A whole series of TV ads for Dutch insurance Centraal Beheer use this trope as well, ending in the phrase "Even Apeldoorn bellen" ("I should call Apeldoorn" - the place where Centraal Beheer is headquartered.)
A GE medical technology ad involved a guy, distracted by a pretty girl, running into a guy on a bicycle and then stumbles into a vegetable stall which collapses over onto something else, et cetera, et cetera... Eventually the camera cuts away from the mayhem to show this huge dust cloud over the city. Then it cuts away to the doctor's office, where the guy that caused the mess is being treated for multiple broken bones; his doctor walks in... and it turns out to be the pretty girl! The rest of the merchants in the bazaar are also in the waiting room. See it here.
In one of The Discovery Channel's "Know More Than You Should" ads, a woman witnesses a squirrel run out into the street. She remarks to a coworker, "Great, now there'll be cats everywhere." Her coworker gives her a funny look, but as she predicted, a car swerves to avoid the squirrel, a truck swerves to avoid the car and tips over. Said truck was a tank-truck full of milk, and as milk pours out onto the street, hundreds of cats arrive to lap it up.
Played seriously in a rapidly-escalating disaster in Macross Frontier episode 20. A few Vajra hatch within Island 1 and attend Ranka's concert. Ranka finds Alto and Sheryl together on the roof and misunderstands, unwittingly sending her pain out to the Vajra, who become hostile and start attacking.
Done in Nichijou, where an attempt to make a donation turns a shrine into ruins within seconds.
In the fifth Fairy TailOVA Ichiya and Natsu trip in the local pool and Natsu slams into Erza. Erza sends him flying, and he crashes into Gray and Lyon, sending them down the lover's slide, then breaks down a heart-shaped ornament. Things escalate until the the entire pool is laid to ruins.
Played straight in Watchmen, when Jon's transformation into Dr. Manhattan is triggered by his date dropping her wristwatch at a carnival.
Or, taken even further back, the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima could be the first domino. The news report on the bomb prompted his father, a watchmaker who had been training his son to follow in his footsteps, to instead push his son into a career in nuclear physics. Which results in Jon meeting said girlfriend at his first job after getting his PhD and in him volunteering to fix her watch when it is broken using the skills his father taught him as a young man.
A rather less amusing example was Humpty Dumpty in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, whose attempts to take things apart and put them back together, with increasingly disastrous results, culminated in a rain of collapsing novelty signs on the Gotham skyline.
DC villain Major Disaster had this as an actual power after a deal with the demon Neron in the Underworld Unleashed event. In Flash #125, he throws a sandwich into the street, causing a dog to chase it, the dog's owner spills her bag of apples, a bicyclist falls off his bike from hitting the apples, the bike hits a man on the other side of the street and scatters the papers he's carrying, and the papers fly into the windshield of a bus, which swerves and kills the bus passenger who has been annoying Disaster for hours.
XFactor: Layla Miller seems to be able to set these up, although it's more a case of her being aware of what's going to happen.
Etrigan: Jason Blood's demonic aspect allows him to see these in some cases. An example from Swamp Thing:
At 5:32 this evening you will be impaled by a swordfish. There is nothing to be done. It is written. Selena has already decided not to buy the lawn furniture.
Like the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic example below, Getting Back on Your Hooves has one when Trixie causes an accident in Carousel Boutique after seeing her sister's name on a dress. Rarity hangs a humorous lampshade on it by talking about how Sweetie Belle has made bigger messes than Trixie, and how she really needs to stop setting up her shop in such a way that one little thing toppling over somehow sets off a chain reaction that wrecks the entire room.
The hilarious German short film Forklift Driver Klaus shows the disaster dominoes that happen from carelessness.
Two epic ones in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, destroying a library and an ancient temple, respectively. Alex takes after his mother in that aspect.
In Rat Race, people are racing toward New Mexico to get a lot of money. The rival family decides to steal a Nazi car. The car's lighter burns his middle finger so he accidentally shows it to a biker. She calls her friends to attack the car. The father gets black lipstick smeared on his lip in the shape of a Hitler mustache. He burns his tongue, rendering his speech into incomprehensible German-sounding gibberish. This whole mess crashes into a reunion of World War II veterans. And while trying to explain what happened to him, he continues to be Flipping the Bird while showing the burnt finger is again. Hilarity Ensues.
King Ralph: When the title character is at a royal banquet with the King, Queen, and Princess of Sweden Finland, he tries to cut into a roasted miniature chicken, but the pressure from the knife causes the chicken to shoot off Ralph's plate, knocking over his drinking glass. The chicken and glass set off a chain reaction that topples all the other glasses from one end of the very long table to the other.
The whole of the Blues Brothers can be seen as a long, long sequence of these, especially after the mall chase. The number of policemen just keeps growing...
In Jabberwocky, the main character manages to destroy a knight-in-armour repair shop by moving a bowl of rivets.
Chicken Little's titular hero sets off a few of these. Twice when he tries to sound the town alarm, and again when an attempt to stand up to Foxey ends with him thrown into a window and smacking the fire alarm.
The usual setup for oh so many slapstick routines in The Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges era. Someone gets slapped in the face, they attempt to retaliate, the other person ducks resulting in someone else getting slapped who then smacks right back, knocking someone into the waiter who spills a tray of soup on someone who jumps up, pulling the tablecloth off ... next thing you know it's a full-on pie fight.
In Beerfest, singing the wrong drinking song at first seems to work out (BOOBS!), but it's too much for one old German fellow's heart. His stumbling around eventually leads to the entire festival tent falling down.
How to Train Your Dragon has Hiccup, who in the first scene does succeed in shooting a Night Fury (although nobody believes him, but then stumbles and causes a chain reaction that allows all the captured Dragons to escape and injures several Vikings.
The Thief and the Cobbler goes overboard with this. Starting at 2:50 here (and continuing into the whole of part 10), the last 15 minutes of the film are essentially one big game of Disaster Dominoes, causing the destruction of the Big Bad's death machine and his entire army due to Tack's Tack.
Several of the freak accidents in the Final Destination franchise start out this way. A truly epic example is Mrs. Lewton's death in the first one, which starts with her making tea and ends with her house exploding. Examples in later additions to the series delve into the patently absurd.
Mocked in a Robot Chicken skit that's a Crossover between Final Destination and Archie. In a mirror of Mrs. Lewton's aforementioned death scene, Mrs. Grundy is killed after an overly elaborate series of gags practically ripped from the Mouse Trap board game(eventually) results in a somehow previously-unnoticed car suspended above her head dropping on her.
The character Fackler in the Police Academy franchise often unwittingly sets these off.
In The Birds a crowd in a cafe sees a gull swoop and knock down a gas station attendant. He drops the pump nozzle and a stream of gasoline flows down the street, puddling under a salesman leaning on his car while lighting a cigar. The crowd tries to warn him, but he drops the match and he and his car go up in flames. The crowd watches in horror as the flame travels up the stream of gas to the gas station, which erupts. In all this chaos the fire draws in a huge flock of gulls, who attack the already panicking throngs.
In Godzilla (2014), a crashing helicopter takes out no less than three passenger jets.
Anything written by Michael Crichton. The plot of a typical Crichton novel starts with a bad decision, which is then compounded by additional people making bad decisions and/or minor technological glitches that just happen to be the worst possible thing that could happen.
Played straight in Bernard Werber's "The Thanatonauts", in which the angels use a rat to engineer a series of events, eventually leading to a plane crashing into the main characters' apartment building, killing them all.
Done with a series of mummified relics in Nation. The main characters flee the cloud of noxious dust that is quickly filling the cave, stopping halfway because there's a gap in the mummies and they think the chain will stop... until a flying rib manages to score a perfect hit.
The Hunt for Red October introduces a Soviet submarine, with an overworked technician failing to notice that one gauge is a bit too high. Ten pages later, a sphere of molten metal has destroyed the sub.
It's worse than that. He noticed the gauge was a bit too high, but he was prevented from fixing it by the urgency of their mission. The book then goes into detail about how, to save money, the Soviet Navy used steel instead of titanium for a small "flapper" valve which, when subjected to the hot radioactive water of the nuclear power plant cooling system, warped ever so slightly, causing small "waves" in the cooling pipe water. These waves grew larger and larger over time until eventually the system, not designed to deal with the pressure variation, sprung a leak. This then results in the reactor going critical, melting down, and every single person on the submarine dying from either drowning or asphyxiation. Because of a ten-cent savings in metal costs.
As if that's not bad enough, the US then uses the sunken submarine to steal the Soviet Navy's highly advanced and extremely expensive new missile submarine. So really, because of a ten-cent savings in metal costs, the Soviet Navy loses the Red October.
Lelldorin's escape from Arendia in The Belgariad starts with him getting into a fight with his cousin and ends with him instigating a minor war and having a price on his head. All because he fell for a Mimbrate girl and was forced to elope. On the plus side, he did get the girl.
This is implied to happen rather frequently in Arendia, always ending in war. Garion notes that this is tragically typical of Lelldorin.
In The Mallorean it's played very seriously when Garion learns he nearly caused a global environmental catastrophe after creating one little thunderstorm for special effects triggered off a series of natural disasters around the globe that were acting and reacting with each other trigger more and more that was eventually going to culminate in a full-blown globally-affecting ice age. It's only then that he learns not to tamper with the weather.
In David Eddings' The Elenium, Disaster Dominoes is taken to hilarious and literal levels when Talen decides on a good way to deal with undead soldiers who guard a single flagstone: push one onto the flagstone of another. It gets messy.
The Dr. Seuss book Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! starts with a sneezing bug and ends with the people rescued from a sinking boat getting tangled up with a circus parade. All done in a humorous manner.
The children's book The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash. Jimmy took his boa constrictor along during a class trip to the farm and the snake ate the farmer's wife's washing, then crawled into the hen-house, which frightened the hens, which caused one to lay an egg, which broke on a student's head and lead to an all-out egg fight amongst the students, which then resulted in them using up all the eggs and running to use the pigs' corn instead, which then caused the pigs to raid the bus to eat the kids' lunches, which distracted the farmer who crashed his tractor into into a hay bale and pushed it on top of a cow, which quite understandably burst into tears. Amusingly enough, the story is told Back to Front.
The West African folk tale Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People's Ears (which the page quote is from) tells the tail of Mosquito, who tells a lie to an iguana and sets off a chain of events that results in one of Mother Owl's children being killed, and thus she refused to wake the sun so the day would come until she knew who was responsible.
