Atomic scientists have moved forward the hands of the “Doomsday Clock” to reflect humanity’s growing risk of annihilation from existential threats such as nuclear war, disease outbreaks and climate change.
At 90 seconds to midnight, the “Doomsday Clock” is now the closest it has ever been to midnight, which marks the theoretical point of humanity’s annihilation.
Tuesday’s grim update to the symbolic timepiece reflects a higher risk of nuclear catastrophe since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, the scientists said.
How is the Doomsday Clock set?
The clock was created in 1947 by a group of atomic scientists, including Albert Einstein, who had worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the world’s first nuclear weapons during World War II.
A Chicago-based non-profit organisation called the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists updates the time annually based on information regarding catastrophic risks to the planet and humanity and displays the “time” on its website.
A board of scientists and other experts in nuclear technology and climate science, including 13 Nobel laureates, discuss world events and determine where to place the hands of the clock each year
The hands of the clock are moved closer to or further away from midnight based on the scientists’ reading of existential threats at a particular time. Apocalyptic threats could arise from political tensions, weapons, technology, climate change and even pandemic illness.
How has the time on the Doomsday Clock changed over the years?
Between 2020 and 2022, the “Doomsday Clock” stood at 100 seconds to midnight. On Tuesday (January 24), its hands were moved forward to 90 seconds to midnight.
The new setting reflects for the first time a world in which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has revived fears of nuclear war.
More than 75 years ago, the clock started ticking at seven minutes to midnight.
At 17 minutes to midnight, the clock was furthest from doomsday in 1991, as the Cold War ended and the United States and Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that substantially reduced both countries’ nuclear weapons arsenals.