According to the idea of the “butterfly effect”, even the smallest causes can have large and unforeseen consequences. The term itself was courtesy of MIT meteorology professor Edward Lorenz. He used a computer program to simulate weather patterns with a dozen variables over long periods of time. Lorenz noted that simply rounding a variable from .506127 to .506 was enough to drastically alter the whole pattern, and equated it by beating the wings of a butterfly that influences a tornado weeks later.
The following items were not as small as a butterfly flapping their wings, but nevertheless, few could have predicted the impact they would have on the world.
10 The garbage bag that helped bloom The coup of the century
In 2003, a group of thieves stole the Antwerp Diamond World Center (AWDC), obtaining more than $ 100 million in diamonds, gold and jewelry. The press quickly called it the “robbery of the century.” The criminals managed to enter a supposedly impenetrable vault that was protected by ten levels of security, which included a Doppler radar, heat detectors and seismic sensors. If only they were more careful to get rid of their garbage.
Now we move on to August Van Camp, a retired grocer. He owned a small strip of forest where he liked to roam with his two pet weasels. However, because the land was next to the road, people used to throw their trash on the property. The day after the robbery, he found a garbage bag in his land and, as he did many times before, he called the police to complain. Van Camp began listing several items in the garbage pile, which included a video tape, a half-consumed salami sandwich and empty envelopes marked “Antwerp Diamond Center.”
The latter caught the attention of the police, who came to investigate. Among the garbage were pieces of torn paper that, when assembled, revealed an invoice of a video surveillance system billed to Leonardo Notarbartolo. The DNA of the sandwich also pointed towards him. He was a high-ranking member of a gang known as the Turin School. He was sentenced to ten years, and although the circumstantial evidence suggested the identity of his companions, Notarbartolo never exposed them.
9 The missing key that could have saved the Titanic
David Blair was a British merchant sailor who was appointed by the White Star Line in 1912 as the second officer of the Titanic. He participated in the tests at sea, but days before the maiden voyage of the ship, he was replaced by the experienced Henry Wilde. In his hurry to leave, Blair accidentally took with him the key to the raven’s nest box, thus denying the lookouts the pair of binoculars that could have prevented the tragedy from ever happening. The missing binoculars became a point of interest during the investigation of the sinking of the Titanic. One of the surviving lookouts, Frederick Fleet, testified that the binoculars would have allowed him to see the iceberg in time to get out of the way.
Others also feel that the missing key would have changed the course of events that day, but not everyone is convinced. To begin with, some versions of the story say that the crew members could not find the binoculars because Blair left them in his cabin or because he took them with him, since they were his personal partner. After all, if the lenses were so important, the ship’s crew could have entered the locker or obtained another pair. There are many other theories of what went wrong that day, and this is still a “what if” without an answer. Even so, many people still see the historical value of the missing key, as it was sold at an auction in 2010 for $ 137,000.
8 The error that caused a government
At first glance, a typo does not seem to be a big problem. It is a mistake that can happen to anyone, and most people should be able to discern the desired meaning of the context. However, historically, there have been numerous examples of typographical errors that have come at a high cost. In 1999, typographical errors managed to bring down the Kuwaiti parliament. The initial plan was to print a state version of the Koran that would be available free of charge to all citizens.
However, whoever was in charge of the publication did not do a very good job because the sacred books contained several badly written verses, while others were completely missing. Very soon, this sparked a dispute, with most of the anger directed against the Minister of Islamic Affairs, Ahmad al-Kulaib. He faced a vote of distrust, which he lost. However, this was not enough for the controversy to disappear, and the emir of Kuwait, in the face of increasing pressure, had to dissolve the National Assembly.
