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Earth Government The Military News Politics

Doomsday Clock Could Move 145

Lasrick writes The ominous minute hand of the 'Doomsday Clock' has been fixed at 5 minutes to midnight for the past three years. But it could move tomorrow. The clock is a visual metaphor that was created nearly 70 years ago by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, whose Board of Governors boasts 18 Nobel laureates. Each year, the Bulletin's Science and Security Board assesses threats to humanity — with special attention to nuclear warheads and climate change — to decide whether the Doomsday Clock needs an adjustment. The event will be streamed live from the Bulletin's website at 11 am EST.
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Doomsday Clock Could Move

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  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:19AM (#48873337)
    Who really wants to end the world in Chicago?
    • The world's first nuclear reactor was created in Chicago, under the bleachers of the stadium at UC. It was thought at the time that the world could actually end as a result.

  • If you tune into the stream, and the background music turns out to be Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction... head straight to your fallout shelters forthwith.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      I more prefer my apocalypse-themed music to be romantic and slightly nerdy [youtube.com] ;)

      • Interesting mix of themes in that song, thanks...

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Svavar Knútur is great... the music's really pretty, but between songs he's a standup comedian. ;) That said, some of his songs are funny too... one of his songs (in Icelandic) is about a guy on his way to propose to his girlfriend when he gets bitten by a zombie, and he meets up with her and is trying to propose while slowly turning into a zombie and increasingly wanting to eat her instead... but it turns out that she was bitten by a zombie too, so they end up living happily ever after ;) Oh, and th

    • by meglon ( 1001833 )
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      I have to admit, Eve of Destruction is more from my age groups music, but i've loved the REM song since Independence Day.
  • Obviously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Guy From V ( 1453391 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:36AM (#48873381) Homepage

    Scientists are finally of a consensus that yes, indeed, it is time to rock.

  • by Trachman ( 3499895 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:38AM (#48873393) Journal

    One could understand and expect that intellectually stimulating discussions among 18 Noble prize laureates will yield to unspecified doomsday due to the climate change. Or, in reality, this became a free networking event with good food and interesting contacts, all under the guise of saving the humanity.

    Meanwhile, this year alone in violent death there were approx 2 thousands of casualties in Nigeria, approx 1 thousand of casualties in Ukraine and Iraq. There are real wars that are being waged at this time.

    In United States from cancer and cardiovascular diseases almost 4 thousands of Americans are dying every day. Not that the death is avoidable, but proper nutrition, exercise and lifestyle can prolong life by a decade for many.

    So what exactly is the purpose of ever-frozen clock showing the risk of super-fast destruction combined with super-slow climate change risk for some reason commingled and culminating to decision to keep 5 minutes to the noon.. So why exactly 18 Nobel prize laureates are gathering to decide if it is 6 minutes or 4 minutes to the end of the world.

    How about using talents and energies on real problems, identified using old fashioned scientific method called prioritization, in IT world knowing as function "sort".

    • by abies ( 607076 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:48AM (#48873403)

      Regarding violent death - we are in a lot better shape than in previous years. Amount of people dying in wars and conflicts is getting smaller and smaller. It is just that our information coverage of that is getting better and better.

      http://www.smithsonianmag.com/... [smithsonianmag.com]

      These days, environmental issues (be it global warming, overfishing, pollution, sweet water depletion, pick your one) seem to be a lot more dangerous to our civilization than wars. 50 years ago, there was a chance that huge mutual nuclear war will wipe humanity off the planet. This was what doomdays clock is about. Doomsday clock doesn't care if you have local war with million casualties. Million deaths yearly due to wars or eating McDonald food is not going to make any difference to humanity as whole. Making Earth Venus-like does, even if it happens in 400 years, but cannot be prevented.

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @05:19AM (#48873505) Homepage

        If Earth becomes Venus-like then those with innovation and drive will innovate a way to protect themselves, while those that don't will eventally adapt, growing a hard, rocky skin and blood based on liquid metals rather than water. The climate has changed in Earth's past and life survived; if our future is to be a tribe of hideous rock monsters ruled by clever, pitiless human overlords in protective bubbles, then bring it on. It's not a reason to hinder economic growth.

        Vote freedom. Vote prosperity. Vote Reanimated Corpse Of Ayn Rand in 2016.

