2052: Stanislav Petrov Day
|Stanislav Petrov Day|
Title text: I was going to get you an alarm clock that occasionally goes off randomly in the middle of the night, but you can ignore it and go back to sleep and it's fine.
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On 26 September 1983, during the Cold War, the satellite-based early-warning system of the Soviet Union reported the launch of multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles from the United States. At the time, tensions with the U.S. were on edge, and high officials of the Soviet Union, including General Secretary Yuri Andropov, were thought to be highly suspicious of a U.S. attack.
Petrov checked ground-based radars that indicated the report was a false alarm, noted that the warning system had detected only 1-5 missiles instead of the hundreds that would have been expected in the event of a first strike, and chose to ignore it. This decision is seen as having prevented a retaliatory nuclear attack, which would have probably resulted in immediate escalation of the Cold War stalemate to a full-scale nuclear war and the deaths of tens to hundreds of millions of people. Investigation of the satellite warning system later confirmed that the system had indeed malfunctioned.
While it's highly probable that if Petrov had reported this incident to his superiors they would have come to the same conclusion, it was a point in time when many people feared that the Cold War may become hot. Andropov, the new Soviet leader, was considered weak by the US president Ronald Reagan, and the western counties were deploying new missile installation in Europe to counter existing missiles in the Eastern Bloc. This fear of nuclear war meant that at this time the peace movement in most western countries reached one of its highest levels.
In this comic Cueball reacts on a simple alert on his phone like most other people do. Too many alerts reach everybody on their mobile devices, ignored often without deeper knowledge about the issue behind.
The title text presents a much less important false alarm when Cueball made a gift to Megan in which the donated alarm clock alerts randomly in the middle of the night. After that alarm she just can breathe a sigh of relief and go back to sleep because it's still not early in the morning. Petrov may have taken also a deep breath, but like Megan nobody knows by their time.
History of Petrov Day as a holiday
The events of September 26 1983 were not made public until much later, so it wasn't originally a holiday.
Not destroying the world has since evolved into an annual tradition. There is a website for the holiday, with several variations of a ritual involving lighting and snuffing candles. The intended mood is that of a somber holiday, somewhere between Thanksgiving and a funeral.
However, there are also more lighthearted takes. A "hardcore mode" would be just like the normal holiday, but "During said ceremony, unveil a large red button. If anybody presses the button, the ceremony is over. Go home. Do not speak." Alternatively, "you use a website connected to *another* house where people are also celebrating Petrov Day. If anyone in one house presses the button, the other house receives a launch alarm. They have 60 seconds to respond. At the end of 60 seconds, their party is over, and they must go home silently. The website has some chance of giving you a false alarm." As of Petrov Day 2018, the website appears to be a work in progress.
Stanislav Petrov himself died in 2017, but in 2018 the Future of Life Institute decided to award his surviving family a $50,000 prize for his contributions. However, the fact that Petrov's son couldn't "get a visa to visit the city his dad saved from nuclear annihilation is emblematic of how frosty US-Russian relations have gotten, which increases the risk of accidental nuclear war.”
|This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.|
- [Megan is looking at her phone while Cueball stands in front of her.]
- Megan: Hey, Wednesday was Stanislav Petrov Day. We missed it.
- Cueball: Oh, shoot!
- Cueball: I got a calendar alert for it, but I assumed it was a false alarm.
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