7 The train trip that founded molecular medicine
Linus Pauling (pictured above left) is widely regarded as one of the best scientists of the 20th century and has two Nobel Prizes in his name. He is typically seen as one of the founders of molecular biology and was particularly interested in studying the structure of proteins. In 1949, Pauling, together with his biologist colleagues Harvey Itano, S.J. Singer, and Ibert Wells, published an article called “Sickle Cell Anemia, a Molecular Disease,” which provided the first proof of human diseases caused by abnormal proteins. It was later considered as the basis for the field of molecular medicine, and has its roots in a chance meeting during a train trip.
In 1940, a medical student at Johns Hopkins University named Irving Sherman observed that the light that passed through the red blood cells of patients with sickle cell disease was transmitted differently than through normal cells. He published his findings, but nothing really happened. However, they came to the Harvard medical professor, William Castle. Years later, the professor found himself sharing a train with Pauling and started talking about biology.
Castle told the distinguished chemist about Sherman’s observations. At that point, Pauling had already studied the proteins extensively, and immediately suspected that hemoglobin was the culprit. He used a protein separation process called electrophoresis to analyze samples from people with sickle cell anemia, people without it, and people who carried the sickle cell trait. He discovered that the first two groups had different types of hemoglobin, while the third had both types. This formed the basis for his seminal article mentioned above.
6 The software update that destroyed a banking giant
Software updates have become an annoying but necessary occurrence in our modern lives. However, all we know how to do is accept the “Terms and Conditions” and press “Next” several times. Something more than that, and we are perplexed. In general, not updating part of the software does not have serious consequences, but once it managed to close one of the largest banking groups in the world.
It was assumed that June 19, 2012 would be a typical day for the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS Group). Its technical staff had to apply a regular patch to the CA-7 software, which controlled the bank’s payment processing system. As some points of sale reported, this task was left to an “inexperienced agent”. They tried patching the software and found an error. It’s not a big deal, just go back out of the update and try again. However, when he retired, the staff member accidentally cleared the entire system queue. This created a great delay in the collection of information that needed to be reincorporated and reprocessed.
For six days, millions of people could not withdraw money from their accounts or transact online. Some lost mortgage payments or bills, while others were stranded abroad without money. In a terrible case, a seven-year-old girl was in danger of being removed from life support because her family could not pay for her treatment.
5 The pirates who stopped the metric system
Joseph Dombey was a French botanist who, in 1794, was on his way to Philadelphia to meet with the first Secretary of State of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. At the instigation of the French government, Dombey carried with it an exceptional burden: a set of measurement standards called meter and kilogram (at that time still known as a tomb). Jefferson was eager to persuade the Americans to adopt the French measures, which then formed the basis for the metric system.
So there were many people in Congress eager to get rid of the British measurements. Having the standards presented by a respected scientist like Dombey should have been an easy task. Unfortunately, Dombey never arrived in Philadelphia, since his ship was captured by pirates. He tried to disguise himself as a Spanish sailor, but his accent and poor understanding of the language betrayed him. The pirates took him to Montserrat to rescue him from the French government. However, Dombey died in captivity. It would be another century before the US government. UU Adopt the metric system under the Mendenhall Order of 1893. Even today, however, most Americans are more familiar with British imperial units of measurement.
4 The clouds that saved Kokura and condemned Nagasaki
On the morning of August 9, 1945, a B-29 terrorist named Bockscar took off from the North Field on the island of Tinian carrying one of the deadliest charges in history: the nuclear bomb Fat Man. As most people know , the bomb was launched on Nagasaki, but that was not the original objective. The United States identified several potential bombing targets. One of them was Kyoto, who was saved by the insistence of Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who spent his honeymoon there. Another was Kokura, a city that housed a gigantic ammunition factory. On his way to his destination, Bockscar was supposed to meet with two other planes: Great Artiste and The Big Stink. The last one never appeared, and the others left after a delay of 50 minutes.
