Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Few Good Men

As we're bombed by stories of atrocities in Myanmar and the next superpower China,i remembered reading many years ago about a brave Soviet Officer who saved the world single handedly. I searched and searched and found him and his stunning achievement well documented in this article.

Read on and realise that there will always be,even in this day and age,A few good men.

24 years on - The man who saved millions of lives

Sat, 22 September 2007
The date is 1 September 1983 and the Cold War between the Soviet Union and USA is in full gear, when from the New York skies Korean Air Lines Flight 007 flies from JFK, destination Seoul, South Korea.

In the middle of the flight, while accidently passing through Soviet air space, Soviet fighter jets appear getting close the aircraft. The Soviets, who didn't know the plane contained civilians, warned the pilot that they will shoot down the aircraft if it doesn't identify itself, and the pilot, for some unknown reason, doesn't respond.

Reports say the pilot never actually received the information, although theories about this are still unclear. An hour passes as the fighter jets still accompany the aircraft, and the orders from Soviet military is to shoot down the aircraft just as the plane was leaving Soviet airspace.

The Soviet fighter jets shot down the plane, with the aircraft plunging 35,000 feet in less than 90 seconds, killing 269 civilians, including a US congressman.

Hell broke loose. As the Soviets tried to defend their 'mistake', US President Ronald Raegan described the Soviets actions as "barbaric" and "a crime against humanity that must never be forgotten".

The tension between the two mega-powers hit an all-time high, and on 15 September 1983 the US administration banned Soviet aircrafts from operating in US airspace. With the political climate in dangerous territory, both US and Soviet government were on high-alert believing an attack was imminent.

It was a cold night at the Serpukhov-15 bunker in Moscow on 26 September 1983 as Strategic Rocket Forces lieutenant colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov resumed his duty, monitoring the skies of the Soviet Union, after taking a shift of someone else who couldn't go to work.

Just past midnight, Petrov received a computer report he'd dreaded all his military career to see, the computer captured a nuclear military missile being launched from the US, destination Moscow.

In the event of such an attack, the Soviet Union’s strategy protocol was to to launch an immediate all-out nuclear weapons counterattack against the United States with nuclear power, and immediately afterwards inform top political and military figures. From there, it would be taken a decision to further the military offensive on America.

Stanislav Petrov

The bunker was in full-alarm, with red lights all over the place as the missile was captured by the Soviet satellites via computers. Petrov wasn't convinced though. He believed that if the US attacked, they would have attacked all-out, not just sending one missile and giving a chance for them (the Soviets) to attack back.

Petrov figured something didn't make sense, as strategically, just one missile from the US would be a strategic disaster. He took some time to think and decided not to give the order a nuclear attack against America, since in his opinion, one missile didn't make sense strategically and it could easily have been a computer error.

But then, seconds later, the situation turned extremely serious. A second missile was spotted by the satellite. The pressure by the officers in the bunker to commence responsive actions against America started growing. A third missile was spotted, followed by a fourth. A couple of seconds later, a fifth one was spotted... everyone in the bunker was agitated as the USSR was under missile attack.

He had two options. Go with his instinct and dismiss the missiles as computer errors, breaking military protocol in the process or take responsive action and commence full-blown nuclear actions against America, potentially killing millions.

He decided it was a computer error, knowing deep down that if he was wrong, missiles would be raining down in Moscow in minutes.

Seconds turned to minutes, and as time passed it was clear Petrov was right, it was a computer error after all. Stanislav Petrov had prevented a worldwide nuclear war, a doomsday scenario that would have annihilated entire cities. He was a hero. Those around him congratulated him for his superb judgment.

Upon further investigation it resulted that the error came from a very rare sunlight alignment, which the computer read as missile.

Of course, top brass in the Kremlin didn't find it so heroic, as he broke military protocol and if he would have been wrong, risked millions of Russian lives. He was sent into early retirement, with a measly $200 a month pension, suffering a nervous breakdown in the process.

Due to military secrecy, nobody knew Petrov's heroic judgment until 1998, when a book written by a Russian officer present at the bunker revealed that World War 3 was closer than people thought, and a nuclear holocaust was avoided by a close shave.

Petrov reminisces what could have been if he didn't get that extra shift that night

Even though the Russian have little sympathy to the man who saved millions of American lives, the United Nations and a number of US agencies honoured the man who could have started a nuclear war, but didn't.

In 2008, a documentary film entitled 'The Man who saved the World' is set to be released, perhaps giving Petrov some financial help, thanking him for the incredible part he had in keeping the US and the USSR out of a full-blown war.

