Friday, February 24, 2006

Incentives for innovation

"I am inclined to think that rulers have rarely been above the average, either morally or intellectually, and often below it. And I think that it is reasonable to adopt, in politics, the principle of preparing for the worst, as well as we can, though we should, of course, at the same time try to obtain the best. It appears to me madness to base all our political efforts upon the faint hope that we shall be successful in obtaining excellent, or even competent, rulers."-- Karl Raimund Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies

Observation of the present government and its predecessors confirms this hypothesis with the inability to introduce unique or innovative changes for the growth of NZ and the economy .The control of society to meet the needs of the intelligentsia to indoctrinate the country into unintelligent pschobabble beureauspeaking robots is and always is a disincentive to innovate and invest,the stagnation of progress is now evident.

Cause and effect benefits , and the profit/loss portion of the regulatory alogorthim are never identified let alone quantified.The elementary physics suggest that always the Le Chatelier-Braun Principle(If any change is imposed on a system in near equilibrium, the system will change in such a way as to counteract the imposed change.)Equilibrium is never possible as it defies the rules of the universe.

The political reality is that the easiest option,and never the best fit,or innovative solution is prescribed.You can never raise the bar of excellence if you are constraining the best performers.

Without prescience for prescribed solutions NZ first signed the Kyoto protocol and then ratified it last year.Reliant on very bad advice from NZ advisors and the beaureaucratic third XV that runs the said organisations and who's scientific prowness would result in a non-invitation to the scientific olympics ,having marooned us on isolated island.The solution more committes and regulatory disensentives and rising inputs for all .

The constraints for the energy alogorthim is already indentifiable.Bad regulation,lack of infrastructure and plan.

Always they search the easiest,as they have proven they are not competant to readily provide solutions it is necessary to find viable scientific/engineering solutions from the market.

In the early 18th century the Admirality had serious problems with navigation and the longtitude problem.

Longitude is one of the co-ordinates given around the globe to help pin-point the location of a given place. The longitude planes from pole to pole lengthways. Before the technology of the modern world made calculating earth positions a simple task, the longitude posed the greatest of sea-going problems and became the subject of scientific and astronomical debate in the early eighteenth century. Ships could easily lose themselves by not being able to calculate the longitude and it has also caused many sea-going disasters.

In October 1707, the fleet of Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovell were wrecked off the Scilly through not being able to gauge the correct longitude position of the fleet. Over two thousand men, including Shovell, were lost. This brought the subject the to fore and in July 1714, Parliament passed the Longitude Act. This convened a Board of Longitude to examine the problem and set up a £20,000 prize for the person who could invent a means of finding longitude to an accuracy of 30 miles after a six week voyage to the West Indies. It also made minor awards for discoveries and improvements to the general problem. The Board consisted of the Astronomer Royal, the President of the Royal Society, First Lord of the Admiralty, Speaker of the House of Commons, the First Commissioner of the Navy Board and three professors of mathematics from Oxford and Cambridge.

The solution was not to found from the royal society but by the son of a carpenter John Harrision with an interest in machinery and whose evolution of invention the chronometer mark 5 would travel with Cook.

I would suggest that a number of financial prizes would find a number of innovative process that would solve many coefficients in the NZ energy alogorthim.Indeed there are many solutions available now that are relatively low cost to develop.The constraining factors are the Governement and its organisations.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek has some interesting observations on the comparative economies of the EU and the US.The performance of Europe with its rhectoric of becoming "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010".The performance and beaurecratic inertia in all aspects of the economy and research and development and the latest OECD analysis suggest otherwise and the projections for growth and increased prosperity will not be possible.

It's often noted that the European Union has a combined gross domestic product that is approximately the same as that of the United States. But the EU has 170 million more people. Its per capita GDP is 25 percent lower than that of the U.S. and, most important, that gap has been widening for 15 years. If present trends continue, the chief economist at the OECD argues, in 20 years the average U.S. citizen will be twice as rich as the average Frenchman or German. (Britain is an exception on most of these measures, lying somewhere between Continental Europe and the U.S.)

