Just how close are we to the self destruction and annihilation of the human race?

Well, if you were to believe those fun loving wizards at the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences located at the University of Chicago, we’re about three minutes away.

Wait wait wait, before you go rushing off to say your last goodbyes or get down on your knee’s and prostrate yourself before the God of your choice, hear me out.

The clock itself doesn’t exist. It’s a symbolic reference that’s been made since 1947 when the Cold War just started in earnest. It seems that the Board of Directors of that famed institution that I mentioned earlier decided to come up with an analogy between us humans and time. When the clocks strikes midnight, that was to symbolize the elimination of the human race by nuclear war.

Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is!

With apologies in advance to the Rolling Stones and especially Keith Richards who will probably outlive us all, no it’s not. Due to certain global events the clock is either moved forwards or backwards at the sole discretion of the esteemed members of the board. It was originally set at seven minutes to midnight but has ebbed closer or moved backwards based on current events. I imagine that before the invention of the atomic bomb, the clock was set at around noon.

Where does the time go?

My man, John Prine has a line in one of his songs that goes “Time don’t fly, it bounds and leaps” and if that’s true then those leaps and bounds can be measured by world events which in turn would cause the clock to move either closer to annihilation or giving us a few more moments to spare. Here’s a listing of the events that have cause the clock to move over the years.

  • 1949 – Those pesky Russians come up with and successfully test their own atomic bomb. The world edges three minutes closer to becoming toast. T-minus four minutes and counting.
  • 1953 – The United States and the Soviet Union go eyeball to eyeball and detonate two thermonuclear devices within nine months of each other. It’s a case of mine is bigger than yours and the clock moves another two minutes forward. T-minus two minutes and counting. For those of you who like to keep track of these types of things, this is the closest its ever been to midnight itself.
  • 1960 –Maybe because we as a species seem to be evolving and determine that there would be little or nothing left worth salvaging after a nuclear holocaust, the clock moves back five minutes to its original position. T-minus seven minutes and counting.
  • 1963 – Signs of progress are on the horizon! The US and the USSR put their collective heads together and sign a partial test ban treaty limiting the amount of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapon. There is much rejoicing and we buy ourselves another five minutes. T-minus 12 minutes and counting.
  • 1968 – The world is expanding and the French and Chinese get their grubby little paws an nuclear technology. They each conduct successful tests. Meanwhile, the Middle East is on fire and the US is mired in the Vietnam War. We lose another five minutes. T-minus seven minutes and counting.
  • 1969 – The year the Miracle Mets win the World Series! Unfortunately, those events, as shocking as they were, don’t cause the clock to move. It takes the Senate to approve a Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. We pick up three more minutes. T-minus ten minutes and counting.
  • 1972 – Say what you will about Richard M. Nixon but you have to give credit where credit is due. The US and the USSR sign SALTI and we add two more minutes to the clock. T-minus twelve minutes and counting.
  • 1974India decides to gum up the works and successfully tests a nuclear weapon. Ironically, it is called “Smiling Buddha. While Buddha might be wearing a grin, the rest of the world isn’t as the clock winds down another three minutes. T-minus nine minutes and counting.
  • 1980 – General global unrest, Ronald Reagan and a stalemate between the US and the Soviet Union on arms talks takes another two minutes off the clock. T-minus seven minutes and counting.
  • 1981Star Wars and a drastic increase in defense spending in the United States combined with Soviet advances into Afghanistan, Poland falling apart at the seams and South Africa crumbling under apartheid inch the clock another three more minutes to Doomsday. T-minus four minutes and counting.
  • 1984 – Made famous by George Orwell. Reagan calls Soviet Union an “evil empire” and jokes to an open mike about giving an order to launch the missiles in five minutes. The arms race reaches a new high and another moment is wasted. T-minus three minutes and counting.
  • 1988 – Either the other guy blinked or the US and the USSR regain a semblance of normalcy. Treaty to eliminate intermediate range nuclear weapons is signed and after further review, three minutes are added to the clock. T-minus six minutes and counting.
  • 1990 – The Berlin Wall comes down, the Cold War starts to thaw and warm and fuzzies are exchanged all around. Four minutes are added and we are now at T-minus ten minutes and counting.
  • 1991 – The US and the Soviet Union finally see eye to eye and agree upon the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The world breathes a sigh of relief and there is joy and happiness amongst the land. Seven minutes are added and the countdown is at T-minus seventeen minutes and counting.
  • 1995 – Just where did all of those weapons go in the former Soviet Union? The Board of Directors asks the very same thing and to be on the safe side, deducts three more minutes until certain destruction. T-minus fourteen minutes and counting.
  • 1998 Both India and Pakistan ramp up their nuclear programs and go balls to wall against each other. The US and Russia can’t agree on how low they should reduce their stockpiles of weapons. Another five minutes taken off the clock. T-minus nine minutes and counting.
  • 2002Technology is increasing and bombs are popping up everywhere and it seems like everybody wants to get in on the act. Tick tick tick, there goes another two minutes. T-minus seven minutes and counting.
  • 2007 – For the first time in its history, the Board adds another feature besides nuclear weapons into the equation. Climate change as a result of global warming becomes the wild card in the mix and we’re another two minutes away from being gone. We now stand at T-minus five minutes and counting.
  • 2010 - Worldwide cooperation to reduce nuclear arsenals and limit effect of climate change as a result of a new START agreement between the United States and Russia buy the human race another precious minute. We now stand at T-minus six and counting.
  • 2012 - Apparently whatever happened in 2010 wasn't acted upon sufficiently and that precious moment is gone. We're back to T-minus five and counting.
  • 2015 - We're now three minutes away from total destruction. According to people who keep track of these kind of things, the clock jumped ahead two more minutes due to "unchecked climate change" and a possible "nuclear arms race from modernization of huge arsenals. "World leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe."
  • So, the next time somebody asks you in passing “Hey, you got a minute”, maybe you should think it over first.

    I know I will.



    Note: esteemed user Radar says:re Doomsday Clock - Excellent writeup! + vote all the way. However, you should know that the clock *does* exist in the physical world. The large, manually operated clock (seen here: http://www.unexplainedstuff.com/images/geuu_01_img0128.jpg) is trotted out anytime the hands are moved. If I recall correctly, it takes place at a press conference, during which the reason for the change is explained. A more recent color photo: http://blog.abovetopsecret.com/worldwatcher/images/doomsday-clock.jpg

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