science The Doomsday Clock Just Ticked Closer To Midnight - Here's Why You Should Be Afraid  

Donn Saylor
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The Doomsday Clock is controlled by an esteemed group of atomic scientists, and can be used to measure the political, social, and environmental health of the world. Unfortunately, The Doomsday Clock is moving towards midnight, which is a strong indication that humanity is approaching some kind of apocalyptic event. 

But just what is the Doomsday Clock? While no physical clock exists, the term denotes a warning system set up to signal global catastrophe. The closer the clock's hands are to midnight, the more imminent the end of the world is. As of January 2018, the planet is a slim two minutes from midnight.

While the midnight hour on the Doomsday Clock is often synonymous with nuclear war, it can actually represent a lot of things. Movement towards midnight can signal a drastic, dark change in world politics, such as a breakdown in global diplomacy, or it could be a sign of dire and irreversible climate change. All these factors are considered en masse to discern humanity's proximity to the end. 

So, are we on the brink of Armageddon? 

The Hands Of The Doomsday Clock Came Closer To Midnight In January 2018


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Photo:  Ryanicus Girraficus/Wikimedia Commons /CC BY-SA 3.0

On January 25, 2018, the hands of the theoretical Doomsday Clock advanced up to two minutes to midnight. This advancement marks the third time the hands have moved forward since 2012; that year, the hands began at five minutes to midnight. 

While it's not atypical for the clock's hands to fluctuate some, 2018 is the closest they've ever been to the dreaded midnight hour, which is said to signal the apocalypse. The only other time humanity ever came this close to immanent doom was in 1953, when the clock also hit the two-minute mark after the first hydrogen bomb was successfully tested. 

The Clock Was Created In 1947 In Response To Nuclear Threats


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Photo: United States Navy/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Invented in 1947, the Doomsday Clock came about after a group of atomic scientists recognized the need for a warning system that could be used to monitor potential global catastrophes. At the time, the thought of a nuclear attack was rapidly becoming more of a rational fear, and the group wanted a way to gauge the severity of the threat at any given point.

Since its creation, the Doomsday Clock has been managed by members of the Science and Security Board at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. To accompany the introduction of the Doomsday Clock, artist Martyl Langsdorf created an imagined depiction of the clock that ran in Bulletin's June 1947 issue.

The Clock Gauges Other Potential Threats As Well


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Photo:  NASA/Wikimedia Commons /CC BY-SA 3.0

Nuclear was is not the only threat measured by the Doomsday Clock. This terror is only one of the many relevant aspects that figure into the adjustment of the clocks hands. The effects of climate change — such as natural disasters — are another major consideration that influences the atomic scientists' decision. Other factors include bioterrorism and biosecurity issues, the latest on cyber warfare, and the state of artificial intelligence. 

The Clock Is Only Adjusted After Considerable Thought And Research


The Doomsday Clock is not equivalent to a fortuneteller's crystal ball or a biblical prophecy. On the contrary, extensive scientific research is performed before any decision is made regarding the movement of the clock's hands. During their analysis, scientists consult with a team of 15 Nobel laureates, and the final decision is the result of painstaking investigation into the current state of the world. If the hands of the clock are moving forward, you can bet that there are a lot of horrible things going on that you should probably look into.