Similarly, there's the Western "The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly", which couples this with Serial Escalation (she ate a spider to catch the fly, a mouse to catch the spider, etc.), until finally dying from eating a horse.
In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Loco Motives", an ordinary man begins by dropping a bowl of Jell-O and ends up accidentally killing his wife and neighbor and is caught when he gets stuck in quick-set concrete trying to bury his wife's body. After his crime, his pocket is picked and he loses a bet with Brass (and confesses) when his neighbor's daughter accidentally identifies him as he is being released.
An interesting variation from an episode of The X-Files: a man unconsciously caused improbable chains of events to happen around him. However, the results were always good for him—for example, knocking out the mobsters who were after his wife and freeing him from the closet they'd locked him in. He couldn't control this ability, and usually didn't even begin the specific chain of events. However, his good fortune meant that in order to balance the cosmic scales almost anyone around him was just as likely to suffer from something horrible happening to them as a direct consequence.
Subverted in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when Carlton says they're falling into "the domino effect", and foresees a chain of events that will end with (paraphrasing) "Dad getting fired and all of us having to work at Domino's to make a living".
The accident which caused the deaths of 99.9% of the crew of was described in the novels as happening this way.
The way Lister accidentally causes the death of Cassandra (a computer that predicts future) is a hilarious example of this trope.
Used frequently on Seinfeld. In one episode George accidentally got his coworker fired and then got his position. Kramer promised a little kid a Yankees baseball player would catch a fly ball in his hat, Elaine ruined her friendship with her cousin, several New-Yorkers missed their wake-up calls, and Seinfeld broke up with the aforementioned cousin due to her bad cooking. The trigger event was Jerry eating a grapefruit.
German comedian Vicco von Bülow, better known as Loriot, did a classic sketch that starts with him trying to straighten a picture hanging askew and ends in the destruction of every item of furniture in the room.
In a sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus, a man is waiting in a room for someone, and a piece of furniture inexplicably falls apart. By the end, a butler, a maid, the man he's waiting for, and a policeman are all dead, and then the house inexplicably collapses, and he's left standing in the middle of the rubble, saying, "Sorry!"
Father Ted attempts to bang out a minor dent in a new car with a hammer. After a cut, all four windows are now smashed and bits of metal are hanging off it. Dougal comments that he almost had it for a while there.
Kamen Rider Den-O's Ryotaro Nogami has this sort of thing happen to him on a regular basis. His very first appearance in the series has him stuck on his bike at the top of a tree; a flashback shows that he lost control of the bike just as a sign fell over, launching him skyward. When someone comes by with a ladder to help, he replies that he's used to this sort of thing.
Although a pretty frequent occurrence on Frasier, one notable example involves Niles preparing for a date. It begins with Niles noticing a tiny crease in his trousers. It ends with Niles unconscious without pants and Frasier's apartment on fire.
In episode "The Plateau", a man puts a pen on a mailbox. Another man eating nearby leans over to examine the pen as it falls a few moments later. A bike messenger swerves to avoid him, and crashes into a fruit stand. Meanwhile, a woman walks out of a florist's shop next to the incident. A hobo tries to grab some of the fallen fruit and gets in an argument with the vendor, which distracts a bus driver coming down the street. He does not see the woman as she steps out into the street and collides with her, killing her instantly. The man who left the pen in the first place?He planned all of it.
Another such chain is narrowly subverted only because Olivia does something very stupid and thus actually avoids the final danger that would have killed her. This Olivia is from an alternate universe and does not know all the proper safety protocols.
In the Corner Gas episode "Telescope Trouble," Hank borrows Wanda's TV. As he's walking down the porch steps with it, he bumps into her birdbath and breaks it. This causes the TV to fly out of his arms... right through the window of Wanda's car. And this cycle only repeats itself. Hank decides to get Wanda a new birdbath. He leaves it outside the gas station, where Wanda promptly bumps into it while trying to carry her large telescope. The birdbath breaks and the telescope flies through Brent's car window. Birdbaths can cause widespread destruction if you're not careful!
Sister Sister: Lisa causes one of these to happen when she picks an apple at the supermarket at the end of one episode. The apples roll and cause some shoppers to trip, and one employee on a ladder is forced to cling to a banner during the disaster that ensues.
In Alphas, Marcus is able to deliberately engineer these situations, thanks to his ability to intuitively understand how everything around him will act and react. He throws a single quarter and causes a four-car pileup in the opening scene, and that's just for starters.
Everybody Loves Raymond: The season 6 episode 'Tissues'. Ray complains that his wife won't allow him to make household decisions, like the style of kitchen curtains to buy, and she gives him more freedom. His decisions are all critized by the family: the garden hose is too short, the tissues he buys are oily, etc. Later, he is alone in the kitchen and distracted by a phone call, when every decision he made contributes to the chaos. the oily tissues catch fire, which spreads quickly because of a flammable bug spray he purchased. Ray scrambles for his hose, which doesn't reach the kitchen. Finally, Debra stops the domino rally by grabbing a fire extinguisher she purchased and putting out the flames.
Every second or third episode of Casualty is based around this idea. In the first episode of 2012 for example, a dog escapes from a back garden, this leads to a major traffic accident taking out 5 or 6 cars, which leads to one man being delayed in stopping a suicide attempt, in trying to save the suicide victim and dealing with the traffic caused by an accident, a gas main is acidently destroyed causing an explosion which rips apart a housing estate. This in turn causes some nearby chemical drums to burst, creating a huge cloud of Hydrogen chloride, which ends up getting into the drain system causing part of the town to be evacuated. We end up seeing several hundred people affected by various burns. Oh and all this happens on the same morning that the A&E department first reopens after a major fire so all the equipmenet is new and most of it untested. And this is just one episode.
In the fourth season of Castle, it's the entire plot of a Double Episode where a CIA mathematician found a small, almost insignificant action that will trigger World War III. After the Detectives manage to prevent the thing that starts it (the assassination of a child) Castle asks Beckett if she thinks the Disaster Dominoes was real. She concludes that they saved a child, and that's good enough.
In the second season Ever Decreasing Circles episode "Housework", Schedule Fanatic Martin concocts an ambitious plan to give his house a complete spring clean from top to bottom while his wife is in hospital recovering from surgery. He meticulously schedules both the cleaning and his usual Sunday "to do" list of planning the neighbourhood's group social activities, but his lack of housework experience means things soon go wrong: He overloads the washing machine, and when he hears it jolting across the kitchen floor, he takes his eyes off a carpet shampooer for just long enough for it to swamp the entire hallway with foam. As he tries feebly to clean up the foam with a dustpan and brush, he stops paying attention to the absurdly large amount of rice he is boiling for his lunch, which soon covers half the top of the cooker. His attempts to vacuum up the rice lead to the vacuum cleaner breaking, and when he tries putting the remaining rice down the kitchen sink, it quickly becomes clogged. Finally, his nerves completely frayed thanks to both the housework chaos and a neighbour who won't stop calling him with questions about forthcoming social activities, he throws a porkchop into a plastic tub and puts it in the oven to cook for dinner; the melting plastic soon fills the entire kitchen with smoke, and the oven is ruined.
Community: In The Darkest Timeline in "Remedial Chaos Theory", Troy hurriedly leaves the apartment for the pizza delivery - he dislodges the rolling boulder from the 'Raiders' set model which lands on the floor - Annie trips on it and falls into the coffee table, smashing Pierce's bottle of overproof rum - Pierce jumps up from the game table and Annie's purse hits the floor - a gun inside it fires, shooting Pierce in the thigh and hitting an artery - as the others frantically try to stop the bleeding Britta steps out of the bathroom, and as she gapes in alarm the marijuana cigarette she's smoking falls and ignites the rum. Eventually, one is dead, one is driven mad from guilt, one lapses into chronic drunkenness, one's larynx is destroyed, one loses an arm in the fire, and one dyes a strand of her hair blue.
Air Crash Investigation: It's basically one long sequence of these. For example, Crash of the Century (the story of the Tenerife disaster of 1977; see Real Life section for details) has the dominoes from lack of ground radar, an overloaded airport, bad communication, foggy weather and a captain too eager to take off.
Frank Spencer (Michael Crawford) of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em is one of British television's great Walking Disaster Areas, and had a flair for setting off disaster dominoes. Perhaps the crowning example is the 1973 episode "Have a Break, Take a Husband", in which he starts by tearing a hole in the cheap linoleum of the hotel room in which he and his wife Betty are staying for their second honeymoon. By the end of the episode, through a combination of his own ineptitude and the room's shoddy construction, he has torn a floor mat in half, broken several drawers apart, broken the door off the wardrobe, smashed a hole through the floor in the middle of the room, convinced a nervous fellow guest that his dead grandfather is trying to contact him, put two more holes in the floor under the bed, ripped the washbasin from the wall, and demolished the hotel bar.
On the episode "Arrhythmia" of Almost Human, a former police DRN unit riding with Kennex and Dorian jumps out of Kennex's car to arrest a man he thinks is a fugitive. This results in an SUV rolling forward down a hill and smashing into a parked car which hits a fire hydrant which is blown into the air and hits a police drone which is damaged and thrown out of control, ricocheting off a building and smashing into a police android who is stopped nearby writing a ticket and carrying him through the door of a third vehicle. Kennex and Dorian watch the entire thing unable to say anything.
The Doctor in the House franchise featured numerous examples over the years, but perhaps the most noteworthy happens in the climax of "Honeymoon Special" from Doctor in Charge. Drs. Stuart-Clark and Collier put Dr. Bingham's leg in plaster as a prank before he leaves on his honeymoon, and Dr. Waring is forced to drive Bingham and his wife to their honeymoon hotel in a hired car and then stay the night; when the prank is revealed, he forces Collier to come to the hotel with a set of plaster cutters. Collier nearly misses the turn for the hotel, and reverses his car into a ditch as he tries to correct his mistake. As he forgets the plaster cutters in the car, the other doctors try to pull it out with Bingham driving the hired car, but his plastered foot gets stuck on the accelerator, dragging both cars on a wild ride down country roads and stopping on a level crossing - just as the barriers lower for an oncoming train. A mad scramble ensues to get the cars off the crossing in time, but then the still plaster-encased Bingham gets his foot stuck under the rails... fortunately, the train is going in the other direction and he is unharmed. (Collier's car gets front-ended by the other car, however, and his leg really does get broken in the impact.)
Happens multiple times in The Worst Year Of My Life Again, as Alex seems to have a talent for causing this kind of event. In the final episode, a pair of bathers hit Parker in the face and get flung away, causing a chain of events that knocks multiple people into the pool.
In a general example, as a live band, there are four situations that qualify as Disaster Dominoes for a live band - in that they produce a cascading series of failures and are nigh-impossible to stop without stopping the song and either starting over (a huge faux pas that calls your professionalism into question, and is almost only forgivable in the case of massive technical problems or danger to life/health) or picking up where things went so pear-shaped it had to stop.
The first: the drummer is off rhythm. Unless the bassist or rhythm guitarist realize what's going on and try to get the drummer back into the groove or give up on him or her entirely and try to up their volume to cover it, both will proceed to go off rhythm as well, leaving the lead and singer to try to keep up to something entirely different than what they've rehearsed, and usually very badly failing at it.
The second: an intro solo (usually guitar or bass) is very badly botched. Unless the singer is relying on a cue other than a point in that solo or a note on teleprompter or notes, he or she will come in at the wrong place and either singing too fast or too slow to avoid dead air. The guitarist(s) will then usually try to start compensating for the singer and getting the song back on track, only making the problem worse when they and the bass speed up to an already out of breath singer and go out of tempo with the drums. An experienced drummer might stop the cascade of failure by keeping his original rhythm, though this itself will make the song sound awful until they reach a break. An inexperienced one will go faster himself.
The third: The soundboard guy sucks, and therefore everyone's playing does. This is often the one that is an exception to starting over being seen as unprofessional, and has occasionally led to bands walking out on the show or demanding no live adjustments (e.g. demanding the soundboard guy set to their/their tour manager's specs and leave it alone)
The fourth: a major technical failure or someone's out sick, specifically for the drummer, the lead guitarist, or the singer. A band can play without bass (though it will sound worse) or without a rhythm guitar (there's many bands that don't have one to begin with), but the drums or lead guitar or vocals not being there will often lead to everything related to the performance collapsing, unless it's a very experienced band that can rework their music on the fly to work as drumless or instrumental.
In Joe Diffe's Third Rock from the Sun a man in Smokey's Bar sees a beautiful woman walk into the bar and calls up his wife to tell her he is working late (so he can make time with the lady in question). The wife calls up her sister and asks her to come over to comfort her, which gives her boyfriend time to go out and get a beer from a nearby store. He leaves the keys in his car, allowing some teenagers to take a joyride in his car. The teenagers end up in the path of a semi truck, which crashes into them, goes across a bank parking lot, and hits a nearby clocktower. The clocktower falls over and takes out a powerline, making the entire town go dark. A waitress calls the police in panic, claiming aliens are landing, and the police call the mayor, waking him up, because they can't find the sheriff. The mayor tells the police to use their heads - if he isn't in his car, he's probably hiding from his wife down at Smokey's Bar. So he is going to have to work late after all.
"The Wreck of the Crash of the Easthill Mining Disaster" by Brooke Lundeville. But did she have to bring in the puppies?
Sabotage by Daybroke. A broken off guitar knob hits some unstable makeshift table, things start to fall, roll and hit other things. Resulting in a global catastrophe.
A staple of Paranoia, especially in the adventure Send In The Clones ... where the Gamemaster is given instructions on how to make this happen even if the PCs are specifically guarding against it and still make them think it's their own fault.
Mousetrap! I guarantee! It's the craziest trap you'll ever see!
Most players of Dungeons & Dragons will claim that any session (or encounter) which killed at least two characters invoked this trope.
Your inevitable fate in Dwarf Fortress. Dwarves can be aggravated through grief or dissatisfaction to a point of murderous, crazy rage. The thing is, one dwarf rampaging around smashing property and killing friends, pets and spouses will often upset other dwarves enough to go nuts too. Players refer to this situation as a 'tantrum spiral'. Cases often follow a pattern like:
Dwarves A B and C are unhappy, but not enough so for madness. Dwarf A doesn't get enough sleep and goes over the edge into madness, in the process cutting Dwarf B's wife in half. Dwarf B finds out his wife is dead, pushing his grief over the edge too. He promptly goes and smashes a statue Dwarf C really likes. Dwarf C finds out about the statue and... well you see where this is going.
See the saga of Boatmurdered, an epic tale of mismanagement and bloody death which ends with legendary former leaders beating dwarves to death while on fire and the inferno causes the entire fortress to devolve into a massive flaming brawl while the flaming corpse of a monarch butterfly wedges open the front gates and keeps the Doomsday Device from being activated. Arguably this is the entire reason Dwarf Fortress is so awesome.
In the game, Eric the Unready, the titular protagonist manages to set off one of these during a banquet, burning down the entire building.
Spectacular failures in Left 4 Dead can often be traced back to a single event, most likely a Boomer vomiting on all four survivors at once.
On harder difficulties the AI director seems to play up the smallest mistakes into really, really big and tragic messes. One stray bullet hitting a car, alerting the horde, and wouldn't you know it, a Boomer spawns 15 seconds later, which is almost impossible to avoid since the players are already getting swarmed. Inevitably, one or two will be dead, the remainder near death, and no medpacks to be found... wait, what's thatrumbling noise?
Some World of Warcraft raid bosses such as Archimonde and Anub'Rekhan are based around this; something bad happens whenever a character dies, which may end up killing another, then another two, then... And in a more literal "dominoes" sense, there are a few raid bosses, such as Kel'thuzad in Naxxramas, who have attacks that can "jump" from player to player. One player makes the wrong move at the wrong time and everyone can quickly end up dead from the chain reaction.
The Lich King. Dear god, the Lich King. One of his attacks called Defile targets a player to create a black puddle at his feet. Every tick of damage it does, it grows a bit larger in radius. If a player gets caught as it grows, it keeps growing. If another player who had cleared the danger radius stopped just short of the edge, it gets caught again, taking more damage, growing it a bit more. All it takes is two players doing this two step forward cha-cha a couple of times, and the puddle soon covers the ENTIRE playfield, wiping out the raid.
His Valkyrs are pretty awful too. They will pick three random players and drag them to the edge to drop them over, and they cannot do anything until the other players kill the valkyr (preferably BEFORE being over the edge). If one or more players get dropped, there will be FEWER players for the NEXT wave of valkyrs, who will more easily throw more off the edge, and so on, until the wipe is inevitable. Oh yeah, and defile STILL gets cast through all of this.
Any strategy game where morale is a major issue. X-Com is a good example. One of your soldier dies, causing another to panic and drop his gun, leading to him dying as well, which causes a third guy to snap and start firing wildly, killing two of his allies, and next thing you know, your entire squad is wiped out without even engaging the enemy.
Enemies with Psionics don't even need to raise their guns - a handful of Panic Attacks later, the squad that was assigned to fight them will end up killing itself for them through berserked firing of HE rounds and panicked dropping of primed explosives.
Can be a frequent occurrence in the Fallout series. A stray bullet can graze an innocent bystander who then returns fire, he misses and grazes another bystander. It's sometimes an option to avoid conflict by letting a town kill itself.
There's also the issue of what happens when you badly damage a car that's surronded by other cars, considering that cars in the Fallout universe are nuclear powered...
One trap in Fallout 3 uses a row of boxes set up like dominoes to start a chain reaction. Battering ram hits domino boxes, last domino triggers pitching machine which knocks fire extinguisher into bear trap, setting off grenades and gas explosions that will kill the player if they're in the wrong place.
Piss of a member of a faction (by petty theft, trespassing, pickpocketing) in Fallout: New Vegas, turning them hostile, kill them in self-defense, causing infamy to be gained and other nearby members to attack you, until your reputation hits bottom and they are permanently hostile on sight. Even if you are only "shunned" by the NCR or Legion, they will send hitmen after you, and killing these will completely destroy your standing with them.
This is similar to a common strategy in Doom; get one enemy to shoot another, often by strafing/streaking through, and next thing you know, they're fighting each other.
Similarly, wrecked cars are often lined up so that igniting one will set off a chain of nuclear explosions.
The goal of many levels in The Incredible Machine is to place the last missing domino for this to happen.
Many of the deaths in Scorched Earth and other tank games can cause a cascading ladder of death from a single kill.
Two friends and I sat back helplessly as one tank (the very first one, in fact) blowing up cascaded far enough to wipe out every tank on the screen.
This is extremely common when playing a strategy game on the hardest difficulty or when the game is always just that hard. To succeed you need to spread your resources very thin indeed, and with multiple aspects of your defense or offense relying on the proper functioning of other aspects, all it takes is one bad decision or unlucky RNG result and your entire army falls apart. For example, you're playing a that one missionwhere you start with one dysfunctionalbase and your enemyhas several fully-powered bases opposing you. You have -just- enough supply or power to keep your base running and your army full and can't spare any money at all to get more supply/power, as you're massing for an attack to take out one of the bases before you get overwhelmed. While your defensive line kills a hundred small, fast units, a single one gets through to melee range. Your artillery kills that unit plus all of your units that were in nearby with Splash Damage. The next wave runs through the hole in your defenses, kills your artillery and blows up a power plant/farm/overlord, and then you can't rebuild those lost defenders quite fast enough, and before you know it your whole base is on fire and your army crushed. Every strategy gamer who flirts with masochistic difficulty has experienced this many times.
This can occur in Skyrim. In Markarth, the Dragonborn gets involved in a conspiracy that climaxes with a prison riot and the Forsworn carving a bloody path across the city, killing an important nobleman in the process. And depending on the order in which the player completed the quests and visited cities, all started with a drinking contest with a stranger in a tavern across the continent, and the game itself is in on the joke and encourages you to play that way to get that result.
In Dota 2, a lot of things can go wrong. The game is very, very unforgiving and the players are punished severly by the mechanics themselves, but with the help of smart play from the enemy a small fault can result in an even bigger disadvantage for the team who made a mistake.
Every event that takes place in the second Knights of the Old Republic game is sparked by the Exile's return to known space. The Sith come out of hiding to capture her, destroying Peragus in the process, the restoration efforts on Telos depends on the fuel from Peragus, and all other planets devastated by the Jedi Civil War depend on Telos to set the example that it can be done. If Telos fails, then the Republic will have bankrupted itself in the attempt with no result and will collapse.
The ripple effect of the consequences of even a small act, in fact, is one of the themes of the game.
LEGO Star Wars. Vader gets a medal this time as he's won the sequel to Star Wars. An entire legion of Stormtroopers are lined up on the steps, so Vader gives on of them a hearty slap on the back, sending the lego figures toppling like dominoes.
