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Top 3 Science Disasters That Shook the World

Top 3 Science Disasters That Shook the World

Science is a wonderful thing. It has the potential to save lives, create useful technology and expand our horizons beyond this blue sphere we call our home. But, if some aspects of science are not handled carefully, the consequences can be deadly. Today, we're here to look at some of the catastrophes that happened in this most delicate of research fields. Get your gas mask on and measure those test tubes, these are some of the scientific disasters that shook up the entire planet!

3. Y2K Crisis

Okay, we're kind of cheating with this one, but so be it. The Year 2000 problem, also known as Y2K, was an issue involving digital and non-digital data storage systems. The common practice for these systems was to use two digits when dealing with years, such as 1993 becoming 93. This created conflict with the year 2000, as it was indistinguishable from the year 1900, sharing the same last two digits. This would involve every computer system in the country resetting to the beginning of the 20th century, instead of advancing ahead to the 21st. Public fear over the event created a number of outlandish theories, such as the economy crashing or even nuclear missiles launching. In preparation for the possible fallout, companies and organizations the world over checked and rechecked their databases, upgrading them whenever possible. When the big millennium hit the supposed crisis did not happen, but it is still interesting to speculate on. Was Y2K averted by the numerous precautions taken, or was the whole thing blown out of proportion? The mystery continues.

2. Challenger Explosion

When the Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off on January 28, 1986, few could have suspected that the mission would end in tragedy. A mere 73 seconds into flight, the spacecraft broke up in the atmosphere, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. The United States was greatly shaken by the incident, with over 17 percent of Americans watching the shuttle's liftoff. The cause of the explosion was the failure of an O-ring, a gasket in one of the rocket boosters. This failure allowed gas from within the rocket motor to reach the fuel tank, causing the explosion. The disaster put the shuttle program on hiatus for 2 and a half years, while a special commission was appointed to investigate the accident. They found that warnings had been made from engineers regarding the dangers in launching the Challenger, but that NASA managers had ignored them. Also highlighted was the lack of testing vital equipment before the launch. Overall, the Challenger disaster continues to be a case study in engineering safety and workplace ethics, or lack thereof.

1. Chernobyl Disaster

On April 26, 1986, a nuclear meltdown occurred in the country of Ukraine. It was an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, then under control of the Soviet Union. The blast and the resulting fire released an enormous amount of lethal radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which then spread over Europe and the western USSR. Some causes for the incident included faulty control rods, used to slow down nuclear reaction, and the use of graphite material in the reactor, absorbing nuclear particles instead of slowing them down. Whatever the case, the aftermath of the disaster saw the Chernobyl Reactor decommissioned, and a structure built around it (a sarcophagus) in order to halt the spread of radiation inside. The location of the reactor, the town of Pripyat, was evacuated and is now an infamous ghost town. Decades after, long term effects of the meltdown still exist, such as cancer and birth deformities. The accident and aftermath ended up costing the Russian government over 18 billion rubles ($302,521,140 in USD).

Tags: science, y2k, science disasters, man made disasters, nuclear energy

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Dan Stein

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

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