The Doomsday Clock characterizes a countdown to a potential global catastrophe. It was started in 1947 by members of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The clock is run at the University of Chicago by a group of scientists, 16 of which are Nobel Laureates.
The theory behind the Doomsday Clock is that midnight represents the dawn of a global disaster. The clock is currently set a three minutes to midnight.
The symbolic clock originally represented the threat of global nuclear war, though in 2007 it has also become representative of the threat of climate change and some natural disasters.
The clock has been updated by scientists every year since 1947. When it began during the Cold War, the clock was set at seven minutes to midnight. It has subsequently been put forward or backwards depending on the prospects of nuclear war and the state of the world.
Post Atomic Bombs
Following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a group of researchers known as the Chicago Atomic Scientists, began to publish a mimeographed newsletter and a bulletin depicting the clock’s current situation.
In 1984, the Southeast Missourian published a piece on the Doomsday Clock, in which Eugene Rabinowitch, co-founder of the Bulletin, attempted to explain the purpose of the clock.
“The Bulletin’s clock is not a gauge to register the ups and downs of the international power struggle; it is intended to reflect basic changes in the level of continuous danger in which mankind lives in the nuclear age,” said Rabinowitch (1).
In 2007, Michael Bierut, a designer and a member of the Bulletin’s Governing Board, redesigned the Doomsday Clock, in an attempt to make it feel and look more modern. Two years later the Bulletin ceased to be available in print and became a wholly digital publication.
In 2012, the clock was moved closer to midnight, five minutes from the doomsday hour, because of threats of nuclear arsenals and climate change.
Current State of the Clock
With the threat of global warming and climate change now an influencing factor in the fate of the position of the clock, in January 2015 the Doomsday Clock was nudged closer to midnight, set to 23.57, due to concerns about the continuous lack of political action around the world to address the problem of global climate change.
As a CBS News report informs, also influencing the clock’s three minutes from midnight status is the modernization of nuclear weapons in Russia and the United States and the problem of nuclear waste (2).
Kennett Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, spoke of the present reasons of the representation of the symbolic clock, stating:
“Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernisation of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and unbelievable 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. These failures of leadership endanger every person on Earth.”
What are your thoughts on a clock that is allegedly a metaphor for the world’s dangers? Is it a realistic scenario (3) sparking the end of the world? Or, is it little more than a clock which keeps having its time meddled with by a group of scientists?