Doomsday Clock: Are we 1 minute closer to oblivion?


In this Jan. 22, 2015, file photo, Climate scientist Richard Somerville, member, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, right, unveils the new “Doomsday Clock,” accompanied by Sivan Kartha, member, Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and senior scientists at the Stockholm Environmental Institute, right. Scientists behind a “Doomsday Clock” that measures the likelihood of a global cataclysm are set to announce Tuesday Jan. 26, 2016, whether civilization is any closer or farther from disaster. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Scientists will announce today whether they believe the world has moved closer to destruction when they reveal the “time” on a theoretical clock that represents the likelihood of a global catastrophe.

Where the minute hand on the “Doomsday Clock” sits will be announced in Washington D.C., Tuesday by representatives of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the organization that keeps the clock’s “time.”

What is the Doomsday Clock?

The symbolic timepiece has, for nearly 70 years, been used as a device that “conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making,” according to the Bulletin.

Where is it set now?

The current minute hand on the Doomsday Clock was set at three minutes to midnight in 2015 – midnight being the hour when the world destroys itself with either nuclear weapons, climate change, advanced technology or some combination of the three.

Scientists today will give their opinion as to whether the minute hand should inch closer to midnight or back away. Scientists consider the minute hand each year, but do not necessary adjust it. In 2010, the clock sat as far away as six minutes after nuclear talks between Russia and the United States showed promise. The clock moved to five minutes to midnight in 2012 and three minutes in 2015.

“Unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe,” the scientists wrote last year, explaining their decision to move the minute hand. “These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.”

Who sets the clock?

The Bulletin’s Science and Security Board meets twice a year to discuss world events and reset the clock as necessary, the website said. The Bulletin was founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project – the development of the first nuclear bomb.

How close, far have we been to midnight?

The clock was originally set at seven minutes to midnight. The reason given was because seven minutes “looked good” to the artist who designed the cover for the Bulletin’s first magazine — published in 1947. The Bulletin had been a newsletter prior to that. Since then it has been adjusted forward and backward, depending on the perceived nuclear or technological threat.

The farthest away the minute hand has been from midnight was in 1991, with the end of the Cold War. It was set at 17 minutes to midnight then. The closest was in 1953 when the minute hand was moved to two minutes to midnight. The move came after the United States and the Soviet Union each tested their first thermonuclear weapons within six months of one another, the Bulletin explained.

Stephen Hawking weighs in on mankind’s future

Last week, theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking added to the conversation on the future of mankind when he spoke about the dangers the world’s population faces, and perhaps its  best solution — leaving the Earth behind.

“Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years,” Hawking said at the annual BBC Reith Lectures. “By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.”

Hawking told the BBC in a recent interview that climate change, nuclear warfare and artificial life are probably the greatest dangers to mankind, but since “We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, … we have to recognize the dangers and control them,” he said. “I’m an optimist, and I believe we can.”


Previous ArticleUber taps smartphone sensors to track speeding, weed out false reviews
Next ArticleAustralian Open 2016: Novak Djokovic eases past Kei Nishikori to face Roger Federer