Every January for the past 75 years, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has released a new doomsday clock that hints at how close or far humanity is to the brink of extinction.
The next edition will be published on January 24th at 10AM ET. It was the first update to the clock since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reignited fears of a global nuclear war.
Historically, the clock has measured the danger of nuclear catastrophe, but that’s not the only doomsday scenario being considered. Disruptions from climate change, bioterrorism, artificial intelligence, and misinformation and disinformation are also included in the mix of possible disasters.
Each year, the 22 members of the Science and Safety Committee are asked two questions:
- Is humanity safer or more at risk this year than last?
- Is humanity safer or more at risk than set in 76 years?
Here’s information about the 2023 Doomsday Clock:
How did the doomsday clock start?
Two years later, as these scientists contemplated a world in which two atomic weapons had been used in Japan, they met to discuss the threat posed to humanity by nuclear war.
“They worry that the public doesn’t really appreciate how close we are to the end of our lives,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Gazette.
Martyl Langsdorf, an artist and wife of Manhattan Project physicist Alexander Langsdorf Jr., came up with the idea of a clock to show how close things were.
It came to be known as the Doomsday Clock.
“It feels like if we don’t do anything, it’s going to tick at midnight and we can experience the end of the world,” Bronson said.
Where is the Doomsday Clock now?
For the past two years, the Doomsday Clock has stuck at 100 seconds to midnight, closer to doom than at any time since its creation in 1947.
What does midnight on the doomsday clock mean?
Midnight on the doomsday clock represents how close humanity is to a catastrophe that brings the end of civilization, as nuclear disaster, climate change, or other catastrophes unleash man-made dangers.
Who decides where the doomsday clock goes?
The Doomsday Clock is set annually by 22 members of Bulletin’s Science and Safety Committee, including 11 Nobel Prize winners, in consultation with its sponsoring committee.
Why does the Doomsday Clock exist?
In essence, the announcement’s founders are asking how humans manage “a dangerous Pandora’s box that modern science has made possible,” Bronson said.
Although technology makes amazing and wonderful things possible, it also creates risks. In 1947, the biggest of these was a nuclear war. Since then, bulletins have added others, including climate change, bioterrorism, artificial intelligence, and damage caused by misinformation and disinformation.
Why is the Doomsday Clock so prominent?
Over the years, the clock has been referenced by the White House, the Kremlin, and leaders of many other countries. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein are members of the sponsoring committee for this announcement, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon ) contributed to the magazine.
While not everyone agrees with the setting of the clock, the questions it raises and the science-based positions are generally respected.
Will the doomsday clock keep going forward?
For the past 75 years, the setting of the clock has been jumping back and forth, depending on world events.
The furthest before midnight was 17 minutes before midnight in 1991, when the US and the Soviet Union signed the first START treaty and then the Soviet Union collapsed.
“People go to sleep every night worrying if they’re going to wake up,” said Daniel Holz, a professor of physics at the University of Chicago and co-chair of Bulletin’s Science and Safety Committee. “That threat certainly diminished at the end of the Cold War.”
The most pessimistic years are 2021 and 2022, which are 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 was announced in 1947, set to 7 minutes to midnight.
Where will the doomsday clock point on January 24, 2023?
The Doomsday Clock will reset on January 24th at 10AM ET, and the announcement will be live on the announcements website.
Exactly when the scientists who made up the committee chose is a closely guarded secret. But there was a hint: the statement was translated into Russian and Ukrainian for the first time.