On September 26th 1983 a Soviet scientist saved the world from nuclear war. It’s really a quite extraordinary story.
“On September 26th, 1983, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov was the officer on duty when the warning system reported a US missile launch. Petrov kept calm, suspecting a computer error.
Then the system reported another US missile launch.
And another, and another, and another.
…The policy of the Soviet Union called for launch on warning. The Soviet Union’s land radar could not detect missiles over the horizon, and waiting for positive identification would limit the response time to minutes.” – from Less Wrong’s blog
The story goes that Petrov preferred not to destroy the world that day. He was the right man at the right time.
I have provided links below to sites that have a great coverage of the whole story.
LessWrong – 9/26 is Petrov Day
A excerpt from the documentary The Red Button and the man who saved the world