Scientists responsible for the infamous “Doomsday Clock,” used to represent how close humanity is to its own destruction, will tell us later if we’re nearing the end of the world as we know it.
The clock is run by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in Chicago, a group of scientists that includes 16 Nobel Laureates, with the number of minutes to midnight telling us how close to disaster we are. Midnight is taken to represent a certain global disaster, working backwards in time as the chances of disaster lessen. The clock is currently set at three minutes to midnight.
An event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to announce the latest movements of the clock will take place at 1.30 p.m. EST (6.30 p.m. GMT) today. You can tune in on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website to watch a live stream of the event.
In a statement, tensions “between the United States and Russia that remain at levels reminiscent of the Cold War, the danger posed by climate change, and nuclear proliferation concerns, including the recent North Korean nuclear test,” were cited as factors that may influence the decision.
In January 2015, the clock was moved from five to three minutes to midnight owing to the perceived threats of climate change and nuclear weapons. It’s unclear if the latest announcement will move the minute hand closer or further away – but given recent developments, such as North Korea claiming to test a hydrogen bomb, one could assume it won't necessarily be good news.
The clock doesn’t always tick closer to midnight, though. In 2010, it was moved a minute backwards thanks to nuclear talks between the U.S. and Russia, and new climate change limits. The climate change deal in Paris last year might suggest it is going the other way this time around.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 by scientists who played a part in creating the first atomic weapons, has updated the clock every year since 1947. The closest it has come to midnight was in 1953, two minutes away, following hydrogen bomb tests by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The “end” of the Cold War in 1991, meanwhile, saw it drop to 17 minutes to midnight.
So, are we doomed? Tune in later to find out.