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What is the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists?

Introduction
What is the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists?
  • The US based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists who "couldn't remain aloof to the consequences of their work."
  • It publishes and debates topics of nuclear weapons and disarmament, the changing energy landscape, climate change, and emerging technologies.
  • It was originally started as a newsletter, but expanded to become a magazine, an academic journal and a website.

What was the Manhattan Project?

Fact
Information

The Manhattan Project was a secret military project created in 1942 to produce the first US nuclear weapon over fears that Nazi Germany would build and use one during World War II. It was originally based in Manhattan, New York.

What is the Doomsday Clock?

The Clock
What is the Doomsday Clock?
  • The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock face, representing a countdown to possible global catastrophe including nuclear wars, climate change, etc.
  • It has been maintained since 1947 by the members of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
  • The closer the clock is to midnight, the closer the scientists believe the world is to global disaster.

Why was the clock set up?

Origins
Why was the clock set up?
  • Originally, the clock was set up as an analogy to the threat of global nuclear war, in the wake of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
  • It was a direct result of the US and USSR's nuclear arms race that ensued post-WW2.
  • Over time, the factors that affect the clock's time have been expanded to include climate change, bio-technology and cyber security as well.

When does it change?

Fact
Information

The clock is not moved every year. At times when scientists and members of the board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists feel that significant events are shaping the history of mankind, they change the timer to reflect the urgency of the situation.

The cold-war era

Key Milestones
The cold-war era
  • After the USSR tested its first nuclear weapon in 1949, the clock was moved for the first time to 23:57.
  • In 1953-54, the US and USSR tested their first thermonuclear devices, bringing the clock the closest it's ever been to destruction at 23:58.
  • The 1980s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the US decision to arm satellites in space were key milestones in this era.

Recent milestones for the clock

Recent Events
Recent milestones for the clock
  • After the end of the cold-war, the timer remained in double digits throughout the 1990s, until India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, bringing the timer to 23:51, 9 minutes to midnight.
  • The clock was moved to 23:53 and 23:55 in 2002 (post 9/11) and 2007 (climate change).
  • It improved to 23:54 in 2010, but came down to 23:55 in 2012 (post Fukushima).

Climate change, regional conflicts

Fact
Information

In 2007, for the first time, climate change was included as a factor for setting the clock's timer. In 2012, the threats posed by regional conflicts were also included.

Doomsday Clock: It's 3 minutes to midnight

27 Jan 2016
Doomsday Clock: It's 3 minutes to midnight
  • The Doomsday Clock, a symbolic countdown to the world's end, stands still at three minutes until midnight, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced.
  • Scientists said factors including North Korea's nuclear weapons tests and worsening climate change scenarios resulted in this year's time being set to 23:57 (3 minutes to midnight).
  • The last time the clock's hands moved, was in 2012 to 23:55.