UPDATE: The BAS did indeed move the Doomsday Clock forward, by one minute. It now reads five minutes to midnight.
Tick, tick, tick... doom. Listen closely this afternoon and you may hear the ominous whirrings of the Doomsday Clock, counting us ever closer to mankind's certain end.
The clock, invented in 1947 in the wake of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, tells the world – symbolically – how close it is to total nuclear destruction.
Initially set at seven minutes to midnight (i.e. wipe-out), the clock currently reads 11:54 PM. Later today, LiveScience reports, the Washington-based Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) will decide whether to adjust it to reflect current threats to humankind.
Hey, it could go backward. But the BAS, in its annual review, has already listed plenty of reasons why the past year may have speeded us on our path to destruction – including the Fukushima nuclear disaster, growing nuclear capabilities in Iran and North Korea, and the obstacles to effective US policies against climate change. (Plus there are all those rumors the Mayans started.)
The closest the clock has ever come to midnight was in 1953, when tests of hydrogen bombs by both the US and the Soviet Union prompted the BAS to set it to two minutes to midnight. The longest we've had was 17 minutes in 1991, when the Cold War was declared over and the US and Russia cut their nuclear arsenals.
We'll find out at 1 PM EST how long we still have left.