People have argued that Europeans simply value leisure more and, as a result, are poorer but have a better quality of life. That's fine if you're taking a 10 percent pay cut and choosing to have longer lunches and vacations. But if you're only half as well off as the U.S., that will translate into poorer health care and education, diminished access to all kinds of goods and services, and a lower quality of life. Two Swedish researchers, Frederik Bergstrom and Robert Gidehag, note in a monograph published last year that "40 percent of Swedish households would rank as low-income households in the U.S." In many European countries, the percentage would be even greater.

The stagnation of policies and innovative ideas as they try to micromanage the NZ economy and the sovereign individual suggest we are not getting the best ideas and innovative reasoning from the "best fit"models.The lack of intellectual innovation from the politicians suggest that the standards we expect to rise in our quality of life will not meet our expectations.

Hence the emphasis on non existant crisis to enable degressive regulation of the individual

In such a case they talk in tropes,
And by their fears express their hopes:
Some great misfortune to portend,
No enemy can match a friend.
With all the kindness they profess,
The merit of a lucky guess(When daily how-d'ye's come of course,
And servants answer, Worse and worse!)
Would please 'em better than to tell
That "God be praised, all is well.
"Then he who prophecied the best
Approves his foresight to the rest:
"You know I always feared the worst,
And often told you so at first."

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bush calls for expanding 'clean' nuclear energy, research

President George W. Bush has called for expanding the development of nuclear energy in the United States while working with allies to keep nuclear material out of the hands of hostile regimes or terrorist networks.

"Our goal is to start construction of new nuclear power plants by the end of this decade," Bush said, saying legislation adopted last year offered incentives for building new plants. Bush also called for renewed efforts to reduce the amount of nuclear waste produced by atomic power in partnership with countries that have advanced civilian programs such as France, Japan and Russia. "Together, we will develop and deploy innovative, advanced reactors and new methods to recycle spent nuclear fuel," he said.

In other news the bbc reports that the 2012 Olympics will face power blackouts unles something is done to alleviate the energy crisis.

Tony Blair is believed to be convinced over the need for nuclear power to tackle the UK energy crisis.
The government is to announce a review of energy policy, including nuclear power, after

being urged by business leaders to tackle the UK energy crisis.

Or news from the Netherlands...

A report released Tuesday by the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands, an independent advisory agency, concluded that nuclear energy could save the Netherlands euro600 million (US$713.3 million) a year, as the country seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and power households and businesses.The Dutch are seeking by 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas output by at least 15 percent from projected 2010 levels, in line with European Union targets.

Or Italy already paying the highest cost for electricity in Europe

There are strong signals from various countries on the nuclear energy issue prior to the energy minsters meeting in march in moscow.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Faustian choice for the Greens

The faster identification of the Hn51 bird virus is finding that the focal waves are more widely spread then was first thought.It is now spreading throughout Asia,the middle east and now India.

Whilst the virus is 2 mutagenous variations away from direct human to human infection,the mutation could occur within 18 months.The who and un have identified the pandemic risks and governments worldwide are seeking vaccines now for a formative protection program.

The vaccines most advanced are ALL GE engineered.

With the greens policy on GE material as follows...

The Green Party remains committed to keeping the Aotearoa/New Zealand environment free of GE organisms. New information is constantly coming forward showing that the risks have been understated.

This policy leaves them with only 3 permutations .To change the policy,to keep the policy and refuse the vaccine,to keep the policy and accept the vaccine .

The Faustian Choice is most obvious when confronted with extinction and we witness thier hypocrisy.

Alternatively the obituary for the Greens and thier supporters in 2008 may read...

One year is past: a different scene:
No further mention of the Greens;
Who now, alas, no more is missed
Than if they never did exist.
Where's now this fav'rite of Apollo?Departed:
-and their works must follow;
Must undergo the common fate;
Their kind of wilt is out of date.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Gazprom creates nuclear subsidiary.

The Russian energy giant Gazprom ,the worlds third largest by market capitlisation after Exxon and Shell, but the largest by energy reserves has announced the creation of a nuclear subsidiary to build and operate nuclear power plants through its banking subsidary Gazprom Bank.

Russian business daily reports...

The Russian government is set to firmly take charge of the nation's nuclear industry as state-controlled Gazprombank, which recently consolidated control of nuclear power engineering monopoly OMZ, has announced plans to delist the company and convert it into a closed corporation.

