Every January for the past 75 years, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has published a new doomsday clock, showing how close or far humanity is to the brink.
The next issue will be released on January 24 at 10:00 AM. It’s the first hour since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to renew the threat of global nuclear war.
Historically, the clock has measured the threat of a nuclear disaster, but that’s not the only apocalyptic scenario being considered. Climate change, bioterrorism, artificial intelligence, and the harms of misinformation and misinformation are also among the mix of potential cataclysms.
Each year, the 22 members of the Science and Safety Council are asked two questions:
- Is humanity safer or more dangerous this year than last year?
- Compared to the 76 years the clock is set, is humanity safe or dangerous?
Here’s what you need to know about Doomsday 2023:
How did the doomsday clock start?
Two years later, as the same scientists contemplated a world with two atomic weapons in Japan, they met to discuss the dangers of nuclear war to humanity.
“They were concerned that the public didn’t know how close we were to the end of life,” said Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s president and CEO.
Martil Langsdorf, artist and wife of Manhattan Project physicist Alexander Langsdorf Jr., came up with the idea of a clock that showed how close things were.
It was called “Doomsday Hour”.
“If we don’t do anything, it’s going to be midnight and we’re going to have an apocalypse,” Bronson said.
Where is the doomsday clock now?
For the past two years, the Doomsday Clock has stood 100 seconds to midnight, longer than at any time since its inception in 1947.
What does midnight mean in Doomsday?
Midnight in the Doomsday Clock shows how close humans are to a civilization-ending catastrophe due to the dangers of nuclear disaster, climate change, or other man-made cataclysms.
Who decides where the doomsday clock will be set?
Doomsday is established annually by the 22 members of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Council in consultation with the Board of Sponsors, which includes 11 Nobel laureates.
Why doomsday clock?
According to Bronson, the bulletin’s founders asked how well humanity was managing “the terrifying Pandora’s box that modern science makes possible.”
While technology makes amazing and wonderful things possible, it can also create dangers. In 1947, the biggest of these was nuclear war. Since then, the bulletin has added others, including climate change, bioterrorism, artificial intelligence, and the harm caused by misinformation and disinformation.
Why doomsday clock is so famous?
Over the years, the watch has been used by the leaders of the White House, the Kremlin and many other countries. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein were on the bulletin’s board of sponsors, and John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon wrote pieces for the magazine.
Although not everyone agrees with the watch’s settings, it is generally respected for the questions it raises and its science-based stance.
Does the doomsday clock always move forward?
Clock settings have jumped back and forth over the past 75 years with world events.
The furthest from midnight was in 1991, when the US and the USSR signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, 17 minutes after the dissolution of the USSR.
“Every night, people go to sleep worried that they’re going to wake up,” said Daniel Holtz, a physics professor at the University of Chicago and co-chairman of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board. “This threat has certainly diminished since the end of the Cold War.”
The most pessimistic years were 2021 and 2022, which were set at 100 seconds to midnight due in part to global nuclear and political tensions, COVID-19, climate change, and the threat of biological weapons.
The first clock, published in 1947, was set at 7 minutes to midnight.
What will be the doomsday on January 24, 2023?
The doomsday clock will be reset at 10:00 a.m. on January 24, which will be streamed live on the bulletin’s website.
It remains a mystery exactly what time the scientists who made up the board chose. But here’s a hint: the message is being translated into Russian and Ukrainian for the first time.