Got a Minute? Doomsday Clock Spares One

Scientists turn back the clock on 'catastrophic destruction'

By Matt Bartosik
|  Friday, Jan 15, 2010  |  Updated 6:00 AM CDT
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When it comes to the end of the world, every minute counts.

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Every minute counts. Especially now.

On Thursday morning, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock backward one minute, setting it at six minutes to midnight.

The Doomsday Clock, a symbolic clock face, has been maintained by a board of scientists at the University of Chicago since 1947. The number of minutes is an analogy to the nuclear, environmental and technological threats to all mankind. The closer the clock is to midnight, the closer we are to "catastrophic destruction," according to the Bulletin.

The Clock's closest approach to midnight (2 minutes) was in 1953, when the United States and the Soviet Union both tested thermonuclear devices. According to the Clock, our most peaceful time (17 minutes from midnight) was in 1991, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Yesterday, the board of scientists announced that they were encouraged to see "leaders of nuclear weapons states cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material." They also noticed that "industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions".

However, the Bulletin only set the Clock back one minute because, while attitude and promises are heartening, those possibilities need to be put into action.

And the responsibility isn't just on world leaders.

"We call on citizens everywhere to raise their voices and compel public action for a safer world now and for future generations," read the announcement.

Act now, before time runs out.

Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.

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