The company, also known as the Uralmash-Izhora Group, will probably become part of a new vertically integrated group already christened Atomprom. The group is going to be involved in the full civilian nuclear cycle - from uranium production through engineering and construction to nuclear waste disposal.

"Conceptually, the OMZ restructuring probably has to do with its nuclear arm's presumed role in the nuclear industry development project announced by the head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power," Troika Dialog analyst Gairat Salimov said. "OMZ's nuclear reactor case unit is going to receive 10% of the $60-billion order. From 2010, the increase in orders will raise OMZ revenues to $500 million and market capitalization to $1 billion," he added.

The government has been using gas monopoly Gazprom and its subsidiaries to create a state-owned nuclear monster, experts say, citing the 2004 Gazprom acquisition of a controlling stake in Atomstroiexport, the nuclear machinery export monopoly. "It became clear last year that power generation engineering is a promising business; the Siemens bid for Silovye Mashiny was a signal that the West had seen profit in manufacturing industries," said Igor Vagan, chief communications officer for Motovilikhinskie Zavody, a defense producer. "In Russia, however, you need to be a vertically integrated system to obtain the highest profit, and what we see between Gazprom and OMZ, and between UES and Silovye Mashiny, is just that."Vagan also hinted that the government could be consolidating promising properties with the intent to privatize them later at a higher price.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Cartoons and Eastern Europe reaction

In an interesting development RGM reports on protests from Kiev on the cartoon controversy.

On February 8, a protest action was held near the French embassy in Ukraine. The action was held by the Fraternity NGO against actions of the French mass media. The protest action was caused by the fact that French Franсе soіr newspaper published cartoons of Jesus Christ that touches upon religious beliefs of Christians.

As a correspondent reports, the action took place within trends of French disorders: four cars were burned down. As the action was of preventive nature, they were toy-cars. In their appeal the initiators of the action called to close the Franсе soіr down and claimed for official excuses from the French government.“Until the excuses are presented, we refuse to eat frogs, drink French wine, stick to French traditions in sex and supply cannon fodder to the Foreign Legion. We also refuse to eat croissants, use perfumes marked with ‘made in France’.

In Serbia Balkanswithoutboreders is reporting protests on the shortage of Danish flags ....

The Belgrade chapter of BALKANS WITHOUT BORDERS, an NGO committed to global Balkanization, has issued a protest regarding the sudden shortage of Danish flags in Serbia, and calls on the Serbian Government to take up this discriminatory trade policy with the World Trade Organization and appropriate EU bodies. .....

While we understand the sudden demand for Danish flags in the Middle East and elsewhere, this in no way excuses the current artificial shortage of Danish flags in Serbia, where the demand for them is steady, if not as spectacular. Many Serbs have a legitimate need to burn Danish flags in the streets of Belgrade and other Serbian cities, in light of the current policies of the Head of the UN Mission in Kosovo and Metohija, Danish diplomat Soren Jessen-Petersen.

In another interesting development the Greens have issued a warning on peak flags and the forthcoming global flag shortage ....

When half the flags from a particular country has been burnt, it’s a textilogical fact that the rate at which the rest can be manufactured out starts to decline. Most textile and cotton manufacturers outside China are already past their peak. When half of the world’s Flags have been burnt world flag production will “peak” and then fall.Up until now, rising demand for flagsl has always been met by increased supply.

When global flag production peaks there will be shortages, much higher prices and growing international tension over the inability to create a new revolution or country. We are not facing the “end of flags”; much will be around for at least another 50 years. However, we are facing the end of cheap and abundant flags, on which our society has been built. Even BIG FLAGS say that "the era of easy flag making is over".

The only alternative is to burn waste land and gorse to grow biodiverse crops of HEMP to keep our Flagpoles employed.The serious of this is far reaching Rent a crowd will have no purpose at demonstrations you can hardly burn your only T shirt say Fitzsimmons .

G8 Energy and financial statements 11 February

The G8 finance ministers prepared a communique' yesterday signalling the intent of outcomes from the St Petersberg July summit.

On energy.

