Still Three Minutes to Midnight

January 26, 2016 6:44 PM

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In 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published, on its cover, a “Doomsday Clock.” The clock was designed to represent the existential threat to humanity posed by nuclear weapons. That year, it was set at 11:53, or “seven minutes to midnight.” In 1953, following American and Soviet tests of the hydrogen bomb, the clock reached 11:58, or two minutes to midnight (the closest to doomsday it’s ever been). At the end of the Cold War, in 1991, it was turned back to 11:43, or seventeen minutes to midnight (its furthest from doomsday). In total, in the past sixty-nine years, the clock has been changed twenty-two times, giving the world an easy way to gauge the likelihood that our species will destroy itself.

I am privileged to chair the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, a group of scientists, including sixteen Nobel laureates, that was created by Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer after the Second World War to advise the Bulletin. As a result, I also work with the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board, ...

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