Is anxiety over doomsday killing you? Scientists behind a “Doomsday Clock” which measures the possibility of a global cataclysm are about to make an announcement whether civilization is any closer or farther from disaster, reports ABC News.
The announcement, which will be made on Tuesday, will see the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists unveil the minute hand on the metaphorical clock in Washington, DC. The Doomsday Clock reflects how vulnerable the world is to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change and new technologies, according to the bulletin, per the Associated Press.
Jerry Brown, the governor of California will join former United States Secretary of State George Shultz and former United States Secretary of Defense William Perry for a discussion at Stanford University after the unveiling.
In 2015, scientists behind the bulletin adjusted the clock from five minute-to-midnight to three-to-midnight. They cited “unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernisations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe.”
Every year, the scientists assess the minute hand, which had in the past stayed without moving and been adjusted in the opposite direction. In 2010, the bulletin scientists cited nuclear talks between the United States and Russia and agreement to limit a rise in global temperature for a change from five minutes-to-midnight to six minutes-to-midnight.
However, this year’s clock is expected to consider the tensions between the United States and Russia as well as the recent North Korean nuclear test.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who helped to develop the first atomic weapons. However, it was not until two years later that the Doomsday Clock was developed, with midnight symbolizing apocalypse.
The decision to either move or leave the clock in its position is made by the bulletin’s science and security board. The security board and the bulletin’s science are made up of physicists and environmental scientists from around the world, in consultation with the bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 17 Nobel laureates.
In 1953, the Soviet Union tested a hydrogen bomb that followed a United States hydrogen bomb test. This was the closest the clock had come to midnight, which was just two minutes away.
“Tensions between the United States and Russia that remain at levels reminiscent of the Cold War, the danger posed by climate change, and nuclear proliferation concerns, including the recent North Korean nuclear test, are the main factors influencing the decision about any adjustment that may be made to the Doomsday Clock,” the Bulletin sais this month.
“In January 2015, the Doomsday Clock’s minute hand advanced two minutes, moving from five to three minutes before midnight, the closest it has been to catastrophe since the early days of above-ground hydrogen bomb testing.”
The Doomsday clock’s earliest setting was in 1991 when it was wound back to 17 minutes to midnight after the US and Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.