We reviewed the global energy outlook and welcomed the decision to focus on energy security for the G8 summit in St Petersburg. Market mechanisms are vital to the effective functioning of the global energy system. In order to improve the smooth functioning and stability of markets, we agreed to take forward work on enhancing the global energy policy dialogue between oil producing and consuming countries and the private sector. Ongoing efforts, including in existing energy fora such as the IEA and the IEF, are important to help enhance transparency, timeliness and reliability of demand and supply data, facilitate necessary investments in exploration, production, transportation, and refining capacity, as well as improve energy efficiency. This may also facilitate diversification of energy production and consumption, develop alternative sources of energy, and protect the environment.

We call on the World Bank to work with low-income countries to develop country-specific energy strategies to help them achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The initiative launched by a number of donors and IFIs on infrastructure will complement this work. We look forward to the launch at the Spring Meetings of the World Bank led framework to enhance investment in low carbon energy and energy efficiency in developing countries with the full participation of Regional Development Banks. We welcome the creation of the IMF’s Exogenous Shocks Facility (ESF) to provide policy support and address financing requirements of energy-poor developing countries. We welcome financial commitments already made to the ESF and encourage other donors, including oil producing countries, to make contributions. We reiterate our commitment, after the 2005 Gleneagles Summit, to a successful replenishment of the Global Environment Facility.

At their meeting in the Kremlin with the Vladimir Putin, the president said Russia would allocate $43.5 million in 2006-2010 for the IMF's Exogenous Shocks Facility.
Putin also said that Russia was ready to pay the International Development Association up to $587 million extra.
"This money could be used to cover the so-called structural gap."

In addition Russia also indicated prepayment of Paris club debt of 12 B$.

Other interesting developments not part of the communique are

1 The creation of a new natural gas market and exchange similar to the oil market.

2 The creation of a new oil trading market in Russia based on the Urals blend,and increased finished petrochemical commodities.

3 The full tradeability and liquidity of the rouble from 2007 and its availability as a reserve currency.

These 3 factors and the Norway/Russian trading bourse for NG chould remove some viablity of the market limitations on the Oil and energy trading markets.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Paradigm shift in Policy mechanisms for Energy Security from the G8 will produce more realistic outcomes then Kyoto. Part 2

As we previously suggested in our first report on the likely outcome of the G8 Gleneagles communiqué on Climate change, the communiqué has provided a consensus on additional strategic pathways for implementing the primary goal of stabilizing anthropogenic GHG emissions.

This multi faceted approach has brought consensus on outcomes, and will allow a global set of mechanisms that will introduce improvements to energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner energy systems, new technology and the transfer of technology to developing countries whilst maintaining global growth.

It also introduces a number of mechanisms for the low cost introduction of cleaner renewable energy systems for developing countries that will help to provide growth and allow them to bypass the use of carbon based energy systems.

The primary goals that were identified by the communiqué were

1 Transforming the way we uses energy
2 Powering a cleaner future
3 Promoting research and development
4 Financing the transition to cleaner energy
5 Managing the impact of climate change
6 Tackling illegal logging
7 Lower cost energy

These have signified a change from one of tariff based emission reduction to a broader role of technology and the delivery mechanisms of energy. This will create substantial opportunities in the areas of scientific research, engineering technology especially micro measurement, electrical efficiency and fuel technology.

To enable New Zealand to both meet its international requirements ( we have treaty obligations until 2012) and to partake in the opportunities that have been identified it will be necessary for the political parties and the development and delivery apparatus of both Government and business to recognize that there is a Paradigm shift in the future mechanisms of energy technology, efficiency, scientific research and development and the financial instruments for these mechanisms (technology development finance)

Since Russia took over the presidency of the G8 ,The agenda has been prescribed for this years meeting by a number of statements from Putin signaling the range of possible solutions and was reinforced by Bush in his SOTU address that of energy improvement and stability.

This statement by President Putin sets the theme for the outcomes of the G8 on energy.

“This will be the first time that Russia will chair this respected international forum. I hope that the experience we have accumulated since joining the G8 will ensure respect for tradition and consolidation of our efforts.

Russia, as the presiding country, regards it as its duty to give a fresh impetus to efforts to find solutions to key international problems in energy, education and healthcare.

This year, we plan to urge our partners to redouble efforts to ensure global energy security. We believe that today, it is crucial to find a solution to a problem which directly influences the social and economic development of all countries, without exception.

