New Humanist magazine asks Lawrence M Krauss to explain the Doomsday Clock rewind
Consider these two quotations:
“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything, save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe” – Albert Einstein, 1946.
“Arrogant&naive2say man overpowers nature” – Sarah Palin, 2009, tweetingabout the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change.
These two statements reflect different aspects of the current dilemmas facing those of us who, for one reason or another, think about possible global catastrophes and how we might avert them. In January, on behalf of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS), I announced that the Doomsday Clock – established in 1947 by scientists who had worked on the first atomic bomb in 1945 – was to be moved back by one minute from its previous setting of five minutes to midnight – five minutes to Doomsday. As of 14 January, it reads six minutes to midnight.
This is the 19th time the clock has been adjusted since its inception. It was closest to midnight (two minutes) in 1953, when the United States and the Soviet Union tested thermonuclear weapons within six months of each other. It was set farthest back in 1992, at 17 minutes to midnight, as the Soviet Union dissolved.
The decision to add a minute – taken by the BAS Science and Security Board in consultation with the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 19 Nobel Laureates – reflects our sense that the world has entered a potentially more positive phase in dealing with the big twin threats of nuclear weapons and climate change.