Without knowing on the cold Moscow night back in 1983, a badly paid 44 year old military officer saved the world, and made himself one of the most influential persons of the century in the process, saving more lives than anyone ever did.

Most of today's people don't know it, but today's world as we know it, is like it is because of Stanislav Petrov.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Happy Feet

An absolute treat for the eyes and a sumptuous banquet for the ears. Happy feet is one of those rare animation movies which strikes the right balance between humour and a story with a message.

The movie is for all ages and from the first scene i knew it was something special. Each character is well defined and stays with you after you have left the movie hall.The choice of songs is amazing and only Lion King and The Road to El Dorado have comparable soundtracks.The graphics/animation is the best i have seen yet. The chase scenes are realistic and dramatic with grand camera angles and locations.

But what's most important is the message the movie tries to deliver.No its not about stopping global warming.Its the refusal to conform yourself to the views and opinions of society around you, a message that finds voice in the classic Dead Poets Society.Dead Poets has a bitter sweet end with the death of a student but opening up of the rest.While this option would not have been available to makers of an animation movie.Mumble the main protagonist is a penguin reject who's inability to sing in a colony of singing penguins makes him an outcast. But his ability to dance and his use of this skill is the movie itself.

A fresh movie which will make you laugh,cry,ponder and Dance!

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Flower

Another great poem...enjoy!

The Flower

Once in a golden hour
I cast to earth a seed.
Up there came a flower,
The people said, a weed.

To and fro they went
Thro' my garden bower,
And muttering discontent
Cursed me and my flower.

Then it grew so tall
It wore a crown of light,
But thieves from o'er the wall
Stole the seed by night.

Sow'd it far and wide
By every town and tower,
Till all the people cried,
"Splendid is the flower!"

Read my little fable:
He that runs may read.
Most can raise the flowers now,
For all have got the seed.

And some are pretty enough,
And some are poor indeed;
And now again the people
Call it but a weed.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Monday, February 12, 2007

Wikipedia Versus Traditional Encyclopedias.

The debate whether Traditional Encyclopedias like Britannica and the recent Encarta are more professional than the "Giant Killer" Wikipedia has been going on for sometime. Wikipedia occupies a place in the minds of the public very similar to Google. That of a revolutionary product which is going to change mankind's views of the world. Here's Wiki's take on itself . I've been following the Wikipedia growth for the past year including various news articles that appear all over the place and I have a few observations.

While it’s extremely impressive to say that Wikipedia is by the people and not by a couple of experts, that's not the point. What experts of a particular field have been replaced by are arm chair experts whose level of knowledge is from low grade sources like newspapers at worst and from Credible Encyclopedias at best. Thus while Wikipedia is a great source of information, the kind of credibility that is needed to really understand a subject is best left in the hands of experts.

So I'll continue to use Wikipedia because I can't afford any of the other encyclopedias but I've learnt that the majority of the content is "Cut, Copy and Paste" from various sources or in other words, experts. But the biggest edge Wikipedia has is on subjects like the following on Indian Street Cricket! And say a good movie like The Shawshank Redemption.

There are talks of Wiki starting a search engine to oppose the Goggle dominance. Talk about the Clash of Titans!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I've just returned from attending the Christ College fest 'In Bloom 2007' and man what a day it was...we enter Potpourri 25 mins late..that's 5 mins before it ends...and we still miss qualification by 1 point because we misinterpreted a single question. Dam!

With 3 hours to go for our Core Competence of Dumb charades...Nakul, Pradeep and me practiced DC on the wonderfully large Christ ground. And yes there is nothing like acting and playing have to think on your feet, guess wildly and have a vast knowledge base, basically you have to be Jack of all trades and master of some.

An hour before DC I had my extempore and when I went to participate I got the topic "If I must Die let It be Death By Chocolate" and I decided to walk out as I had no clue how to start...I had only 3 minutes before I had to speak...then suddenly my DC mind went into overdrive I could see images of all forms of ways of dying and famous deaths and so on. I decided to give it my best shot.

All other ways to die are too painful or boring, lets die eating Cadbury's contaminated chocolates.My theme was simple... ... I made death look as funny as I could...

I don't remember much of what I such but I surprise myself with my ability to come up with so much impromptu stuff on the spot.There are few feeling better than leaving a stage with either an ovation or the audience in laughter. I got both today.

Now its off to Saarang '07 to participate in their public speaking this space...I might have some good news...