WTF Fun Fact 13530 – Lost Nuclear Weapons

Would you believe 6 U.S. has lost nuclear weapons?

Nuclear weapons are often regarded as the pinnacle of military technology—devastatingly powerful and carefully guarded. Yet, even with stringent safety protocols, accidents and mistakes have happened.

The United States has lost control of six nuclear weapons, events referred to as “Broken Arrows.” These instances pose questions about the security and accountability measures governing the world’s most powerful arsenals.

The Incidents of Lost Nuclear Weapons

  1. 1950 – British Columbia: The first known loss occurred when a B-36 bomber experienced engine trouble. While en route from Alaska to Texas, the crew jettisoned the nuclear bomb over the Pacific Ocean before safely landing the plane. Despite search efforts, the bomb remains missing to this day.
  2. 1956 – Mediterranean Sea: Another instance occurred when a B-47 took off from Florida and disappeared without a trace over the Mediterranean Sea. The bomber was carrying two nuclear weapon cores. Neither the plane nor the weapons have been found.
  3. 1958 – Savannah, Georgia: A collision between a B-47 and an F-86 led to the bomber dropping a nuclear weapon into the waters near Tybee Island. The weapon, which was not armed with a fissile warhead, has yet to be recovered despite repeated search missions.
  4. 1961 – Goldsboro, North Carolina: In a near-catastrophic event, a B-52 carrying two nuclear bombs broke apart mid-air. One of the bombs deployed its parachute and was safely recovered, but the other fell into a muddy field and broke apart. The uranium core was never found.
  5. 1965 – Palomares, Spain: Another mid-air collision led to a B-52 dropping four hydrogen bombs near Palomares. Although the non-nuclear explosives in two bombs detonated upon impact, contaminating the area with plutonium, all four were eventually recovered.
  6. 1968 – Thule, Greenland: A B-52 crashed into sea ice near Thule Air Base, causing the onboard nuclear weapons to explode on impact sans nuclear detonation. The cleanup operation was only partially successful. It’s believed that one of the four nuclear weapons is still buried in the ice.

Implications

The loss of nuclear weapons has significant political, environmental, and security implications. Politically, these incidents have strained U.S. relations with other nations and led to debates on the control and management of nuclear arsenals. Environmentally, the incidents pose a risk of radioactive contamination, as seen in the Palomares incident. From a security standpoint, the loss of these weapons could pose a catastrophic risk if they were to fall into the wrong hands.

Accountability and Measures

The United States has invested significant resources into locating these missing nuclear weapons, often in collaboration with the countries where these incidents occurred. Advances in technology have aided in search efforts, but the success has been limited.

Stringent protocols have been put in place to prevent similar incidents. The military has also increased transparency with the public regarding these incidents. But much information remains classified for national security reasons.

The Uncomfortable Truth

The fact remains that six nuclear weapons are unaccounted for. While the chances of these weapons being operational are low. Bu their mere existence poses an existential threat that underscores the importance of stringent safety and security measures. As nuclear arsenals continue to evolve, the lessons learned from these “Broken Arrow” incidents remain a cautionary tale for all nations.

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Source: “Broken Arrows: Nuclear Weapons Accidents” — Atomic Archive

WTF Fun Fact 13480 – Convinced of a Crime You Didn’t Commit

It only takes a few hours for you to be convinced of a crime you didn’t commit. It’s a well-known psychological phenomenon.

This isn’t so much a “fun fact” as one that’s kind of awful if you really think about it. And it certainly has implications for questioning crime suspects (or perpetrating psychological abuse).

The criminal justice system relies heavily on the accuracy of human memory and the credibility of its testimonies. Yet, human memory is highly malleable and susceptible to suggestions and false implants. Some wrongful conviction cases suggest that innocent suspects, when questioned using certain tactics, can be led to believe and confess to committing crimes they never did.

This concept goes beyond our typical understanding of “false confessions.” It underscores the potential of forming vivid, detailed false memories of perpetrating serious crimes.

Can You Really Be Convinced of a Crime You Didn’t Commit?

A 2015 study psychologists published in the journal Psychological Science explains it all. It shows how someone can convince innocent participants they had committed crimes as grave as assault with a weapon in their teenage years. (In the years since, more research has corroborated the possibility.)

Lead psychological scientist Julia Shaw from the University of Bedfordshire, UK led the study. She found that a certain type of questioning can help generate these false memories relatively easily. Her team used a friendly interview environment, introduced a few incorrect details, and applied poor memory-retrieval techniques. (Note – the students in the study volunteered, and an ethics review board assesses research plans).

For the study, the research team first contacted the caregivers of university students. They asked them to fill out questionnaires about specific events the students might have experienced from ages 11 to 14. And they instructed them not to discuss the questions with the student/subject.

The researchers then subjected the students to three 40-minute interviews about two events from their teenage years. One real and one was falsely constructed, but included some true details from their past.

The Surprising Results

The findings were startling. Out of the 30 participants told they had committed a crime as a teenager, 21 (or 71%) developed a false memory of the “crime”! A similar proportion, 76.67%, formed false memories of an emotional event they were told about.

The criminal false events seemed just as believable as the emotional ones. Students gave the same number of details, and reported similar levels of confidence, vividness, and sensory detail for both types of events.

Shaw and co-author Stephen Porter hypothesized that incorporating true details into a supposedly corroborated account probably provided enough familiarity to make the false event plausible.

However, there were slight differences in the memories for false events and true events. For example, participants reported more details and confidence in their descriptions of the true memories.

Implications and Applications

These findings emphasize the fundamental malleability of memory. The implications extend to various fields, notably criminal justice, legal procedures, and even therapeutic settings. They indicate the need for vigilance in situations where memory recollection is key. Clearly, the innocent can be led to generate rich false memories of emotional and criminal events!

The knowledge that innocent individuals can be led to create complex false memories quite easily serves as a cautionary tale. And it’s one that hopefully influences the interview techniques that could induce them.

This research also underscores the need for further investigations into the specific interview tactics that contribute to false memories. Understanding these factors can help improve interviewing procedures, and in turn, the integrity of our legal system.

Memory, a cornerstone of our identity and experiences, can be surprisingly plastic and fallible. By studying and understanding its limitations, we can better protect ourselves from the potential distortions. This is part of ensuring a more reliable justice system, and fostering better practices in situations where the accuracy of memory is critical.

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Source: “People Can Be Convinced They Committed a Crime That Never Happened” — Psychological Science

WTF Fun Facts 12719 – When Weather Kills

Heat waves (typically regarded as 3 or more days in a row with a temperature above 90 degrees) are a time to take special care and to check in on the elderly and those with young children who may need help. While the heat makes many of us miserable, it’s also a killer. And because it gets misdiagnosed and is considered a fact of life in the summer by many, we easily forget what a calamity it can be for some (even for those with A/C who experience increasingly frequent power outages!).

Technically, all heat-related deaths are preventable. That’s why it’s so sad that around 658 Americans are killed by extreme heat each year. And the numbers are likely much higher since heat-related deaths aren’t mandatory to report to public health agencies.

Heat deaths as well as deaths in which heat was a contributing factor are easy to misdiagnose or mislabel. Looking back at deadly heat waves in Chicago and Paris, for example, show that far more deaths were related to heat than were recorded at the time.

Here are some sobering facts from the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Between 1979 and 2018, the death rate as a direct result of exposure to heat (the underlying cause of death) generally hovered between 0.5 and 2 deaths per million people…
  • A total of more than 11,000 Americans have died from heat-related causes since 1979, according to death certificates.
  • In some years, recording has included heat as a contributing factor, and in other years it has not – but in the years where only direct heat deaths “counted,” the estimates may be twice as high as the records show.
  • There was a peak in heat-related deaths in 2006, one of the hottest years on record in the contiguous 48 states.

And while many kids do get special attention during traumatic weather events, it’s the elderly who are often forgotten. However:

  • Since 1999, people aged 65+ have been several times more likely to die from heat-related cardiovascular disease than the general population, while non-Hispanic Blacks generally have had higher-than-average rates.
  • The interaction of heat and cardiovascular disease caused about one-fourth of the heat-related deaths recorded since 1999.

According to the CDC, those most likely to suffer from heat-related illness and death include:

  • infants and children up to 4 years old
  • People 65 years of age and older
  • People who are overweight
  • People who have existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease
  • People who are socially isolated
  • Those who take medications that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration
  • People who are poor

Behaviors that put people are at risk for serious illness or death during heat waves include:

  • Those who engage in strenuous exercise during high heat
  • People who drink alcoholic beverages during high heat

Heat is also worse in urban areas where buildings, parking lots, sidewalks, and roads absorb heat and create even hotter “heat islands” that aren’t recorded in the local weather estimates.

From 1999 to 2010, 8,081 heat-related deaths were reported in the United States. In 72% of these cases, excessive heat was actually the underlying cause of death (often in those who already had a cardiovascular condition). Only in 28% of cases was it a contributing factor.

So, what can you do to make sure everyone handles the heat?

  • Check on people at risk, such as the elderly, disabled, or homebound.
  • Never leave any living creature locked in a car. (Sometimes we don’t even know how bad the heat is getting to us until it’s too late.)
  • Limit sun exposure during midday hours, even at places like beaches.
  • Avoid sunburn and treat it right away if it happens by applying aloe vera and hot compresses – never pop blisters.
  • Drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids (and avoid caffeine).
  • Replace the body’s salts and minerals by eating fruits and vegetables (NOT salty snacks – because while your body needs salt, they have too much for your kidneys to handle).
  • Dress in cool, loose clothing (this also helps avoid heat rash).
  • Shade your (and especially children’s) heads and faces from the sun – use an umbrella if that’s all you have.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water for pets and put it in the shade.
  • Create circulation with fans if you don’t have a/c – and make there’s a fan pointing outward to push hot air out of the room.
  • Put a bowl of cold water (with ice, if possible) in front of a fan for an extra cooling effect.
  • Try closing all doors, windows, and curtains right before the sun comes up to keep cooler evening air inside longer.
  • Cover your feet and shoulders with wet towels and washcloths.
  • Create a space in the basement, if you have one, since it’s often cooler down there.
  • Turn off electronics that give off heat when plugged in (such as computers and lamps with incandescent light bulbs).
  • Try not to use the stove or oven.
  • If there’s no relief in your home, visit public buildings (such as shopping malls or libraries) with air conditioning.
  • Avoid large, protein-rich meals to keep the body from creating its own metabolic heat.
  • Lay down in a shaded area and sip water if you get clammy, pale, lightheaded, nauseous, or develop a headache – this can turn into an emergency quickly, so don’t hide away in a hot room.
  • Keep some Gatorade or Pedialyte (or any oral hydration with essential minerals and potassium) to stave off dehydration.
  • Call 911 if you experience: cramps, swelling, fainting, a temperature over 100 degrees and rising, confusion, a rapid pulse, severe nausea, a severe headache, and skin that’s warm and dry – it could be heat stroke, which can lead to coma and death.

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Sources: “Heat-Related Illness” — CDC
“Climate Change indicators” — EPA
“11 Facts About Heat Waves” — DoSomething.org