When Crowe comes back in Saisei-hen, the first thing that happens is that he gets a debt of a few thousand dollars because of a highway accident which then turned into a million dollars worth of debt. By the end of the game, he's not even close to paying off those debts.
Due to the physics involved in Worms, a single shot can result in a chain reaction of explosions from mines, oil barrels, crates being torched by the aforementioned items, dying worms self-destructing, and so on. This can contain equal amounts of awesome, fail, and hilarity, as any veteran Worms player will attest to. Quite often entire island formations and reduced into gutted, swiss-cheese-like shells of their original forms during the process. For extra points, sometimes this involves the worm who pulled the trigger getting caught up in the carnage that ensues.
Little Busters!: Haruka's imagined scenario of how cleaning could kill you involves this. First, she trips over while mopping. Then she bumps into a locker. The shock of this makes the club room collapse. This causes an earthquake. As the room happened to be the pivotal point of earth, the earth's crust starts moving and Japan sinks into the ocean, which causes the continents to drift apart. This makes the poles shift. As a result, all of mankind is wiped out. And that's why Haruka absolutely cannot clean! Except that Riki then points out that none of that could ever actually happen, which Haruka thinks is boring.
In The TV Show a sequence of events that starts with a man in a ski mask holding up a video game store ends with what appears to be a city in ruins. And it was awesome.
Happens in an episode of the Knights of the Dinner Table Flash cartoon when the GM, B.A., starts implementing his new chart of randomly-determined consequences for critical failures. A single roll of natural 1 on an attack leads to major injury for the whole party.
There is an animation called Safety @ Work that reminds us the importance of workplace safety. One man fails to wear his hard hat, and, well...
In the What A Cartoon! Show short "Larry and Steve", Larry's car gets cut in half, and the one with Steve in it crashes first through a house, then through a barn full of chickens, and when Steve sees the car headed towards a big pile of explosives lying (in)conveniently in the middle of the road, he briefly stops screaming to say, "Waaait a minute, isn't this a bit contrived?"
Turned into a literal site/sight gag in Disney's Hercules. The title character bumps into a column, which tips over and falls into its neighbor, causing a chain reaction to go all the way around the agora.
Especially when he threw the pillar that caused the first part of the reaction, causing the second part, a repeat of the first one, all over again.
Played seriously in an episode of The Batman, where the simple theft of a watch escalates into a tumult of destruction that lands the thief in prison for fifteen years.
A set of disaster dominoes creates the Clock King in Batman: The Animated Series. Fugate fears he'll be ruined if he loses his legal hearing. When he breaks his schedule and dares to relax, he gets hit by a ball some children were playing with, a Dramatic Wind blows up the papers he needs for his hearing, and a playful dog accidentally gets him to fall into a park fountain. While he's physically unscathed by it all, he still ends up late to court and loses.
The title character in Dumbo has to jump on top of a pyramid of elephants. He trips on his ears, which causes him to knock over the pyramid, which in turn topples the entire circus tent.
They could probably have spotted the problem during rehearsal... if only they had any.
Toy Story: Woody tries to knock Buzz down the back of a dresser with a remote control car. The car causes a bulletin board to fall off and hit a globe, which rolls into a lamp, which then swings and knocks Buzz out the window, setting in motion the second part of the film.
The Venture Bros. - The Monarch needs to create a diversion at the Venture yard sale (so he can sneak inside and use the bathroom). The place is full of super-scientists and archvillains, so one well-placed flying projectile starts a fight that becomes an all-out riot in seconds.
Played with in a Time Travel-"Groundhog Day" Loop episode of Jacob Two-Two. Jacob broke his brother's priceless record and every attempt to save it makes the situation worse. He puts it down to keep it from falling out of its case and his brother sits on it, he doesn't put it down and it falls out, rolls away and his brother trips on a skateboard and suffers a broken arm, he warns his brother about the skateboard and gets him in a full body cast instead, one more reset and their entire house ends up completely demolished. And the record ends up broken in all cases.
The stories of Pat And Mat have a tendency to go this way, usually as a result of causing disasters of ever-increasing magnitude to cover up their tracks. They often start from a minor everyday annoyance, like a stain on the wall
Happens in Happy Tree Friends regularly. Someone will get hurt, the others will panic, leading to more severe, fatal mistakes being made, which leads to more panic, leading to...
For example, in the school play episode "Class Act", Nutty, who is obsessed with candy and will eat anything remotely resembling it, bites a chunk out of Sniffles, who was dressed like a massive sugar cane, who runs off screaming and somehow manages to get Giggles face sliced off. The sliced off face manages to fly off and hit The Mole, who is controlling the spotlight, which he fumbles and directs straight into Lifty and Shiftys eyes, who were holding Flaky upside down and who, blinded, drop her, which causes her to get skinned falling down a chimney, before getting deposited on the stage floor with her muscles exposed. All this finally triggers a panic, leading to one of the characters dropping a candle and creating a fire while Cuddles blocks the escape route with his costume, leading to him being pushed out of it in a cylindrical shape. Most of the characters get out safely, but are all killed when the school explodes at the end.
Happens in Flushed Away when Toad is showing Roddy around his shrine dedicated to British royalty. Roddy backs into a statue, knocking it over but just managing to stop it crashing on the ground. However the impact from this leads to a domino effect with many of the other artifacts in the room ending up being broken.
Dexter's Laboratory had this happen to an ice cream man: Dexter paid him for a very expensive ice cream with a heavy jar of pennies, which he dropped when trying to put it in the safe, leading to him being unable to account with the daily income, causing him to lose his job, his car, his apartment, and his girlfriend, and live under a bridge. Plus he chipped a tooth. It's his Disproportionate Retribution to Dexter as he refuses to stop to give ice cream to him.
Fillmore!: the ruination of the train convention in "Next Stop: Armageddon".
The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol : The Smurf of Christmas Present shows that, if Grouchy doesn't show up to do his part at decorating the Christmas tree, Clumsy will volunteer, leading into this.
The Rainbow Magic has this happen to the villains in the movie's prologue. The goblins crash into Jack Frost several times, ruining his dramatic entrance and eventually getting themselves trapped in their own net.
Also the story of how the dog died He died from eating all that horse meat after your barn caught on fire due to the candles from your mother's funeral after she died of a heart attack after catching your wife cheating with the farm hand and the death of a family four The mom died after slipping on the stairs that were wet because she left the bathtub running which drowned the children; the husband died after trying to open the door which became electrified due to the water soaking the floor.
And then there's the piece of sheet metal that came loose, decapitating a biker, and the motorcycle rides past the driver's window with the headless corpse on it, giving the driver a fatal heart attack, causing his truck to plow right into a bus stop full of people.
In real-life engineering, this is called an "error chain", "failure chain", or "disaster chain". One of the key considerations in design of high-importance safety systems (such as those in nuclear reactors) is breaking the chain.
The Chernobyl disaster is the sort of thing that happens when you don't break the chain.
Seemingly the Bhopal disaster was the result of this, too. So was Apollo 13. It could even be said that the Love Canal disaster was a long winded version of this.
The Titanic. Any one of about twenty things happens a tiny bit differently and 1,500 people don't die. Let's recap the more memorable ingredients of the recipe that takes 1,500 lives:
The pre-voyage hype. The largest ship in the world, the pinnacle of technology and luxury, White Star Line's crown jewel. Oh, and any four compartments can be completely filled with water and it won't sink. Even better, the ship has a double-bottom hull. Somehow, this leads to truly stupid comments like "God himselfcouldn't sink this ship!" Hubris is the first misstep. Always.
It's headed into the Atlantic with enough lifeboats for about half the people on the ship at the time, due to some outrageously obsolete law that no one's ever bothered to fix, and while the Titanic technically had more than required, it still wasn't enough. The designer intentionally meant for the ship to carry forty-six boats, but the Powers That Be hacked down that number to twenty, and they still felt that it was more than necessary because it was more than the legally required number of sixteen boats. And two of those boats, the collapsibles, were stowed on the roof of the officer's quarters, a completely and utterly ridiculous place to stow them, as getting them to the davits from there was all but impossible. "It's not like we're gonna need them or anything!"
Funny thing about those lifeboats: there wouldn't have been enough time to launch them all. The first proposal was for 64 boats. More people might have survived the disaster thanks to boats floating off the deck (obviously these wouldn't be tied down) but the Titanic barely had time to launch the twenty it had. Then again, they were delayed in actually getting boats launched.
There's a coal fire in one of the front coal bunkers. They can't just put water on it because it would ruin the fuel. So instead they use a combination of smothering and removing the coal from that part of the bunker. Trouble is, that constant heat weakens the metal on one of the bulkheads. They don't put it out until two days before the disaster.
Four days out. A few ice reports come in. No prob, says Smith, just change the course ever so slightly southward, and we can continue charging ahead full speed without having to see if the correction was enough or any such foolishness. What, slow down and wait until light so we can see if we're in danger? Even if we're not, at worst we've lost a few hours? What kind of stupid greenhorn sissy baby wimp do you take him for?
Uh oh, turns out the correction wasn't enough; the Titanic gets several warnings that it's headed right for a big ice field. Radio operator's response? "Hey, I work for the Marconi Company, I'm not part of the crew. Bug off." Yes, he failed to inform the bridge of an unbelievably hazardous condition that threatened the lives of everyone aboard ship because HE DIDN'T GET PAID TO DO THAT.
The day of the disaster, there was a scheduled lifeboat drill. Nuked. It's too cold.
So sure enough, someone sees that the ship is headed right toward a massive wall of ice. At the speed it's going, the ship is hard to turn. What makes it worse is that the first mate puts the ship in reverse. This isn't a sissy car! This is a 66,000 ton Ocean Liner! The churning water actually messes up the proportionally small rudder's ability to turn even more than the speeding! Furthermore, while the two wing props are run by reciprocating engines, the middle one, the one that's right in front of the rudder, is connected to a turbine, and it doesn't go in reverse. Congratulations William Murdoch: You have made a near miss into a solid hit. Epic Fail.
This wouldn't have been a problem had the iceberg been spotted earlier, but Frederick Fleet, the lookout, didn't have his binoculars with him, as they went missing at some point during one of the initial port calls. On top of that, the sea was calm, meaning that Fleet had to rely on moonlight (which was rather difficult as the new moon wasn't even up) rather than waves to notice a giant block of ice in the ship's path. Ironically, had he not seen it at all and they just rammed the thing, the damage would probably not have sunk the ship.
