How Close Are We to Armageddon?—Check Out the Doomsday Clock Tomorrow


orginal doomsday clock

The Doomsday Clock created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists back in 1947 will be reset tomorrow. Originally, changes in the clock's minute hand represented the danger of global nuclear war. The closer the clock stands to midnight, the nearer the world is to Armageddon. The Bulletin now resets the clock based on its evaluation of other catastrophic risks. As the Bulletin press release notes:

Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists subsequently created the Doomsday Clock in 1947 as way to convey both the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero). The decision to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made by the Bulletin's Board of Directors in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 19 Nobel Laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences. …

The last time the Doomsday Clock minute hand moved was in January 2007, when the Clock's minute hand was pushed forward by two minutes from seven to five minutes before midnight.

The precise time to be shown on the updated Doomsday Clock will not be announced until the live news conference in New York City takes place on January 14, 2010. Factors influencing the latest Doomsday Clock change include international negotiations on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, expansion of civilian nuclear power, the possibilities of nuclear terrorism, and climate change.

Below is a graphic showing each resetting—the closer the line gets to the bottom (midnight) the closer the world is supposed to be getting toward total catastrophe.

Doomsday Clock resettings

You can watch the resetting live by clicking onto this link tomorrow at 10:00 am EST. With North Korea and Iran acting up, warnings about bioterror, and the collapse of the Copenhagen climate change conference, I'm betting that folks at the Bulletin push the hands of fate closer to midnight.

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  1. Wouldn’t the clock be rolling back as catastrophic global warming recedes?

    Why would the collapse of Copenhagen matter, since the proposals that would have come out if it had “succeeded” not made a meaningful difference even according to the AGWers?

    1. Whenever something that liberals don’t like happens, the clock goes forward. Look at the average clock position during GOP administrations vs. Dem administrations, for instance.

      The clock moved backward as the Vietnam War progressed, while it moved forward during the peace and prosperity of the 90s. How these hacks are still taken seriously is beyond me.

      1. I must have missed the GOP administration that we had through most of the 90’s.

        1. GOP Congress.

        2. The doomsday clock is like bowling, not golf, i.e., high numbers are better.

          Thus, 90’s democrat administation = 12 minutes from doomsday = happy world.

          Are we really closer to global nuclear war now than in 1963-75, iwht the vietnam war, mulpiple other dirty little wars, multiple political assassinations, not to mention a fully functional evil empire? I mean, even if Kim Jong Il eats some bad kim chi and throws everything he’s got at us, and a rogue Pakistani manages to detonate a nuke in downtown Dehli on the same day, that’s one hell of a lot less trouble than the Russkis shooting their wad at us.

          1. you missed the part about how they factor in crap besides nuclear annihilation.

    2. You know how it is, RC.

      Bad news is the gospel. Good news is a bald-faced lie.

  2. All you have to know about the Doomsday Clock fools is that they had the clock closer to midnight during the Reagan-Gorbachev summits than they did during the Cuban missile crisis. I’m not sure how climate change is more similar to nuclear war than, say, an asteroid impact, nanite invasion, or killer robot attacks, so it’s strange that that concern has been added to the clock setting criteria.

    Their credibility should also be reduced to roughly zero for claiming that we were less than 15 minutes to global disaster for the past 50+ years and yet no global disasters have occurred. Of course lefty alarmists are apparently immune to such credibility questioning, while the terror-threat-level color updates were roundly (and rightly) mocked by liberals and libertarians for being useless, bouncing back and forth between yellow and orange eternally.

    1. On the upside, they’ve never missed an actual atomic war.

    2. I agree.

      The Doomsday Clock is a silly PR device that no longer serves any purpose.

      Maybe back in the 60s, the threat of nuclear war made it kind of worthwhile, but now it’s just a means of propagating continual alarmism on every subject.

      It should be retired. Even from a lefty environmental perspective, I would want it retired. I wouldn’t want to be associated with a bunch of clowns with a giant clock screaming “we’re five minutes to midnight!!” “The end is near!” every couple years. It’s retarded.

    3. Why would anyone be interested in watching scientists setting this thing? For my money, the scientific community has endlessly demonstrated themselves only slightly less credible pontificating on matters political than the snake-handlers and the priests.

    4. Would the BAS have the chutzpa some day to put the minute hand past noon/midnight, claiming the catastrophe had already, and recently, occurred?

  3. Are you kidding? All’s better with Obama.


    1. Reigning in Hell as opposed to serving in Heaven, hmm. It’s the only thing that can explain it.

  4. R C Dean: I suspect that folks at the Bulletin will have a slightly different interpretation of the Copenhagen collapse. 😉

  5. …and emerging technologies in the life sciences…

    Does this mean clone armies fed by frankenfood will destroy us all?

