Chernobyl is considered to be the worst nuclear disaster in history, and the only one to ever reach 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Seven is as high as the scale goes.
It started when engineers at the plant wanted to see if, should power to the plant itself fail, they could keep the cooling pump system going from the reactors themselves. We can see how someone would be eager to break up the drudgery of life at a communist-run power plant, which probably consisted of hauling atoms back and forth in drab, gray wheelbarrows and standing in line for Enriched Uranium. But deliberately fucking about with nuclear safety regulations just to "see what happens" seems to be taking it too far.
And we all know how well this little experiment went down: Two huge explosions blew off the reactor's roof, the highly radioactive contents were spewed into the atmosphere, air was sucked in which ignited carbon monoxide gas and the reactor was set on fire for nine days straight.
Because the Soviet Union couldn't be bothered to house the Chernobyl reactor in a concrete shell, as was standard, 100 times more radiation was released than in the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings combined. So let that stand as a lesson to the remaining communist nuclear powers: Next time, just play some fucking Minesweeper.
Minesweeper: Marginally more fun than the worst nuclear disaster in recorded history!
The Silver Lining:
It ended the Cold War. Or helped to, anyway.
Back then, what happened in the USSR, stayed in the USSR. Secrecy is what having a police state is all about. So at first, the Soviet authorities stuck to their communist policy of "ignore the disaster and hope it will go away." The only problem was that you can't just explode a nuclear reactor--and release a cloud of death in the process--and expect nobody to notice.
Officials in Sweden raised worldwide alarm about the huge levels of radiation sweeping over Europe from Russia, and The Kremlin was forced to break its customary silence after 48 hours. Three weeks later, among international pressure and wild rumors about damage and death tolls, Mikhail Gorbachev finally commented, with unprecedented honesty. This is the point when, against the will of the hardliners, the light came shining in.
Gorbachev was forced to be completely honest, and give journalists "unparalleled information," and access to nuclear officials and doctors. This was the turning point of "Glasnost," Gorbachev's policy of freedom of the press that had gotten mostly lip service up to that point. And once the press was allowed to start tugging at loose threads, the entire pants of communism came unraveled.
When the citizenry found out that bread lines were not, in fact, "more awesome than ten million rollercoaster blowjobs," this led to mass dissatisfaction and that fueled the eventual end of the Cold War, and the Soviet Union.
2World War I
For an affair that started because of a sandwich, World War I turned out pretty bad. Almost 60 percent of the soldiers mobilized wound up as casualties, and this was back before wars consisted mostly of planes just bombing the shit out of everything. They pulled off those numbers with bullets and bayonets and infections and poison gas and guys screaming in muddy trenches.
Now, what we're not going to talk about here is all the technological advancements that come from war. We don't deny it, but you have to admit that for every one advance that makes life better, there are 10 that only involve better ways to turn humans into a fine red mist.
No, the real beneficiaries here, were the ladies.
The Silver Lining:
The Women's Rights movement.
The thing is, World War I was really the point where war made an abrupt transition from "bunches of angry guys on horses" to tanks, jeeps and other mass-produced machines. War was becoming a contest of manufacturing capacity and that meant the assembly line worker became just as important as the soldier.
It was around 1915 that Britain realized all their able-bodied males were off shooting at men in spiked helmets, and started employing women in munitions factories. A year later, conscription sucked even more men off the production floor, and soon women were everywhere in the workforce.
It's true that most of those women would quit their jobs when the men came back home, but it was too late. They had escaped the kitchen, and would win the right to vote in 1918. After the war, Western women were also liberated in fashion and behavior, starting smoking, getting bobbed hairstyles and wearing short skirts.
The fight for women's rights would go on for the decades to follow (up to this very moment, we suppose) so maybe it's ironic that it got such a huge boost from the fact men finally invented a war so big they couldn't fight it themselves.