Time stood still again this year -- and that’s good news for watchers of the Doomsday Clock.
For the third consecutive year, the clock’s big hand was set to 100 seconds before midnight, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced in a news release. The Doomsday Clock, which was created in the aftermath of the creation of the first atomic bombs after World War II, remains a symbol that warns the world about nuclear confrontation, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“The doorstep of doom is no place to loiter,” the agency wrote Thursday in explaining a decision that was announced virtually.
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, climate issues worldwide and the United States and Russia having a staredown over Ukraine, Thursday’s announcement appears to be an optimistic sign. However, Sharon Squassoni, the co-chairperson of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board, which sets the clock, urged caution.
“One hundred seconds to midnight reflects the Board’s judgment that we are stuck in a perilous moment -- one that brings neither stability nor security. Positive developments in 2021 failed to counteract negative, long-term trends,” Squassoni told CNN.
Scientists after World War II commissioned artist Martyl Langsdorf to create an image that would “frighten men into rationality,” according to Eugene Rabinowitch, the first editor of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
In 1947 the Cold War was heating up, and scientists wanted to show Americans how close the world was to a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union.
Langsdorf worked with several images before settling on a simple clock.
“The most significant of all was a sketch of a clock, which I made on the 8-by-11-inch back of a bound copy of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas,” Langsdorf told the Tribune. “A clock in white paint on the black binding of the Sonatas.”
The clock was originally conceived to measure nuclear threats, but in 2007 the Bulletin decided to include climate change in making its calculations, CNN reported.
The Doomsday Clock originally was set at 7 minutes to midnight, according to the Tribune. In 1953, it was placed at 2 minutes before the hour, but 10 years later it was moved back to 12 minutes. The clock was moved to three minutes before the hour in 1983 as the nuclear arms race was in full swing.
The end of the Cold War saw the clock reach its most optimistic reading -- 17 minutes before midnight -- in 1991, the Tribune reported.
Ihe Doomsday Clock is heard in the lyrics of Pink Floyd’s 1983 recording “Two Suns in the Sunset.” The clock appears in the background of Sting’s 1985 music video for the song “Russians,” according to the Tribune.
It also was featured in Yael Bartana’s play “What if Women Ruled the World” and in episodes of the television series “Madame President” and “Criminal Minds.”
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