DREADING THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK
In January 2023, Atomic scientists reset the Doomsday clock to 90 seconds to midnight, which is the closest that humans have ever come to midnight on the Doomsday clock, with midnight representing annihilation. This may seem a bit dramatic, especially since a clock is being used to indicate how close the human race is to ‘the end of the world as we know it’, however its symbolism is there to act as a warning system for humans on the seriousness of the current global state. The Doomsday clock is a rather unknown entity to most of the world’s population but is effectively a symbolic mechanism used to showcase how close we (the human race) are to total annihilation. Determining factors or threats that move the timepiece’s hands closer to midnight include things like a global pandemic, climate change, war, political tensions, specific or detrimental technological advances, essentially anything significant enough to have a large scale impact on the longevity of the human race on earth and the planet itself. The hands are then moved periodically based on how far or close scientist believe we are to midnight based on current events or predictions.
Who is responsible for setting such a clock you may be wondering? The Clock is set by and maintained by a non-profit organisation called the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists based on “information regarding catastrophic risks to the planet and humanity.” The updates are currently done on an annual basis, but this once again is largely dependent on the gravity of existential threats. Although the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is responsible for setting the clock on an annual basis, they do not autonomously decide where the hands should go. This is determined by a substantial board of scientists who specialize in areas like climate science and nuclear technology. The group also consists of 13 Nobel Laureates, and it is this group that makes the call as to where the hands should be. Interestingly enough – the clock came into existence in 1947 during the Second World War and was created by a group of Atomic scientists involved in the Manhattan project, one of which was Theoretical Physicist Albert Einstein, who is known to be one of the greatest and most influential scientists ever in his field.
When the clock was first set more than seventy years ago, it was set at seven minutes to midnight, this was due to the ongoing Second World War and the larger global threat that this posed if not contained. The furthest the clock has ever been to midnight was in 1991 at 17 minutes to midnight after the end of the Cold War. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the hands of the clock to 100 seconds to midnight in 2020 and the hands remained constant for two years at that position, before being moved to 90 seconds to midnight in January this year. The clock’s current position factors in Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine as well as many other climate change factors. Let’s hope that in 2024 we can buy ourselves some more time.