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Power Science

The Doomsday Clock Is Moved Closer To Midnight 313

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.'"
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The Doomsday Clock Is Moved Closer To Midnight

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  • by nman64 ( 912054 ) * on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @06:34PM (#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.

  • Re:Eventually (Score:4, Interesting)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @06:55PM (#38657330)
    Malthusian catastrophe is:

    Hong Kong residents living in cages []

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

    The downfall of multiple governments triggered by rising food prices []

    The German quest for lebensraum [] 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.

  • by Igarden2 ( 916096 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @07:08PM (#38657488)
    Gloom and frickin doom. I wish they'd stuff that stupid clock where the sun don't shine. I'm sick of all this fear mongering. Why don't they do something to help people for once?
    There, I feel better now.
  • Re:Zeno (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @07:13PM (#38657542)

    Optimistic story: "Midnight" on the clock doesn't mean the end of the world, it basically means the current "day" of mankind is over. As in total civilization collapse, where if the human species survives it, the continuity of the previous civilization will be lost to it at best, and not even known at all at worst. Thing is, it takes at least decades for a civilization to collapse. Rome took centuries. An all-out nuclear exchange is the only exception I can think of that would do it all in a day, but that scenario looks a lot less likely.

    Story you probably don't want to hear: Put all the methane in the oceans and tundra into the atmosphere over a period of 100 years? Let's imagine what that does to the biomass. Now let's also consider that there's nothing in the chemistry of the earth that really requires that the atmosphere be composed of the percentage of oxygen that it is. The emergence of blue/green bacteria was an evolutionary quirk that caused a planetwide exinction event. Nothing preventing that from happening again if another organism decides to fill the void.

  • Re:Eventually (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gnavpot ( 708731 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @07:20PM (#38657618)

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

    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?

  • Re:Eventually (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @07:30PM (#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:Zeno (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CapOblivious2010 ( 1731402 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @08:36PM (#38658394)

    I seriously wonder what would happen if the US got nukes launched at it ... (snip)... We definitely wouldn't want to launch ours back to avoid MAD.

    Do you know how MAD works? The whole point is that we are very public about being batshit crazy, and we definitely WOULD launch ours back. Lots of them. So launching a nuke at the US is just a slightly indirect way of committing mass suicide. MAD is insane logic, no question about it - but it's been a big part of keeping the US and USSR from using nukes on each other for over half a century. As insane as it might be, it works.

    There's even a MAD argument AGAINST missile defense - as long as the US can't defeat incoming missiles, we're very unlikely to start a nuclear war. Likewise for Russia or whoever. But if anyone COULD defeat missiles, they wouldn't fear a nuclear war nearly as much, and they might even be tempted to start one. So a workable missile defense arguably makes the overall situation MORE dangerous, not less.

    Now granted, MAD works better when your enemy is a large country who values their lives - it gets a bit iffy when your enemy is a small band of religious wackos who don't much care whether they're dead or alive, as long as they've made their point.

  • Re:Zeno (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ancientt ( 569920 ) * <> on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @08:46PM (#38658494) Homepage Journal

    Spitballing here, so I freely acknowledge there are probably many issues I haven't thought through...

    How about we sell lots of safe nuclear generators to Iran? I am interested in nuclear power because it has a tremendous potential for meeting energy demands, but I also acknowledge that creating safe nuclear plants that aren't a precursor to nuclear weapons requires a high level of technical expertise. The US and China and other highly developed countries have the expertise but face a lot of public opinion inertia. Maybe we should try to produce the generators in a box (google Hyperion) and sell them to Iran with built in safety precautions. Alternatively, set up a treaty to develop thorium reactors there, which I believe are hard or impossible to weaponize.

    Either way, we could help them meet their energy goals while protecting the global interest of preventing them from developing weapons. As a side effect, we would get to use the pro-nuclear government there as a safety proving ground for new technologies. They want to take the risks and we need to show that the new technologies are safe and feasible, so we have coinciding interest, which can make a strong bond for peaceful trade.

  • Re:Zeno (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2012 @10:09PM (#38659222) Journal

    Now granted, MAD works better when your enemy is a large country who values their lives - it gets a bit iffy when your enemy is a small band of religious wackos who don't much care whether they're dead or alive, as long as they've made their point.

    MAD only works when it's really mutually assured destruction, and said destruction is complete (or nearly so, enough for all practical purposes). You can't have MAD between U.S. and Iran, or between U.S. and DPRK, because those countries couldn't significantly hurt U.S. with what they have - at best they could nuke a city or two (and even then that assumes some efficient delivery vehicle), whereas U.S. can nuke them out of existence entirely.

  • Re:Zeno (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MobyTurbo ( 537363 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @04:03AM (#38661056)
    Iran was offered safe nuclear power, i.e. that Russia or some other neutral country would do the producing of the fuel. Negotiators many times offered that as the main condition to lifting of sanctions in exchange for them stopping producing the stuff that's refine-able into nuclear weapons. Iran said no, we have to for "national pride" make it ourselves. Either they have a heck of a lot of national pride over making Uranium-235 of a grade better than what's needed for power reactors, or they are trying to acquire nukes. I suspect the latter.

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