Doomsday clock to advance toward midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — the keepers of the “Doomsday Clock” — plan to advance its minute hand on Wednesday.

The clock is reset, forward or backward, to symbolize how close the human race is to a nuclear apocalypse. The most alarming time ever reached was two minutes to midnight, in 1953, shortly after the U.S. and the former Soviet Union successfully tested hydrogen bombs.

doomsday clock

Currently, the clock is set at seven minutes to midnight, the position first used when it was introduced in 1947. The clock, with only its last quadrant marked, is displayed at the University of Chicago.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has not announced what the new time will be. But the Board of Directors issued a statement explaining why the hands will change position:

It said emerging and “grave” threats include nuclear ambitions in Iran and North Korea, unsecured nuclear materials in Russia and elsewhere, the continuing launch-ready status of 2,000 of the 25,000 nuclear weapons held by the U.S. and Russia, escalating terrorism and new pressure from climate change for expanded civilian nuclear power that could increase proliferation risks.
(from the print edition of the Ottawa Citizen)

The clock is only a symbol, and the position of its hands is arbitrary. Nonetheless, I see this announcement as significant, and sad. When the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended, we briefly thought the world was becoming a safer place.

Some academics dismiss the clock as anachronistic and see the journal’s dwindling circulation as proof of the icon’s relevance fading with the end of the Cold War and the downsizing of superpower nuclear arsenals.

Believers in the Doomsday Clock insist it will remain a powerful symbol as long as nuclear, biological, environmental and other threats to humanity exist.

The new time will be announced on Wednesday, in simultaneous statements by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (in Washington) and the Royal Society (in London).


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Michael (a.k.a. Snaars)
    Jan 15, 2007 @ 15:59:49

    Some academics dismiss the clock as anachronistic

    The residents of Pompeii became used to minor tremors. Look what happened to them.


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