How close are we to Doomsday? We’ll find out Thursday.
The folks who keep track of the “Doomsday Clock” will tell us how close we are to midnight. Each year, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a non-profit group that sets the clock, decides whether the events of the previous year pushed humanity closer or farther from destruction.
The closer to midnight we are, the more danger we’re in. According to the group, the clock “conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making.”
Last year, the clock was set at two minutes to midnight, which was as close as its been since 1953 during the height of the Cold War.
Scientists blamed a cocktail of threats ranging from dangerous political rhetoric to the potential of a nuclear threat as the catalysts for moving the clock closer toward doomsday last year.
“The greatest risks [in 2017] arose in the nuclear realm,” the group said in a statement in January 2018. “North Korea’s nuclear weapons program appeared to make remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks for itself, other countries in the region, and the United States,” the statement continued.
The farthest it’s been from midnight was in 1991 when the clock was 17 minutes to midnight, due to the end of the Cold War.
Lawrence Krauss – the former Arizona State University physicist who for many years was a prominent spokesman for the Doomsday Clock – will not be a part of the announcement this week. This is due to allegations of sexual harassment at Arizona State that surfaced in early 2018, after which Krauss resigned from his position as the chairman of the board of sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Former California governor Jerry Brown, the new executive chair of the Bulletin, will be one of the participants in the Thursday announcement.
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The clock has been maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947. The group was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project.
The scientists created the clock in 1947 using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and a nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the Earth.
The decision is made by the board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, along with input from a board of sponsors that includes 15 Nobel Laureates.