Every January for the past 75 years, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has published a new Doomsday Clock, suggesting just how close – or far – humanity is to the brink.
The next edition will be unveiled on January 24 at 10 a.m. EST. It’s the first clock update since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rekindled fears of a global nuclear war.
Historically, the clock has measured the danger of a nuclear catastrophe, but that is not the only doomsday scenario considered. Climate change, bioterrorism, artificial intelligence, and damage from misinformation and disinformation have also been included in the mix of possible cataclysms.
Each year, the 22 members of the Council for Science and Security are asked two questions:
- Is humanity safer or more at risk this year than last?
- Is humanity safer or more at risk compared to the 76 years since the clock has been set?
Here’s what to know about the Doomsday Clock 2023:
How did the Doomsday Clock begin?
In 1945, the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project that built the world’s first atomic bombs began publishing a mimeographed bulletin called The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Two years later, as these same scientists envisioned a world in which two atomic weapons had been used in Japan, they came together to discuss the threat to humanity posed by nuclear war.
“They were concerned that the public didn’t really realize how close we were to the end of life as we knew it,” said Rachel Bronson, President and CEO of the Bulletin.
Martyl Langsdorf, artist and wife of Manhattan Project physicist Alexander Langsdorf Jr., came up with the idea for a clock to show how close things were.
It has become the clock for the end of the world.
“It felt like if we didn’t do anything, it would go on around midnight and we could experience the apocalypse,” Bronson said.
Where is the Doomsday Clock now?
For the past two years, the Doomsday Clock has stood at 100 minus midnight, closer to destruction than at any time since its inception in 1947.
What does midnight represent on the Doomsday Clock?
Midnight on the Doomsday Clock represents how close humans are to causing civilization-ending catastrophe due to the unleashing of man-made perils, either from nuclear catastrophe, climate change or global warming. other cataclysms.
Who decides the location of the Doomsday Clock?
The Doomsday Clock is set each year by the Bulletin’s 22-member Science and Safety Committee in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 11 Nobel Laureates.
Why does the Doomsday Clock exist?
At its heart, the newsletter’s founders asked how well humanity was dealing with the “dangerous Pandora’s box made possible by modern science,” Bronson said.
While technology makes amazing and wonderful things possible, it can also present risks. In 1947, the greatest of these was nuclear war. Since then, the newsletter has added more, including climate change, bioterrorism, artificial intelligence, and the damage caused by misinformation and disinformation.
Why is the Doomsday Clock so important?
Over the years, the clock has been referenced by the White House, the Kremlin, and the leaders of many other countries. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein were on the bulletin’s board of sponsors, and John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon wrote articles for the magazine.
Although not everyone agrees with the clock’s settings, it is generally respected for the questions it asks and for its scientific stance.
Is the doomsday clock still ticking?
The clock setting has jumped back and forth over the past 75 years depending on world events.
The farthest from midnight it has ever been was in 1991, when it was set at 17 minutes to midnight after the United States and the Soviet Union signed the first strategic arms reduction treaty, followed by the dissolution of the USSR.
“People went to sleep every night afraid to wake up,” said Daniel Holz, a University of Chicago physics professor and co-chair of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board. “This threat was definitely reduced with the end of the Cold War.”
The most pessimistic years were 2021 and 2022, when it was set at 100 minus midnight, in part due to global nuclear and political tensions, COVID-19, climate change and the threat of biological weapons.
The first clock, announced in 1947, was set to 7 minus midnight.
What will the doomsday clock be set to on January 24, 2023?
The Doomsday Clock will be reset on January 24 at 10 a.m. EST in an announcement that will be broadcast live on the bulletin’s website.
The exact time chosen by the scientists who make up the board of directors is a closely guarded secret. But here’s a hint: for the first time, the statement is translated into Russian and Ukrainian.