Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Power Science

The Doomsday Clock Is Moved Closer To Midnight 313

Posted by Soulskill
from the making-up-for-gained-time dept.
Harperdog writes "The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock from 6 minutes to midnight to 5 minutes to midnight. The Board deliberated on the decision and came to the conclusion based on a variety of events: failure on climate policy, Fukushima, nuclear proliferation, etc. This article is a good explanation of the policy decision. Lawrence Krauss said, 'As we see it, the major challenge at the heart of humanity's survival in the 21st century is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons, and in fact setting the stage for global reductions.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Doomsday Clock Is Moved Closer To Midnight

Comments Filter:
  • Zeno (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sebastopol (189276) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:11PM (#38656750) Homepage

    This is so stupid. I'm a lefty eco groovy person, but this is just pathetic. Almost as sad as Heston's "From my cold dead hands" battlecry.

    It just puts emphasis on the moonbats on the left, and ammo for Faux News, rather than addressing the issues in a non sensationalist way.

    Sigh.

    • Re:Zeno (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:13PM (#38656768)

      They're just trying to stay relevant. We all forgot about them when the Cold War ended, and they crave attention again.

      • Re:Zeno (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:17PM (#38656830)

        They're just trying to stay relevant. We all forgot about them when the Cold War ended, and they crave attention again.

        You may have been joking/snarky/whatever, I'm not sure; but in all seriousness - I'd completely forgot about these guys and their "doomsday clock" until I saw this Slashdot story!

        • We've all been too busy battling manbearpig to forget about all those nuclear weapons from the 1970s that are supposedly on "hair-triggers"

        • Yea, all the NBC/WMD that were made during the cold ware are gone now, right? Lets have a party.
      • by mr1911 (1942298)

        They're just trying to stay relevant. We all forgot about them when the Cold War ended, and they crave attention again.

        That assumes they were once relevant.

    • by Synerg1y (2169962)

      I don't think anybody takes it serious, do they?

      Another relic from the cold war...

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_Clock [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:Zeno (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:32PM (#38657008)
      So we can sit here and take turns throwing feces at the idea of a doomsday clock, or we could have an interesting discussion on whether it is possible to meet the world's future energy needs(?) without destroying the environment and/or nuclear proliferation.
      • Re:Zeno (Score:5, Funny)

        by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:39PM (#38657122)
        There's no reason we can't do both. I'm certain we can meet our energy needs, but maybe not our energy wants. Now where is that clock... *fling* *splat*
    • by uberjack (1311219)
      I'm curious as to what they'll do when "the Doomsday clock" is at 11:59, and they feel like they need to forward it yet again - without an actual doomsday. This _is_ imbecilic, and you can't get any more tinfoil-hat than this.
      • I'd say we can consider 11:59 to be reserved for two nuclear powers directly engaging in a (conventional) hot war with one another, or something equally risky in terms of chances of nukes flying. It's not like it only ever moves closer to midnight.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by BenSchuarmer (922752)
        That's when Dick Clark goes on TV live from Time Square.
    • Agreed. The doomsday clock should have nothing to do with climate change. unless of course, in 5 minutes some super volcano is going to errupt and kill everyone.

      The only thing they should be caring about is the fatty (a little ironic considering the food shortage issues North Korea has been facing) in charge of North Korea and those nuclear but jobs in Iran

      • by russotto (537200)

        Climate change is in there because since the fall of the Soviet Union, no-shit world-ending catastrophe just isn't likely. Putin, the Chinese communist leaders, and Obama are all too busy enjoying wealth and power to blow it all up. Same goes for England and France. The lesser nuclear powers don't have what it takes to destroy the world. So to attempt to regains some relevance for the doomsday clock, they threw climate change in there.

    • Re:Zeno (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Baloroth (2370816) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:40PM (#38657136)
      The real problem is that the clock wasn't intended to represent things like climate change. The entire idea was to show how close we were to the world ending tomorrow. Climate change and the like won't end the world tomorrow. The clock really only even makes sense in the context of nuclear war or other dramatic world-changing events (Doomsday). It isn't called the "Doomcentury" clock for good reason.
      • Couldn't it be argued that climate change would tend to increase the likelihood of military conflict, and thus the risk of nuclear war? That's what I assumed they meant when I saw that in the summary.

    • Re:Zeno (Score:4, Insightful)

      by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:58PM (#38657378) Journal

      Why is it part of any political spectrum? what kind of a US centric shitpost is that? I'd say the doomsday clock is significant at doing what it does for the reasons it does, which are not at all political.

      How about the fact that the world is generally on a decline? Economies falling due to greed and corruption, change being stifled, advancing our society via positive means being directly subverted by greed. That isn't part of $political-stance and is a part of that is that being on a decline long enough does equal significant military outcomes of negative effect.

