We've all experienced the sting of the typo. Whether it's spelling your boss Ted's name with an A and two S's in a company wide email or listing "jail" as your previous residence on a job application, they can happen to anyone, and often at the most unfortunate times.
Luckily, most of our typos don't wind up changing world history. Not everyone is so lucky.
#7. The Source of Spinach's Power
Popeye the Sailor Man: you gotta love him. He talks like he's been using his head to hammer nails for the past eight decades, likes his girls anorexic, starts more fights than Joe Biden on a month-long speech bender and sports enormous forearms that Mark McGwire can only whack off to. The source of his powers: spinach.
Back when steroids came in a can.
Unfortunately, it turns out that spinach's claim to fame can be attributed to a typo from the 19th century, followed by one of the greatest conspiracies in the history of agriculture.
A 1870 German study that served as the basis for Popeye's spinach-fueled 'roid rage accidentally printed the decimal place for spinach's iron content one spot too far to the right. For our non-mathematically inclined readers, that means the report claimed the vegetable had 10 times its actual amount of iron, which ended up equaling out to almost as much as red meat.
"No thanks, I'll have the compost."
As a result, entire generations of children, adults and doctors grew up thinking that eating spinach would turn you into freaking Wolverine.
Unfortunately, it appears that all the E. Coli scares on the planet won't erase one 140-year-old typo. You thought we were kidding about the spinach industry having a propaganda wing? To this day, the Kids edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica informs children that spinach is "loaded" with iron in the first sentence of its spinach entry, and the abridged version of the Encyclopedia uses three of its 79 word definition to tell us that "spinach is rich in iron." Oddly, Britanica's watermelon entry says nothing about its iron content, even though the fruit has just as much iron as spinach while managing to taste far less like shit.
That is a conspiracy.
#6. The NASA Mariner 1 Mishap
Let's face it: When the scale of your scientific failures are so grand that even Arthur C. Clarke starts cracking wise about them, it's probably time to think seriously about switching to a more fitting career.
"Yeah, I didn't realize rocket science had so much math."
Such was the case for NASA in 1962 with the ill-fated launch of America's first inter-planetary probe Mariner 1. The probe was supposed to fly close enough to Venus to fondle her for a bit.
But instead it spazzed out due to a software-related guidance system failure not unlike those of video games unceremoniously rushed through production. In short, control of the craft reverted from the dead-accuracy of GoldenEye to the notorious Superman 64 faster than a speeding bullet crashing towards Earth at a thousand miles an hour.
Seriously, fuck this game.
This little bugger:
Some jackass forgot to write either the overbar or the period (or worse, both) over the R, which is apparently a big freaking deal due to rocket science being such a harsh mistress. Treat her right and she'll send you soaring off to strange new worlds, but screw up once and she'll slam a car door on your balls until they explode across eight states (in a bad way).
Ms. Rocket Science.
Once it became clear that this software error had rendered Mariner 1 little more than an enormous Scud missile, NASA had no choice but to detonate the $80 million craft less than five minutes after launch.
Legend has it that Michael Bay was born at that exact moment.
Arthur C. Clarke famously described the missing overbar as "the most expensive hyphen in history," which was made all the more costly due to it being $80 million back when a movie ticket cost less than a dollar.
#5. Mizuho Securities Drops the Ball. Twice.
While suicide may seem a ready prescription in Japan for everything from bad test scores to sheer boredom, this begs the question as to what is considered excessive by Japanese standards. Like, say... what does the average Tokyo businessman do after costing his company almost as much money as it cost to make Titanic? In 24 hours?
Any good gambler knows you don't quit while you're losing. You let that bastard ride!
"Sorry son of a bitch" just doesn't come close to describing the financial judgment day Mizuho Securities experienced on December 15, 2005. It all started when they debuted the now hilariously legendary job recruitment company J-Com Co. with the intention of offering it at 610,000 yen per share ($5,041). A typo pegged it significantly below that. At one yen per share.
While this was a disastrous enough move on its own to warrant seppuku, the shit-meter spiked to Battlefield Earth-levels once it was revealed that Mizuho Securities had also offered 41 times the number of J-Com Co. shares actually in existence. It'd be like you selling more than 40 times the number of copies of The Amazing Spider-Man #1 that were printed for less than a penny apiece on eBay... and being forced to back up your offer in yen for any dissatisfied customers.
A thousand nerds just passed out from that analogy.
Since do-overs are not allowed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Mizuho Securities was forced to watch in horror (and likely with a gun on the table) as their company hemorrhaged millions over what for all we know was just a poorly-placed coffee cup. By the time this 24-hour snuff film was over, these twin typos cost Mizuho Securities $225 million.
Cheer up, guy who lost the new iPhone; it could have been worse.
#4. The Real Bruce Wayne Sentenced to Death... Due to a Typo
Regardless of what you think about the death penalty, we are probably all in universal agreement that you really need to dot your I's and cross your T's when it comes to executions, especially when the dude they're killing is named Bruce Wayne.
More or less, this happened.
In 1985, an extremely un-Batmanlike Bruce Wayne Morris was convicted of robbing and killing a man with a non-proverbial but deeply ironic stick and stone.
The time came for sentencing, and the jury had to decide between execution, or sticking the guy behind bars forever without any chance of going free. Seems pretty simple.
Well, it was, until the judge issued written instructions to the jury that an imprisoned Bruce Wayne would not have the possibility of making parole... and accidentally left the "not" part out. The jury, now mistakenly thinking that they had to pick between death and letting the dude maybe roam the streets again in a few years, picked death.
It took more than 10 years and a freaking federal appeals court to reverse the decision on the grounds that the state of California was on the verge of executing Bruce Wayne due to a typo.
Not cool, California.
Of course, by then the trial had already gobbled up hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tax-payer dollars that California could have been using to avoid going bankrupt with.