Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Soviet Officer Stanislav Petrov, 'The Man Who Saved the World' (2017) (npr.org)
128 points by Anon84 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments

Very inspiring, I am embarrassed not to have known of his story before today.

It's worth also referencing Vasili Arkhipov, who also showed us the importance of individual action:


Not everyone can say they saved the world (and it be true).

RIP Mr. Petrov.

It's no exaggeration to say that Mr. Petrov did save the world. If he had passed his report up the chain of command, the Soviet Union could well have launched a retaliation strike. As Jeffrey Lewis is quoted in the article, "we should be talking about the great nuclear war of 1983 if any of us survived."

RIP and thank you sir.

When the available evidence says "blow up the world", a gut-check is in order. Petrov checked himself before he wrecked himself and everyone else. Bravo!

I wouldn't call it saving. It's more like not destroying.

You would hope that for a world ending event they would need verification from multiple stations reporting at the same time though...

I would call it saving it.

He specifically acted against bad information and what he was supposed to do, which required bravery and critical thinking to avoid catastrophe. It was also potentially risking very bad consequences for himself, as his superiors easily could have put him in prison, disappeared him, or otherwise punished his life - even just out of spite - for what he did. He says it was a good thing that he was working that shift and he is right. The odds are extremely high that anybody else would make that phone call up the chain of command, and from there the odds of a nuclear response escalate rapidly.

The danger of nuclear war is that there is no time to double check from other stations.

Imagine, your radars see the incoming, by which time they’re already a third of the way.

The SSNN are somewhere, close, about to launch. Those are close, so little time to react.

Short range missiles in Germany are 5 minutes away from wiping your allies.

In the meantime you have to pass this memo along, silo doors have to be opened, missiles warmed up, etc.

Today it’s much more dangerous. Nukes are hundreds, not thousands of mi. away from Moscow, so Moscow has 5 minutes head up before it’s hit. We’re unlikely to have a Petrov double guess a radar full of clouds. Any bug in the Russians radar software that looks like clouds, and poof!

Petrov day is going to be celebrated on the 26th, just a few days away. Whatever your nationality, whatever your profession please ask yourself: "Am I contributing to the destruction of the world? Is there something I could be doing to destroy the world less?" And then please act on that.

Or perhaps mainly consider your nationality.

There's a relatively small minority of the world population who live in one of the two countries with arms sufficient to "destroy the world" (although some of the runners up could certainly make life worldwide more miserable).

In practice people living in those countries have pretty much all the say in whether the world will get destroyed or not by choosing to vote for some nutcase in the next election. By comparison someone in <name pretty much any other country> has next to zero chance of moving the needle on potential world destruction.

The circle of people in those two countries who actually control the arsenal is very small in relation to the population. Diplomats from other countries probably have better access to them than any citizen of their own country.

Nationality plays a role in who has the actual power but anyone can promote peace and have a real impact. Influential words and good ideas can come from anywhere.

You don't need to directly control these systems to have a big influence. People in these countries (a tiny minority of humanity) opt to stay and pay the taxes that maintain these systems.

But the main moral culpability is just not caring. Nuclear safety isn't even on the mind of the average voter in the US or Russia. If it were an issue as important as major wedge issues as say guns or religion are in the US even a small fraction of the population could have a major impact.

And yet, most of us living in those two countries actually have very little say in selecting the executive who's in charge of making that decision.

On an uplifting note, we will all go together when we go (this year is the 60th anniversary of the song recording):


A hero of the Soviet Union, if not officially.

Please add the publish date (September 18, 2017) to the title; it's called Hacker News not Hacker Archives.

To be fair, HN isn’t strictly related to current events.

Yes it is. That’s what the word news means.

And who programmed the system that detected the missiles? Was there ever a post-morten of this incident?

Stuff like this makes me wonder about quantum immortality. Maybe we just happen to be in the timeline where we didn't nuke ourselves.

Needs "(2017)" in the title.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact