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News Doomsday Clock Update

  1. Jan 27, 2017 #1
    The new setting is 2 1/2 minutes to midnight. The only year they made it closer was 1953, after the first H-bomb was detonated, when they set it to 2 minutes to midnight. They have a PDF which explains their reasons. I do not necessarily endorse their reasoning. But it's good to think about our situation.

    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 27, 2017 #2
    Lets begin by exploring why you do not necessarily endorse their reasoning.
  4. Jan 27, 2017 #3
    Ignore that warning at your own peril. The "clock" is real, not a joke. This really concerns me. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. As Noam Chomsky is fast to acknowledge, the two biggest threats we face today are the nuclear "powder keg" we are sitting on and climate change. These are the two likely ones that will get us if we don't get pro-active. I'm much less concerned about cyberthreats, artificial intelligence, etc.

  5. Jan 27, 2017 #4
    I agree with you. I have already made several posts about climate change and nuclear war. Of course nuclear war likely means nuclear winter as well. I believe we could survive some climate change. I don't believe we could survive nuclear war, at least not for very long.

    Another point is that climate change can lead to war. I read an article on the civil war in Syria, claiming that the original cause was a massive crop failure due to a drought, and the fact so many Syrians were outraged at the way it was handled. There could have been other factors for all I know. But there's no doubt that wars have been fought over natural resources, whatever the stated reason may have been.


    I have always had the feeling we are living on borrowed time. I'm not qualified to say if we are at 2 minutes, 5 minutes, or whatever. I tend to trust the Bulletin guys in their assessment. I'm not qualified to endorse or not endorse. I just pass this along because I think those guys know what they are talking about.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017
  6. Jan 27, 2017 #5


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    Large scale nuclear conflict (between Russia and the US) would kill a lot of people, destroy civilization, and have long lasting consequences far into the future, but it wouldn't destroy all of human life.

    Neither will climate change, in fact, climate changes are likely to produce winner and losers for various countries and civilizations, unlike a large scale nuclear conflict.

    Lumping climate change into the same basket as large scale nuclear war just feels disingenuous from someone who should know better.
  7. Jan 27, 2017 #6
    Thanks for the video. I watched it, but honestly I don't follow Chomsky. I know that he is considered very important in linguistics. As for nuclear war or climate change, I listen to scientists who have dedicated their lives to those specific fields. Also, I normally tune out when people mix politics and science.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017
  8. Jan 28, 2017 #7
    I also believe nuclear winter will destroy us, but the humans have survived ice ages before maybe we will survive the next one,nuclear war induced or not.

    I also believe another world war is inevitable, the dominoes seem to be falling in faster sucsession all the time. I believe it may be in my lifetime (I'm 19) and I am not convinced society will survive it. In fact, someone recently gave a paper on his prediction that society has 20 years. I shall try and find it.
  9. Jan 28, 2017 #8


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    This is why I think they jumped the shark when they changed the definition of their "clock". I think they've gone a little nuts. Maybe the people who remember the 1950s and 1960s no longer work at BAS and the people who work there now have never read any history? In the 1950s and 1960s, people literally believed that the US and USSR might exchange ten thousand nuclear weapons a half hour from now. We're nowhere close to that now; maybe 6:45? They'd have to re-design the clock for that...

    The types of risks behind climate change are very, very different from nuclear war. Even the language they use in the statement doesn't jive. But ultimately, moving the clock has only one real purpose: they are just saying they don't like Trump. And that makes them and their clock a joke.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2017
  10. Jan 28, 2017 #9


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    Insofar as they built a physical prop they could take pictures with it is real; but that doesn't mean it isn't a joke.
    is a linguist.
  11. Jan 28, 2017 #10


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    Your instincts serve you well on Chomsky, but the problem with the doomsday clock is that it is a political statement made by scientists. That's problematic at its very core.
  12. Jan 28, 2017 #11
    Liking or not liking a person will not change the outcome of a situation saying that they are a joke might offer some comfort but that is all.
  13. Jan 28, 2017 #12


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    It isn't clear to me what you are trying to say here. Did you read their statement? They really did move the clock because they don't like Trump.
  14. Jan 28, 2017 #13
    This is what I read.
    In this Op Ed for the New York Times, the Bulletin's Lawrence Krauss and David Titley note that this year marks the first time that the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person. But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.
    That does not say they don't like him or like him it is the statements he makes and the position he holds.
  15. Jan 28, 2017 #14


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    A better indication of immanent doom would be realtime access to the DEFCON level, managed by the Executive Branch of the US government. However, this level is generally not communicated to the public until well after the fact. The Doomsday Clock, is somewhat of a subjective reality condenser, that can be described with even less precision by the use of additional fuzzy adjectives.
  16. Jan 28, 2017 #15


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    Ok, so you did read it -- there's no need to split hairs on what "like" means: I'm saying that the fact that they moved the clock over their opinion of Trump/Trump's statements is very problematic.

    [edit; expand]
    What I mean is that it makes no sense. Regardless of what their judgements of Trump/his statements are, I can't fathom that they actually believe we are closer to an apocalypse now than, for example, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If everyone on the editorial staff has a bomb shelter in their backyard, then I'd believe they are being rational about the movement of the clock (though not necessarily rational about the bomb shelter).

    [edit2] Here's the wiki with a list of the movements and why:

    On its own, moving the clock's position by a half minute over fear of Trump wouldn't seem problematic. It is really more that they are hamstrung by an already absurd position of the clock based on previous absurd judgements. They've painted themselves in to a corner almost literally* with these movements, because what they are after seems to be about making a statement by moving the clock as opposed to using the clock to actually express their rating of the risk.

