With more and more movies building up big blockbusters on burning the world down, you’d think it was a novelty. But given the number of times the world as we know it has nearly come to an end, it’s a real miracle we’ve survived this long. Here are just ten examples of humanity’s near death encounters.
10. BMEWS Communication Failure
On the 24th of November, 1961, nuclear armageddon almost arrived due to a broken comm system. The U.S.A.’s Strategic Air Command headquarters was unable to make contact with three missile sites. The collapse of communication was taken as a sign of an attack. SAC began prepping bombers to for take off in response. All out war seemed inevitable until an orbiting B-52 confirmed no attack had taken place. Instead, the SAC relay station in Colorado had simply overheated, causing it to break down.
9. The Eruption of Mount Tambora
Almost 90,000 people died when Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted in 1815. The volcano spewed out over 41 cubic miles of dust and rock, setting of a second wave of disasters. Whirlwinds and 2.6 yard high tsunami’s. Traces of the ash were discovered over 800 miles away, and large parts of the world were chilled. The reuslting cold caused famine in North America and epidemics across Europe.
The cooling was so bad that 1816 was known as the year without summer.
8. The Carrington Event
In 1859 a solar flare emitted as much energy as 10 billion atomic bombs, leading to a geomagnetic storm and the widespread failure of electrical technology on earth. The storm was bad enough that there were reports of the Northern Lights in the rocky mountains for several days. Scientists fear that if a similar event occurred today, it would be even more catastrophic with increased dependence on technology. Electrical grids would go into meltdown, and modern communication would grind to a halt.
Worse, according to NASA, we are do for one every 150 years or so. Meaning, we’re a few years overdue. And with only 20 hours between detection and impact, we would have less than a day to prepare.
7. The Norwegian Rocket Incident
Another Russia-US SNAFU, Russian radar interpreted a US research rocket as a nuclear launch. The rocket, intended to study the Northern Lights. With Cold War response mechanisms still at play, President Yeltsin ahd eight minute to either launch a counter attack or not. Luckily for the world, the Norwegian rocket harmlessly fell into the ocean before he made up his mind. Making this incident particularly humorous, the Russians had received a memo informing them of the rockets launch. It had just gotten lost in the bureaucracy before it reached the radar crews.
6. The Black Death
The famous 14th century plauge, on the backs of fleas and rats, left 75 million people dead or one in every four people alive. Victims became feverish and their lymph nodes swelled until they burst, killing most in just three days. A similar epidemic today would be more catastrophic, spreading faster do to increased globalization. With more than 8 million people in air every day, if the virus wasn’t caught quickly, it would spread out of control.
5. Bonilla Comet
Another blow from the 1800s, in 1883 the astronomer Jose Bonilla recorded 450 objects passing in front of the Sun. The event was largely forgotten by scientists, Later research, however, revealed that the objects were huge fragments left behind by the destruction of a 1 billion metric ton comet. The massive comet had just skimmed the earth, missing by as little as 370 miles. With each piece of debris measured up to 800 yards across, just one of the 450 would have cause a disaster as great as a thousand atomic bombs.
4. The Spanish Flu
1918 saw the worst flu pandemic in history, with a third of the population infected and approximately 50 million killed. The flu was a terrible way to die, as within hours of the first symptoms, the lungs were filled with liquid. Scientists, over numerous objections, recreated the flu in 2014, infecting ferrets with the virus. If the flu wasn’t deadly enough, the researchers found that with a small mutation, the virus spread between animals easily. Confirming that if revived, it would strike humanity like wildfire.
3. Klebsiella Planticola
In the 1990s, a biological terror that could have killed all plants on the land nearly came into being. Biological researchers combined the bacteria, klebsiella planticola, with another bacteria that produced alcohol. The goal was to create an organism that would destroy land waste and produce a profitable product. Since it literally turned garbage into essentially gold, it was quickly sent to field testing.
Critics noted that researches had only tested the new organism on sterile soil and ran their own tests. They found the resulting alcohol would obliterate host plants in just one week. If not for these extra field tests, the bacteria could have gone global, kicking off a world wide famine.
2.The Cuban Missile Crisis
Another Cold War goldie, the crisis began when America blockaded Cuba in order to prevent the U.S.S.R. from building nuclear missile stations on the small island nation. Soviet Premier Khrushchev declared that the move was an act of war.
For 13 days in 1962, an all out nuclear war seemed again inevitable. Both sides prepared for an enemy attack. US bombers carrying nuclear warheads were launched. Preparations to invade Cuba were made. It was suggested that President Kennedy flee to an underground bunker. The widespread panic came ot an end when the Soviet Union backed down and agreed to dismantle the Cuban bases, in exchange for the U.S. ending the blockade and removing its own base in Turkey.
1. Nuclear False Alarm
In 1983 while monitoring a Soviet early warning system, Staninslav Petrov received computer warnings that five U.S. missiles had been launched. How this would end the world, at this point, should be rather obvious. Had Petrov reported the apparent incoming attack, the Soviet response would have certainly been devastating.
Petrov decided that, rather than risk the world on one piece of data, it would be wise report the readings as false. He was correct, as it turns out the alert was triggered by a reflected sunbeam that Soviet satellites mistook for a ballistic missile.