Doomsday Clock

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Since 2007, the Doomsday Clock has read five-minutes-to-midnight.

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, that uses the analogy of the human species being at a time that is "minutes to midnight", wherein midnight represents "catastrophic destruction". Originally, the analogy represented the threat of global nuclear war, but since includes climate-changing technologies and "new developments in the life sciences and nanotechnology that could inflict irrevocable harm".[1]

Since its inception, the clock has appeared 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 physicist Alexander Langsdorf, Jr.) to design a cover for the magazine's June 1947 issue.

The number of minutes before midnight – measuring the degree of nuclear, environmental, and technological threats to mankind – is periodically corrected; currently, the clock reads five minutes to midnight, having advanced two minutes on 17 January 2007.


[edit] Time changes

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

In 1947 during the U.S.–U.S.S.R. Cold War, the clock was started at seven minutes to midnight, and subsequently advanced and 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 — five minutes to midnight — was on 17 January 2007.[1][2] Reflecting international events dangerous to mankind, the clock hands have been set eighteen times, since its initial start at seven minutes to midnight in 1947.

Doomsday Clock graph. Note: 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.
1953 2 11:58pm −1 The United States and the Soviet Union test thermonuclear devices within nine months of one another. The clock is at its closest approach to midnight to date.
1960 7 11:53pm +5 In response to a perception of increased scientific cooperation and public understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons.
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 France and China acquire and test nuclear weapons (1960 and 1964 respectively), wars rage on in the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and Vietnam.
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.
1980 7 11:53pm −2 Further deadlock in US-USSR talks, increase in nationalist wars and terrorist actions.
1981 4 11:56pm −3 Arms race escalates, conflicts in Afghanistan, South Africa, and Poland add to world tension.
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. The clock is at its greatest distance from midnight so far.
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 and Pakistan 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, Iran's alleged 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.[3] Experts assessing the dangers posed to civilization have added climate change to the prospect of nuclear annihilation as the greatest threats to humankind.[4]

[edit] In popular culture

[edit] In literature and film

  • The clock used in the Watchmen comic book series is a reference to The Doomsday Clock. The Clock continues to tick til midnight as the story progresses, just to be averted in the final 2 chapters. On page 18 of issue #1, a newspaper on Adrian Veidt's desk bears the headline "Nuclear Doomsday Clock Stands At Five To Twelve, Warn Experts". Clocks on walls throughout the series display this time. This motif is preserved in the film adaptation.
  • The Doomsday Clock is referenced in Piers Anthony's novel, Wielding a Red Sword, in which the mythical Incarnation of War can control the position of the hands up to midnight and thereby bring about World War III.

[edit] In music

  • The Doomsday Clock is alluded to throughout "2 Minutes to Midnight", a single from Iron Maiden's album Powerslave. In the cover of the band's single, the mascot Eddie is sitting in front of a ruined United Nations building with the flags of nations flying at half-mast. A nuclear explosion is in the background.
  • Linkin Park's third album, Minutes to Midnight, is a reference to the Doomsday Clock. In the music video for "Shadow of the Day", the current time is shown at the beginning of the video; by the end, it would have nearly reached midnight.[5]

[edit] In television

  • The Doctor Who episode "Four to Doomsday" was first aired in 1982, when the clock was at four minutes to midnight.
  • The NCIS episode "Murder 2.0" features an image of the Doomsday clock used as a clue that the Cybervid Killer's next murder will take place at five minutes to midnight, the time at which the clock is currently set.
  • The Heroes episode "Seven Minutes to Midnight" aired in 2006, when the clock was set at seven minutes to midnight. The season dealt with the main characters stopping a nuclear bomb going off in New York City.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

Personal tools