Doomsday Delayed by One Minute

| Fri Jan. 15, 2010 12:00 PM PST

Not feeling optimistic about the future of life on earth? Well, the world's atomic scientists are. On Thursday morning, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that they had moved the Doomsday Clock- a symbolic timepiece wherein midnight signals the end of the world--back one minute, from 11:55 to 11:54. We can all sleep soundly now knowing the world is six minutes from self-destruction!

The move of the symbolic ticker reflects a "more hopeful state of world affairs," the Bulletin announced, and reverses a trend of moving closer to a self-imposed end of time. The creators of the Manhattan Project created the clock in 1947 as a reminder that nuclear power could be abused to the point of ultimately destroying mankind. It's now used to symbolize not just the threats of nuclear power, but also other man-made challenges, like climate change.

The decision to move the clock comes from the scientists and policy makers on the board of the Bulletin. "We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons," the board said in a statement. "For the first time since atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, leaders of nuclear weapons states are cooperating to vastly reduce their arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material. And for the first time ever, industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable."

The Washington Post notes that this is the 19th time the clock has moved since 1947. It's been moved forward 11 times and backward eight times:

It came closest to midnight in 1953, when the testing of hydrogen bombs nudged it to 11:58, and moved farthest away in 1991, when it slid to 11:43 after the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The clock has been steadily ticking toward midnight since the mid-'90s, as increased terrorism destabilized regions of the world and India and Pakistan tested nuclear bombs.
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