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Earth Government Politics Science

The World Remains Five Minutes From Midnight 301

Lasrick writes "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announces whether their Doomsday Clock has been moved with this open letter to President Obama, outlining progress on a number of fronts, but also detailing what still needs to be done to avoid various threats to humanity." From the article: "2012 was a year in which the problems of the world pressed forward, but too many of its citizens stood back. In the U.S. elections the focus was "the economy, stupid," with barely a word about the severe long-term trends that threaten the population's well-being to a far greater extent: climate change, the continuing menace of nuclear oblivion, and the vulnerabilities of the world's energy sources."
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The World Remains Five Minutes From Midnight

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  • Re:Doomsday clock (Score:4, Informative)

    by p0p0 ( 1841106 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:24PM (#42587319)
    It's not really a prescription. It's more symbolic, since it is decided by a group of persons on when and where to move the hands of the clock.
    Whether there is physically a clock, or if it is all symbolism I'm not entirely sure.

    In the end (ha!) the clock has lost most of it's shock value and is mostly ignored.
  • Re:Doomsday clock (Score:5, Informative)

    by DigitAl56K ( 805623 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @08:32PM (#42587389)

    The Doomsday clock isn't predicting the end of the world, it's symbolic and reflects an assessment of the state of potentially many topics that pose a serious risk to our civilization. The closer the clock is to midnight, the worse condition we're considered to be in, all things considered. The clock moves forwards and back depending on the problems of the world, what we're doing about them, what we've committed to do about them, etc. etc.

    If the clock were at midnight the world would not necessarily end, but we'd be in very bad shape (maybe imminent nuclear war, loss of energy supply, etc.)

  • Re:Doomsday clock (Score:5, Informative)

    by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:42PM (#42587913) Journal
    It's a symbol that has been used for 66 years by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago to draw attention to the Global Thermonuclear War edition of the fiscal cliff. It started out at 7 minutes to midnight before the Cold War started and the hand was moved whenever they wanted to draw attention to moves by governments that the directors of the bulletin deemed good or bad with respect to the threat of a nuclear apocalypse. The furthest it has ever been from midnight was 17 minutes after the U.S. and U.S.S.R. signed START.

    In 2007, with the Cold War long over and no nukes traded between India and Pakistan, people had become desensitized to minute changes (such as "we're moving the hand one minute closer to midnight because you haven't signed any new treaties promising to disarm additional weapons... So you'd better start signing treaties or we're going to scare people with our big symbolic clock") it was repurposed to also draw attention to climate issues that could also bring about apocalyptic scenarios.

    Unfortunately, most people don't know that, and the clock has little meaning for the general public. Like the March of Dimes (which was founded to eradicate polio -- mission accomplished, and good luck getting a straight answer from them on where your money goes now...) it became a self-important PR Zombie in search of a purpose for its once-massive mobilization abilities. Climate change is important, but this is the 21st century. They need to find a more informative way to inform people, because no one knows what the hell a minute means in terms of the climate cliff. Tell them to use more sunblock and less freon... Something concrete. Not a meaningless abstract clock symbol.
  • Re:Two questions (Score:4, Informative)

    by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Monday January 14, 2013 @10:11PM (#42588075)

    We do not know for sure that ocean life is doomed because of increasing CO2 levels. It is a plausible theory and past extinction events certainly provide reason to worry, but it is not a scientific certainty. Also note that the ocean is not yet close to turning acid, it is going from quite alkaline to somewhat less alkaline.

    As to the geoengineering question, I would think it rather obvious why we are not doing it. It is not necessary yet, and playing with the climate is risky. It would be nicer to stop playing with the climate (stop net CO2 emissions) instead of adding even more uncertainty.

    I bet that deliberate geoengineering with measurable effects will happen, perhaps even within 10 years. Once it becomes clear that CO2 emissions are not stopping quickly enough, it will be necessary and people will demand it.

  • Re:Doomsday clock (Score:3, Informative)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Monday January 14, 2013 @10:25PM (#42588133) Journal

    Piling on debt without end is what the Tea Party is all about.

    What's your next guess?

    The Tea Party has consistently argued for spending cuts. If you imagine that the debt can be addressed by increasing taxes, then you have no conception of the scale of the problem.


  • Re: polio (Score:5, Informative)

    by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @11:52PM (#42588553)
    It's just a symbol meant for PR and to draw attention. As for polio, it's mostly eradicated in the majority of the world thanks to the dead ( formalin inactivated) virus vaccine invented by Salk (founder of the Salk Institute here in La Jolla, next door to UCSD) and to the weakened live virus invented by Sabin (not as well remembered here in La Jolla). Polio still runs rampant in Nigeria and north central Africa and Pakistan (check out the colorful distribution heatmap [] on the wikipedia article about poliomyelitis), but the March of Dimes' activities are limited to the USA.
  • Re:Doomsday clock (Score:5, Informative)

    by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @03:00AM (#42589135)

    Income is usually what is left after paying employees and other business expenses. Make $265,000, hire a new employee for $20,000 and now you made $245,000.
    This is why high taxes bring prosperity, businesses including sole proprietorships are motivated to reinvest their money in their business rather then declare it as income and pay it as taxes. Now with super low taxes businesses are hoarding or gambling their money rather then spending it.

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe