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What is the Doomsday Clock and how close is it to midnight?

Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight

Will the Doomsday Clock stay at 100 seconds to midnight? (Picture: Getty Images)

How close are we to the end of the Earth?

That was the small matter up for debate every year when scientists determine the time on the Doomsday Clock.

The past few years have seen the world facing some huge challenges, with most of 2022 dominated by the Ukraine war, and fears of escalation into a wider – or even nuclear – conflict.

Recent times have also seen us facing the unprecedented challenge of the Covid pandemic, which continues to cause chaos in many parts of the world as new variants appear, causing case numbers in some countries to spike all over again.

The 2023 time is due to be set – but just what is the Doomsday Clock, and what time is it currently at?

What is the Doomsday Clock?

The Doomsday Clock was designed to represent how high the threat is of a global catastrophe.

Since its inception in 1947, the Doomsday Clock has warned humanity how close the world is to catastrophe every year, with midnight being the time of the apocalypse.

The Doomsday Clock's 2021 setting

Where will the Doomsday Clock land this year? (Picture: PA)

The idea was first introduced in the first magazine edition of the Bulletin which was published in June 1947.

The inspiration behind the idea of the Doomsday Clock was the growing threat of nuclear weapons following the Second World War, particularly with the growing tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States.

The Doomsday Clock works by judging how near the minute hand is to midnight – simply put – the nearer it is, the closer the Earth is to disaster.

The position of the minute hand is measured on the threat of nuclear attacks, climate change, cyber warfare and bioterrorism – anything that brings the end of the world a little closer.

Members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveil the changes made on the Doomsday Clock (Picture: Getty)

What time is the Doomsday Clock at?

In recent times the Doomsday Clock has been set at 100 seconds to midnight – making it the closest to armageddon it has ever been.

The Clock has moved closer to midnight in three of the last four years prior to 2022. While it did not move in 2019, its minute hand was set forward in 2018 by 30 seconds, to two minutes before midnight

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Incidentally, two days after Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, the Doomsday Clock was moved 30 seconds closer to midnight.

There was no change to the clock’s time in 2021 or 2022, despite a whirlwind 2020.

Who controls the Doomsday Clock?

The Doomsday Clock is set once a year by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

In the beginning, Manhattan Project scientist and Bulletin editor Eugene Rabinowitch decided when, and how much, to move the clock.

But since Rabinowitch’s death in 1973, the clock has been set by members of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board together with the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes more than a dozen Nobel laureates and other international experts in key technologies.

Decision-makers meet twice yearly to debate and discuss whether the actions of international leaders have made the world safer or more dangerous than it was in the previous year.

Where is the Doomsday Clock located?

The Doomsday Clock in 2018

The clock, pictured here in 2018, has gradually been moving closer to midnight in recent years (Picture: Getty Images)

Currently, the Doomsday Clock resides in Chicago.

it is located at the Bulletin offices in the Keller Center, home to the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. 

How has the clock changed since 1947?

1947 – 48: 7 minutes
1949 – 52: 3 minutes
1953 – 59: 2 minutes
1960 – 62: 7 minutes
1963 – 67: 12 minutes
1968: 7 minutes
1969 – 71: 10 minutes
1972 – 73: 12 minutes
1974 – 79: 9 minutes
1980: 7 minutes
1981 – 83: 4 minutes
1984 – 87: 3 minutes
1988 – 89: 6 minutes
1990: 10 minutes
1991 – 94: 17 minutes
1995 – 97: 14 minutes
1998 – 2001: 9 minutes
2002 – 06: 7 minutes
2007 – 09: 5 minutes
2010 – 11: 6 minutes
2012 – 14: 5 minutes
2015 – 16: 3 minutes
2017 – 2.5 minutes
2018 – 2 minutes
2019 – 2 minutes
2020 – 100 seconds
2021 – 100 seconds

Doomsday ‘prepper’ turned home into ‘bomb factory and set 40 off in back garden’

MORE : Nuclear ‘Armageddon’ risk ‘highest since Cuban missile crisis’, says Joe Biden

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