankfully, the final order was never given, as it was discovered that a single relay station in Colorado had failed, cutting off all communications.
The unstoppable Super-Flu
This wasn’t an incident where the world nearly ended, but it’s insane how close it could have been, if things went screwy. In 2011, Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka was studying the H1N1 bird flu, and for some f#cked up reason, wanted to modify it so it could bypass the human immune system.
He got close to making a humanity-killing superflu, before someone decided it was too risky for the human race.
The Bonilla Comet
Back in 1883, Mexican astronomer José Bonilla observed over 400 dark flying objects cross in front of the sun. Most of the scientific community at the time dismissed his findings as a hoax or as a high-flying flock of geese. Despite having photographic proof, no one believed it was anything nefarious.
In 2011, a new study looked at his photos and found something pretty scary. The dark objects weren’t birds or anything friendly, but the fragments of a billion-ton comet that had passed within 5,000 miles of us.
Genetically Altered Bacteria
In the mid-1990’s, there was a whole host of scientific advancements all over the world. While most of them were good, there were some failures that could have wiped out the planet. One such thing was a genetically-modified strain of bacteria.
Created by a German biotech company, the bacteria was supposedly a helpful microbe that would convert dead plant matter into ethanol to power cars, make alcohol, etc… In 1994, they had a workable strain and were gonna do some field testing, when an independent test at the Oregon State University found a huge problem.
This microbe didn’t just go after dead plants; it went after all of them. Had this biotech company actually done their field trials, they could have wiped out all living plant life on Earth.
The Black Death
This was one of the most devastating global epidemics in history – an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague that hit Europe and Asia in the mid-14th century.
Originating in China, it wiped out nearly a third of the European population within a few years. Globally, it resulted in the deaths of 75-200 million people.
The Soviet False Alarm
Not everyone can say they single-handedly say they saved the world, but Soviet Officer Stanislav Petrov can.
In Sept, 1983, he was left in charge of a command centre near Moscow, when one of his computers told him that the U.S. had sent 5 intercontinental ballistic missiles his way. He was supposed to inform his superiors, which would have caused a counter attack resulting in mutually-assured destruction.
Instead, he waited. Relying on his judgement, he did some exploring of his systems and found that a solar alignment had messed with his radar satellite and given him a false alarm. Had he not done his due diligence, we’d all be living in a nuclear wasteland.
The 2012 Coronal Mass Ejection aka Solar Flare
Remember the Carrington Event above and how, if it happened today, we’d be f#cked? It almost did happen. In July of 2012, a solar superstorm came speeding our way, but missed us by less than a week.
Had it hit, the cost of damages would have hit the trillions and taken decades of recovery time to get over.
The Cuban Missile Crisis
This was probably the most tense 13 days of the cold war, in 1962. The U.S. had discovered evidence of Soviet-sanctioned missiles in Cuba, which violated a previous agreement between the two superpowers.
The U.S. decided to react and a tense standoff happened, with plenty of close calls. Finally, JFK and Nikita Khrushchev were able to find some common ground, and the missiles were removed, and Cuba was declared off limits for US citizens.
The NORAD Training tape incident
Once again, NORAD brought the world to the brink of war. This time, in 1979, the operators at the US Missile Warning Command Centre were given a warning that the USSR had launched missiles. Everyone went into high alert, bomb crews were sent to planes, 10 fighter-interceptors were launched and Air Force One took to the sky. Except, it wasn’t real.
A training tape had been mistakenly inserted into a NORAD mainframe, and the simulation was broadcast to every command centre in North America. None of it was real.