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Thirty Years Ago Today, Stanislav Petrov Saved the World

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On September 26, 1983, the world came very close to nuclear war. Shortly after midnight, alarms inside Serpukhov-15—a bunker in Moscow where the Soviet Union monitored its satellites over the United States—began to go off. The satellites had detected the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile from a base in the United States. Then the system reported that five missiles had been launched and were heading toward the Soviet Union from the U.S.

Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, who was on duty that night, had no way of knowing that it was a false alarm: The satellites had mistaken the reflections of sunlight off high-altitude clouds as a missile launch. He had only a few minutes to determine if this was a genuine attack. In that case, Soviet protocol was an immediate counterattack.

It was a tense time in U.S.-Soviet relations. On September 1, the Soviets had shot down a South Korean passenger plane that strayed into its airspace, killing a number of Americans. The United States was performing naval maneuvers near key Soviet military sites. And preparations were underway for Able Archer 83, a 10-day NATO exercise in Western Europe that included a simulated DEFCON 1 nuclear alert. Some Soviets thought Archer was a ruse for war that would mask the preparations for a genuine nuclear strike.

On Second Thought...

Under immense pressure, Petrov ultimately decided that the satellites were wrong. In addition to what he called “a funny feeling in my gut," he had other evidence to suggest reports of an attack were false. Ground-based radar hadn’t detected any incoming missiles, even a few minutes after the satellite alarm (the delay is because ground-based radar can’t see over the horizon). What’s more, Petrov had been told any attack would be a full barrage of missiles, not just five, and he knew that the system had flaws. He reported his findings to his superiors, who did not launch an attack.

Though he was at first praised for his decision, Petrov was later interrogated intensely, and in the end, was not punished or rewarded for being a key part of averting nuclear war and saving the world.

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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This First-Grade Math Problem Is Stumping the Internet
May 17, 2017
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If you’ve ever fantasized about how much easier life would be if you could go back to elementary school, this math problem may give you second thoughts. The question first appeared on a web forum, Mashable reports, and after recently resurfacing, it’s been perplexing adults across social media.

According to the original poster AlmondShell, the bonus question was given to primary one, or first grade students, in Singapore. It instructs readers to “study the number pattern” and “fill in the missing numbers.” The puzzle, which comprises five numbers and four empty circles waiting to be filled in, comes with no further explanation.

Some forum members commented with their best guesses, while others expressed disbelief that this was a question on a kid’s exam. Commenter karrotguy illustrates one possible answer: Instead of looking for complex math equations, they saw that the figure in the middle circle (three) equals the amount of double-digit numbers in the surrounding quadrants (18, 10, 12). They filled out the puzzle accordingly.

A similar problem can be found on the blog of math enthusiast G.R. Burgin. His solution, which uses simple algebra, gets a little more complicated.

The math tests given to 6- and 7-year-olds in other parts of the world aren’t much easier. If your brain isn’t too worn out after the last one, check out this maddening problem involving trains assigned to students in the UK.

[h/t Mashable]

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