The metaphorical Doomsday Clock is an image of a clock with its hour and minute hands set close to midnight. It was created in 1947 by concerned American scientists who were members of the Manhattan Project that had created the atomic bomb. Two such bombs were then dropped on Japan that helped end WWII in late 1945.
Only weeks afterwards, these scientists created the non-profit organization Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. They did so because, even though they had created the atomic bomb, they worried about its awesome destructive power in the future. So, at the beginning of each new year, its board members, which include 18 Nobel Laureates, decide how close to midnight the clock should be set based on the possibility of a very serious global catastrophe. Since the clock’s creation, nothing has been of more grave concern to these scientists and their sponsors than nuclear weapons. But, manmade global warming has now become their second concern.
During the peak of the Cold War, the two superpowers–the U.S. and Soviet Union–possessed a total of 70,000 nuclear bombs. But the nuclear weapons disarmament movement has resulted in the U.S. and Russia now possessing about 15,000 nuclear weapons. Yet the knowledge to create such weapons had proliferated. Presently, there are 9 nations that possess nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that 20 to 30 other nations possess the capability of making nuclear weapons.
The closest the Doomsday Clock has ever been to midnight was two minutes in 1953. At the beginning of 2015, the board moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock from five minutes to midnight to three minutes to midnight. It had not been that close to midnight since 1984. In 2016, the board left the minute hand at three minutes to midnight.
It now remains to be seen if the board will leave the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock where it is or move it. Some recent events have caused a heightened concern for many people. Read about it in my recent post, “Did the Doomsday Clock Just Move Closer to Midnight?”