      While it is labeled as doomsday, it is a honest enough indicator of "how's the world doing overall?".

    • This is so stupid. I'm a lefty eco groovy person, but this is just pathetic. Almost as sad as Heston's "From my cold dead hands" battlecry.

      It just puts emphasis on the moonbats on the left, and ammo for Faux News, rather than addressing the issues in a non sensationalist way.

      Sigh.

      I prefer the battlecry, "From my cold dead ass!" a la The Matrix.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We have a doomsday clock.

  • Eventually (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mpeskett (1221084) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:13PM (#38656766)

    Sooner or later they're going to box themselves into a corner - they only have so many discrete 1-minute steps they can take before they find that the world is more fucked up than they thought possible, but somehow still carrying on.

    Then what? Leave it at 1-minute to midnight, or edge ever closer in smaller and smaller increments?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:19PM (#38656862)

      "Today, the Doomsday Clock moved from 11:59:59.98 to 11:59:59.99, signaling that once again, scientists have proved that there are no simple metaphors that can't be abused beyond the point of utility."

    • Re:Eventually (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ArsonSmith (13997) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:22PM (#38656892) Journal

      "A symbolic clock is as emotionally reassuring as a picture of oxygen to a drowning man." -Dr. Manhattan

      • by mrbester (200927)
        First thing I thought of on seeing "Doomsday Clock" in the headline was Watchmen; didn't know it still existed.
      • by necrogram (675897)

        Now we just need Doc Manhattan to start shredding the riff from Iron Maiden's "Two Minutes to Midnight" while riding a bomb down and i think we'll have all the pop culture references covered

    • Re:Eventually (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chuq (8564) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:29PM (#38656970) Homepage Journal

      You are aware that sometimes the clock moves AWAY from midnight?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Doomsday_Clock_graph.svg [wikipedia.org]

      • by mpeskett (1221084)
        Just my pessimism showing through there. I know it goes both ways but I assume it's going to get closer to armageddon more often that it gets further away.
      • Re:Eventually (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hentes (2461350) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:58PM (#38657372)

        Which is exactly not the behaviour you would expect from a clock. The metaphor is flawed.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "Doomsday Yardstick" doesn't exactly have the same ring to it.

        • Re:Eventually (Score:4, Insightful)

          by LordKronos (470910) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:19PM (#38659720) Homepage

          Which is exactly not the behaviour you would expect from a clock. The metaphor is flawed.

          Flawed? Please, I'll take their clock any day. So it moves backward on average 1-2 times per decade. Big deal. My clock has to do it once per year.

      • Re:Eventually (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Gnavpot (708731) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @06:20PM (#38657618)

        You are aware that sometimes the clock moves AWAY from midnight?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Doomsday_Clock_graph.svg [wikipedia.org]
         

        Interesting graph. It shows that the world was a safer place in the early sixties when the Cuban Missile Crisis almost started World War III.

        How many simultaneous nuclear power plant failures would it take to end the world in the same way a WW III would have done?

        What is the probability of all those failures happening now vs. the probability of a WW III happening in 1962?

        • by radtea (464814)

          It shows that the world was a safer place in the early sixties when the Cuban Missile Crisis almost started World War III.

          Sure, because there was a charismatic Democrat in the White House. The "Bulletin of the Chemists" is a purely political organization that has always pushed a moderate Leftist agenda. As political lobbying organizations go they are relatively benign, but they should be recognized for exactly what they are: a group of moderate lefties who figured they could avoid defending their policies on their merits if instead they distracted everyone by "OMG we're all gonna die if you don't follow my plan" rhetoric.

          Mu

    • Re:Eventually (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:29PM (#38656976)
      This is what happened to (neo-)Malthusianism. Every generation since Malthus has predicted disaster at some invented threshold, and over and over these thresholds are surpassed. Humanity is immeasurably adaptable, precisely because when the crunch comes previously impossible things are made possible by that adaptability.

      I think that this move is particularly disingenuous and calls into question the group's whole integrity considering that the real, global effect of Fukushima has been nation after nation scaling back and drawing down nuclear power. I personally think it's retarded, but nonetheless it should be counted as one the most major changes in direction in the nuclear power industry in a generation, and this group thinks it has the opposite effect? There's just no pleasing some people, obviously.
      • Re:Eventually (Score:4, Interesting)

        by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:55PM (#38657330)
        Malthusian catastrophe is:

        Hong Kong residents living in cages [weirdasianews.com]

        China's One Child policy, and millions waiting for days in swamped transportation arteries [rottentomatoes.com] for a shot at seeing their families once per year.

