Science and Tech


'Doomsday Clock' Still Set At 5 Minutes To Midnight

The "five ‘til midnight" rating was handed down by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The clock represents the threat mankind poses to itself.
Posted at 8:36 PM, Jan 15, 2014

It sounds like something out of "The Twilight Zone" — a doomsday clock set to five minutes ‘til midnight — but according to a group of scientists it represents exactly how close the human race was to self-annihilation in 2013.

The five ‘til midnight rating was handed down by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — who use “The Doomsday Clock” to represent the threat posed to the human race by things like nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies. (Via YouTube / slatester

The closer the minute hand is to midnight, the closer these scientists think we are to destroying ourselves. (Via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

In a letter addressed to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the group wrote: It is still five minutes to midnight. … The risk of civilization-threatening technological catastrophe remains high. … We implore the Secretary-General and the Security Council to spur worldwide action ... to reduce the danger that human technology will be humanity’s undoing.” (Via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

According to LiveScience, the group specifically recommends "demanding that the United States and Russia reopen dialogues on nuclear weapons," urging "political leadership on climate change" and advocating for "new rules to manage leaps forward in information technology."

Now, five minutes ‘til midnight is the same number it was last year, but it’s a ways off from both the highest and lowest ratings the clock has seen.  

Back in 1953, just six years after the formation of the group, it reached a low of two minutes — that as the first hydrogen bombs were developed and tested. (Via YouTube / atomicarchive)

It reached it’s highest point in 1991 — 17 minutes until midnight — as the Cold War came to a close. (Via YouTube / AmericanExperience)

Specifically, the group cited the nuclear arsenals of countries like the U.S., Russia, Pakistan, and India, as well as Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, and emerging technologies as threats in 2013, adding: (Via Voice of America, RT

"New technologies hold the promise of doing great good. … We can manage our technology, or become victims of it. The choice is ours, and the Clock is ticking." (Via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The group also listed some steps humanity made in the right direction in 2013 — including successful talks surrounding Iran’s nuclear program and developments in renewable energy.

Though the time until midnight has plateaued the last two years, it has been slowly inching toward midnight since its high in 1991. The group reports that could be in part because humanity is dealing with potential threats in a “business-as-usual manner.” (Via Wikimedia Commons / Fastfission