  6. Nukes don’t bother me so much since I learned to love Fallout 3.

      1. yeah, but that’s 200 years AFTER the bombs fall. Not so good for you. Unless you hope to become a feral ghoul. Then still, not so good for you.

    1. I, for one, welcome our new Brotherhood of Steel overlords.


      1. Nice guys. They gave me this handy Tesla cannon.

        1. Those assholes have done nothing but alternatively harass me and give me the cold shoulder. What a bunch of self-important tools.

          Those suits must smell like ass wrapped in old shoes, on the inside.

          1. The winterized T-51 is minty-fresh, JW. Give it a try.

            1. After turning the keys to Ft. Constantine over to Mr. Crowley for some caps and xp, I stuffed a lunchbox mine down his pants and watched him get launched from the second floor of the Underworld from the detonation. Then I looted him for more caps, the keys, and a sweet scoped magnum – then I went to the fort for the T51B Power Armor. And an experimental MIRV Fat Man…..

              Sorry, yeah, we all got lost in FO3 sometimes.

              1. I obviously have yet to even scratch the full potential of Fallout3.

                1. I just finished my third expansion.

                2. I played it all the way through, twice, with all the expansions.

                  You want the winterized T-51 from the Anchorage expansion, because it never needs repairing. Which is good, because you couldn’t repair it more than once anyway.

                  Now I’m about half-way through Dragon Age. Good character-building, excellent cut-scenes and dialogue. Combat a little disappointing, but overall two thumbs up.

                3. So you’ve never wondered about the “pants exploded” stat? You can reverse pickpocket explosives on your target, you just need to have high enough stealth stats. I highly recommend trying it out.

  7. Two — minutes — to miiiiidddniiiiigghht

    1. the hand, that threatens doom.

    2. Warty beat me to the Iron Maiden link, but no one has mentioned The Smashing Pumpkins yet.

      1. It’s a common problem.

        No, wait, it’s not a problem at all.

  8. Those last four ticks bringing us closer to Armageddon coincide within a year or two of each of the four albums released by Creed. That shit’s gotta stop.

    1. I agree Creed must stop releasing albums. Its a human rights issue.

  9. “A symbolic clock is as emotionally reassuring as a picture of oxygen to a drowning man.”

    1. Does that make this particular National Pants-Shitting Moment just a case of flatulence then?

  10. The most recent Scienterrific American had an article about the potential for a global “Nuclear Winter” following a ‘limited’ 100-weapon exchange between India and Pakistan.

    Although BotAS has taken on some of the ‘climate change’ mantra of late, their principal focus remains nuclear weapons. With North Korea, India and Pakistan becoming nuclear powers and continuing to expand their arsenals, the nuclear clock can only be expected to move closer to midnight over the recent years. This is especially true when you throw Iran’s nuke ambitions into the mix (and Isreal’s threat to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities) as well as the instability in Pakistan and the potential for everything to go to pieces very quickly in North Korea.

    It isn’t just about Russia vs the West.

    1. With the collapse of the Copenhagen conference, and Global Warming unchecked, India and Pakistan may have no choice but to “take one for the team”!

  11. Seriously, nukes are still a big problem. The technology is sixty years old, and it’s just a matter of time before some other method for releasing such explosive energies will be developed. That’s a scary thought when you realize how crazy we can be. Any of us. It’s not like the relatively sane U.S. never considered a first strike, after all.

    Even without a massive nuclear war, just a small exchange could mess things up in a major way.

    1. How could a limited exchange of, say, a half dozen small to medium nukes mess things up globally?

      If Pakistan and India nuke each other, or Israel and Iran, how is that going to mess up the Western Hemisphere?

      1. In brief, the SciAm article was looking at a 100-weapon exchange.

        Based on observed rates of soot injection into the upper stratosphere from the days of atmospheric testing, the authors calculated that approx 4 teratons of fine soot would be carried 30 KM up. Global circulation would carry much of this to every area of the world within 60 days, resulting in significant reduction in sunlight reaching the ground. Observed precipitation rates from the high atmosphere indicate that it would take 10 years to return to a normal solar flux at ground level.

        The 1980s Nuclear Winter models assumed much less dispersal of the fine particulates and much higher precipitaion rates than subsequent investigation has shown plausible.

        IOW, we were MUCH closer to midnight than we thought in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, simply because we didn’t know as much at that time.*

        *In fairness, the BotAS should either restate the earlier figures or, based on the new data, treat the Cold War baseline as established and use the “hour” of that era as the standard measure.

