Atomic scientists have reset the “Doomsday Clock” recently, moving its hands to 90 seconds to midnight – closer than ever before to the threat of annihilation.
What is the ‘Doomsday Clock’?
- The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded by Albert Einstein and students from the University of Chicago in 1945, created the ‘Doomsday Clock’ as a symbol to represent how close the world is to a possible apocalypse.
- It is set annually by a panel of scientists, including 13 Nobel laureates, based on the threats — old and new — that the world faced in that year. When it was first created in 1947, the hands of the clock were placed based on the threat posed by nuclear weapons, which the scientists then perceived to be the greatest threat to humanity.
- Over the years, they have included other existential threats, such as climate change and disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence.
- The reason the scientists selected a clock to convey the metaphor is twofold — they wanted to use the imagery of an apocalypse (midnight) as well as the “contemporary idiom of a nuclear explosion” (countdown to zero) to illustrate the threats to humanity.
- The clock was originally set to seven minutes to midnight and has since moved closer or further away from the dreaded 12 o’clock position. The furthest it has been is 17 minutes after the end of the Cold War in 1991.
What time is it now?
- At 90 seconds to midnight, the “Doomsday Clock” is now the closest it has ever been to midnight.
- It is the first time it has moved since it was set at 100 seconds to midnight in 2020.
- Its setting reflects the revived fears of a nuclear war due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.