What is The Doomsday Clock?


Garrett Clarke, Senior Editor

The Doomsday Clock was created in June 1947 by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists as a figure to show how close the world is to man-made extinction. Since then, it has moved 25 times; the furthest it has ever been from midnight is 24 minutes. The closest it has been is 100 seconds set in 2020 during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, which was part of The Cold War. A nuclear race between the United States and what was then the U.S.S.R. (Short for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and is now Russia. The Cuban Missile Crisis is considered the closest that the two nations came to nuclear war. During this time, the Doomsday Clock stood from seven minutes to midnight. 

Now is a good time to introduce the DEFCON (Defense Readiness Condition) system which is sometimes confused with the Doomsday Clock. The DEFCON system is numbered one to five. Five (Fade Out) being the lowest state of readiness, four (Double Take) above normal readiness with slightly heightened security and intelligence, three (Round House) increased readiness of force with the Air Force ready to mobilize in 15 minutes, two (Fast Pace) being ready to deploy armed forces in less than six hours, and one (Cocked Pistol) maximum readiness and means that The United States is on the brink of nuclear war or it has already begun. At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis the United States was at DEFCON two

The difference is that The DEFCON system shows the United States readiness for warfare and The Doomsday Clock which is used internationally is intended to be a warning for a man-made extinction, and in 2007 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist began to consider global warming into the criteria for man-made extinction. “The Doomsday Clock is a design that warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making. It is a metaphor, a reminder of the perils we must address if we are to survive on the planet,” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists said. 

On Jan. 24 at 7 a.m. PST The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists will announce the new time of The Doomsday Clock. Since it was announced on Jan. 20 of last year, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was Feb. 24, 2022, which meant it was not seen as a reason for the clock to move closer to midnight. However, an update was posted on March 7 of 2022 ” With Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening to elevate nuclear alert levels and even first use of nuclear weapons if NATO steps in to help Ukraine. This is what 100 seconds to midnight looks like,” an excerpt from The Bulletin’s update reads. 

Regardless of whether The Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight or goes unchanged the goal of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist is to “Turn back the clock”. On the 2022 announcement addressed to “leaders and citizens of the world” The Bulletin believes that there is still a chance to stray further from midnight. From going green to ending tensions between country’s who are stockpiling warheads and building silos. There are plenty of ways some more effective than others that could help save the world from a catastrophic end.