        However, there was a kind of stability in the Cold War era that is lacking with the new nuclear powers. I think an India-Pakistan exchange is much more likely than a US-USSR exchange ever was.

        1. Well, sure, whatever, but none of the neo- and proto- rogue nuclear powers can hold up their end of 100-weapon exchange. I would think that India-Pakistan or Iran-Israel would top out at around a dozen weapons, tops. And likely not huge ones, either.

          1. India & Pakistan have nuke arsenals estimated to be in the 60 to 80 weapon range for India and the 30 to 40 weapon range for Pakistan.

            Unfortunately, both of them seem to be in the “use ’em or lose ’em” quandry that prevailed for the US and USSR in the 1950s. So any exchange between them is likely to involve all of their weapons (or at least a substantial majority of them.)

            Iran is not known to have any weapons yet, but Israel is estimated to have 100 +/-, with some of them being fission-fusion-fission weapons. How many the Israelis would deem “necessary” to take out Iran’s facilities is an open question, especially as many of them are “hardened”.

          2. I agree — I doubt that either nation could hold its command control together long enough to deliver 50+ weapons. I also don’t think they have much if any thermonuclear capability, meaning their bombs’ yields top out around 50KT or so.

            Plus, the Tambora eruption in 1815 apparently pumped something like 30+ times as much dust into the upper atmosphere, probably to a much greater altitude than the products of a nuclear exchange (whose warheads would also probably mostly be airburst so as to maximize the casualties they inflict, and thus kick up less dust than these guys are probably assuming, even including smoke from burning cities, which is highly important to “Nuclear Winter” scenarios). Tambora had significant global climate effects over the next year or so, but hardly ushered in another Ice Age —

            1. Isn’t Pakistan relatively small, even with a huge population? How many nukes are needed to blanket the entire country?

            2. The problem is that C&C structure WON’T hold, which means that those “in the field” will have the decision whether to use the weapons themselves. Given that the field personnel would probably know only that the other guys had hit their country with nukes and that there was a good chance that they might be destroyed themselves very soon, the field personnel would likely make the decision to use the weapons. The moment when your country is being attacked is usually not a time of careful reflection on consequences. [Can you say “9/11”?]

              The difference between Tambora (which is referred to in the SciAm article) and an India-Pakistan exchange is two-fold: 1) The Tambora eruption lofted mostly pumice and dust into the atmosphere, which is denser than soot and has coarser particles; 2) The Tambora eruption was one point while a nuclear exchange would result in firestorms over many large cities, producing large quantities of very fine soot.

              1. C3 breakdown might make it more likely that _some_ would be launched (making hair-trigger situations more dangerous and deescalation more difficult) but I still think it makes efficient and complete utilization of the force less likely too. And I’m uncertain what proportion of the Indian and Pakistani arsenals are launched from secure silos, as opposed to “soft” missile launchers and aircraft delivered weapons that would be more vulnerable to counterstrike and interception.

                I don’t buy the distinction between Tambora as a single point and India/Pakistan as a larger area in a global context. That would be an important distinction in a US/Russian exchange, but I don’t see it making a significant dispersal difference here.

                If they’re basing their findings on data from atmospheric testing, then the dispersed particles are closer to the “dirt” category than the “soot” category, and while smoke/soot may remain airborne longer, I expect it’s also a less effective insulator. There’s also that altitude issue. True firestorms can push smoke up to high altitudes, but those are driven by climactic conditions and their occurance is uncertain. Tambora was a powerfully upward-directed event that produced results well in excess of what I think widespread urban fires likely would.

      2. I wasn’t talking so much direct environmental effects as I was economic and political effects. Look how effed up things got here after 9/11.

        Though I suppose even on the environmental front, it depends how many bombs went off and where.

  12. I thought they would have just followed Oslo’s lead and dismantle the thing after the election.

  13. The threat of all-out nuclear war (as opposed to a suitcase nuke or some such) was reduced to approximately zero after the Soviet Union collapsed. The atomic scientists were then faced with a choice between packing it in, or discovering the threat of climate change/Raptute/the heartbreak of psoriasis etc. Decisions, decisions…

  14. And Reason misses a chance at an Iron Maiden reference. For shame.

    1. Ron and Jesse are only casual acquaintances. It’s not like they share playlists or anything.

  15. These guys have a quandary. On one hand they want to give credit to Obama for serious ongoing negotiations with the Russians on nuclear disarmament. On the other hand they want to blame capitalists for undermining the enlightened’s efforts from saving us from climate change – and they only have a clock hands to show both!

    I would suggest they change to a multi-axis Accelerometer of Doom. That way they can show our freefall to hell on the climate and the stability generated by Obama’s leadership at the same time.