    *I'm using the word "literally" too much today, but I'm ok with that.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2017
  17. Jan 28, 2017 #16
    Yes and those statements are problematic for a great number of others too.

    Gorbachev in a Times article expresses his concern: http://time.com/4645442/gorbachev-putin-trump/
  18. Jan 28, 2017 #17
    Well you have to take there judgement literally.(pardon)
    You are quite justified in your scepticism but I am sure these academics don't take the decision to move the clock one way or another without heavy debate and quantifiable justification, otherwise it would be pointless.
    There will be lots of criteria and events other than what Trump said or did not that we are probably not aware of that makes them decide to move it.
  19. Jan 28, 2017 #18


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    It is pointless, by the very facts (?)...
  20. Jan 29, 2017 #19
    Why just because we are not aware of the facts it does not mean that there are none.
    They might be too sensitive and likely to cause court issues.
    These do not mean that they don't exist.Maybe you are trying to placate yourself that these don't exist and that the clock is further from midnight.
    Given the current circumstances good luck with that.
  21. Jan 29, 2017 #20

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    I agree. Surely there must be some sort of secret quantitative formula, because otherwise there would be no possible justification for the statement that we live in more dangerous times than the Cuban Missile Crisis. Or Able Archer. It would just be a bunch of left-leaning academics clutching their pearls and getting the vapors over the thought that their preferred candidate lost an election. So I agree with you.
  22. Jan 29, 2017 #21
    No secret formula just pick up your morning news.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38786660
    Get real.
  23. Jan 29, 2017 #22
    What does that have to do with doomsday/nuclear war? This is just a temporary halt, and in my opinion is justifiable since these people were caught in the middle as the executive order was put in place.

    The recent update of the doomsday clock is obviously politically motivated. I am just old enough to remember the cold war and to think that we are now closer to nuclear war then we were at that time is ridiculous.
  24. Jan 29, 2017 #23
    Everything, did you read the other link and what the headlines were saying.
    I am also old enough to remember the cold war and the Cuban missile crises Suez and the like.
    Why should you classify it as political, or as others would put it fake news.
    Or that this and other problems are not happening and not causing problems and hostility abroad and in the US.
    All the reports about the unpredictability of events caused by certain individuals does not add to the stability of the world by any stretch of the imagination.
    And for you to say it's justifiable because they were caught in the middle as the executive order was put in place
    Some of these people had green cards.
    And the executives knew what would happen to these people and if they did not, well I ask you.
    I suppose you could use the same justification for just about anything.
  25. Jan 29, 2017 #24
    Using such conclusive terms as "obvious" and "ridiculous" to make unsubstantiated claims is the only thing here that is obviously ridiculous. Where is your evidence that the decision to move the clock was politically motivated? If it's so obvious, you should be able to make a good argument for it.

    As far as thinking that the threat of nuclear war is lower now than it was in the cold war, again, please make an argument with supporting references instead of just saying it's "ridiculous." Again, if it's so ridiculous, then making a substantiated argument should be no problem.

    In the meantime, I'll put forth the argument that we're actually under a greater threat of global nuclear war now than we were during the cold war. During the cold war, there were basically two major nuclear players, the USA and the USSR, and each of those countries very clearly understood the concept of MAD (mutually assured destruction). That's the main thing that prevented such a holocaust.

    Now the situation is much more complex and much more dangerous in my opinion. As a business mentor of mine once told me in reference to a vulnerability in our market strategy, "Just because something bad hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean it's never going to happen."

    From: http://www.nti.org/learn/nuclear/

    "While it has been more than twenty years since the end of the Cold War, the existence of thousands of nuclear weapons continues to pose a serious global threat. The likelihood of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia has decreased, but the continued presence of large stockpiles makes the accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons a persistent risk. Many of the countries with smaller nuclear arsenals, such as India and Pakistan, are actively engaged in regional conflicts, making the possibility of regional nuclear war a concern. North Korea illicitly acquired nuclear weapons, and other countries, including Iran and Syria, have violated their nuclear safeguards commitments and are suspected of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities."

    And: https://www.thenation.com/article/t...reater-today-than-it-was-during-the-cold-war/

    "One of the gravest challenges that face us is an “unauthorized, mistaken launch” of a nuclear weapons. The risk that such an event could occur has 'not only grown since end of Cold War, but continues to grow.'"

    And: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/11/trump-nuclear-north-korea/506750/

    "Already, it is believed that North Korea will have produced roughly 20 bombs’ worth of fissile material by year’s end. Its leaders appear to be irrational, capricious, malevolently messianic and deeply cruel. They have acted on a desire to sell their nuclear technology to anyone with money (the Assad regime in Syria was one such customer); and they have proven themselves to be almost completely impervious to outside pressure."

    I don't know about you, but I'll take the cold war era any day over what we are facing today...
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
  26. Jan 29, 2017 #25
    And so do I.

    I was a senior in college during the Cuban missile crisis. And I can tell you If people thought they had a half hours to live they did not show it Life continued as normal with people. Of course it was in the news but people seem to accept it like we accept the possibility of being wiped out by a killer asteroid. During the 50's sure there where those that built bomb shelters. We had bomb raid drills in schools but they where taken like we take fire drills today. I do not remember any substantia or sustained debates or discussions of this issue with my peers. Today you hear of 12 year old seeking assurance from the their parent for their safety. Perhaps the internet has amplified our concerns? But apart from that today we have so much more to worry about; real , imagined or prophesied.
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