        The downfall of multiple governments triggered by rising food prices [internatio...wpoint.org]

        The German quest for lebensraum [wikipedia.org] from 1939-1945.

        Now, you could argue those are all matters of resource allocation, rather than shortages per se. But what I see in the world is that as resources become scarce, they are distributed less equitably, not more.

        • Re:Eventually (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @06:30PM (#38657742)
          HK generally speaking has fairly high standard of living, and the exceptions that exist are the same sort of exceptions that exist everywhere, just with a different culture spin (I don't see anybody whining about the Japanese pod hotels... just doesn't have the same dramatic impact of cages). Density is so high there because everybody wants it. There's plenty of empty space in the world, but people don't want to be in empty space. They want culture and amenities, and will go to great lengths to stack themselves on top of those.

          Fertility rate has seen massive drops in almost every nation over the last several decades, so China's draconian measures are redundant to the world norm.

          Blaming Arab Spring on food prices is utter nonsense. All the nations "afflicted" with these revolutions had one thing in common: single-party dictatorships in power for decades. People were not fighting over the price of rice, they were fighting because these states had imprisoned and killed their family members. That's what's happening in Syria right now. The most generous way this could be bent to your perspective is that it was the government response to popular discontent about economic issues that catalyzed these revolutions. But where these economic issues have afflicted states with more open governments revolutions have not occurred. It is the combination of poor government and poor economic conditions, not economic conditions alone, that result in these events.

          The German situation was entirely political and doctrinal. Germany had in fact completely rectified its post-WWI economic issues before the opening of WWII. The whole German population could have lived in comfort and peace if it weren't for the political motives of Hitler and the rest of NSDAP leadership. (This is leaving out the more or less imminent thread presented by Stalin, where there is generally a consensus among historians that if Hitler hadn't started the war, Stalin would have in his stead.)

          So yes, none of these constitute Malthusian catastrophe, especially since none have impacted more than a nation here or there (WWII I don't even count for the reason above.)
      • Re:Eventually (Score:5, Informative)

        by djmurdoch (306849) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @06:53PM (#38657982)

        Re Fukushima: If you read the statement you'd see that they find the problem arising from Fukushima is that it caused a reduction in the amount of nuclear power being used, leading to increased reliance on burning fossil fuels.

        They'd like safer reactor designs, so more people use nuclear power.

        So what's that about integrity? You complain about them, without reading what they wrote?

    • Re:Eventually (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bughunter (10093) <bughunter&earthlink,net> on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:31PM (#38656994) Journal

      Well perhaps the clock metaphor isn't doing them service anymore if the majority of reactions are to the metaphor than the message.

      Ultimately the point is, "we're going to pollute ourselves into the stone age." If that bit is being lost because the clock metaphor is becoming trite, then perhaps they should look for a new analogy.

      This being slashdot, I think you know what I'm driving at...

      • by mpeskett (1221084)

        This being slashdot, I think you know what I'm driving at...

        I believe I do. Car analogy time! That's what you were driving at, right?

        So the group of nuclear scientists should instead be adjusting the AC on the car of civilisation, to represent whether nuclear tensions have cooled off or heated up.

        Because of course if you turn the heater up too high, chances are you'll get all irritable, fly off the handle at some idiot who doesn't know how to drive, and launch an ICBM strike against that asshole who keeps tailgating you.

    • It can move to after midnight, at which point the world ends up being a truly terrible place. Once the world is at peace again, it can move back to before midnight.
    • by 32771 (906153)

      Well sometimes like during the cuban missile crisis, it could have all been over at 7 minutes to midnight.

      I liked their reasons much better:

      "It is five minutes to midnight. Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face. In many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed. For that reason, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is moving the clock hand one minute closer to midnight, back to its time in 2007."

      At some time in the future the world migh

    • One one hand I agree with you, sure the world may have looked pretty bad in 1947, but starting it at 5 to didn't really leave them much room for if the situation got worse.

      On the other hand, it all depends on what you mean by "carrying on." The world "carried on" through 1939-1945, but that'd probably be at midnight on the clock.

  • This is purely a fear mongering political protest.
    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      Politics is no place for nuclear weapons policy! :)

      (I mean like, you're right, but you're expressing an opprobrium that is totally unjustified. Some dudes say nukes aren't a problem, some dudes do, some dudes sell bomb shelters and iodine tablets, some dudes draw pictures of clocks. Nuclear power is intensively political, and the BAS doesn't really make any pretensions to scientific proof. That's why they're "concerned" in the first place.)

    • by Trepidity (597)

      I don't think they ever claimed that the number of minutes on the Doomsday Clock was a scientifically calculated probability or anything. Even back in 1947, it was intended as a symbolic statement. The only thing that's arguably changed is that it's outlived its usefulness and is no longer an effective statement in the way it used to be.