I am convinced that our efforts towards attaining this goal should be comprehensive and must stimulate stabilization of the global energy markets, development of innovation technologies, use of renewable energy sources and protection of the environment. We believe that today, we must think very seriously about ways to bridge the gap between energy-sufficient and energy-lacking countries.”

Bush in his state of the union speech also highlighted some interesting solutions,..

“Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly 10 billion dollars to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable alternative energy sources - and we are on the threshold of incredible advances. So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative - a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.”

Russia has been through a number of subtle statements been signaling the increased production and construction of both nuclear, and enhanced thermonuclear generation this from the 2 February …

Russia is preparing proposals for the St. Petersburg summit of the G8 club of rich nations on fast neutron reactors and international uranium enrichment centers, a senior nuclear energy official said Thursday.

Sergei Antipov, deputy head of the Russian Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, said the agency was working on targeted programs for nuclear energy development and nuclear and radioactive security that would be presented at the G8 summit in July.

"The main issues are the international fuel cycle and fast neutron reactors," Antipov said.

He said Russia had facilities that could serve as the basis for international centers for nuclear fuel cycle services, but added that the issue was under consideration and he could not name the facilities.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a Kremlin news conference that uranium enrichment centers could be set up in other "nuclear club" countries as well as in Russia, providing access on a non-discriminatory basis to nations looking for nuclear fuel for power production.

And this from the 9 February 11, 2006

Russia is ready to build nuclear power plants throughout the world with a total capacity of up to 60GW, the country's top nuclear power official said Wednesday.

"We must set ourselves a goal of taking 20% of the market [for nuclear energy], which would be around 60GW," Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, told members of the Kurchatov Institute for nuclear research.

Kiriyenko estimates the global market for nuclear energy at 600GW.

He noted that 50% to 70% of demand is located in closed markets, while about 300GW is in countries that are not in a position to build their own nuclear power plants.

Within the next 25 years, Russia should reach capacity of 40GW to 60GW, he said.

At the meeting, Kiriyenko also reiterated his view that Russia should restore the nuclear power infrastructure that existed during the Soviet period, uniting the elements of the complex situated in former Soviet countries into one system.

As we said earlier on the simultaneous conference on the ITER project whilst the Worlds press was at the Kyoto meeting in Montreal the acceleration of the thermonuclear fusion development will be a major area for discussion from the G8.

Seven participants in the unique project - Europe, Japan, Russia, the U.S., China, Korea, and India have agreed to invest five billion dollars into the construction of a thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER - Russian acronym), and use for this purpose their intellectual resources, industrial capacities, and technologies. The site for it has already been chosen -- Cadarache in Provence, France. When will this project be implemented? If we start building it by a well-orchestrated effort this year, its construction will be completed in ten years. Another five years will be spent on designing an electric power station, and another 20 years on extensive research. The fast track suggested by Tony Blair's advisor Sir David King, is aimed at building the first thermonuclear electric station by 2030. If this experience succeeds, the world will receive very powerful sources of energy -- thermonuclear electric stations. This will be an effective cure for the headache caused by the energy problem for a long time to come.

We will expand on this issue in part 2

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Russian Expert Predicts Global Cooling from 2012

from 20012, the process of global cooling will start on the Earth and by the middle of 21st century the whole planet will be captured by low temperatures, an expert from the Russian Sciences Academy Observatory was quoted by NewsRu.com as saying Monday.

The cause of the expected global cooling is a decrease in the flow of the Sun’s radiation, Khabibulo Absudamatov says.“We have already witnessed a cooling of the kind in Europe, in North America and Greenland in 1645-1705, with canals freezing in Holland, and people abandoning settlements because of nearing glaciers in Greenland. This is what we are expecting again in some decades,” he said.

Analysis of the Sun’s radiation fluctuations that influence the climate on Earth shows that the planet at the moment is on the peak of the global warming process, Absudamatov said. Now, with the decrease in the Sun’s radiation, global temperatures are going to decrease, too.“In 20th century, the Sun’s activity could be characterized by a general increase in the amount of radiated energy, and global warming was a result of this process.

