The Doomsday Clock, explained

The Doomsday Clock, a metaphor for our destruction, is now set to 90 seconds to midnight. Why?

The Doomsday Clock was set to 90 seconds to midnight on Tuesday. That sounds pretty dire, but what does it mean?

It goes back to the Atomic Age.

Manhattan Project scientist Eugene Rabinowitch…

… was the primary author of 1945’s Franck Report, which advocated against using atomic weapons during WWII.

He co-founded the nonprofit Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists shortly after the US, failing to listen, bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

The Bulletin draws attention to human-made threats — including nuclear and technology risks and climate change — via a website, magazine, and…

… the Doomsday Clock

The clock serves as a metaphor for how close humanity is to destroying itself, with midnight being an apocalyptic event.

It was set at seven minutes to midnight when it debuted in 1947, and has since changed 25 times.

  • First in 1949, to three minutes, following the Soviet Union’s first successful atomic bomb test.
  • The “safest” we’ve ever been was 17 minutes in 1991 after the Cold War ended.

Who changes it?

Rabinowitch, until his death in 1973. Now, the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board meets twice annually to decide.

  • The clock is never altered in real-time. During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which lasted 13 days, the hands didn’t budge.

What about now?

The current time reflects the war in Ukraine, per the Bulletin, including:

  • Its effects on climate change
  • Russian threats of nuclear warfare
  • Activity in the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor sites

You can see the clock’s complete timeline here.

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