Remember that double-bottom hull? That's only of any help if the ship runs aground. The sides of the ship are still just an inch of steel, made of plates essentially stapled together. And the rivets—said "staples"—were weaker in this area. Not because of budget cuts, but because there was a machine used to drive these rivets in, but it couldn't work properly in areas where there's a lot of curved metal to navigate: such as the extreme forward and aft ends of the ship. Therefore, they had to use rivets with more slag (a glass-like substance that in trace amounts strengthens steel, but in higher ones weakens it) to make it easier to be hammered in by hand. And that bulkhead next to the coal fire? It's believed that the steel was so weakened that the water pressure actually burst it later on in the sinking, accelerating the flooding.
Five compartments flooded. Four, the ship can be salvaged; five, forget it, it's toast. The flooding water will go over the top of each bulkhead of the compartment as it goes down, like in an ice tray.
This occurred because most of the Titanic's supposedly watertight compartment bulkheads do NOT extend all the way to the first continuous watertight deck like they're supposed to. The gap at the top allows water from a flooding compartment to slop into adjacent compartments. While watertight compartments with properly designed bulkheads probably wouldn't have prevented the Titanic from sinking, it has been speculated that truly watertight bulkheads would have slowed the rate of sinking significantly and could have enabled the ship to remain afloat long enough for help to arrive.
In fact, the compartments made the ship sink faster. As the forward compartments flooded, the front of the ship went down first, causing the tail to stick and the ship to break in half. Also the ship had pumps, but they were located in the rear, which wasn't getting any water. If the water had flooded the ship evenly, it would have taken much longer to sink (as much as ten hours).
Said pumps had hoses which were used to surpisingly great effect. One compartment was actually pumped dry before the entire bulkhead collapsed, rendering this small victory moot. The hoses, unfortunately, meant that quite a few manual watertight doors were opened or reopened to allow their passage, making the bulkheads resemble Swiss cheese.
There was one ship close enough to lend assistance (the "Californian"), but his radio operator had already gone to bed. (Thereafter, radios were required to be manned around the clock). The Titanic fired off flares, but there was no reaction from the "Californian". Other radio operators were within range, but most had also gone to bed.
Oh, and the reason one of the aforementioned radio operators had gone to bed? He was annoyed with having to relay so many messages from the Titanic's passengers. Get a bunch of Upper Class Twits together on an exciting new ship and you're suddenly getting a whole bunch of Twitter-esque chatter clogging up the radio frequencies. At least one radio operator finally said "Screw it, I'm calling it a day," and wasn't awake to receive the one important message of the bunch.
And just in case this whole apocalyptic mess wasn't nearly hellish enough yet, despite the ship having enough lifeboats to save the lives of about half of the people on board, they don't even save that many, due to numerous lifeboats being launched at well below capacity due to confusion among the crew. Poor Communication Kills indeed.
Remember that Lifeboat Drill that got canned? Yeah, none of the crew were familiar with the new davits put on the ship because of it, causing a few close calls in the unloading process. These boys had to learn on the fly, costing time and potentially lives.
A few more people died due to a smaller, lesser-known boatyard hearing about the disaster that was the Titanic. One of their ships sank because it was carrying too many lifeboats.
None of these screwups would've mattered if the iceberg hadn't been in that exact spot, at that exact time. Even a few minutes' difference in the movement of either ship or iceberg — movement, which thousands of fine shifts in current, wind, and surface chop dictated, never mind human intervention — and they'd have missed each other completely. The good news is that if the disaster hadn't happened, then regulations for ship safety wouldn't have been updated and we'd probably still have ships with too few life boats and radio transmissions wouldn't be manned around the clock. So because of this disaster, we have updated rules and regulations for ship travel and safety.
If it wasn't that particular iceberg, the Titanic would've run into another. A survivor's account mentions that, prior to the collision, when he looked out the porthole of his cabin (which was down on one of the lower decks), he would sometimes see stars in the night sky being blocked out by something, then reappearing. This phenomenon has been occasionally witnessed with icebergs at night (the ice temporarily blocks out light from stars, at least until they've passed/been passed). The conclusion here is that, even before the collision, the Titanic was already deep in what was essentially a minefield of ice, and it was probably inevitable that she'd have a head-on/glancing encounter with an iceberg.
Greatly averted with the sinking of the sister ship to the Titanic, the Britannic. That was not the result of hitting an iceberg, but instead being blown up by a mine. Thanks to safety improvements done to the Britannic in construction as a result of lessons learned from the Titanic, no Disaster Dominoes happened to cause this sinking, but they did help to increase the number of survivors for three reasons: one, the weather was about 70 degrees, there were more lifeboats available, and help got there quicker. Most of the 30 fatalities in the Britannic tragedy were the result of the first two lifeboats being lowered while the propellers were still turning, causing the boats to be sucked into the propeller blades, ripping them and their occupants to pieces.
A more recent maritime example would be the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia. The whole mess could be considered a masterpiece of Disaster Dominoes:
It all started when the ship's head waiter, who was a native of Isola del Giglio, asked Captain Francesco Schettino to do a "sail-past" near the island and salute the residents. Schettino deviated from the ship's computer-programmed route, claiming that he was familiar with the local reef and could navigate through it.
Captain Schettino was apparently so confident in his abilities that he switched off the alarm on the ship's navigational computer...
...Although according to his first officer, Schettino had left his reading glasses in his cabin and repeatedly asked the first officer to check the radar for him.
The Tenerife airport disaster, the worst aerial disaster ever, happened when two Boeing 747s collided on a foggy runway at Los Rodeos Airport in Tenerife, killing 583 people. Likewise, if just one of twenty or so causes had been otherwise, nothing would have happened.
First, the Los Rodeos airport itself was a spare. There had been a terrorist bombing at Gran Canaria airport, so traffic was diverted to Los Rodeos. Both accident aircraft were originally intended to land at Gran Canaria, but instead got diverted to Los Rodeos.
Los Rodeos airport is located in a caldera, and that particular day was awfully foggy (as has been known to happen at Los Rodeos), reducing visibility.
Los Rodeos airport has only one runway, while Gran Canaria has two. All air traffic, both landings and take-offs, happened on that single runway.
Los Rodeos airport was awfully crowded and busy that day. The airport was (due to rerouting from the bomb attentate) forced to accommodate a great number of large aircraft, resulting in disruption of the normal use of taxiways.
Due to the large number of diverted aircraft, Los Rodeos' main taxiway was used as an aircraft parking lot. All departing aircraft were therefore forced to taxi the length of the runway, then do a 180 degree backtaxi turn to get into takeoff position.
Both the KLM and Pan Am jets were heading to Gran Canaria. The Pan Am jet was ready to go, but the KLM jet was ahead of it, and was being refueled. The Pan Am had touched down 45 minutes after the KLM, which is why they were positioned this way. The KLM jet eventually taxied to the end of the runway, to wait for the start the take-off run, while the Pan Am jet taxied on the runway behind it.
The refueling took 35 minutes, allowing the fog to settle in. It also added forty tonnes of weight to the KLM jet, making it more difficult to clear the Pan Am when taking off.
And it increased the size of the fire from the crash that ultimately killed everyone on board the KLM jet.
Even worse, the refueling was completely unnecessary because the KLM jet already had more than enough fuel to fly to Las Palmas. It's also unclear what prompted the KLM pilot to decide he had to refuel after waiting for 2 hours. If he had refueled earlier, or not refueled at all, the accident would not have happened.
The Pan Am jet was directed to head on connection taxiway 3, which was on a 148 degree angle to the runway. The 148 degree turn was very difficult to perform on a fully laden Boeing 747, and the American crew instead decided to head to connection taxiway 4, which was only on a 45 degree angle to the runway.
The Los Rodeos flight control gave the KLM plane the IFR departure clearance, which is permission to fly to the destination. It is not a permission for take-off, though; the Dutch crew misinterpreted the clearance as permission for take-off.
There was a language confusion of Dutch, Spanish and English. The tower international communication was in Spanish and the KLM cockpit crew used Dutch for internal communication. The KLM crew spoke with heavy Dutch accents, making it impossible for the Spanish tower crew to understand them. The Pan Am crew spoke American English. The tower used non-standard phrases on communicating with the planes. There is a reason why no matter what airport you go to in the world, no matter what pilot you meet, they all are trained to speak English as the universal language of communication.
The KLM crew asked for permission for take-off. The tower denied it, but used a very heavy Spanish accent, which the KLM crew misinterpreted as permission.
The Pan Am jet had overtaken the connection taxiway 3 in the fog and was on its way to taxiway 4. Had it turned on taxiway 3 as instructed, it would have gotten out of harm's way.
The confusion meant the tower interpreted that the Pan Am jet had finished taxiing and turned and that the runway was clear. Had the Pan Am captain connected the tower on another channel, the tower could have commanded the KLM jet to stay put.
Some evidence suggests the controllers may have also been distracted, as sounds on the cockpit voice recorders from the KLM and the Pan Am suggested that when the crash was unfolding, the Spanish control tower crew may have been listening to a football match on the radio.
The KLM captain was impatient as the flight had been late for several hours. He decided to go, disregarding the tower. The Dutch legal limit on continuous working time had already been exceeded.
And disregarding also the KLM executive officer's advice. The XO didn't dare to oppose the captain as the captain Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten was the most senior KLM captain, and also the chief of the company flight security.
Captain Veldhuyzen van Zanten had acted as a simulator trainer for young pilots for some time, and just returned back as 747 captain. He had not yet recovered his flight routine on the 747.
Los Rodeos airport did not have ground radar, and because of the dense fog, the tower did not have the faintest idea where the 747s actually were.
When the KLM captain revved the engines and started the take-off run, the Pan Am jet had already reached the taxiway 4 and made the turn to the taxiway. Had there been 15 seconds more time, the Pan Am would have gotten out of the way with room to spare.
And had the KLM jet had original amount of fuel and not refuelled, it would have already reached the take-off speed a hundred meters earlier, thus clearing neatly over the Pan Am jet.
The Linate Airport disaster in Milan, Italy on October 8, 2001 happened when a taking off Scandinavian Airlines System McDonnell-Douglas MD-87 collided in thick fog with a Cessna business jet on the runway, killing 118 people (all 110 on the MD-87, all four on the Cessna, and four people in a hangar that the MD-87 slammed into). It is practically a smaller-scale version of the Tenerife Airport disaster for these reasons:
Both accidents happened in thick fog, at airports where there was no functioning ground radar system for tower controllers to monitor aircraft.
