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Why no Nobel Peace Prize for Stanislav Petrov ? We (all of us) owe him our very lives.

As a cab-driver in a learned, intellectual city, I'm perpetually dumb-struck at the collective ignorance of (quite literally} "The Man Who Saved the World."
I wrote to the Peace Prize Commitee who haven't deigned to respond.
Never heard of him? I could tell you but you wouldn't believe me, best you find out for yourself. Then see if you agree that Mr Petrov should lift the prize, anually, hands down!
P.S. Time is limited, our hero is now 73 years old.

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    Nov 25 2012: Update: Stanislav is to receive The Dresden Award on February 17th as stated in an article in The Voice of Russia. The cash award is 25,0000 Euros. So, Chick ....dreams do come true but, still find your question pertinent.
    • Nov 25 2012: Many thanks for the info, Lori. I'm delighted to hear about the movie and the Dresden Award !
      I've become a little obsessed with this story, I confess. I think it's an important tale to tell in these cynical times, though. When all these institutions we've been asked to put our faith in turn out to be rotten to the core. I don't blame people for becoming disillusioned and kind of "....what the hell's the point?" Then a story like Stanislav's shows up and it goes a long way to restoring my faith in humanity. One man who kept his head, thought for himself and decided he had to do the right thing, no matter what his orders were. If you have any military acqaintances, they'll tell you, NEVER disobey an order, no matter what ! That's the only way the military can work, evrybody can rely on everybody else to do what they're ordered to do. I imagine the penalty for going "off-piste" in 1980's USSR wre somewhat harsher than they are in 21st century western world. Colonel Petrov would have been well aware of that, which makes his heroism all the more remarkable.
      I remember feeling the same way after watching a BBC documentary about a German WW2 hero in the early 80s. I thought "My God ! Why isn't this guy's story common currency ? What an inspirational, unimaginably brave man !" ( I had caught this documentary in the middle of a week-day afternoon, having taken time off sick ). It took Thomas Kineally to write the book and Steven Spielberg to make the movie to bring about a general awareness of Oscar Schindler. For my money, one of the greatest films ever.
      Hopefully, these Danes will have done a job worthy of the subject matter. Again, I thank you for the news, truly uplifting !
      Kind Regards,
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      Nov 25 2012: Thank you Lori for sharing this good news! Very much appreciated!
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    Nov 25 2012: FYI Danish Film Director, Peter Anthony @PAnthonyDK and his team are close to releasing a Narrative Film about Colonel Petrov called, The Man Who Saved the World , after almost 8 years of work. The trailer for the film has been released in association with a Kickstarter Project that was launched on Nov. 22nd. For more information you can go to The Man Who Saved the World (Posterous) Blog and get more details there about Stanislav Petrov and the events that were the impetus for the film. Hope this can help those who have never heard of him. (Stanislav was actually asked to address the UN around 2006 where he was also granted an award. He was also asked to meet with Beloved American Anchorman, Walter Cronkite, a meeting that proved to be one of the last of Cronkite's life. Thanks Chick Morgan for starting this discussion I think it is a very valid question..
    • Nov 25 2012: Okay I am learning. This is a good guy and a technician. Think differently Norman Bourlag did not invent the Green Revolution alone Barak Obama was not W. Brave technicians died for their fellow men at Chernobel and if not recently at Japan They took risks There were no whistle blowers at Challenger In fact, The incredible Richards Fineman was the mechinism that the truh most easily reached the rest of us. It seems that the Colonel paid a price for his actions. We have a man who has had to fight in NNASA to advance the understanding of global warming. Give the Colonel a Nobel Peace Prize for being a certain kind of honorable man. Few alive can ever be Solzinitzen or Gandhi. A slightly special guy who comes through in special circumstances. This is certainly as deserving as the EEC. Norwegian parliament Listen to this Good idea.
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      Nov 25 2012: The Danish are well known to be good narrators. I am looking forward to this film. Thanks again for letting us know about it!
  • Nov 23 2012: Explain more please.
    • Nov 23 2012: Sorry, George. No can do. I'm a "hunt-and-peck" typist, so to tell you the whole story would take time I (sadly) cannot spare right now. Google the name and find out all about The Man.....
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        Nov 24 2012: Can you take a typing class? Your conversation would be more interesting and powerful if you were prepared to give some details, and respond to people who respond to you. I believe there are computer programs that will teach you to type at your own speed, without a human teacher.
        • Nov 24 2012: Thankyou, Greg. Of course you're absolutely right. Forgive me, I'm new to this TED lark, and need to get up to speed on the ettiquette. Don't hold your breath waiting for my typing to get up to speed, though.
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    Nov 23 2012: Russia's nuclear launch would not have occurred without verification from multiple sources. A single malfunctioning early warning system would not, on its own, have initiated a launch. While I applaud Colonel Petrov's action, I don't believe it's worthy of a peace prize.
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      Nov 23 2012: At times things are not always as fail-proof as we assume they are.

