Mistakes are part and parcel of human nature. It's a story as old as time. But this is not something to be scorned. There have been many glorious mistakes that have advanced human knowledge immensely.
Research into one topic has led to accidental discoveries that have changed history. Penicillin, X-Rays, the electron and the Bakewell Pudding were all discoveries that came about through mistakes.
But the mistakes we're dealing with on this list aren't so much the glorious mistakes of times past, but more recent errors that had a concrete result. We've kept this as technical as possible, but business, as ever, intrudes. Have a look and see what you think.
Mention: Mars Climate Orbiter
Shaun Nichols: As any computer programmer will tell you, some of the most confusing and complex issues can stem from the simplest of errors.
If you're writing any kind of code for a game or application, this can be quite annoying. If you're writing the code for a Nasa space probe, it can be a catastrophe that costs hundreds of millions of dollars. This was the case with the Mars Climate Orbiter.
A simple error in the development process caused the destruction of a $327m space system. It turned out that, while most of the programming and mission planning had been done in units of measurement from the Imperial system used in the US, the software to control the orbiter's thrusters had been written with units from the metric system.
The result was the space equivalent to jumping off of a 100ft bridge with a 50m long bungee cord. The orbiter went far too deep into the Martian atmosphere and was promptly torn apart by the atmospheric forces.
Iain Thomson: The Mars Climate Orbiter failed due to a simple engineering error, converting Imperial measurements into metric. Imperial measurements are a curious thing for a British person to consider. We invented the damn things and it keeps coming back to bite us on the backside.
Despite efforts to keep Imperial measurements in the UK, the far more rational metric system has prevailed, as it has pretty much everywhere else in the world.
To complicate matters the US still keeps to the Imperial measurements that were in place when the original colonies were founded, meaning that I have to drink more pints over here to consume the same amount of alcohol as I would with fewer pints in London. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
The Mars Climate Orbiter, and the Mars Polar Lander it contained, would have advanced our knowledge of the Red Planet immensely. The two probes would have monitored the Martian climate and the composition of its soil to determine the presence of usable water for possible manned missions. The timing was also less than ideal, pre-millennial angst being what it was.
Mention: CIA pipeline bug
Iain Thomson: OK, this one has never been officially confirmed but it's an interesting tale that has some relevance today.
In the early 1980s French intelligence persuaded a disaffected Soviet colonel to hand over something called the Farewell Dossier. In it were the names of Soviet spies who had infiltrated Western companies with the aim of stealing technology.
This was shared with the Americans and it was discovered that the Soviets had infiltrated a Canadian company to steal control software for gas pipelines, something that was needed if the Siberian gas pipeline intended to supply western European markets was to be completed.
According to National Security Council staffer Thomas C. Reed, the CIA, keen to disrupt trade between Europe and the Soviet Union, introduced malware into the software before it was stolen. Once activated the software would have catastrophic results, beyond what had been originally envisaged.
"The pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines and valves was programmed to go haywire, to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline joints and welds," Reed recounted.
"The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space."
Commercial spying has always been with us, I suspect right back to some distant ancestor being tortured to reveal the secret of fire. But it has never been more rampant than it is today. Technology has aided this process immensely.
When Mossad stole the blueprints for the Mirage 5 they needed to transport nearly three tons of blueprints. The same information would now fit on a couple of hard drives, and there are plenty of countries, and companies, that are actively seeking to steal such data.
Shaun Nichols: Whether real or not, it behoves the CIA to remain silent on the issue. By not confirming, they avoid the ire of the US public and world community, and by not denying they keep other governments thinking that they just might be able to make pipelines explode with the push of a button.
Iain brings up a very good point in relating the alleged incident to current events. We all know that securing power and fuel infrastructure has become a major worry for all governments, and if something like this could have been done in the early 1980s, imagine what sort of havoc could be wreaked these days.
It just underlies the importance of securing infrastructure. The code that would have caused such an explosion is likely to have been small and simple, yet capable of causing absolute chaos when properly deployed.
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