Global warming is by no means an anomaly, but a normal phenomenon. Global warmings, as well as global coolings, have happened before.”According to Absudamatov, the global cooling will start in 20012 or 20013. By 2035 the Sun’s radiation will reach its minimum, and 15 years later a deep cooling of the Earth’s climate should be expected.

hmm similar consensus

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Clash of Civilizations

Samuel P. Huntington in a rather prescient paper in 1993,observed that the foremost risk for the future was in the underlying cultures of people and not the nation state.The pardigm shifts caused by globalisation have changed the role of the nation states as they become "clubs" as opposed to individual sovereign states.

In his treatise he suggests the rising role of culture as the new area of conflict as the clash of multi national intergration begins.

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

These conflicts between princes, nation states and ideologies were primarily conflicts within Western civilization, "Western civil wars," as William Lind has labeled them. This was as true of the Cold War as it was of the world wars and the earlier wars of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. With the end of the Cold War, international politics moves out of its Western phase, and its center- piece becomes the interaction between the West and non-Western civilizations and among non-Western civilizations. In the politics of civilizations, the peoples and governments of non-Western civilizations no longer remain the objects of history as targets of Western colonialism but join the West as movers and shapers of history

Civilization identity will be increasingly important in the future, and the world will be shaped in large measure by the interactions among seven or eight major civilizations. These include Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African civilization. The most important conflicts of the future will occur along the cultural fault lines separating these civilizations from one another.

Cultural conflicts as seen since the end of the cold war ,such as in Ruwanda ,Yugoslavia,and in the Horn of Africa and the Darfur region may indeed be precurser indices of the forthcoming epidemic.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Man Who saved the World

In a meeting held at the UN’s Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium on Jan. 19, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) presented the retired officer with his award.

Retired Russian colonel Stanislav Petrov received a special World Citizen Award at a UN meeting in New York . Petrov was honored as the “Man Who Averted Nuclear War”.

The inscription on the award, which has a granite base with a solid glass hand holding the earth, read: “The single hand that holds the earth symbolizes your heroic deed on September 26, 1983 that earned you the title: The Man Who Averted Nuclear War.” The back of the award read: “May the hand now symbolize humanity united to save our world by eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.”

Back in 1983 Petrov made a decision that prevented a war that could have destroyed the planet. He was the duty officer at Russia’s main nuclear command center in September 1983 when the system indicated a nuclear missile attack was launched by the U.S. on Russia. It was just after midnight, Sept. 26, and 120 staff were working the graveyard shift in Serpukhov-15, the secret USSR command bunker hidden in a forest 30 miles northeast of Moscow, WorldNetDaily reported. In the commander’s chair was Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, 44, looking down from his mezzanine desk to the gymnasium-sized main floor filled with military officers and technicians charged with monitoring any U.S. missiles and retaliating instantly.

Petrov was highly aware that Cold War tensions were acute, as USSR fighters had shot down a Korean airliner on Sept. 1. But he was completely shocked when the warning siren began to wail and two lights on his desk console began flashing MISSILE ATTACK and START. “Start” was the instruction to launch, irreversibly, all 5,000 or so Soviet missiles and obliterate America. A new, unproven Soviet satellite system had picked up a flash in Montana near a Minuteman II silo. Then another — five, all told. Petrov recalls his legs were “like cotton,” as they say in Russian. He stared at the huge electronic wall map of the United States in terror and disbelief. As his staff gawked upward at him from the floor, he had the thought, “Who would order an attack with only five missiles? That big an idiot has not been born yet, not even in the U.S.”

The Soviet procedure manual was inflexible, and it demanded he notify his superiors of the attack immediately. But relying on his intuition, Petrov disobeyed. For almost five minutes, he stalled, holding his hotline phone in one hand and his intercom in the other, barking orders to his personnel to get back to their desks. Then he made the decision that saved the world. Summoning up his firmest voice, he called his Kremlin liaison and said it was a false alarm. But today he admits, “I wasn’t 100 percent sure. Not even close to 100 percent.”

Months later, it was determined that sunlight reflecting off clouds in Montana had caused a faulty satellite computer assembly to report a missile launch flash. But by that time, Petrov’s excellent military career had been sidetracked. He wasn’t fired, but he was transferred — and never got any medals or recognition. When his wife was found to have a brain tumor in 1993, he retired to take care of her. When she died, he borrowed money to give her a funeral. Today, Petrov, 67, lives in Moscow on a monthly pension of less than $200.

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