In Depth

What is the Doomsday Clock and what time is set to now?

Rise of Donald Trump has brought the end of the world a little closer, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says

Donald Trump has brought the end of the world one step closer, say the scientists behind the symbolic Doomsday Clock. 

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BPA) has moved the hands of the clock from three minutes to midnight to two-and-a-half minutes, signifying the closest the world has been to total destruction since 1953, says the BBC

Delivering their annual report on how safe or dangerous the world is, the scientists said they had made the change following President Trump's statements on climate change, his desire to boost the US's nuclear capabilities and his spats with his own intelligence agencies, together with the damaging consequences of fake news.

Rachel Bronson, executive director and publisher of the report, said: "This year's clock deliberations felt more urgent than usual. On the big topics that concern the board, world leaders made too little progress in the face of continuing turbulence.

"In addition to the existential threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change, new global realities emerged, as trusted sources of information came under attack, fake news was on the rise and words were used in cavalier and often reckless ways."

The Doomsday Clock was last changed in 2015, when the hands were moved from five minutes to midnight to three minutes over fears of climate change and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. 

This is the first time it has moved by less than a minute, but the team decided to go for a 30-second change because Trump has only started his administration. 

What is the Doomsday Clock?

The clock dates back to 1947 when physicists who had worked on the Manhattan Project, developing the world's first atomic bombs, came up with the idea. Originally it highlighted the fear that mankind would destroy itself through nuclear warfare - now it also symbolises the threat from climate change.

How does it work?

The notional clock is set to a certain number of minutes before midnight, counting down to our destruction. The board that maintains it meets twice a year to decide if Doomsday is any closer.

Who maintains the clock?

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, now an online journal, is responsible for the clock. Founded as a print publication in Chicago, its original editors and contributors included scientists who had developed nuclear weapons and were horrified at the potential danger to humanity they represented.

Why maintain the clock?

The concept of a Doomsday Clock was devised to convey to the wider public the dangers of nuclear weapons, which were apparent to scientists, explains the International Business Times. The original setting of the clock was seven minutes to midnight, when it appeared on the cover of the Bulletin in 1947.

What's the closest the minute hand has been?

In 1953, the clock was moved to two minutes to midnight, in response to the US government's decision to develop the hydrogen bomb - more deadly than any atom bomb. The safest we've ever been was apparently in 1991 as the cold war ended, and the clock retreated to 17 minutes to Doomsday.

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