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Doomsday Clock Ticks Closer to Midnight

We're now the closest we've been to midnight since 1953
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2018 9:40 AM CST
Updated Jan 25, 2018 10:40 AM CST
Doomsday Clock Ticks Closer to Midnight
This file photo shows the 2017 announcement, when we were at 2.5 minutes to midnight.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(Newser) – "What matters is whether [the Doomsday Clock] is moving farther or closer to midnight. That's the key," says the executive director of the Arms Control Association. Erg. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on Thursday announced the clock—a symbol of how close the world stands to catastrophe due to mankind's own actions—has ticked forward 30 seconds. That puts it at two minutes to midnight, the same point it was at when Cold War fears spiked in 1953 and the closest it has been to midnight since that year, reports the Washington Post. More on the reasoning behind the move and the history of the clock.

  • Trump: The president got mentioned by name by the organization, which noted "the failure of President Trump and other world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war and climate change" as influencing the clock's advancement. The Hill also has this reference to the president from the group's statement: "Neither allies nor adversaries have been able to reliably predict ... when US pronouncements are real, and when they are mere rhetoric. International diplomacy has been reduced to name-calling, giving it a surrealistic sense of unreality that makes the world security situation ever more threatening."

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  • Reasoning: The Post notes that the reasoning has historically been based on the group's assessment of the world's nuclear stockpile and the likelihood it might get used; in recent years, the threat of climate change has become a contributing factor.
  • Perspective: The messaging that went along with the advancement wasn't for the weak of heart. "To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger—and its immediacy. ... The world is not only more dangerous now than it was a year ago; it is as threatening as it has been since World War II," say Bulletin officials Lawrence Krauss and Robert Rosner in an op-ed for the Post.
  • Trace the history: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists offers a timeline of the clock's history, and the reasoning behind its position, here. USA Today reports the clock was farthest from midnight when the Cold War ended in 1991; the clock's hand sat 17 minutes away then.
  • More history: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was the brainchild of alums of the Manhattan Project who were wary of the implications of their nuclear work. The Post reports nuclear physicist Alexander Langsdorf was involved, and his wife, the artist Martyl Langsdorf, designed the clock. It debuted in 1947, set at seven minutes to midnight. It has never been set at closer than two minutes to midnight.
(Read more Doomsday Clock stories.)

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