back to article DOOMSDAY still just MINUTES AWAY: As it has been since 1947

Top boffins have refused to shift the quivering minute hand of technological Armageddon from its position at five minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock. The iconic indicator of impending doom, which was created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in the wake of the WWII Manhattan Project, measures humanity's proximity …

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So the problem is

A spread of civil nuclear power and climate inaction?

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Re: So the problem is

Or civil inaction and a climate of nuclear power.

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Re: So the problem is

or incivil power and the spread of nuclear action

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Re: So the problem is

Yeah, because scientists agree that pumping shitloads of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere isn't a problem at all, nuclear reactors is.

I guess some scientists want us to move back into caves.

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Facepalm

Re: So the problem is

Yeah, because scientists agree that pumping shitloads of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere isn't a problem at all, nuclear reactors is.

My thoughts exactly.

It's like saying that the "chemical weapon threat" is spreading because there are more countries that can make their own insecticides and fertilizes – with the caveat that going from insecticides to chemical weapons is much simpler and cheaper than going from reactor-grade to weapons-grade nuclear fuel.

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Headmaster

Re: So the problem is

I guess some scientists want us to move back into caves.

You do know that we have never actually lived in caves don't you?

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Caves, Caves

When I were a lad, we used to dream of livin' in a cave.

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Only 5 minutes before the hour?

If they understood what is really going on then the clock would only be 15 seconds before midnight.

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WTF?

Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

What I don't understand is what has happened since the break up of the USSR to warrant such a change from 1991.

And I don't think a few "plane crashes" count...

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Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

"If they understood what is really going on then the clock would only be 15 seconds before midnight."

Is that a threat?

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Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

Of course it really only depends on when the "virtual clock" started, and how fast you move it, doesn't it? That's the beauty of such symbols: they are both ominous and completely devoid of any real meaning. You couls set it at 3 picoseconds before midnight and move it one femtosecond ahead every year, and you would have millenia to live, or you could set it at 1-32 AM and move it 1 hr forward every year and only haveless than 23 years. But it would look less dramatic, at least initially.

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Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

Possibly directly related to the spread of both the devices or parts thereof,the means and the Scientific experts from what was once USSR to other countrys trying to make "nuclear power stations" of their own.

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how fast you move it?

" or you could set it at 1-32 AM and move it 1 hr forward every year and only haveless than 23 years"

I dont think they're actually setting a timetable for Armageddon - they move it arbitrarily backwards or forwards every now and again depending how brown the trousers are.

Its a guage not a timer , albeit a badly named one

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Re: how fast you move it? @ mark 63

> they move it arbitrarily backwards or forwards every now and again depending how brown the trousers are.

Yes, I get that; maybe _my_ wording was less than clear. As a gauge, you can set it very close to Armaggeddon, and move it arbitrarily backward and forward one minute at a time, as they do, thus ensuring that it's always within 10 minutes of Apocalypse Day.

Or you could use the whole space, set it a 1, say, right after the G8 when all the powers that be are happy with each other, and at 11:30 when Snowden does his thing. It's not like the "clock" is important for anything anyway, it could be discontinued overnight and it wouldn't have the slightest hint of a consequence on anything. It used to be a fear-mongering device to keep the good people of the US and A in fear of the doombringer commies, but now? Perhaps useful in an attempt to steer the public opinion on the NSA thing; "see, we are right to spy on you, it's to prevent the impending apocalypse". In my opinion it's too old and stale to really work.

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Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

...What I don't understand is what has happened since the break up of the USSR to warrant such a change from 1991...

What has happened is that a lot of people who were employed in the 'scare' industries of the world have found themselves out of a job, and are frantically inventing new scares to get back into employment...

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Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

"what has happened since the break up of the USSR "

Well, for one, you've got pakistan and india pointing nukes at each-other. Pakistan has supposedly been developing *battlefield* nuclear weapons. Not strategic ICBMs, not tactical missiles, but battlefield nuclear artillery, that would be under the command of junior officers.

There are reports Russia has doing clandestine experiments on warheads of this scale recently, too.

There's debate as to whether the use of such weapons would trigger the dominoes falling towards full scale armageddon.

(There are valid arguments on both sides:

https://www.aspi.org.au/publications/strategic-insights-62-non-strategic-nuclear-weapons-the-next-step-in-multilateral-arms-control

http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/6723/size-doesnt-matter)

Then on the full scale NATO-Russia(-China) strategic level, there are also major concerns that have grown since the end of the cold war. The most major of which is how the of balance of power is shifting, as China becomes more powerful, and Russia's nuclear detection/command system ages. It's important that all three powers' respective strengths and weaknesses cancel each-other out, so that Mutual Assured Destruction remains mutually assured. If it accidentally evolves to the point that one of the sides believes that it is no longer true (or believes that one of the other sides believes that) then all bets are off.

