Azara Blog: It is allegedly 5 minutes to midnight

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Date published: 2007/01/17

The BBC says:

Experts assessing the dangers posed to civilisation have added climate change to the prospect of nuclear annihilation as the greatest threats to humankind.

As a result, the group has moved the minute hand on its famous "Doomsday Clock" two minutes closer to midnight.

The concept timepiece, devised by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, now stands at five minutes to the hour.

The clock was first featured by the magazine 60 years ago, shortly after the US dropped its A-bombs on Japan.

Not since the darkest days of the Cold War has the Bulletin, which covers global security issues, felt the need to place the minute hand so close to midnight.

Presumably the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, fearing condemnation to an obscure future, chose to pull the usual current rabbit out of the hat, climate change, to make themselves look relevant once more. After 60 years of crying wolf (they have always put us at less than 20 minutes to midnight), it is no wonder that people are getting bored with this whole lark. Of course since all species eventually go extinct, eventually these people will be proved to be correct. Civilisation will end. With or without nuclear bombs.

For the sake of a bit of maths, let's assume that civilisation is 10000 years old (that's above what most historians would say it was, but let's be conservative), and let's assume that this represents the beginning of the 24 hours of the clock. Then 5 minutes out of 24 hours represents around 35 years. It's always a good idea when you are proclaiming the end of the world to make sure it is far enough in the future that nobody is around to care when you are proven to be wrong (and certainly nobody is around to care if by some miracle you are proven to be correct). As it happens, the average time to midnight since 1947 has been around 8.3 minutes, which on the same assumptions represents around 57 years. So the world should have ended in 2004. And indeed, many people viewed the re-election of Bush in 2004 as the end of the world.

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