Like the Pan Am plane, the Cessna ended up on the runway in the path of an aircraft that was taking off. But unlike the Pan Am, the Cessna was way off course. According to this diagram◊, when it left the apron, it was to turn left and take the north taxiway, R5, to get to the main taxiway. This would get the Cessna to the taxiway without having to cross the runway. Instead, the plane turned south and took taxiway R6, which meant it crossed onto the runway, right in the path of the departing MD-87. The MD-87, Linate's analogy for the KLM plane, was not at fault because it was doing everything it was supposed to up until the moment of collision.
Further contributing to the problem was that the taxiway signage did not meet ICAO requirements, so once the Cessna was on the wrong taxiway, there was no way it could identify its position.
Neither pilot on the Cessna was certified for landings in visibility conditions shorter than 1,804 feet, but had landed at the airport anyway a few minutes before the disaster.
Shelf falls down. (Shouldn't they be more stable than that? Yes, they should.)
On its way down, shelf hits other shelf.
Other shelf falls down.
Everyone is unhappy.
The series of events leading to the outbreak of World War One is not unlike this trope, combined with a few hefty doses of War for Fun and Profit and Home by Christmas. It all boils down to two countries wanting to go to war with each other and the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as the trigger. Then, as treaties are suddenly called into account, a two-country war engulfs two continents.
To compound it all, it could have ended for Christmas has Italy not decided to stay neutral instead of invading France as it was supposed to (as the French didn't have enough reserves, that invasion from the south would have either found itself unopposed or distracted enough troops for the Germans to take Paris). Problem was, the alliance had always been unpopular in Italy due the Wars of Italian Independence and the Italian government was in decent relationship with both Britain (that had given diplomatic support and helped covering Garibaldi's legendary Expedition of the Thousand during the unification of Italy) and France (that had actually fought on Italy's side during the Second War for Italian Independence), and the chief of staff Alberto Pollio, the one important guy who simphatized with Austria-Hungary and would have had the ability and the will to raise a stink and have Italy respect the treaty and do that invasion, had an heart attack and died four days after the Archduke. Thus when Germany called upon Italy to do their part the government and the new chief of staff Luigi Cadorna (a well known Austria-Hungary hater) replied to sod-off because the Triple Alliance was a defensive alliance and Austria-Hungary had declared war first, and the rest is history.
The 2010 saga of Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. To hit the highlights:
The blowout causes an explosion and fire on the rig which cannot be put out before the rig sinks;
The blowout preventer, specifically meant to stop this sort of thing from causing the well to release oil uncontrollably, fails;
Everyone suddenly realizes they have no freaking idea how to deal with a blowout in over a mile of water, nor do they know what the released oil will do at that depth;
The plan for dealing with a spill is ridiculously out of date, to the point where one of the experts supposed to be called in to assist has been dead for 4 years...before the plan was filed;
To make matters worse, the plan turns out to have originally been written to deal with arctic oil spills, and never adjusted for the different conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. It has more to say about how to protect walruses from the leakage than sea turtles.
And just to put the icing on the cake, it appears that the well suffering the blowout would have been one of the most productive in the Gulf of Mexico, meaning that the volume of oil escaping is freaking huge.
Last, oil is a very valuable resource. All that oil is completely wasted and the reservoir is unlikely to be tapped again in the near future.
A more recent revelation is that Halliburton supplied concrete to BP, as well as some simulations regarding the effectiveness of each design choice, and subsequently deleted both for fear of litigation in the wake of the explosion. They're currently slated to plead guilty to one count of "Computer Fraud" for having employees delete the aforementioned computer models, for which they'll pay a fine... to the tune of $200,000 dollars, the maximum fine available for that particular crime. Unsurprisingly, there's been some backlash.
Although this "disaster" does not have the potential to cause lives, it is Serious Business for many people—namely, college sports fans. The very existence of the Big 12 Conference—and maybe the Big East—is in jeopardy.
The Big Ten announced in late '09/early '10 that it was looking into the possibility of expansion and that it was considering teams like Nebraska, Missouri, Syracuse, Rutgers, and Notre Dame to add to its eleven teams. (Yes, the Big Ten has eleven teams.)
The Pac-10 also expresses its interest in expanding from 10 to maybe 16.
Talk of expansion dies down somewhat for a few months, but there are a few rumors that pop up that eventually get denied. These rumors cause the conferences to become even more antsy.
The antsyness increases when Missouri is rumored to be seriously interested in the Big Ten, which gets some of the other Big 12 schools thinking they have to hurry and beat Missouri to the punch.
On June 10, 2010, the first domino falls when Colorado decides to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-10. Later on, it is announced that Boise State is leaving the Western Athletic Conference for the Mountain West Conference.
The following day, the second domino falls when Nebraska decides to leave the Big 12 in favor of the Big Ten. Interestingly, the Big 12 is down to ten teams while the Big Ten has 12 teams.
In addition, the Pac-10 has sent invitations to five more Big 12 schools: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.
Texas's board of regents is expected to meet on June 15th in order to decide which conference to choose. If it leaves the Big 12, the other four invitees are likely to leave. A&M is considering the SEC as well, but at least part of that is because they don't want to look like they're following the leader. In any case, the Big 12 would be down to 5 members and would no longer be a viable conference. The Mountain West Conference appears ready to accept 4 of those 5: Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Missouri—but not Baylor.
If the Big Ten tries to poach Notre Dame, Syracuse, and/or Rutgers in addition, the Big East would become dangerously unstable and could collapse as well, leaving more teams ripe for the picking by eastern conferences. The ACC and SEC could both look into expanding.
The potential result could be an NCAA ruled by 5 superconferences: the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, MWC, and Pac-16.
Some things have come to pass as of the 2013 season - the Big East will be no more insofar as the Catholic 7 (the Catholic, chiefly-basketball schools in the Big East) all decided to leave and take the Big East name with them. The remaining teams will be rebranded as the American Athletic Conference. The Big Ten has ended up poaching one of the Big East teams (Rutgers) and picked up another from the ACC (Maryland). The Big 12 still lives as one of the top 5 conferences.
Speaking of conference re-alignments, NCAA Division I ice hockey was recently hit with a similar chain of events. Due to its regional nature, college hockey is typically played in special hockey-specific conferences, such as the CCHA, Hockey East, ECAC, and the WCHA, instead of the major multi-sport conferences (i.e. American, ACC, Big Ten, etc.)—in fact, many Division I hockey teams are in lower divisions for sports such as football and basketball, meaning hockey is their more significant property. But, it was a major conference's entry into this brave new world that broke the ice for everyone else:
In 2010, Big Ten member Penn State announced that it would move from Division I in the American Collegiate Hockey Association's Division I (an alternative sanctioning body primarily populated by schools with lower budgets) to NCAA Division I as an independent beginning in the 2012-13 season. But then, the Big Ten Conference realized that they now had enough teams (six, specifically) to earn an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament if they were to officially recognize hockey. With that in mind, the Big Ten voted to do just that, beginning in the 2013-14 season. The domino had been toppled:
Five Big Ten schools were dragged out of their hockey conferences to begin Big Ten play for 2013-14, including Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Three were CCHA members, and the rest were in the WCHA.
With both conferences losing their most prominent members to the Big Ten, a new conference known as the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) was formed by five WCHA members and one CCHA member (Miami University, Ohio) with aspirations to be as dominant as the Big Ten Divided By Two. Meanwhile, all hell broke loose for the rest of the CCHA; since they only had five teams left, the WCHA courted a number of CCHA teams (along with independent Alabama–Huntsville) to join, Western Michigan got invited to the NCHC, and Notre Dame got invited to Hockey East. Needless to say, the 2012-13 season was their last.
The 1998 Belgian Grand Prix resulted in this: with typical wet weather at the location, conditions were slippery, causing David Coulthard to lose control of his car in the first lap. He crashed into the wall and ricocheted right into traffic, causing a thirteen caraccident, many of them caused simply by being too close to the initial one. Miraculously, there were only a couple injuries, and most of the drivers could take the restart, one missing due to injuries, three because there was no car for them to start with.
Indy Car had a similar incident with much worse results in the final race of the 2011 season. James Hinchcliffe was clipped by Wade Cunningham, who then hit JR Hildebrand, who launched into the air. More cars ended up crashing into each other trying to avoid the initial crash. In the end, fifteen cars were involved in the incident, leaving three (JR Hildebrand, Pippa Mann, and Will Power) with serious injuries, and Dan Wheldon, that year's upset Indy 500 champion, died as a result of blunt force trauma, likely from hitting a pole on the catch fence. The race was cancelled upon Wheldon's death, and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was dropped from the next year's season, primarily because some people blamed the incident on them trying to field a 34 car grid on a one and a half mile oval track that was built for a 43 car field of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars.
Speaking of NASCAR, if there's a crash, Disaster Dominoes are roughly thirty-three percent chance of happening, depending on where in the pack the crash begins. Thirteen- and fifteen-car wrecks are simply a fact of life in NASCAR, especially at the two restrictor plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega), where wrecks in excess of twenty-fivepluscarsare a fact of life.
It leads to weakening of world powers' influence in that region and the strengthening of religious fundamentalism. Which may count as disaster or blessing, depending on the person being asked about the matter.
The March 2011 disaster in Japan could be disaster dominoes WITHIN disaster dominoes. First you have the most powerful earthquake in the country's history, which triggers a huge tsunami, which damages the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and then things at the plant get progressively worse and worse and worse!
And the number of deaths directly due to the Fukushima disaster? Zero. Pretty good engineering there. The amount of radiation that was released will likely spike the cancer and other illness rates for years to come, with no direct link to the disaster provable. It's nowhere near the scope of Chernobyl, but, like all nuclear accidents, it's proper to say that not only can we not yet say that the dominoes have stopped, but indeed we may never even know if they'll ever stop or even how many were knocked down.
Similar to the Arab Spring, in 2013 Brazil had protests on abusive public transportation prices. The first went somewhat calm, then things got real once the one in the biggest city ends up receiving police brutality to get suppressed, even hitting some reporters trying to cover the chaos. It even got its catchy name, "Vinegar revolts"◊ (as some of the protesters were carrying vinegar, supposedly because it helps contain tear gas bombs).
The main element in most disasters that are investigated in the National Geographic Channel series Seconds From Disaster and Air Crash Investigation. This includes the Tenerife disaster.
The current economic woe is an excellent example of disaster dominoes. It begins with a typical bankers' scheme, which fails and drags the economy with it, which force the governments to bail said bankers, in which taxpayer's money is spent for the bailing, the governments then punish the taxpayers with austerity (a strong candidate for Darwin Awards, this paradigm), which then makes said taxpayers unable to right the course of the economy because no business can be done...
