Doomsday Clock

In December 2010, the Doomsday Clock read 11:54pm.

The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock face, maintained since 1947 by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago. The closer the clock is to midnight, the closer the world is estimated to be to global disaster. As of January 14, 2010 (2010 -01-14), the Doomsday Clock now stands at six minutes to midnight.[1][2] Since its creation, the time on the clock has changed 19 times.[3]

Originally, the analogy represented the threat of global nuclear war, but since 2007 it has also reflected climate-changing technologies and "new developments in the life sciences and nanotechnology that could inflict irrevocable harm."[4]

Cover of the 1947 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists issue that first featured the Doomsday Clock at seven minutes to midnight.

Since its inception, the clock has been depicted on every cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Its first representation was in 1947, when magazine co-founder Hyman Goldsmith asked artist Martyl Langsdorf (wife of Manhattan Project research associate and Szilárd petition signatory Alexander Langsdorf, Jr.) to design a cover for the magazine's June 1947 issue.


Time changes

In 1947, during the Cold War, the clock was started at seven minutes to midnight and was subsequently advanced or rewound per the state of the world and nuclear war prospects. Setting the clock is relatively arbitrary, and decided by the directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reflecting global affairs. The clock has not always been set and reset as quickly as events occur; the closest nuclear war threat, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, reached crisis, climax, and resolution before it could be set to reflect that possible doomsday.

The most recent officially-announced setting — six minutes to midnight — was on 14 January 2010.[1][5] Reflecting international events dangerous to humankind, the clock hands have been set nineteen times, since its initial start at seven minutes to midnight in 1947.

Doomsday Clock graph. The lower the graph becomes, the higher the probability of catastrophe is deemed to be.
Year Mins Left Time Change Reason
1947 7 11:53pm  — The initial setting of the Doomsday Clock.
1949 3 11:57pm −4 The Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb, officially starting the nuclear arms race.
1953 2 11:58pm −1 The United States and the Soviet Union test thermonuclear devices within nine months of one another. (This is the clock's closest approach to midnight since its inception.)
1960 7 11:53pm +5 In response to a perception of increased scientific cooperation and public understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons, as well political actions taken to avoid "massive retaliation." The United States and Soviet Union cooperate and direct confrontation in regional conflicts such as the 1956 Suez Crisis. Scientists from different countries help establish the International Geophysical Year- a series of coordinated, worldwide scientific observations between nations allied with both the United States and Soviet Union- between years 1957 and 1958 and Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which allow Soviet and American scientists to interact.
1963 12 11:48pm +5 The United States and Soviet Union sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty, limiting atmospheric nuclear testing.
1968 7 11:53pm −5 Vietnam War intensifies. Six Day War occurs in 1967. Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 takes place. Worse yet, France and China acquire and test nuclear weapons (1960 (Gerboise Bleue nuclear test) and 1964 (596 nuclear test) respectively).
1969 10 11:50pm +3 The U.S. Senate ratifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
1972 12 11:48pm +2 The United States and the Soviet Union sign the SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
1974 9 11:51pm −3 India tests a nuclear device (Smiling Buddha), SALT II talks stall. Both the United States and the Soviet Union modernize MIRVs
1980 7 11:53pm −2 Further deadlock in US-Soviet Union talks. In protest to the Soviet-Afghan War, President Carter pulls the United States from the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow and considers ways in which US can win nuclear war.
1981 4 11:56pm −3 Soviet-Afghan War hardens the US nuclear posture. Ronald Reagan becomes president, scraps further arms control talks with the Soviet Union and argues that the only way to end the Cold War is to win it.
1984 3 11:57pm −1 Further escalation of the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
1988 6 11:54pm +3 The U.S. and the Soviet Union sign treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear forces, relations improve.
1990 10 11:50pm +4 Fall of the Berlin Wall, dissolution of Iron Curtain sealing off Eastern Europe, Cold War nearing an end.
1991 17 11:43pm +7 United States and Soviet Union sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. (This is the clock's earliest setting since its inception.)
1995 14 11:46pm −3 Global military spending continues at Cold War levels; concerns about post-Soviet nuclear proliferation of weapons and brainpower.
1998 9 11:51pm −5 Both India (Pokhran-II) and Pakistan (Chagai-I) test nuclear weapons in a tit-for-tat show of aggression; the United States and Russia run into difficulties in further reducing stockpiles.
2002 7 11:53pm −2 Little progress on global nuclear disarmament; United States rejects a series of arms control treaties and announces its intentions to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; concerns about the possibility of a nuclear terrorist attack due to the amount of weapon-grade nuclear materials that are unsecured and unaccounted for worldwide.
2007 5 11:55pm −2 North Korea's test of a nuclear weapon,[6] Iran's nuclear ambitions, a renewed U.S. emphasis on the military utility of nuclear weapons, the failure to adequately secure nuclear materials, and the continued presence of some 26,000 nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia.[7] Some scientists, assessing the dangers posed to civilization, have added climate change to the prospect of nuclear annihilation as the greatest threats to humankind.[8]
2010 6 11:54pm +1 Worldwide cooperation to reduce nuclear arsenals and limit effect of climate change.[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b "It is 6 minutes to midnight". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Retrieved 2010-01-14. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Doomsday clock pushed back 1 minute". UPI. December 22, 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-14. 
  4. ^ "'Doomsday Clock' Moves Two Minutes Closer To Midnight". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  6. ^ "The North Korean nuclear test". "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists". 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-04. 
  7. ^ ""Doomsday Clock" Moves Two Minutes Closer To Midnight". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  8. ^ "Nukes, climate push 'Doomsday Clock' forward". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  9. ^ "Timeline of the Doomsday Clock". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 

External links

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