Then there's dangers like this... http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/soviet-doomsday-device-might-still-be-operational/

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Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

>you've got pakistan and india pointing nukes at each-other

Isn't that a good thing?

When nice white people both have nukes it's detente and has brought safety to europe for 50years

Just because both sides are bit mocha shouldn't that mean the same thing?

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Mushroom

Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

..."Then there's dangers like this... http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/soviet-doomsday-device-might-still-be-operational/"....

Speaking of Doomsday devices at least this one is no longer a secret,

Dr. Strangelove: Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you *keep* it a *secret*! Why didn't you tell the world, EH?

Ambassador de Sadesky: It was to be announced at the Party Congress on Monday. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.

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Re: What has happened since the breakup of the USSR

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_clock

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Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

There are reports Russia has doing clandestine experiments on warheads of this scale recently, too.

I bet such experiments (if indeed are being done) are secret, and the government of Russia will deny them if asked. I'm also sure they'd prove unpopular domestically as well abroad if confirmed.

But how can they be "clandestine"? Russia is a sovereign country. Unless research is being done outside the country's borders, or otherwise going against international law (that they're nuclear weapons is not enough, the NPT makes no specific provision against nuclear weapon development, only vaguely stating the NWS's ought to try an negotiate disarmament eventually), its government doesn't require anyone's permission to pursue whatever research it deems necessary.

Not that I think anyone should work on nuclear weapons, quite the contrary; I'd rather nuclear technology was used for peaceful purposes only. But it's tiring to see such cold-war red-scare terminology still in use so many years after the Soviets threw the towel.

And by the way that article you linked to clearly states the "Soviet doomsday device" is (was?) just a warning system, still requiring that some human be specifically tasked with pulling the switch. Not so scary then, is it?

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Unhappy

Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

"Well, for one, you've got pakistan and india pointing nukes at each-other. Pakistan has supposedly been developing *battlefield* nuclear weapons. Not strategic ICBMs, not tactical missiles, but battlefield nuclear artillery, that would be under the command of junior officers."

I hate to worry you but such things were available to the US since about the late 1950's.

I'd expect the Russians to have developed them as well as they would certainly have the capability to do so.

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Pint

Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

"When nice white people both have nukes it's detente and has brought safety to europe for 50years"

If you discount the occasional communication breakdown or scanner mishap that nearly had our charred remains glowing in the dark...

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Re: What I don't understand is what has happened

It lost the PR value. By setting it back to mere minutes before they once again get breathless "news" article spreading their Democrat/Leftist/Progressive/Fascist/Communist propaganda.

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Re: both sides are bit mocha

It's not the bit mocha, it's the religious factions that are still stuck around 400 AD in their world view.

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Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

So is that Threat Level Orange? What time do the other colors come on?

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JLV
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Re: Only 5 minutes before the hour?

>pakistan and india pointing nukes at each-other

While not at all something I would wish to happen, a nuclear exchange by those 2 would greatly re-focus everyone on the dangers of war. And by no means do they have enough weapons to doom everyone else, quite unlike the Cold War. Ditto Iran & Israel.

Terrorist nukes? Scary, but very small scale stuff at worst.

I frankly fail to understand why the doomsday clock is anywhere near the level it was at during the Cold War. The US and Russian may not like each other much, but they have pretty close to zero incentive to have a go at each other.

China may or may not take on the mantle of world superpower peacefully, that is true. But right now, it also nowhere near strong enough to duke it out with the US, nor do they have a compelling reason to do so. While the doomsday clock may warrant upticks in the coming decades, fear-mongering on their account right now seems highly premature.

At this moment, nothing quite compares to the level of paranoia, distrust and overwhelming danger present during the high points of the Soviet-US confrontation, a period I grew up during.

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Total nonsense, this assumes that people actually want to kill everyone, precisely the reason no one has yet used nuclear weapons against another nuclear state is because they are scared for their own lives and what will happen to their status quo if they did so. There is no point in war unless you believe you are going to win, nobody believes they are going to win a full nuclear war. Unfortunately it has also become the case in the world that you have no say on the international stage unless you have nuclear weapons to wave around as a threat so other countries take you seriously.

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Happy

"There is no point in war unless you believe you are going to win"

Reminds me of that great Peter Sellers film "The Mouse that Roared"! :)

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This is

of course assuming the 2 actors with nuclear weapons are making sound rational decisions

Which is why the cold war worked for so long, because both sides knew they'd lose in the event of a nuclear attack by 1 upon the other.

There was no way to win. Like North Korea does now, it makes all the noises, refuses all diplomacy, but it knows if it attacks South Korea, then its life as a state will be over.

But what if 1 state has no desire to win, it does'nt care about losing, heck 90% of its population could be vapourised in retaliation , but it does'nt care about it, because the leaders are right and have the blessings of their religion behind them, after all if they did'nt have the blessings then their god would'nt let them be in charge.

