Published on February 8th, 2019 | by Danielle


The New Abnormal: Doomsday Clock Set At 2 Minutes To Midnight Second Year In A Row

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) has announced the 2019 position of the Doomsday Clock. This symbolic timekeeper has been gauging the severity of global peril for decades, but the most recent placement is among the direst.

For only the third time since the BAS created the clock in 1947, the clock is set at 11:58, just two minutes before midnight, the marker for the apocalypse.

The first time the Doomsday clock indicated such disaster was in 1953, just after the Soviet Union and the United States tested incredibly destructive hydrogen bombs. The second time was only last year.

Rachel Bronson, BAS President and CEO, warns that this stability between 2018 and 2019 is not good news for the world.

“It’s a state that features an unpredictable and shifting landscape of simmering disputes that multiply the chances for major conflict to erupt. This new abnormal is simply too volatile and too dangerous to accept as a continuing state of world affairs,” said Bronson of the clock’s maintained position.

As 25 million households in the United States use a GPS in their vehicles to keep track of their position while traveling, the BAS uses the Doomsday Clock to track the state of global diplomacy, the environment, and other factors that influence mankind’s longevity on this planet. When explaining the clock’s position for 2019, the BAS cited worrying developments such as increased carbon emissions from some nations and continuing diplomatic schisms around the world.

The bulletin pointed to nuclear weapons and climate change as the two most significant and ongoing threats to mankind. In the announcement of the clock’s placement on Jan. 24, the group also warned that the rise of “fake news” has only made these two threats even more dangerous.

“It’s a terrible world in which rage and fantasy replace truth,” cautioned Herb Lin, a senior research scholar for cyber police and security from Stanford University, at the announcement.

While humans have been keeping time for between 5,000 and 6,000 years, the BAS has been metaphorically counting down to the apocalypse for just over 70 years. When artist Martyl Langsdorf conceived the clock’s design in 1947, the world did not have the current digital information warfare to which Lin is referring.

However, the concerns that birthed the Doomsday Clock still surrounded the use of nuclear weapons. Scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project to produce the first nuclear weapons in the world founded the BAS to voice their concerns about the consequences of their creation. Langsdorf was married to a nuclear physicist in the group, Alexander Langsdorf, and created the clock as a visual illustration of the group’s concerns.

When creating the clock, Langsdorf first set its hands at seven minutes to midnight. Her husband moved it four minutes in 1949, and since then the BAS board has determined how far the minute hand will move every year. The board has set it as far back as 17 minutes to midnight when the end of the Cold War brought about a more hopeful outlook for the world.

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