The minute hand of the famous Doomsday Clock is set to move this Thursday, and for the first time, anyone with Internet access can watch. Which way the hand will move and by how much have not been made public.
The event will take place at 10 a.m. EST on Jan. 14 at the New York Academy of Sciences Building in New York City. While the actual clock is housed at the Bulletin of Atomic Sciences offices in Chicago, Ill., a representation of the clock will be changed at Thursday's news conference. (You can watch the live Web feed at www.TurnBackTheClock.org.)
The last time the Doomsday Clock minute hand moved was in January 2007, when it was pushed forward by two minutes, from seven to five minutes before midnight. The change was meant to reflect two major sources of potential catastrophe that could bring us closer to "doomsday," according to the board of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a magazine focused on warning the world of the dangers that the invention of the atomic bomb helped to unleash.
According to the board, the looming dangers included: the perils of 27,000 nuclear weapons, 2,000 of them ready to launch within minutes; and the destruction of human habitats from climate change.
The factors influencing the latest Doomsday Clock change include international negotiations on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, expansion of civilian nuclear power, the possibilities of nuclear terrorism, and climate change.
In December 1945, University of Chicago scientists who had helped to develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project created "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists." The Bulletin's board of directors then in 1947 came up with the idea of a Doomsday Clock to symbolize these threats. The message is that humans are "a few minutes to midnight," where midnight represents destruction by nuclear weapons, climate change and emerging technologies in the life sciences.
The hands of the clock move in response to changing world events, marching forward or back depending on the state of the world and the prospects of nuclear war.
When the Doomsday Clock debuted in 1947, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was occurring, with the time showing seven minutes to midnight. The time has since changed 18 times.
The closest approach to Doomsday occurred in 1953, when the clock was changed to two minutes to midnight after the United States and the Soviet Union each tested thermonuclear devices within nine months of one another.
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