The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clockface maintained since 1947 by the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago. It uses the analogy of the human race being at a time that is a 'few minutes to midnight' where midnight represents destruction by nuclear war, and has appeared on the cover of each issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since its introduction.
The clock was started at seven minutes to midnight during the Cold War in 1947, and has subsequently been moved forwards or backwards at intervals, depending on the state of the world and the prospects for nuclear war.
The clock was last changed in 2002 back to seven minutes to midnight, after recent deterioration in international relations. Each time nuclear conflict comes closer, it is moved forward. Conversely, the minute hand moves back as world events improve. It has been moved 17 times in response to international events since its initial start at seven minutes to midnight in 1947:
The Doomday Clock's minutes to midnight, 1947-2003.
1949 - The Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb. Clock changed to three minutes to midnight (-4 change).
1953 - The United States and the Soviet Union test thermonuclear devices within nine months of one another. Clock changed to two minutes to midnight (-1 change).
1960 - In response to a perception of increased scientific cooperation and public understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons, clock is changed to seven minutes to midnight (+5 change).
1963 - The United States and Soviet Union sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty, limiting atmospheric nuclear testing. Clock changed to twelve minutes to midnight (+5 change).
1968 - France and China acquire and test nuclear weapons (1960 and 1964 respectively), wars rage on in the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and Vietnam. Clock changed to seven minutes to midnight (-5 change).
1969 - The U.S. Senate ratifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Clock changed to ten minutes to midnight (+3 change).
1972 - The United States and the Soviet Union sign the SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Clock changed to twelve minutes to midnight (+2 change).
1974 - India tests a nuclear device (Smiling Buddha), SALT II talks stall. Clock changed to nine minutes to midnight (-3 change).
1980 - Further deadlock in US-USSR talks, increase in nationalist wars and terrorist actions. Clock changed to seven minutes to midnight (-2 change).
1981 - Arms race escalates, conflicts in Afghanistan, South Africa, and Poland add to world tension. Clock changed to four minutes to midnight (-3 change).
1984 - Further escalation of the arms race under the U.S. policies of Ronald Reagan. Clock changed to three minutes to midnight (-1 change).
1988 - The U.S. and the Soviet Union sign treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear forces, relations improve. Clock changed to six minutes to midnight (+3 change).
1990 - Fall of the Berlin Wall, success of anti-communist movements in Eastern Europe, Cold War nearing an end. Clock changed to ten minutes to midnight (+4 change).
1991 - United States and Soviet Union sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Clock changed to seventeen minutes to midnight (+7 change).
1995 - Global military spending continues at Cold War levels; concerns about post-Soviet nuclear proliferation of weapons and brainpower. Clock changed to fourteen minutes to midnight (-3 change).
1998 - Both India and Pakistan test nuclear weapons in a tit-for-tat show of aggression; the United States and Russia run into difficulties in further reducing stockpiles. Clock changed to nine minutes to midnight (-5 change).
2002 - Little progress on global nuclear disarmament; United States rejects a series of arms control treaties and announces its intentions to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; terrorists seek to acquire nuclear weapons. Clock changed to seven minutes to midnight (-2 change).
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