What is the Doomsday Clock?

18 Jan

Everyone from the ancient Mayans to religious conspiracy theorists would have us believe 2012 is the year we meet our maker.

To be honest, it kind of irks me. I mean The Hobbit isn’t due out until 2013 and I really want to see what Peter Jackson can do with Smaug.

Still, I can’t say I’m too worried. After all, US preacher Harold Camping predicted the Rapture twice in 2011 alone. And since we’re all still here, I’m thinking a big grain of salt might be involved.

That said, predicting the end of the world is not a new thing, and this month the Doomsday Clock has been moved one minute closer to midnight. But what exactly does this mean? I decided to find out.

The clock, which dates back to 1947, is run by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. It “conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction – the figurative midnight – and monitors the means humankind could use to obliterate itself.”

The clock went back one minute in 2010 but was moved forward again this year to five minutes before midnight because of “inadequate progress” on nuclear weapons reduction and proliferation and continuing inaction on climate change.

In a statement accompanying the change the directors said: “Two years ago, it appeared world leaders might address the truly global threats we face. But in many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed. For that reason, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is moving the clock hand one minute closer to midnight, back to its time in 2007.”

There’s no word yet on what John Cusack thinks of this latest development. But since we all know he has the driving skills and chutzpah to survive the climactic apocalypse, it’s probably time I made him a FB friend. If only so I can find out where he’s going to be on December 21 and then go stand beside him.

For more on the clock, and an overview of  the threat it perceives in areas such as nuclear weapons, climate-changing technologies and new developments in life sciences, visit its website.

In the meantime, here’s how the time has changed over the years.

* 2012 5 minutes to midnight
* 2010 6 minutes to midnight
* 2007 5 minutes to midnight
* 2002 7 minutes to midnight
* 1998 9 minutes to midnight
* 1995 14 minutes to midnight
* 1991 17 minutes to midnight
* 1990 10 minutes to midnight
* 1988 6 minutes to midnight
* 1984 3 minutes to midnight
* 1981 4 minutes to midnight
* 1980 7 minutes to midnight
* 1974 9 minutes to midnight
* 1972 2 minutes to midnight
* 1969 10 minutes to midnight
* 1968 7 minutes to midnight
* 1963 12 minutes to midnight
* 1960 7 minutes to midnight
* 1953 2 minutes to midnight
* 1949 3 minutes to midnight
* 1947 7 minutes to midnight

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