At that time, visibility over Kokura had worsened due to the clouds. Some official accounts say the weather worsened, while others claimed that it was actually smoke from the arson bombing of nearby Yawata the day before. A third version says that the visibility was obscured by the steam created on purpose as a countermeasure against the bombers. Whatever their origin, these clouds prevented the crew aboard the Bockscar from visually confirming their objectives according to the instructions. Lacking fuel, they went to their alternative target, which was Nagasaki.
3 The piece of tape that ended as presidency
To this day, Watergate remains one of the biggest political scandals in the history of the United States. The revelation that the Nixon administration was involved in a conspiracy to spy on political opponents and other officials led to the resignation of the president and the indictment of 69 people. And it all started with a tape.
On the night of June 17, 1972, 24-year-old security guard Frank Wills was making his rounds at the Watergate office building. During his first round, he noticed a piece of duct tape on a basement door, placed over the bolt to prevent it from closing. Initially, he thought that a worker used it during the day to get in and out more easily and forgot the electrical tape there. Wills simply eliminated it and went ahead. However, after another inspection, half an hour later, he saw a new piece of tape in the same place. This time, he called the police. The authorities went from room to room and found five thieves at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.
An investigation finally connected Nixon to the conspiracy and led to his resignation. As for Frank Wills, he actually resigned shortly afterwards for not getting an increase. He did not earn much money with his participation in Watergate, but he did play in the 1976 classic All the President’s Men.
2 The blackout that led to the Hip-Hop boom
The blackouts in New York always seem to come with good stories. There is a popular myth that the blackout of northeastern 1965, which affected 30 million people, caused a massive increase in birth rates nine months later. And many give credit to the 1977 blackout for helping to popularize the new hip-hop movement.
On July 13, 1977, most of New York City and its environs were affected by a blackout. This was at a time when the city was affected by a fiscal crisis, experiencing a severe heat wave and under the threat of David Berkowitz, also known as Sam’s Son. Tensions were high and 31 neighborhoods were victims of looting and vandalism. Among the looters were many promising DJs and b-boys who saw the blackout as a golden opportunity to “acquire” new sound equipment.
At that time, hip-hop had existed for a few years. DJ Kool Herc is usually credited with his invention at a neighborhood party in 1973. In 1977, he even had some competition, such as Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa. But it was still a small community. However, the day after the blackout, “there were a thousand new DJs.” That’s according to hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Caz, who admitted stealing a mixer that night. The same sentiment was echoed by Grandmaster Flash, hip-hop journalist Nelson George, and music scholar Joe Schloss. More recently, the theme was covered in Netflix’s music drama, The Get Down.
1 The piece of paper that changed the Civil War
September 1862 began bleak for the Union Army during the Civil War of the United States. After the surprising victory of the Confederacy in the Second Battle of Bull Run, General Lee began his first invasion of the North in the Maryland Campaign. The French and British governments were preparing to recognize the independence of the southern states. A great victory in the entire Potomac and then a magnanimous offer of peace was all that was needed for the Confederation to achieve its political objectives. Lee divided his army into several parts and identified multiple objectives.
He prepared marching orders known as Special Order 191. He sent a copy to each of his key commanders. Some burned their copies. Others kept them in their person. General James Longstreet chewed his copy with tobacco. There was some confusion with the orders of General Daniel Harvey Hill. Due to the recent division of units, Stonewall Jackson was not sure if Hill still served under his command or if he reported directly to Lee. Therefore, he wrote another copy of Special Order 191 and sent it to him. Unknown to him, so did General Lee.
On September 13, the Union Army, led by George McClellan, established a camp outside of Frederick in an area previously occupied by Hill’s men. While they were resting, two soldiers found three cigarettes wrapped in a piece of paper. That document was Special Order 191.
According to Hill, he only received the copy of Jackson. We will never know who was responsible for the loss, but this invaluable information helped the Army of the Union to expel the Confederates to the south. Lee blamed unequivocally the defeat of the Maryland Campaign for the lost order. A few months later, the victory gave Lincoln the necessary support to announce the Proclamation of Emancipation.