Home FEATURED All About the Doomsday Clock: A Harbinger of Man-Made Global Catastrophe

All About the Doomsday Clock: A Harbinger of Man-Made Global Catastrophe


Scientists and their instincts never go wrong. This is a proven fact! If you haven’t heard of Louis de Broglie, then it is about time you learn his groundbreaking scientific discovery. Not a “discovery” per se, but it was his instincts that forced his fellow physicists to look at things from a different perspective. In 1924, he shared his view on matter’s wave nature. He didn’t have any experimental proof to back his finding, but a pure intuition that it exists. That is his powerful and accurate Scientists instincts are! Now, what does it have to do with Armageddon! Well, if scientists’ instincts are to be taken seriously, then we might as well start packing our bags for Mars. Earth is not going to sustain much longer!

History of Doomsday Clock

In 1945, a group of scientists in the United States of America successfully tested the world’s first Atomic bomb. Following a successful test at Los Alamos, this doomsday device was dropped in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The first and only use of a nuclear weapon in an armed conflict, Hiroshima bombing gave the world a glimpse of this weapon’s catastrophic effects. In fact, seeing the aftermath of this bomb, the scientist who invented this bomb was depressed.

Two years later, key scientists in the “Manhattan Project” came together to form “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists”. The Doomsday Clock made its first appearance on the cover of the 1947 issue. The clock was designed by the wife of Manhattan Project research associate Alexander Langsdorf, Martyl Langsdorf. She chose the design of the clock to reflect the urgency of the problem. The clock signifies that if we don’t react fast, destruction will naturally occur and the entire humankind would be wiped out.

Why was it built?

Scientists knew the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. In 1947, the primary threat to humanity was nuclear weapons. Every single one of the world leaders wanted a piece of it. Determined to keep the fellow scientists informed of our nearness to the next nuclear warfare, Doomsday clock was built. As a fictional clock, it helped scientists keep track of the recent happenings in the field of nuclear weaponry. Later on, the bulletin decided to make the clock public. At a time when the internet was non-existent and the majority of newspapers were daily busy covering other hot topics, it was Doomsday Clock that informed people about this potential threat.

How does it work?

To clarify, the Doomsday Clock doesn’t have any mechanism that keeps it running. It is a hypothetical clock that symbolises our nearness to Armageddon. Unlike any other clock, this clock will move forward and backwards. Furthermore, scientists decide whether it’s time. The hour hand is set at the zero hour and the minute hand is changed whenever they perceive a change in the threat level. For instance, when the clock debuted in 1947, it was set at 7 minutes before midnight. In 1949, it was set at 3 minutes to midnight shortly after the Soviet Union’s first atomic bomb test.

However, the clock moved backwards by 4 minutes in the year 1960 when the United States and the Soviet Union were slowly avoiding direct confrontation. Hence, there is no specific way as to how his clock moves. It all depends on the current affairs and the extent of its impact.

Who sets the time?

Now that we have gone through the dynamics of the Doomsday clock and how it works, it is important to know who sets the time. Up until now, we discussed the frequent changes in response to the political climate. But we haven’t talked about the person controlling this time. At first, it was Eugene Rabinowitch, an American-Russian scientist, who controlled the time. He had good contacts with experts in science and politics, which helped him decide the time.

Shortly after his demise in 1973, a board was formed. It was decided that the board members would meet at least twice a year to discuss the climate. The board includes experts in nuclear technology and climate science. Furthermore, their esteemed board also has 13 Nobel laureates. It is this committee’s credibility that makes the Doomsday Clock a symbol to look upon.This is the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board

Why is it important?

Although it is a hypothetical clock that runs on decisions taken by scientists, such decisions are quantitative and well researched. You can’t expect the Nobel Laureates to go wrong, right. Furthermore, the bulletins themselves have made it clear that the clock is not a gauge register of the ups and downs of the international power struggle, but to educate the masses of the potential nuclear threats. Whether or not you take it literally, the Doomsday Clock is indeed a great symbol that reflects the current state. You will know when the nuclear strike can happen. Even if a country is holding such nuclear dealings behind the scene, the bulletin tries to get the most out of it and update their clock accordingly.

The Doomsday Clock over the years

1947: Clock debuted at 7 minutes to midnight in order to stress the urgency of nuclear dangers.

1949: The Soviet Union reportedly tested their first nuclear weapon, therefore the clock ticked 3 minutes closer to midnight.

1953: In response to growing military technology in other countries(especially Soviet Union), the U.S develops a Hydrogen Bomb. As a result, the clock stood 2 minutes from midnight.

1963: Partial Test Ban Treaty limited atmospheric nuclear testing. This reduced tension between the U.S and the U.S.S.R. Clock runs 10 minutes back, and stood 12 minutes from midnight

1984: Soviet-Afghan war intensified Cold War and the U.S strengthens their warfare on a quest to win the arms race. The clock ran 9 minutes forward and was only 3 minutes away from midnight

1991: Things finally got settled. The Cold War came to an end with the Soviet Union dissolving on December 26. Furthermore, the U.S signs the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, calming the situation. Clock jumped back and stood 17 minutes away from midnight, the furthest it has been away.

2018: The bulletin began taking other factors apart from nuclear tensions in the 2010s. Hence, as a result of climate change, information warfare, artificial intelligence, and cyberwarfare, the clock stood 2 minutes from midnight. This raised concerns among many.

100 seconds to Midnight

In 2020, the bulletin announced the nearness of the clock to midnight. As a result of increasing tensions between the U.S and Iran, the clock jumped to 100 seconds to midnight. In addition to U.S-Iran tensions, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the U.S and Russia was ended. All of these increased the chances of nuclear warfare.

As announced before, the bulletin would now consider a set of other factors such as cybersecurity, climate change, artificial intelligence etc. Hence, it was inevitable that they would move the clock forward. We saw a really bad start to this year with forest fires, coronavirus, and most recently, the outbreak of the Ebola virus. If this all settles and another peace treaty is signed among the world leaders, we can see the clock love backwards again.

What can we do to turn it back?

Although this has to do more with the political climate of a particular country, we are the ones electing them! So the only thing we could do is to act a bit cautious and think about the consequences of electing a particular person. Let us not indulge much into politics. You could plant more trees within your vicinity. Here’s what the bulletin tells you to do, “get smart about the problems. share what you’ve learned with others—in your family, workplace, church, school, or social media feeds”. At the end of the day, it all depends on the analysis made by the bulletin board. They would be more than happy to turn the time back.

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