Which then joins another set of dominoes in the form of: climate chaos, which causes crop failure, which causes food riot, which causes social destabilization... Real Life is sometimes more exciting than fiction.
The Battle Of Midway in World War II should have been a simple milk run for the Japanese, but they managed to snatch a glorious defeat in the threatening jaws of victory, losing four aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser. Had just one of the steps gone otherwise, the books would have described this as a brilliant Japanese victory instead of American.
First, the Japanese attempted a far too complicated and complex operation, assuming the Americans would react by the schoolbook. Evidently they had forgotten to remember that the von Moltke maxim states that "no battle plan has ever survived five minutes of enemy contact."
The Japanese were unaware that the American codebreakers had cracked the supposedly "unbreakable" IJN cryptographic code.
The Japanese reacted to the American bait (message of Midway water distillation plant failure) by sending the message "The target has shortage of water". So now the Americans had intelligence that confirmed where the Japanese attack was going to happen, and the U.S. Navy decided to ambush the Japanese there.
Admiral Yamamoto assumed that the USS Yorktown had been either sunk at Coral Sea, or been too seriously damaged to go to sea for a long time. Instead she was repaired at Pearl Harbor in just a span of 48 hours.
The Japanese failed to neutralize the Midway air detachment on their first strike, requiring another.
The reconnaissance plane of heavy cruiser Tone was half an hour late on take-off, leaving its sector unsearched for half an hour. Unfortunately, the Americans were just in that sector.
Half of the Japanese bombers had been armed with torpedoes and armour piercing bombs in case of American shipping being sighted. When the carrier pilots reported that another strike on Midway was needed, Admiral Nagumo decided to change their bomb loads to fragmentation bombs to be used against ground targets. That change operation took 45 minutes.
When the reconnaissance report of that particular plane reached Admiral Nagumo, he decided to change the armament back to anti-shipping. Which meant the Japanese carriers were full of unstacked, loose ordnance for another 45 minutes.
The American torpedo bombers had maintained the bearing while the dive bombers and fighters had diverted off the course, meaning the torpedo bombers were unprotected. They drew the Japanese combat air patrol off to slaughter them at will, forcing the carriers to rely only on the defence of their anti-aircraft gunnery.
The fighters and dive bombers found the Japanese ships by accident. They arrived at the direction where the anti-aircraft gunners thought they would not come.
The wholesale slaughter of the American torpedo bombers had diverted the concentration of the anti-aircraft gunners from watching above to watching the one-sided air battle at low altitude.
The dive bombers were able to attack the Japanese carriers almost undefended, with their flight decks full of refuelled planes and the hangar decks full of unstacked ordnance and fuel lines full of aviation gasoline. They attacked at exactly the moment when the Japanese carriers were at their most vulnerable.
The heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma collided next night, resulting in loss of Mikuma. At that point Admiral Yamamoto decided to terminate the Midway operation, instead of committing his battleships into action.
Yamamoto was not aware that USS Hornet had lost her whole air wing (it had landed on Midway because of navigation error and fuel shortage) and USS Yorktown had been sunk. He assumed that the USN had all its carriers still intact. In reality only USS Enterprise was at that moment functional.
A battle is lost when either of the commanders sees it is lost. Yamamoto lost his nerve and called it quits at the point where the battle could still have been won.
Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, one of the most talented officers in the IJN, committed suicide by going down with Hiryu, refusing to be rescued. Pig-headedness deprived the IJN one of its most able junior flag officers.
The Kursk sinking.
The welds of the torpedo weren't checked because it was a "dummy" torpedo, with no warhead.
The torpedo tube door, which would have contained the blast, hadn't been sealed properly, a common issue at the time.
The bulkhead, which would also have contained the blast, didn't because it had been pierced by a ventilation shaft.
Said ventilation shaft lead almost directly to the control room in section 2, thus the blast immediately incapacitated the only people on the ship who could do anything.
The emergency buoy which would have given the Submarine's exact location and told everyone the issue was big had been disabled, due to previous fears that it would trigger accidentally and give the submarine's position away to non-Russians.
No-one was willing to risk being disciplined to investigate.
The Russian government refused all offers of help.
On an otherwise normal Vancouver morning in September 2001, a series of abnormal circumstances led to one of the most complex television network affiliation swaps ever since the New World/Fox debacle. Enter CTV affiliate CHAN-TV (otherwise known as BCTV), the most-watched station in Vancouver. Its owners had a grudge against Toronto counterpart/CTV flagship CFTO, because they felt it had way too much influence over CTV programming (it really wanted to do a national newscast for CTV, but a newscast for its sister stations had to do for now). So what did CFTO's owner, Baton Broadcasting, do about it? Take over CTV itself, of course! At the time, the network was a cooperative, and board positions were determined by station ownership; beginning in the mid-80's, Baton went on a buying spree, thinking it would give them a larger degree of influence. All it did was trigger the redistribution of shares. But they kept on expanding.
In 1993, CTV restructured into a corporation with shares owned by its station owners, and reduced the amount of programming it provided. Baton began to subvert the establishment by creating a secondary network known as the Baton Broadcast System (BBS), competed against CTV for rights to new U.S. imports (a handful of Baton-owned independents and CBC stations also ran BBS), and aggressively promoted BBS as the main brand on all its affiliates. In 1997, the remaining CTV owners finally realized what was going on, and surrendered.
Baton now treated CTV as one network for the price of two: the BBS programs were still technically separate from the standard affiliation agreement (which only covered 40 hours of programming per week), even though there was no on-air distinction between them (the BBS name was replaced by CTV in local branding). But right after reaching a BBS affiliation deal with CHAN and Vancouver Island sister CHEK, Baton backstabbed them with the new independent station CIVT (branded as VTV; gee, that sounds familiar) and stole the BBS programming right back, leading to an awkward situation where CTV was split de facto across two rival stations (though VTV logos overrode CTV whenever possible). Then, Baton began playing Executive Meddling by switching popular programs between the network lineup and BBS to screw with CHAN. With all this conflict going on, everyone just knew what was going when CHAN's affiliation agreement expired, but they didn't expect this...
In 2000, Canwest (owners of Global) bought CHAN and CHEK's parent company Western International Communications: they planned to switch CHAN to Global, and throw CHEK into a new network, CH, alongside some of its sisters (the network was named for a Hamilton station, CHCH)
Canwest sold its existing Global station CKVU to CHUM, who planned to re-launch it as a local version of Toronto's Citytv. As it took time for the acquisition to be approved, the station was to temporarily drop Global and become an independent in the interim. (Citytv would launch on the station in July 2002)
Finally, as expected, CIVT was finally going to turn that V into a C.
Conveniently, all of these changes were set to occur on the same day: September 1, 2001. As if this weren't chaotic enough, the Fraser Valley also got the new religious station CHNU just 14 days later, and CHUM launched a new Vancouver Island station (CIVI) for its The New XX network a month later. Oh, and about that national newscast CHAN wanted to do? September 3, 2001 saw the premiere of the CHAN-produced Global National with Kevin Newman.
So what did everyone gain and lose from the shuffle? CTV lost access to BCTV's massive network of rebroadcasters, having to rely on cable to get coverage outside of metro Vancouver (but this point became moot due to cable). It also poached talent from CHAN to improve its own newscasts, and in an effort to further confuse the BCTV faithful, branded itself as "BC CTV" (until Global's 2006 re-branding, CHAN branded its news programming as BCTV News on Global for name recognition). Said name was short lived, as all of CTV's O&Os would soon drop local brands/call letters from their names entirely. CHAN continued to have the most popular newscasts in Vancouver, CIVT overtook CKVU as the second-place newscast in Vancouver (clearly, Vancouver did not like CityPulse), and Global's new home helped the network as a whole put a dent in CTV's dominance at the turn of the new century (however, CTV would end up spending a lot more on programming to catch up, especially after it was acquired by Bell Canada and the Globe and Mail). Citytv began evolving into a national brand (CHUM later bought Craig Media and its A-Channel chain, re-branding them as Citytv and moving the A-Channel name to its The New XX stations), Seattle independent station KVOS lost its prime slot on many local cable systems (it was, for the longest time, a de facto Citytv affiliate), and Canwest now had a second network ... until it went bankrupt.
Very literal examples happen in Tour de France when somebody at the front of the main peleton falls over, resulting in nearly everyone behind him doing the same.
Ablation cascade / Kessler effect is a theorical spatial disaster. It is speculated that if the mass of objects wandering in low Earth orbit reaches an important enough density, a collision would eventually trigger a chain reaction creating other debris which would themselves hit and destroy other objects, producing even more debris. It would eventually make space exploration and satellite use impossible for several generations, as those debris would be very slow to reenter in Earth atmosphere.
See the Gravity entry (in Films) for a realistic portrayal of such an event in fiction.
This series of disasters during a chemistry experiment.
The Chernobyl disaster:
When the plant was built, the process was a bit rushed, and proper materials weren't all available. (For example, using bitumen in the roof.)
A safety test was scheduled, and it concerned a flaw in the timing of a backup generator.
That safety test was postponed. Instead of waiting for the next day-shift (who were more experienced and prepared), they did the test using the (less experienced and prepared) night shift, thinking "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?".
A power failure cropped up, and when they fixed it, the reactor was putting out minimal power.
To fix this, many control rods were removed. Meanwhile, deep in the reactor, a hotspot formed that the sensors didn't detect until it was too late.
When they finally did notice things getting out of hand, they turned on more pumps, seriously altering the normal coolant flow. Superiors gave orders to continue the test as planned, even though conditions by now were very different.
They decided to plunge the control rods into the reactor. Not only were there not enough of the rods, but they were also tipped with graphite, which actually caused a surge in power. (This is why more up-to-date reactors use water or other more stable materials as moderators, instead of graphite.)
The result was that pressure built up, causing two explosions, one that blew the (extremely heavy) cover of the reactor right off.
The graphite moderators caught fire, sending more radiation into the atmosphere.
The Gimli Glider event, which was a relatively contrived coincidence of misunderstandings between several people, poor design of several key systems, Unit Confusion and technical problems, that led to a Boeing 767 running dry. Very fortuitously the captain was an experienced glider pilot, which most probably saved the lives of everybody. (Indeed, in later attempts to recreate the flight in simulators, no other pilot was able to land the plane safely.)