      Before Fukushima I would have laughed about the idea to place electrical safety backup generators for a nuclear cooing system below waterline in a nuclear power plant at the shore of the North Pacific Ocean and within a well known seismic zone.

      None of us would have guessed, that those obvious faulty design concepts could have passed any safety authorisation requirement and approval procedure.

      Safety re-evaluations of nuclear power plants around the world after Fukushima proved evidence of incapacity all over the place, so we actually never know if precautious measures are in place where we mostly expected them to be.

      In the heat of the cold war, reaction time was a KEY element for any counterstrike scenario and this contradicts the delaying nature of any 'verification from multiple sources'.

      Also any 'verification process' is ONLY based on the information available, so what do you do if you don't know if your information is true or not unless it might be to late to correct your decision?

      In conflict and stress situations the human mind does not always work propperly on its rational side and we may just don't know how many false decisions have caused catastrophic events.

      If the presented story of Stanislav Petrov is true, I would consider his actions woth a Nobel Price.
    • Nov 23 2012: Define "worthy" please, Lawren; not the Oxford English Dictionary's definition, yours!
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      Nov 23 2012: yeah, but you know, some people got the price for doing absolutely nothing. you might get who i'm referring to. so maybe petrov would have been a better choice?
    • Nov 23 2012: .......on another note, Lawren; President Obama was awarded the prize. Why? For not being George Bush?
      On that criterion, we should all be Nobel Laureates. I digress. I invite you to imagine, were someone else standing in Colonel Petrov's shoes....................
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    Nov 25 2012: You are welcome Chick and Lejan.

    And yes, I do believe Danish Director, Peter Anthony and his international team are not only making a wonderful film that does justice to Stanislav Petrov's actions but, Anthony is also responsible for getting Stanislav to NY so that he could receive the 2006 UN World Citizen Award and has done much to shed light on Stanislav and help to make his life better. If you go to the Kickstarter project, The Man Who Saved the World, you will be able to see a 6 minute trailer of the Narrative Film to be released in 2013. Looks as if 2013 will be Stanislav's year of acknowledgement....30 years after the fact.

    Cheers, Lori
  • Nov 23 2012: You are assuming the Soviet government would have let the decision to start a nuclear war hinge on the word of a single technician and a single warning system. I don't think that's a reasonable assumption (it would basically mean that if he were to fall asleep / got drunk the entire Soviet Union would not notice a nuclear strike against it / start one itself because some drunk guy was seeing blips on his screen that weren't there). The Soviet government was a lot of things, but not stupid.
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      Lejan .

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      Nov 23 2012: There was only a single warning system in the Soviet Union to detect a nuclear missile attack from the West and it was based on observing satellites visually scanning known launch facilities. Radar stations as a second source confirmation were installed, yet at the very end of the overall detection and veryfication timeframe of just about 12 minutes.

      This is not much time for a lot of double checking and this 'technician' was a crucial part of the decision making process.

      The satellite did not indicate any mailfunction and detected several 'missile launches' in a row.

      The only reason why this 'technician' overruled his computer was the fact, that in his view there were 'not enough' missiles detected to accept an initial offensive. It was his 'gut feeling' at a time, not knowing what 'strategies' the West may have to start a war.