  16. You have a weakness for horoscope-like pseudo-predictive things, Mr. Science.

  17. I wouldn’t mind seeing the scientific method behind their clock-setting and checking to see if the results are reproducible..

    1. Yeah, really. Let’s see the raw data already. I’m calling ClockGate(tm) on this!

  18. Isn’t it amazing at how long we’ve been going to hell without actually getting there?

    1. The road to hell is paved very slowly.

  19. Considering his name is invoked like 20 times a day. I think Mr. Goodwin’s passing should be noted on Hit and Run


    1. Did you just mistake Goldwin for Godwin, and then misspell it? That’s a stabbin’.

      1. Nope. I am just dumb. It was Goldwin who died not Godwin. Nevermind.

    2. Are we also going to have an announcement when J.P. Boyle goes to that reality-based-community in the sky?

  20. Seriously, we came second closest to midnight in 1984? Was that just a nod to George Orwell or did a certain group of liberal scientists not like the policies of the Gipper? You know the same policies that led to the clock being set the furthest from midnight ever just seven years later. Yeah, that clock’s about as politically significant as my son’s Telling Time with Diego book. Just because you have a clock that you on which you can manually move the hands doesn’t mean you can predict the end of the world Amigos!

    1. In 1983, the Russians came very, very close to nuking us after a fluke in their warning system showed that we had started an attack. One Russian colonel went out of his way to hold up the retaliation until he could prove it was a false signal, and he saved the world.

      Of course, I don’t think that’s why they put it so close in 1984, since that story didn’t come out until after the end of the cold war.

      1. Chevy Chase was great in that

      2. What about January of 1985, in the interim between Chernenko’s death and Gorby’s ascension?

        1. Wasn’t there a book in the early 80s explaining the Russians actually had a first strike chance in the late 70s, but miffed it and then Reagan plugged the hole?

          1. If there was, it was written by a nutjob. The Russians have never had a credible first-strike capability. (Defined as “flatten the US so the US could not strike back effectively”.) “First strike” capability also means that you assume that the enemy is not going to “launch on warning.”

            The US did have a “first strike capability” up to the early 1960s. During the Cuban Missle Crisis, Gen Curtis Lemay is supposed to have urged Kennedy to go to war on the basis that the US would “only” sustain 3 million dead vs. a much higher toll in the Soviet Union.

  21. Won’t somebody think of the poor, poor froggies? It’s Amphibian Armageddon out there. That clock should be at 11:59:57.4, for pete’s sake.

  22. Whither goest the noble tree frog, soon there goest Man.

  23. 1991 -1995

    What the hell? What was the risk back then?

    1. never mind i read the graph wrong =P

    2. There was a coup by Soviet hardliners in 1991 which removed Gorbachev from power, and much fear that things were going to go back to the old days.

  24. What’s so bad about Nuclear Winter?

    It’ll solve global warming.

    And its about 75% of the way to what the Enviros want anyway.

    1. “What’s so bad about Nuclear Winter?”

      Only 60 days of food supply currently in storage, with most of the crop growing areas experiencing extremely bad growing conditions for several years.

      Think Ireland in the 1840s, only worldwide.

      [I have to admit that the “Nuclear Winter” hypothesis is unproven. But I have no desire to test the hypothesis.]

      1. Fine, then, we’ll just have a *small* nuclear war.

  25. These jack asses need to get a life,as no one can predict the future or see whats in a persons heart.More wasted money on hyped bullshit.Don’t they know about 2012?Ha Ha

  26. I think we need to be gearing up for the Bilderbergers gleaning the human race with all their secret control tactics.Why do you think they all have these highly guarded meetings and no one seems to know what they are about.I’ll guarantee they wouldn’t have to drop and cover.

  27. As a side note: While one may question the validity of the BotAS ‘clock’, why would any libertarian consider a nuclear war – or even the use of one nuclear weapon – with anything but horror?

    Whatever the reasons and motivations for the attack and whatever other consequences might ensue, we are certainly talking about the deaths of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or millions, of totally innocent people.

    If you can figure out a way to only nuke those in power or the armed forces of another country, let me (and the Pentagon) know.

  28. Yeah, no nuclear war, please.

    1. I, too, am not in favor of nuclear war.

      1. Damn you guys are courageous.

  29. How is it that 18 nobel laureates and Stephen Hawking don’t understand basic International Relations theory? Beyond Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nukes have been used for defensive purposes. Nukes + second strike capability = mutually assured destruction -> No nuclear war.

    1. Works fine.

      Until the Taliban takes over Rawalpindi.

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