Oh, that New World/Fox debacle of 1994? That was "fun". New World Communications (who you may know as producers of B-movies in the 70's and 80's, owner of Marvel Comics, and producers of The Wonder Years) had a decent slate of stations in major markets (most of which were previously owned by Storer Commmunications before they sold out to a junk bond king, George Gillett, and ended up with NW), and were about to expand further by purchasing stations from Argyle (previously Times-Mirror) and Citicasters (previously Taft Broadcasting, owners of Hanna-Barbera, Worldvision and a chain of theme parks (which later ended up with Paramount, and are now owned by Cedar Fair). Most were affiliated with CBS, but some (especially the Argyle/Citicasters stations) were affiliated with ABC and NBC too). Fox had recently acquired rights to the NFL, specifically, the NFC—which, at the time, was the most prestigious of the two NFL conferences. Coinciding with this move, Fox looked to boost its image and prominence by getting established, VHF stations to become affiliates (at the time, most of its affiliates were on UHF channels, which were often Com Mons with no real legacy and hilariously high channel numbers), especially in NFC markets, for obvious reasons (only 4 NFC teams had Fox affiliates on the VHF band).
Right after finalizing the NFL deal, Fox announced that it would purchase a stake in New World, and that it would switch most of its stations to Fox. Some New World stations, particularly from the Argyle/Citicasters deal, were being sold off and/or held in trust because of FCC ownership limits at the time which forbade duopolies or a single company owning more than 12 stations, but also because some were in AFC markets. Citicasters would eventually sell WGHP (Piedmont Triad) and WBRC (Birmingham) directly to Fox instead, and NBC bought up WVTM and KNSD. Then, in a joint venture, Fox gained minority control of 4 more soon-to-be Fox stations (including Green Bay and New Orleans) through the short-lived joint venture SF Broadcasting. NBC-instigated drama involving illegal foreign ownership ensued, and these stations were eventually sold to Barry Diller's Silver King Communications just 9 months later (today, all but one are owned by LIN, but they're still all still Fox on VHF). Fox also bought an ABC affiliate in Memphis, WHBQ, under the presumption that the proposed Memphis Hound Dogs NFL expansion team would come to fruition.
Yeah, a bunch of this one company's stations switched to Fox, and everyone lived happily ever after, right? Wrong. This is where things get complicated: in most markets, the affiliations just swapped between two stations (in Kansas City, NBC would simply move from WDAF to former Fox affiliate KSHB). But in quite a few markets, chaos ensued as the result of broadcasters trying to protect their turf, backstab others, and even contribute to the growing The WB and UPN networks, using the New World deal as their soundtrack:
In Birmingham, Alabama, WTTO lost its Fox affiliation to former ABC station WBRC. ABC offered its affiliation to WTTO, but its owner Sinclair did not want to air non-primetime programming or produce local news—both were considered turn-offs for ABC. WTTO would ultimately join the newly-formed The WB instead.
CBS affiliate WBMG 42 was next on the list, and ABC even offered to buy the station outright. Instead, it decided to renew its CBS affiliation. ABC would have been better off without WBMG, given that this station was infamous for having a weak signal that could only be picked up in Birmingham proper—as if The Rural Purge hadn't affected them enough already.
But because of this, neighboring Tuscaloosa and Anniston markets also had CBS affiliates: WCFT 33 and WJSU 40. WCFT's owner Allbritton would successfully court WJSU into merging their operations with them, and jointly holding the ABC affiliation for Birmingham, creating what was ultimately known on-air as "ABC 33/40". Only one problem: although Nielsen could count the two stations as one for ratings purposes, it would not count viewership in Birmingham because they were considered to be out-of-market stations. So they bought a low-power outlet in Birmingham (renamed WBMA-LP), and made it so that WBMA was technically the main station, and WJSU and WCFT were simulcasting it. The plan worked so well that Nielsen would also merge Tuscaloosa and Anniston back into the Birmingham market, increasing the ratings numbers for every station in the region.
WBMG (now the sole CBS station of the region) would be sold to Media General, who significantly upgraded its facilities and rechristened it WIAT, hoping to distance itself from its Dork Age.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, Scripps was talked into switching its Cleveland and Detroit ABC affiliates (WEWS 5 and WXYZ 7) to CBS to replace WJW and WJBK. ABC bought stations in nearby Toledo and Flint (the former switching from NBC) from SJL as a backup, just in case it lost WXYZ. Scripps ultimately agreed to keep ABC on the stations, under the condition that it also affiliate with four Scripps-owned stations in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Phoenix, and Tampa Bay.
And with that, CBS ran out of options in Detroit: everyone else passed, and by virtue of its Paramount ownership, former Fox station WKBD was to join UPN instead. In an act of desperation, CBS bought WGPR—an obscure, minority-owned No Budget independent on channel 62. That, plus opposition to the deal and the poor performance of the network at the time, afflicted the station now known as WWJ-TV (named after a sister news/talk radio station, which by contrast, is a lot more well-known and respected), "Detroit's 62 CBS", with extremely bad karma.
CBS was faced with a similar dilemma in Milwaukee, where the network quickly affiliated with the equally obscure independent station WDJT on very short notice (unlike in Birmingham, where ABC had at least until September 1996 to resolve its affiliation problems), WDJT started its affiliation only seven days after it was negotiated, which meant that the entire station felt very slapdash until Weigel (better known for its Chicago indepndent WCIU) finally worked out all the bugs and gave it a full news department.
Thought we were done? No. As a result of a deal in Dallas with Gaylord-owned KTVT 11 (where KDFW had flipped to Fox), CBS also had to affiliate with KSTW in Seattle; this resulted in KIRO 7, the longtime affiliate, which had just been sold by Bonneville International to the Providence Journal Company, affiliating with UPN. Eventually, because Belo bought Pro Jo and already owned KING, they engineered a multi-trade between Tribune, Meredith Corporation, Cox Broadcasting, Belo, and Paramount; Meredith acquired KCPQ 13 from Kelly Broadcasting, then swapped it to Tribune for WGNX 46 in Atlanta (the struggling to this day CBS affiliate after WAGA left for Fox, now named WGCL); meanwhile, Belo gave KIRO to Paramount in exchange for KMOV St. Louis, the largest non-UPN station Paramount had inherited from Viacom; Cox (who had bought KSTW the previous month from Gaylord) would swap KSTW and $70 million to Paramount for KIRO. Hence, UPN joined KSTW and KIRO rejoined CBS.
But wait, there's more! Westinghouse got mad that Scripps backstabbed them in Baltimore to steal its ABC affiliation away from WJZ. To seal its faith, a group affiliation deal was made between Group W and CBS; the company promised to run the full CBS schedule without preemptions on all its affiliates (Westinghouse was known for pre-empting network programs for its own syndicated programming ... oh, I wonder where Baton got that idea from), and switched WJZ, KYW, and WBZ to CBS.
CBS already owned WCAU in Philadelphia, ceded the affiliation to KYW, and planned to sell the station to NBC. But due to the possibility of having to make massive tax payments, CBS decided to organize a trade with NBC for its Denver and Utah stations, which also switched to CBS. In turn, Denver's KMGH switched to ABC, and KUSA switched to NBC. Whoops. To compensate for the loss, NBC and CBS also switched signals in Miami: WTVJ NBC moved to channel 6, and WCIX CBS 6 moved to 4, and was renamed WFOR. All of these changes were timed to occur on September 10, 1995. Then KMGH's owner Mc Graw-Hill (its stations are now owned by Scripps) decided to, for the benefit of all but one of its sister stations, do a group affiliation deal with ABC, which also forced KERO (CBS) in Bakersfield to do the affiliation conga with KBAK (ABC).
Then Westinghouse bought CBS for $5.4 billion, making all of its stations CBS O&O's. Eventually, Fox also bought out the rest of New World, making all of its stations Fox O&O's.
In the end, at least 60 stations were otherwise involved in the chaos one way or another—if this isn't further proof the National Football League is Serious Business, we don't know what is. With these moves, Fox ascended to its throne as the 4th major network, CBS (who had a bad reputation under Laurence Tisch, lost the NFL, and was part of a disastrous Major League Baseball contract) got the short end of a tree's worth of sticks, and NBC thrived because it wasn't affected as badly by the affiliation shifts. However, CBS has since recovered from Fox's bruises: it re-gained the NFL by picking up rights to the AFC, who had recently turned the tables in the NFL landscape over the NFC), and upon the turn of the century, new hits such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Survivor, and most recently The Big Bang Theory and NCIS helped CBS re-gain the title of top network, especially among younger viewers.
To this day, WWJ is still CBS's weakest O&O, and even with several attempts to re-brand the station (including "CBS Detroit" and "WWJ TV", before settling on just "CBS 62"), it is still treated as the company's black sheep, and it barely airs any local programming beyond mandated public affairs shows (although, since joining CBS, the station has dabbled in local news a few times, but it does not have a full news department like its sisters).
So those New World stations: where are they now?
Only 7 of them are still owned by Fox to this date: most of them (particularly in the relatively smaller/AFC markets) were sold to Local TV LLC in 2008 (which itself got bought by its BFF Tribune in 2013). Local TV would trade WBRC to Alabama's media powerhouse Raycom for Richmond's CBS station WTVR. Fox tried to sell WHBQ to them too (given that the Memphis NFL team ended up being a Zonk), but Local TV couldn't buy it since they already owned WREG.
In 2006, Media General would buy NBC's mid-market O&O's, including WVTM, requiring them to sell WIAT to New Vision (now LIN) because that would be an illegal duopoly, and WVTM was not in the ratings basement. Karma bit Media General right after they sold it, as SEC football suddenly became the station's hugest draw in years (ironically, LIN is merging with Media General, meaning they have to sell one of those two stations again. Which one will they keep this time?).
Somehow Fox actually kept WHBQ, until 2014, when Fox organized a trade with Cox to trade its prized San Francisco Fox affiliate KTVU (home of the 49ers, and the largest Fox affiliate that wasn't an O&O) and sister independent KICU for WFXT Boston (a large-market station, but in an AFC market) and WHBQ.
In 2013, Sinclair announced its intention to buy Allbritton. As Loophole Abuse to dodge the FCC's Obvious Rule Patch and crackdown regarding joint sales agreements (Sinclair already owns WTTO, as mentioned, and MyNetworkTV station WABM, and was originally planning on selling WABM to one of its, ahem, "friends", so it could take all three stations which constitute ABC 33/40), Sinclair has proposed to sacrifice WCFT and WJSU entirely, and turn WABM into a full-powered rebroadcaster of WBMA-LD.