      Because the Soviet government was not stupid, they asked to confirm the functionality of this satellite, which by it parameters only was not indicating any malfunction. In fact it worked just fine and only it sensors were tricked by a rare meterological event at that time.

      So what do you do? Do you confirm functionality or do you overrule your system?

      In 1989 I was a radar operator in the German Airforce which was part of the Integrated NATO Air Defense System and located at the inner German border of the German Democratic Republic. Our unit was monitoring for low-flying aircraft in hilly terrains which could not be detected by wide range radar stations.

      The difficulty in radar data interpretation is to distinguish signifcant information from random and dynamic background irradiation, especially then if there is not much time to react on it. A high speed low flying Russian jetfighter would have passed our scope within 10 to 15 blips and this not necessarily in a straight line, which are usually more noticeable. False alarms occurred and it took way more than 12 minutes to find out about it. And alcohol was checked for and prohibited!
      • Nov 23 2012: Thankyou, Lejan. You have way more technical savvy than I do, so have lent my position some weight. Younger people who didn't experience the "heat of the cold war" sometimes have trouble imagining the brinkmanship of the era. Fools and fanatics on all sides. Reagan, for example, was surrounded by hawks who wanted to convince him that the USA could "win" a nuclear war !
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          Nov 25 2012: The whole brinkmanship of the cold war era became understandable to me only in retrospect.

          At that time, both sides did a very good job in propaganda and there was no WikiLeaks for an unbiased source of information.

          The story of Stanislav Petrov just struck me when I first heard about the deed of this brave man and it confirmed my views on how a given and hierarchic establishment is dealing with 'delinquents' of his kind. A classic example of 'pawn sacrifice', whereas the 'pawn' was actually the 'noblest' of all characters involved.

          When- and wherever such truth reveals itself on the long run, we can learn those lessons for our very own lives and to hope to be as strong when needed.

          Thank you for starting this debate!
      • Nov 23 2012: 1) Before launching a retaliatory nuclear strike the Soviet command would want to see more than 1 satellite picking up missiles.

        2) 12 minutes is more than enough to launch a retaliatory strike so I don't see why ground radar confirmation would be a problem.

        3) If the technician had sounded the alarm any of his superiors, even Yuri Andropov himself could have decided there were too few missiles showing up for it to be a real attack.
        • Nov 23 2012: 1) Really? We're talking about the technology of 30 years ago.
          2) Read Lejan.
          3) You think? Supposing he didn't?

          Remember, it's 1983 wer're talking about !

          My question to you: Where's the harm? Trigger-happy clowns are ten-a-penny ! I understand the prize has a cash element. I'm not sure what a Soviet Colonel's pension is worth (if anything), but feel sure that our hero could use the dough. You know? A little creature comfort in his twilight years?
          "Blessed are the peacemakers" etc.
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          Lejan .

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          Nov 23 2012: Petrov was situated at a critical point in the chain of command. He ranked as a lieutenant colonel, not as 'technician' and reported to a warning-system headquarter which reported to the general staff, which consult with Yuri Andropov.

          Soviet ground-based radar showed no evidence of this 'attack' because they cannot see beyond the horizon. The time they would have spot incoming missiles lay some minutes after the satellite early warning system.

          Any satellite was assigned to certain launch facilities with no overlapping of other satellites for cross-checking, so a series of positive signals became very much relevant very soon.

          Giiven the 'war scare' of that time, the chain of command, the limited time for radar confirmation, the possible errors in radar detection, the just 'view' missiles, the rushed decision processes chain up, down, up, down, confirmation with radar control, etc. and all this at midnight on a just a 'regular day'... to me this could have caused a major problem if Petrov would have confirmed all of the valid detections of that satellite.

          How would Yuri Andropov himself known, that a view missiles are not just a tricky beginning of a a real massive attack? At that time Soviet pilots had just shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 weeks before that incident, so how do you know what NATO was up to? There was not much rational thinking at that time, or do you see that arms race was the fruit of it? I don't think so.

          Any chain of command are nothing but people. Informations are never flawless, decisions flawed and not always rational. Especially not during cold war times, which tends to be forgotten nowadays.