Jan 13, 2018

Hawaii isn't the first: The false alarms from the Cold War

A leftover fallout shelter sign in New York City from the Cold War. Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Hawaii's false alarm about an imminent missile attack isn't the first time a glitch made it look like the missiles were on the way. There were some even scarier false alarms during the Cold War that could have easily led to nuclear holocaust if military officials hadn't figured them out.

A few of the worst ones, as told in "Raven Rock," author Garrett Graff's account of the U.S. government's plans to survive a nuclear war:

  • November 1979: NORAD computers detected what appeared to be hundreds of Soviet missiles headed toward the U.S. It turned out that someone had accidentally stuck a training tape into the computer system.
  • June 1980: The computers appeared to show 2,200 incoming Soviet missiles — "a full-scale general nuclear attack." This time, the alarm was blamed on the failure of a 46-cent computer chip.
  • September 1983: Soviet warning systems showed five U.S. missiles that appeared to be heading toward the Soviet Union. In reality, its satellites saw the sun's reflection off of clouds and thought it was a missile launch. 

Go deeper

The race to catch Nike's Vaporfly shoe before the 2020 Olympics

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Four months ago, on the very same weekend, Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to run a marathon in under two hours, and fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei shattered the women's marathon record.

Why it matters: Kipchoge and Kosgei were both wearing Nike's controversial Vaporfly sneakers, which many believed would be banned because of the performance boost provided by a carbon-fiber plate in the midsole that acted as a spring and saved the runner energy.

Go deeperArrow40 mins ago - Sports

Reassessing the global impact of the coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Economists are rethinking projections about the broader economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak after a surge of diagnoses and deaths outside Asia and an announcement from a top CDC official that Americans should be prepared for the virus to spread here.

What's happening: The coronavirus quickly went from an also-ran concern to the most talked-about issue at the National Association for Business Economics policy conference in Washington, D.C.

Tech can't remember what to do in a down market

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Wall Street's two-day-old coronavirus crash is a wakeup alarm for Silicon Valley.

The big picture: Tech has been booming for so long the industry barely remembers what a down market feels like — and most companies are ill-prepared for one.