How the time on the Doomsday clock changed. Infographics

The hands of the Doomsday clock have been moved forward by ten seconds, now for the first time in their history they show one and a half minutes to midnight. How the time on the clock has changed since 1947 — in the infographic of RBC

How the time on the Doomsday clock changed. Infographics

What is the Doomsday clock and who translates its hands

The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 as a metaphor for how close humanity came to self-destruction by midnight. They were launched by the American magazine “Bulletin of Atomic Scientists” to draw the attention of mankind to the threats of nuclear weapons (in 1945, the United States atomic bombed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Then it was seven minutes to midnight on the clock.Initially, the arrows were moved by the editor of the magazine Eugene Rabinovich, based on the conclusions of scientists and experts in the field of nuclear weapons. After his death in 1973, the decision to move the arrows (forward or backward) was taken by the expert council. The Council also consults with other scientists and experts, including 13 Nobel laureates. Recently, climate change has also been taken into account among the factors.

How much did the Doomsday clock show during the Cold War and in modern times

  • At first, the time was steadily approaching midnight. In 1953 a year later, after the American and Soviet tests of thermonuclear weapons, there were two minutes left on the clock until midnight is the worst indicator for the entire time of the Cold War and for the entire XX century. In 1960 the time increased from two to seven minutes: experts noted the interaction of scientists and hope for the desire of the USSR and the United States to avoid direct confrontation.
  • The Caribbean crisis of 1962 (the peak of the Cold War, associated with the deployment of American missiles in Turkey and Soviet missiles in Cuba) did not affect the Doomsday clock. The next time the hands were moved only in 1963, and the time increased to 12 minutes. The experts explained their choice by the signing of the USSR and the United States of the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, outer space and under water.
  • The second most dangerous moment after 1953 was recorded in 1984 year— three minutes until midnight. Experts noted the “coldest point” in the relations between the USSR and the USA and fears of a new arms race.
  • Things were best in 1991 year— 17 minutes until midnight. Then the Bulletin mentioned the end of the Cold War and the START-I treaty (the Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction Treaty signed by the United States and Russia in July 1991 and provided for the reduction of their nuclear arsenals by the parties to a certain level within seven years).
  • Since then, the time remaining until midnight has been shortened again, with the exception of a small rollback in 2010 (from five to six minutes), when experts noted new negotiations on arms reduction and limitation.
  • In 2018 watch for the first time since 1953 back to two minutes until midnight: experts have stated “the inability of world leaders to cope with the biggest threats to the future of humanity”.
  • In 2020, the expert council set 100 seconds until midnight for the first time in the history of the Doomsday clock. The Bulletin pointed out the risks of nuclear war, climate change and the development of disinformation. In 2021, the experts decided to leave the same 100 seconds.
  • In 2023 the hands of the clock for the first time in history moved to the position of “90 seconds until midnight.” «The Bulletin» called the state of things «a time of unprecedented danger». The message on the bulletin’s website primarily referred to the fighting in Ukraine. Experts also noted the persistence of climate-related threats and the destruction of global norms and institutions necessary to reduce other risks, including biological ones like the COVID-19 pandemic.

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