        • by abies ( 607076 )

          Life survived. Some of it. I have no doubt that SOME life will survive on Earth, it might be just not primates, including us.
          As for innovation - yes, if change is rapid enough and we got enough 'transhumanist' movement it is possible. But way it looks like now, resources and innovation will be rather put into feeding as many people as possible, while desperately trying to preserve status quo. Add few uprisings due to failing social security, fanatical religion takeovers here and there (not neccesarily musli

          • There seem to be two prevailing concepts how to progress further:

            ...followed by population numbers...

            Note that the best guesses by the experts say that we MIGHT hit 10 billion before world population declines to lower levels than now. Maybe. We won't hit 15 billion without some dramatic change, like suddenly all the birth-control methods in current use stop working.

            Do note that more than half the world is reproducing at lower than replacement rates, including USA, EU, China. Immigration is the only thi

            • by abies ( 607076 )

              10 bilions is number which they are forecasting assuming current mode of development/civilisation - which is scenario a). Main limiting factor of population growth here is education/freedom of women in developed world. It doesn't matter if birth control is working - it is important if women are allowed to use it and if they actually care. If your only role in life is childbearing, you might not even consider that.

              My stab at 15 billions (which is of course random number, just want to make it bigger than 10 b

              • In practice, however, most every sexually active woman who has both education about family planning and cheap access to birth control uses some form of it, even those in regions where they have to hide their usage from their husbands (for example, monthly injections are becoming quite popular in many parts of Africa). Children are *expensive*, and the population segment which is growing fastest is also the poorest: the difference between having a couple children or a handful can often be the difference bet

          • Any population that can establish a colony somewhere off Earth is by definition a group who accepts the most radical type of global-for-temselves engineering. It will be interesting to see what evolution rate they can achieve in comparison to the terrestrial population.

        • by rioki ( 1328185 )

          Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow

    • How about using talents and energies on real problems, identified using old fashioned scientific method called prioritization, in IT world knowing as function "sort".

      Solving problems like war and climate change pretty much requires getting into politics. If you were a nobel laureate would you want to spend your time dealing with the idiots people vote for?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > old fashioned scientific method called prioritization, in IT world knowing as function "sort".

      Sorting is easy.

      Defining the sorting criteria value for each item (priority) isn't.
      In fact, sorting is a completely defined and verifiable operation, whereas defining a priority is completely subjective (see Tragedy of the Commons).

      So yeah, that's a bad analogy :)
      Captcha : pauper

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @05:20AM (#48873507) Homepage

      Your numbers are scary? No.

      Multiply your numbers by 10 or 100 or 1000. Scary, eh? Not that much.

      Multiply them by a million. Now they're scary.

      War has ALWAYS gone on. Never have we had wars with SO FEW casualties. Certainly never have we had wars with SUCH a small percentage of the population as casualties. Historically, wars have been known to obliterate 50% of the population of a country quite easily. Same for plagues, etc.

      To say that a few thousand casualties is world-changing is - as sad as this is - wrong. It's not. On the grand scheme of things the world will not notice. And why? Because that scale of carnage happens EVERY DAY and is actually much better now than it ever was in modern history.

      We now have wars where we have so few casualties on one side that we can NAME the individual soldiers. We can have a press article for each one that dies. That's really nothing, in the grand scheme of things.

      Doomsday is about the end of the world. 7 billion lives or a significant fraction of that. Your numbers are in the 0.000001 range of that (I may have missed an extra zero) even if you add the "every day" that you did to cancer etc.).

      Fact is, we've never lived so long, been so healthy, or had such few casualties of war. However, one bomb in the right place, one North Korean dictator who goes a little loopy and makes a mad order to his military, one cyber-attack too many, and you can easily be looking at a real, live, global war that humanity won't recover. Climate change is not about the granny that died in the hot summer last year, it's about literally MILLIONS of people being displaced or forced into starvation as the lands become hostile to agriculture.

      In comparison, your numbers are bloody chicken-feed. And 18 Nobel Prize laureates recognise that and are looking at the bigger picture that everyone forgets.

      Now, I'm not a massive climate-change-will-kill-the-planet believer, but even I recognise that we're talking entire orders of magnitude bigger problems than bombing some shacks in the Middle East back to dust, or even taking down a couple of skyscrapers. For every single person in 9/11 that died, think SEVERAL TENS OF THOUSANDS or even SEVERAL MILLION dying instead in the scenarios the doomsday clock is supposed to reflect.

