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Time check: Examining the Doomsday Clock’s move to 100 seconds to midnight

Two different protest posters side by side.

Enlarge / The Doomsday Clock reads 100 seconds to midnight, a decision made by The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, during an announcement at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on January 23, 2020. (credit: EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images)

Today, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists released a statement that the group’s Science and Security Board had moved the hands on the symbolic Doomsday Clock forward by 20 seconds to 100 seconds before midnight. Since the advent of the Doomsday Clock—even in the peak years of the Cold War—the clock’s minute hand has never before been advanced past the 11:58 mark.

In a statement on the change, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists President and CEO Rachel Bronson said:

As far as the Bulletin and the Doomsday Clock are concerned, the world has entered into the realm of the two-minute warning, a period when danger is high and the margin for error low. The moment demands attention and new, creative responses. If decision makers continue to fail to act—pretending that being inside two minutes is no more urgent than the preceding period—citizens around the world should rightfully echo the words of climate activist Greta Thunberg and ask: “How dare you?”

Before 2017, the clock had not been at that mark since 1953—the year in which the United States and the Soviet Union both conducted atmospheric tests of their first thermonuclear bombs. Even during the Reagan years—during which the world came the closest it had ever come to a nuclear war—the clock was advanced only as far as three minutes before midnight. And in the fictional world of the original Watchmen comic books, the clock never advanced past five minutes to midnight.

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