Doomsday Clock Will Move Closer to Midnight
WASHINGTON, DC, January 12, 2007 (ENS) -
The minute hand of the Doomsday Clock will be moved closer to midnight on January 17, the first such change to the clock since February 2002. The Doomsday Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to nuclear weapons and other threats.
The move was announced today by the Board of Directors of the magazine "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists."
It reflects growing concerns about what the board calls a "Second Nuclear Age" marked by grave threats, including nuclear ambitions in Iran and North Korea, unsecured nuclear materials in Russia and elsewhere, and the continuing "launch-ready" status of 2,000 of the 25,000 nuclear weapons held by the U.S. and Russia.
The board also cited "escalating terrorism, and new pressure from climate change for expanded civilian nuclear power that could increase proliferation risks."
The Doomsday Clock is now set at seven minutes to midnight. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)
The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clockface that the Bulletin has maintained since 1947 at its headquarters on the campus of the University of Chicago.
It uses the analogy of the human race being at a time that is a "few minutes to midnight" where midnight represents destruction by nuclear war.
The decision to move the minute hand is made by the Bulletin's Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates.
Officials from the Bulletin will move the minute hand on January 17 simultaneously in two places at two different local times - at 9:30 am ET at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC, and at 2:30 pm GMT in London at The Royal Society.
Speakers at the event in Washington will include Kennette Benedict, executive director of the Bulletin, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, a member of the board and co-chair of the International Crisis Group; and Lawrence Krauss, professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University.
Speakers at the London event will be Sir Martin Rees, president of The Royal Society, and professor of cosmology and astrophysics and master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge; and Stephen Hawking, professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a fellow of The Royal Society, and a member of the Bulletin's Board of Sponsors.
The "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" was founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project and were deeply concerned about the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear war. The magazine is published six times per year.
In June 1947 the Bulletin introduced its clock to convey the perils posed by nuclear weapons through a simple design.
The first representation of the clock was produced in 1947, when artist Martyl Langsdorf, the wife of a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, was asked by magazine cofounder Hyman Goldsmith to design a cover for the June issue.
The Doomsday Clock has appeared somewhere on the cover of each issue of the Bulletin since its introduction. The nontechnical magazine covers global security and public policy issues related to the dangers posed by nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
History of the Doomsday Clock
The clock's minute hand has been moved 17 times in response to international events since its initial start at seven minutes to midnight in 1947:
1949 - The Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb. Clock changed to three minutes to midnight - four minutes closer to midnight.
1953 - The United States and the Soviet Union test thermonuclear devices within nine months of one another. Clock changed to two minutes to midnight - one minute closer, its closest approach to midnight to date.
1960 - In response to a perception of increased scientific cooperation and public understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons, clock is changed to seven minutes to midnight - five minutes further from midnight.
1963 - The United States and Soviet Union sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty, limiting atmospheric nuclear testing. Clock changed to twelve minutes to midnight - another five minutes further.
1968 - France and China acquire and test nuclear weapons - 1960 and 1964 respectively - wars rage on in the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and Vietnam. Clock changed to seven minutes to midnight - five minutes closer to midnight.
1969 - The U.S. Senate ratifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Clock changed to ten minutes to midnight - three minutes further from midnight.
1972 - The United States and the Soviet Union sign the SALT I - Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Clock changed to twelve minutes to midnight - two minutes further.
1974 - India tests a nuclear device - Smiling Buddha - SALT II talks stall. Clock changed to nine minutes to midnight - three minutes closer to midnight.
1980 - Further deadlock in US-USSR talks, increase in nationalist wars and terrorist actions. Clock changed to seven minutes to midnight - two minutes closer.
1981 - Arms race escalates, conflicts in Afghanistan, South Africa, and Poland. Clock changed to four minutes to midnight - three minutes closer.
1984 - Further escalation of the arms race under the U.S. policies of Ronald Reagan. Clock changed to three minutes to midnight - one more minute closer.
1988 - The U.S. and the Soviet Union sign treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear forces, relations improve. Clock changed to six minutes to midnight - three minutes further from midnight.
1990 - Fall of the Berlin Wall, success of anti-communist movements in Eastern Europe, Cold War nearing an end. Clock changed to ten minutes to midnight - four minutes further.
1991 - United States and Soviet Union sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Clock changed to seventeen minutes to midnight - seven minutes further, its greatest distance from midnight so far.
1995 - Global military spending continues at Cold War levels; concerns about post-Soviet nuclear proliferation of weapons and brainpower. Clock changed to fourteen minutes to midnight - three minutes closer to midnight.
1998 - Both India and Pakistan test nuclear weapons in a tit-for-tat show of aggression; the United States and Russia run into difficulties in further reducing stockpiles. Clock changed to nine minutes to midnight - five minutes closer.
2002 - Little progress on global nuclear disarmament; United States rejects a series of arms control treaties and announces its intentions to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; terrorists seek to acquire nuclear weapons. Clock changed to seven minutes to midnight - two minutes closer.