      This is the real problem. While you're sitting there worried about heart disease from your rich lifestyle, and cancer from living so damn long compared to even your parents/grandparents, these guys are looking at the numbers.

      You are more likely to die in an asteroid collision than just about any other problem, statistically. It's scientific fact. What have we done about it? Bugger all. And everyone just says "Oh, but that'll never happen". It doesn't matter. If it does, it wipes out humanity. If climate change is as serious as some serious scientists claim, it wipes out humanity. If nuclear war ever starts again - EVER - and there's a single retaliation (in all nuclear devices ever deployed, there is no recorded nuclear retaliation in history), then it wipes out humanity.

      By comparison, less people dying every day from war than they do from walking out into the road at the wrong moment is piddling about.

      The talents and energies are ON the real problems, the ones that will matter, will be irreversible, will change life as you know it forever (modern war, thus far, has not changed life as you know it at all, really - except to give you technology to make it easier to sit at home and get heart trouble!) and that are being largely ignored and require a gimmick to get you to wake up, stop watching Fox News, and deal with a real issue facing humanity for once.

      • I think you are a little in the HORROR side of the things, only by looking at:

        ... For every single person in 9/11 that died, think SEVERAL TENS OF THOUSANDS or even SEVERAL MILLION dying instead in the scenarios the doomsday clock is supposed to reflect....

        so, statistics say that 9/11 had about 3000 deaths (From wikipedia), now, lets assume you are correct saying that at least 1 MILLION dies for each one who died on 9/11(assuming you mean that 1 counts as SEVERAL), so basically you are saying that "3000*1'000.000=around half world population" die in these scenarios? i dont think the scenarios are causing only couple of deaths, but we should not get to the other extreme neither

        • by ledow ( 319597 )


          That's what the doomsday clock is saying.

          These things are species-ending DOOMSDAY scenarios.

          The first nuclear war will obliterate the planet and CAUSE (if not immediately, but certainly over time) the deaths of something like half the population of the planet. Global warming, similarly if it's uncontrolled and we follow the worst predications.

          This is exactly the point of the clock.

          It's called DOOMSDAY for a reason. "Armageddon". End of the world. Game over. Last one out please switch off the lights

      • Now, I'm not a massive climate-change-will-kill-the-planet believer

        That is what everybody gets wrong. Climate change will not kill the planet, not even the eco system. It might however very well kill us. (Or most of us)

      • by pamar ( 538061 )

        War has ALWAYS gone on. Never have we had wars with SO FEW casualties. Certainly never have we had wars with SUCH a small percentage of the population as casualties. Historically, wars have been known to obliterate 50% of the population of a country quite easily. Same for plagues, etc.

        Is it really so? (I am asking out of genuine curiosity, or at most trying to challenge this specific point):

        From what I understand war in ancient time were fought mostly between opposite armies meeting on a more or less "agreed-upon" battlefield.
        This was more or less true for any kind of organized conflict up to WWI, and only with WWII (and the widespread use of planes as offensive weapons - so more precisely we should probably start counting from Spanish Civil War at the end of the 30s) warfare started tar

        • It's often hard to remember how devastating ancient wars were because there's no visual evidence and almost no testimony from the average population. Also, many of the deaths were indirect, as ancient warfare tended to cause widespread plague and famine.

          In the Hundred Years War (actually a series of seven wars from 1337 to 1453) between England and France, France lost over half of its population ... and that was a conflict that France won decisively.

          There were a few cultures where the situation you describ

      • Given the number and size of big collisions in the past, I'm extremely unlikely to die from an asteroid collision. One would kill lots and lots of people, but if one happens every hundred million years on the average ,and I live one hundred years, the chances are one in a million that I'll see one. I'm betting on heart disease or cancer, myself.

        Nuclear war is unlikely to happen on a big scale. On a small scale, it will kill millions, but not much beyond that. In the 1950s and early 1960s, there were

      • War has ALWAYS gone on. Never have we had wars with SO FEW casualties. Certainly never have we had wars with SUCH a small percentage of the population as casualties. Historically, wars have been known to obliterate 50% of the population of a country quite easily. Same for plagues, etc.

        Indeed. Well stated. As scary as ISIS is, during the 80's you could practically call it 'Africa'. 'Most' of the continent was that way, today they're much better off, and improving rapidly. More than enough to over-balance the increased violence in the middle east.

        There was a point in history where violence was the 2nd leading cause of death behind disease.

