Company. Why does the Doomsday Clock now show 90 seconds minus midnight?

It’s done: the famous “Clock of the Apocalypse” changed time on January 24, at 4 p.m. sharp. It now indicates midnight minus 90 seconds (i.e. 23:58:30).

The climate crisis, the war in Ukraine and the risks posed by nuclear proliferation have, among other things, been taken into account in the calculation of this beginning of the year 2023.

Since 1047, the time of this conceptual “clock” has been changing regularly according to the time that symbolically separates humanity from an apocalypse – that is, from midnight.

The American NGO “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists”which brings together scientific experts including a dozen Nobel laureatessets January as the time for the current year, based on the estimated threat level.

Photo SIPA

Photo SIPA

Originally Albert Einstein

The NGO is part of history: it was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and scientists who worked on the “Manhattan” project, which resulted in the production of the very first nuclear bomb.

At the time, just after the Second World War, the clock showed midnight minus 7 minutes. The idea of ​​the project was to warn of the imminence of a nuclear apocalypse. But above all, to do everything to move away from it little by little.

Which was, sometimes, the case: in 1991, at the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, the clock had gone back to 17 minutes before midnight.

But in 1953, at the start of the “balance of terror” and the nuclear arms race between the United States and the USSR, it showed two minutes to midnight. A level again reached in 2018 and then in 2019.

In 2017, the coming to power of Donald Trump in the United States had advanced the hand towards midnight by 30 seconds: the clock then indicated 11:57 p.m. and 30 seconds.

A choice justified by the strong rise of nationalism in the world, the declarations of President Donald Trump on nuclear weapons, global warming and the deterioration of global security in the context of increasingly sophisticated technologies”, according to the NGO which “manages” the clock.

With a first: a lag of less than a minute. What both alert on the perceived imminence of the end of the world, but also bring a new level of “nuance” in the count:

We now express the time between the world and the disaster in seconds, no longer in hours or minutes

The NGO Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The following two years, the clock again reached 11:58 p.m., as in 1953.

A “darkening” nuclear landscape

But the worst years remain… the last three. In 2020, 2021 and 2022, the clock was put forward 20 seconds, to read 100 seconds to midnight, due to a “nuclear landscape that has only darkened further”.

From 2020, scientists pointed to the persistence of the nuclear risk, associated with a year 2019 among the hottest on record, but also the rise of misinformation, the risks posed by artificial intelligence and technology as a whole, or even the militarization of space. So many subjects that were not denied in the following years, with the health crisis and the war in Ukraine in addition.

Since 2010 (11:54 p.m.), the hand has been continuously approaching midnight. A far cry from the years 1963 and 1972 (11:48 p.m.), marked by the signing of treaties aimed at limiting nuclear or strategic armament.

However, the time does not change every year: in total, the clock has been changed 25 times in 75 years of existence.

We wish to say thanks to the author of this write-up for this remarkable material

Company. Why does the Doomsday Clock now show 90 seconds minus midnight?

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