You might not be reading this (and we wouldn't be writing this) if it were not for Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov (September 7, 1939-May 19, 2017). For on September 26, 1983, when the Soviet officer was in charge of monitoring an early-warning missile defense system, computers malfunctioned, indicating that the . had launched five ICBMs against the Soviet Union. But Petrov had a gut feeling the . wouldn't start a war with just five missiles. So he reported the alert as a system malfunction. (He was right - a satellite had mistaken the sun's reflection on clouds for missiles.) Had he reported the sighting as a true missile launch, the USSR would likely have launched their own missiles, precipitating an American retaliatory response. Instead, apocalypse was averted.