    • by Bongo ( 13261 )

      So why exactly 18 Nobel prize laureates are gathering to decide if it is 6 minutes or 4 minutes to the end of the world.

      If they can get it down to 3 minutes, everyone takes off their clothes and has sex.

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:39AM (#48873395)

    For all the use and meaning the clock has. The clock doesn't reflect the world state as much as it does their directors political aims of the moment.

    • Everybody knows, the symbolic pregnancy test for the anti-Christ is still the most accurate scientific indicator for doomsday. At least, the result of that test is binary. Either someone is pregnant with the anti-Christ, or no one is pregnant with the anti-Christ. Thus far, the result has been "no anti-Christ yet", which tracks pretty well with most sonograms we know about.

      5 minutes on the doomsday clock? What the hell does that even mean? Does it mean we only have 5 minutes left to live? or fifty years? or

      • by N!k0N ( 883435 )

        What the hell does that even mean? Does it mean we only have 5 minutes left to live? or fifty years? or an additional five thousand years? The claim isn't even falsifiable, since it's not anchored to any specific meaning whatsoever.

        "Midnight" = Imminent global thermonuclear war (or, these days "catastrophic climate change")
        "x Minutes to Midnight" = Indicator of how close international tensions are to breaking (or, "catastrophic climate change" -- however they define that).

        Thing is, I will agree that the clock's usage is pretty awful -- it's updated infrequently enough that it can only be considered as an indicator of the tensions for the few days before and after the actual update. For example, the Cuban Missile Crisis - arguabl

        • I think it's a good thing it's not updated too frequently, otherwise they WOULD be more tempted to respond to every crisis by moving the hands. This way, when the hands are moved, it's seen as a significant event because it IS relatively rare.

          And for those who argue that it is irrelevant to write about it before the event, it gets people thinking (and talking) about why they want to move the hands this time, and maybe look at the issues involved in a slightly different way than "yeah yeah business as usua

    • by Ragica ( 552891 )

      At least it's science-based politics, which one hopes some would consider at least better than the usual utterly self-serving and corporate greed based politics out there.

    • I agree. Several of the moves seem completely political and not realistic. For instance, the fall of the USSR should not have been seen as such a positive development for world safety. The army in Russia was severely underfunded up to and for much of the decade after the USSR dissolved, meaning the likelihood of a nuclear warhead being stolen and sold was significantly more realistic. Or worse, a rogue general going ballistic about the union breaking up.
    • It's more that the clock reflects the current global political climate.

      Ie when Pakistan and India, both nuclear powers, are duking it out, the clock goes closer to midnight.

      I strongly suspect that the announcement is due to strong rhetoric from russian leadership - I believe recently either Putin or one of his lackeys declared that they could "raze" the US. There's also been increasingly aggressive "patrols" by Russian bombers along the US and Europe, the recent sub incident in Sweden, and of course the inv

  • They will be leaping back a second [theverge.com] very soon.
  • by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @07:30AM (#48873845) Homepage Journal
    They could at least reduce the hyperbole. It would be pretty hard to doom the Earth without going through several decades that just suck, first.
  • Seriously? Proliferation of chemica/biological weapons doesn't register a nod over something as nebulous and topical as climate change?

    What an example of bald-faced political commentary. Regardless of its origins with scientists, this is now just another meaningless and pretentious art show.

  • What happens if the doomsday clock sees its shadow again?

  • by blogagog ( 1223986 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @09:15AM (#48874197)
    That clock is worse than the one in Windows that tells you how long it will take to install something.
  • I live in a DMT-1 time zone, so it's only just before 11 pm here.
  • IronMaiden link
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • So it's 11:04 EST now, and no live feed. I'm taking this to mean the clock was advanced past midnight, and we're all actually dead now.
    • by daenris ( 892027 )
      Or, based on the timer going on the livestream now, they were streaming. But there was no apparent link from either the front page or yesterday's or today's story about watching it live.
  • The doomsday clock was about nuclear war originally. When they added climate change (now that global thermonuclear war seems extremely unlikely) it was a desperate attempt to keep the clock somehow relevant. It's not. At least not unless Putin gets even crazier.

  • Five minutes before Midnight? I always thought it was nearly lunchtime!

    Perhaps if these scientists had adopted a digital clock face with military time it wouldn't have been so confusing.

  • It could also stay still and "move" can mean "move backwards", so the title is sensationalist at best.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas