Brain Farts With History-Altering Consequences
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Brain Farts With History-Altering Consequences

Everybody experiences brain farts from time to time, but the fallout is usually more along the lines of forgetting to pick up 2% milk than accidentally causing thousands of deaths. But the more important a person is, the more we get small mistakes with big consequences. Although nobody besides your disappointed seven-year-old will learn of your failure to procure quality milk, history's biggest brain farts have sometimes left a lasting stain on the world. 

Sometimes, small, catastrophic mistakes are years in the making, and sometimes they happen in a split second. In the best cases, the ship can be righted before going completely under, but there are several instances throughout history of brain farts leading to death, destruction, and mayhem. 

  • Constantinople Fell Because They Left A Gate Unlocked

    In 1453, the long-standing Byzantine Empire fell as their capital city, Constantinople, was overrun by the Turks. And while the city had been besieged for quite awhile, and lost many men, what ultimately did them in was one extremely tiny mistake. Namely, somebody forgot to lock the door.

    The powerful wall defending the city wasn't enough to stop the invading Turks once they realized they could just walk in through a gate-sized hole in the defenses without any real resistance. As such, Constantinople fell, and one of the greatest empires in history ended with it.

  • The Bay Of Pigs Failed Because The Army Forgot About Timezones

    During the Cold War, America did almost anything it could to halt the spread of Communism. So when Fidel Castro led a revolution to take over Cuba - and subsequently began working with the Soviets - the CIA decided to fund a counter-revolution known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

    The initial plan was to have a two-pronged assault on Castro's forces, with an air attack from multiple units and a ground attack hitting simultaneously. If done effectively, Castro's men wouldn't be able to mobilize in time for a counterattack. And while that might have worked, the Pentagon forgot one tiny problem: timezones. 

    Failing to take the time difference into account, the bombers hit an hour before the planes that were supposed to cover them arrived, leading to their destruction. This failure made it difficult for the ground forces to do their job, and the whole attack quickly turned into a disaster. over 1,100 troops were captured by Cuba and held as prisoners of war; it took years for all of them to be freed.

  • It Took 200 Years To Ratify The 27th Amendment Because Congress Simply Forgot To Do It

    The 27th Amendment states that Congress cannot raise or lower their salaries mid-term. The idea being that Congress should have less control over their salary to protect against corruption. But when the amendment was proposed in 1789, it didn't get quite enough votes to fully ratify it.

    Weirdly, Congress failed to add a sunset clause to the amendment, which meant it could still be voted on and ratified, and so it hung around for another 200 years before anybody decided to do anything about it. The only reason it was ever ratified in the first place was because a college student believed it possible and got such a bad grade on a paper making that argument, he decided to campaign to get the amendment finally ratified. All because nobody thought to take the amendment off the docket after a certain amount of time.

  • Xerox Gave The Idea Of Graphical User Interfaces To Steve Jobs For Free Because Anyone Could Tour The Factory

    In the 1970s, Xerox was a world leader in computer technology. The only problem? They didn't bother releasing any of that technology to the world. Before Mac computers were released to the general public, computers were nothing but lines of text and code. There was no such thing as a mouse, and no real way to navigate the computer except by typing in commands. The Xerox Alto changed all that: it was the first machine recognizable as a modern personal computer. It utilized a graphical user interface, or GUI, to make the computer easier to use. And it was invented in 1973. The first Macintosh didn't go on sale until 1984.

    Instead of realizing the amazing technology they'd invented, Xerox opened up their factory for anybody to tour and look at. Steve Jobs showed up and immediately saw the potential of computers with a GUI. He took the technology Xerox was freely showing him with no restrictions and added it to his personal computers.

  • The Bible Encouraged Adultery In 1631 Because Of A Typo
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Bible Encouraged Adultery In 1631 Because Of A Typo

    For a brief moment in time, the King James Bible encouraged readers to go ahead and commit adultery. In fact, it commanded it.

    It's unclear where the problem originated, but in 1631, over 1,000 copies of the Bible were printed without the "not" in the commandment "thou shalt not commit adultery." As such, the Bible was deemed the "Wicked Bible," and King Charles I demanded all copies be destroyed and the printers lost their license to print. 

    It seems unlikely that any families were torn apart by suddenly encouraged adultery, but those Bibles are worth several thousands of dollars today.

  • The UK's Oldest Investment Bank Was Destroyed By One Employee Given Permission To Do Anything

    The best businesses are built around accountability. Everybody in a company answers to somebody so that no one person can go rogue and take the company down through incompetence or even malicious intent. So maybe it comes as no surprise that a management flaw allowing investment trader Nick Leeson to be in charge of double-checking his own work resulted in the bankruptcy of Britain's oldest bank, Barings Bank.

    Because nobody could check his work, Leeson made several poor investments in the mid-1990s that he easily hid from his co-workers. By the time anybody knew what was going on, Leeson had gambled away over $1 billion. In 1995, the company was forced to declare bankruptcy after 200 years in business.