The infamous Doomsday Clock will reset Thursday, the first time its hands have moved since 2007. Whether the Clock will tick closer or further from midnight, suggesting the world is either more or less safe from nuclear weapons and other potential man-made disasters, will be revealed at 10 a.m. EST tomorrow at the New York Academy of Sciences Building in New York City.
For the first time, the announcement will also be broadcast live over the Internet. Viewers can tune in at turnbacktheclock.org.
The Bulletin of Atomic Sciences, which curates the Doomsday Clock, has nudged the minute hand closer to midnight during each of the last four readjustments. But many see signs of hope in today's global politics and believe the Clock will wind back this year.
"We look at general scientific trends, gather experts in the fields of nuclear weapons, energy, climate change and life sciences, and we talk about the clock," Bulletin publisher Kennette Benedict told Politico. The group meets twice a year for these discussions, "and then when events warrant, we decide to move the handle."
Four minutes ticked by during the Bush administration. The Bulletin's official reasoning does not name the president directly, but it worried in 2002 about how "the United States expresses a desire to design new nuclear weapons, with an emphasis on those able to destroy hardened and deeply buried targets. It also rejects a series of arms control treaties and announces it will withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty." And in 2007, the group warned that the "world stands at the brink of a second nuclear age" as the "United States and Russia remain ready to stage a nuclear attack within minutes."
If those are the benchmarks of the committee, then it will likely be pleased with at least the rhetoric of President Obama. In April, Obama outlined a plan for a nuclear-free world before a crowd of 30,000 in Prague and addressed the topic directly with Russian president Dmitri Medvedev in London.
Obama has also showed more interest than his predecessor in global climate change – a standard that the Bulletin had not mentioned before 2007. Then again, despite the intent of world leaders, little came from the recent summit on global warming in Copenhagen.
Since the Doomsday Clock works chiefly as an advocacy tool, some environmentalists have urged the group to push the minute hand beyond midnight as a symbol of the damage that has already affected the climate.
The Clock currently sits at five minutes until midnight, the fifth worst rating since its inception in 1947. The most hopeful reading was 17 minutes to midnight in 1991, when President George H.W. Bush and his counterpart in Russia began "making deep cuts to their nuclear arsenals. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty greatly reduces the number of strategic nuclear weapons deployed by the two former adversaries."
The Bulletin's plan to live stream its announcement over the Web marks yet another example of groups reaching out to broader audiences through the Internet. From U2 concerts streamed free on YouTube to Netflix weaving its movie catalog into countless devices – including the Nintendo Wii, as of today – PCs resemble TVs more every week. Watch the Doomsday Clock's adjustment Thursday at 10 a.m. EST here.
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