The risk of accidental nuclear war is growing

Early warning systems, prone to misreading cosmic or atmospheric anomalies, are increasing the risk of accidental nuclear war.

And that’s not just a theory. It’s actually happened.

In 1987, “Oko satellites mistook a very unusual sunspot on top of a high altitude cloud” as missiles headed toward Moscow:

On Sept., 26, 1983, shortly after midnight, the Soviet Oko nuclear early warning system detected five missiles launched from the United States and headed toward Moscow. Stanislav Petrov, a young lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Force, was the duty in the Serpukhov-15 bunker that housed the Oko command center. Petrov was the man in charge of alerting the soviets about a nuclear attack, which would trigger a retaliatory strike. He determined that the Oko had likely malfunctioned and the alarm was false. The Americans would not start World War III with a quintet of missiles (risking total annihilation.) It was a daring judgment call. He was, of course, right. As the U.S. prepares to undertake a new nuclear posture review to determine the future direction of the nation’s nuclear weapons, a report from a United Nations research institute warns that the risks of a catastrophic error — like the one that took place that early morning in 1983 — are growing, not shrinking. Next time, there may be no Lt. Col. Petrov in place to avoid a catastrophe.

It’s frightening to think that a misreading by an early warning system could lead to the annihilation of us all.