      • by g0bshiTe (596213)
        I disagree and think it's just as relevant. If it promotes discussion then it serves it's purpose to remind us of what may be.
  • so close! (Score:5, Funny)

    by quaketripp (621850) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:15PM (#38656794)
    A few more minutes and we can start playing "2 minutes to midnight" by Iron Maiden!
  • uh huh (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by shentino (1139071)

    Yeah yeah right right.

    Nice way to distract everyone from SOPA isn't it?

  • 'As we see it, the major challenge at the heart of humanity's survival in the 21st century is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons, and in fact setting the stage for global reductions.'

    I've held a very similar opinion for many, many years (as have many others, I'm certain). After reading this quote, I had two immediate reactions, one hopeful and one cynical:

    1. I'd like to think that safe, clean fusion power is just around the corner. I've become less convinced of this over the years but am still holding out hope. Can anything else provide the power levels and the energy densities required to sustain a technological urban society's advancement on the Kardashev scale?

    2. And we wonder whe

    • I'm more inclined to say that this implicit assumption of 'infinite growth' is more part of the problem than anything else. Endless growth is the paradigm of the cancer cell, and not a good model for civilization.

  • I was going to ask:
    How is this "News for nerds - stuff that matters?"

    But it looks like /. dropped that tagline. And a good thing, too, since this is just crap.

    • by forkfail (228161)

      Maybe because the clock is run by nerd types? One of the few truly public venues where nerds get to tell the rest of the world how badly they're screwing things up...

    • by mark-t (151149)
      I can still see the tagline on the slashdot home page. What are you talking about?
      • by kwerle (39371)

        I realized, belatedly, that it is still in the title. Used to be prominent in the page - as I recall.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:25PM (#38656922)

    I have it on authority, that next year's doomsday criteria will include sasquatch sightings.

  • They forgot to mention the coming war with Iran. Like it or not, for reason or without, it is coming.
  • Sounds like someone needs their pet social experiment to be funded.

  • by nman64 (912054) * on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @05:34PM (#38657044) Homepage

    So, a doomsday clock that started at 11:53 in 1947 is now at 11:55... based upon that rate of advancement (2 minutes per 65 years, obviously ignoring any other adjustments), we should be safe for over a century and a half. I've heard far more alarming predictions than that. Nothing to see here.

    • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @06:09PM (#38657490) Journal

      So, a doomsday clock that started at 11:53 in 1947 is now at 11:55... based upon that rate of advancement (2 minutes per 65 years, obviously ignoring any other adjustments), we should be safe for over a century and a half. I've heard far more alarming predictions than that. Nothing to see here.

      Personally I find it very alarming that a group of nuclear scientists can't even make a clock that doesn't work at a consistent rate. Perhaps what they need is to invent an atomic clock ;-)

  • We managed not to incinerate ourselves (yet) in nuclear fire, but we sure do seem to be doing a heck of a job of destroying the ecosystem that we are a part of, soiling our nests, devouring our resources like locust on steroids, and generally acting with all the foresight of bacteria in a sealed Petri dish.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Assuming that you ignore the fact that 'the environment' in Western nations is vastly better off than it was in 1947. We don't get thousands of people dying in a London smog these days, for example.

    • Maybe Prometheus' Challenge had nothing to do with atomics. Maybe all along it's been how we can stop ourselves from roasting the planet to a cinder.

  • I was unaware that the clock was used for anything other than how close we were to nuclear war.
  • When the clock strikes midnight and nothing happens....

    • by mark-t (151149)
      The doomsday clock is not to be interpreted as predictor of the end of the world. It is an reflection of how realistically close we are to global thermonuclear war When the clock "strikes midnight" it will be because a war has already escalated to that level.
  • If they had sex with a supermodel they'd be complaining that it ruined their sex life forever.

  • Fukushima might have been a disaster, but it's not something that can cause the end of the world. What's the point in including it?

  • by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @06:11PM (#38657522)

    There is nothing scientific about this clock, and most scientists would surely admit it. It is political and is meant to sway public opinion. So what we have here are either a) fake scientists, b) real scientists shooting themselves in the foot, or c) politicians.

    The whole point of the scientific method is to be grounded on evidence and be void of any political, social, or even personal biases. I have nothing against this silly clock, but as long as science lends its name to garbage such as this, science will always have a hard time in politics claiming itself to be scientific.

  • by Hasai (131313) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @12:59PM (#38665416)
    Throughout history, the most accurate depiction of human civilization is that of a man running for his life, with a pack of ravening wolves snapping at his heels. So; what else is new?

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe

Working...