If someone like bin laden had a nuke, he'd have used it quicker than you could say 'jihad' and without caring about what happened afterwards

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Re: This is

But what if 1 state has no desire to win, it does'nt care about losing, heck 90% of its population could be vapourised in retaliation , but it does'nt care about it, because the leaders are right and have the blessings of their religion behind them, after all if they did'nt have the blessings then their god would'nt let them be in charge.

Have you been re-reading the news regarding the US government shutdown again?

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Mushroom

Re: "There is no point in war unless you believe you are going to win"

Obligatory 'Dr. Strange Love or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb', Quote,

President Merkin Muffley: "Gentlemen. You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!"

Mushroom cloud for the same obligation.

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@bigtimehustler

You are absolutely correct. The assumption that the actual obliteration of your enemies was a desirable outcome has always been very unsound. It is the exact opposite of every military and political goal in hundreds of years.

Sure, there have been attempted genocides, but those have always been about removing the 'undesirable' elements in a society. It's about destroying the people using certain resources, not destroying the resources themselves. That's why serious students of warfare and high level military strategists always come back to chemical and biological warfare as a far more plausible occurrence than a nuclear war. There's no better way to make total war than CBW.

Most of the Soviet era policy papers and discussions between European countries and the US are declassified now, and it's surprising how frank the conversations are about how any nuclear war involving the Soviets would be set off by some big swinging dick on one side or the other, not a Head of State. Either through fear or just a throbbing war boner somebody starting a nuclear war based on their personal outlook was always the biggest risk. Dr. Strangelove was eerily correct there.

Doom and gloom paranoid forecasts aside, it has become a bit of a joke in defense discussions that the USSR failed largely because they spent too much money and used too many resources defending against a scenario that was never likely to occur. The Russians were always convinced the US would strike first and so MAD policies went just stupid for a few decades.

But anyway, policy students and junior military officers are taught that you can defeat immensely powerful foes if you can destabilize their economy through fear. The 'joke' part of all this is that the US and our 'special friends' are using our own strategies against ourselves in the War on Terror. We are bleeding ourselves dry, just like we did to the Russians, but our leaders are too close to see it.

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Re: But what if 1 state has no desire to win, it does'nt care about losing

So one side believes it gets 72 virgins (or sherbet depending on the translation) and the other lot believes they will be reincarnated as something better - could be a bit tricky that.

Far better to have all the nukes in the hands of people who beleive the rapture will lift them up if they kill non-beleivers and will burn in hell fire for all eternity if they don't do what the man in the big hat tells them to.

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Mushroom

Re: god would'nt let them be in charge

"because the leaders are right and have the blessings of their religion behind them, after all if they did'nt have the blessings then their god would'nt let them be in charge."

In the old days, we called that "The divine right of Kings"

but in those days we went to school up hill both ways etc...

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Top boffins, (not named), continue paid for scare mongering exercise,....

long after people actually cared or listened to them, shock!

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Re: Top boffins, (not named), continue paid for scare mongering exercise,....

Quite; this was a PR stunt from the off, but if these clowns think we're as a species anywhere near as close to obliteration by nuclear weapons as we were in the 60s/70s/80s then they're smoking prodigious quantities of something. Or possibly weren't even born then.

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Black Helicopters

Forgetful?

"outsized nuclear arsenals remain in the United States and Russia, and the nuclear arsenals of some countries — notably India, Pakistan, and China — appear to be growing"

Did you actually forget to mention Israel, or are we all just not supposed to?

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Mushroom

Re: Forgetful?

Don't forget, Israel don't "admit" to having nukes. Or did I miss it?

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Re: Forgetful?

I'm more worried about Microsoft or Google getting the bomb (I think Apple already have one)

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SBU

Re: Forgetful?

Ssssshhhhh!

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And what about Iran

They are vying to join the radioactive top table

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Anonymous Coward

I can't shake the feeling that midnight is when the fun begins. They should set the doomsday indicator to 7am.

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Anonymous Coward

But the spread of civil nuclear power is a good thing for the climate- it means burning less oil.

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Mushroom

Well personally I'm at DEFCON 3 but that's just the result of a day in the office and Banbury traffic. :)

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Boffin

So much for science as a rational undertaking...

They are as prone to making decisions based on ego, pride, prejudice and vanity as the rest of us are....

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Unhappy

Re: So much for science as a rational undertaking...

"They are as prone to making decisions based on ego, pride, prejudice and vanity as the rest of us are...."

Yes science is also done by human beings.

Non scientists thinking it isn't doesn't make it so.

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Thumb Up

Time to...

... put some Iron Maiden on to play...

Two minutes to Midnight!

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Re: now approaching midnight

Midnight in a perfect world.

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5 minutes to midnight?

Got time for a pint in that case.

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Re: 5 minutes to midnight?

Only if you can get to the bar before the rest of us........mind I could do with my tan topping up as well a my pint

Your round I think.

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