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Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to unveil its measure of how close human civilisation is to the edge of extinction. From a report: On 24 October 1962, an American nuclear chemist, Harrison Brown, started to pen a guest editorial for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists just as the Cuban missile crisis reached its climax. “I am writing on a plane en route from Los Angeles to Washington and for all I know this editorial … may never be published,” Brown said. “Never in history have people and nations been so close to death and destruction on such a vast scale. Midnight is upon us.” With this dire warning, he was referring to the Doomsday Clock, which has been the Bulletin’s iconic motif since it was founded 75 years ago by Albert Einstein and some of the University of Chicago scientists from the Manhattan Project. Their work had contributed to making the atomic bomb, but many of them had been outraged when the US used it against Japanese cities.

The image of the clock ticking away to midnight was intended to convey the sense of urgent peril, which Brown felt so viscerally on that 1962 flight to Washington. “He thought the world could end while he was on that flight,” said Rachel Bronson, the Bulletin’s current president. On Thursday, the Doomsday Clock will be unveiled for the 75th time, and we will find out what way the Bulletin’s panel of scientists and security experts will move the minute hand. For the past two years it has been stuck at 100 seconds to midnight. With Russia poised to attack Ukraine, it is hard to imagine the clock being set back, and that means that the experts assess we are in greater danger now than ever. The closest the clock came at the height of the cold war was two minutes to midnight in 1953 after the first detonation of a thermonuclear warhead, a hydrogen bomb. By the time of the Cuban missile crisis, the hands were at seven minutes to, but despite Brown’s apocalyptic editorial, the Bulletin decided not to move them forward because the shock of near catastrophe had given Washington and Moscow fresh incentive to work towards risk reduction and arms control.


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