When the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists created the atomic clock in 1947, the climate was different in many ways. The United States had just dropped two atomic bombs a couple years prior, and the world was still recovering from a massive global war. The clock was created with seven minutes left until midnight, and was designed to measure how close humanity was to nuclear destruction. And today it just turned back one minute.
With the hands of the clock where they are now, humanity’s midnight, while further on the horizon is still dangerously close. The increase in the clock of one minute means humanity is about as safe from nuclear annihilation as in 1988 when the cold war was just ending and relations between the US and Soviet Union were improving. Since that time there have been small victories and great losses on the clock as we dance back and forth, sometimes drawing dangerously near before pulling back from the brink. The closest to nuclear apocalypse we ever came was in 1953 when the Soviet Union and the United States tested Nuclear weapons within nine months of one another.
In 1960 the clock was turned five minutes backwards as science was met with political cooperation and education of the public on the dangers of nuclear war, and its potential effects on humanity. In 1963 the clock was turned back an additional five minutes as the US and the Soviet Union signed the partial test ban treaty. Then, in 1968 France and China acquired the bomb pushing it forward another five minutes. Over the next several years the clock jumped back and forth with each major nuclear change, with the greatest change happening in 1990 and 1991 when the clock was pulled back 11 minutes to 11:43, the earliest the nuclear clock has ever been. Unfortunately, the time would be pushed forward as humanity teetered toward nuclear war forward more than 12 minutes as international relations began to fall apart.
Today was the first time nuclear war didn’t steadily approach since more than ten years ago despite Nuclear tension between Iran and Israel. A nuclear strike on Iran by Israel or vice versa would no doubt push the clock forward considerably, and some are afraid such a strike isn’t far from happening. Still others contend that relations between Iran and Israel are no more tense than they were six years ago.
Even more troubling is the general opinion of the average individual that intercontinental nuclear war isn’t anywhere even close to happening, extending to the extreme of even saying it could never happen. It’s troubling these vociferous opinions were heard all throughout the late nineties and the first decade of the millennium when the atomic clock was steadily ticking away, gaining numbers again and again. Only three political actions as big as North Korea’s test of a nuclear weapon seem to stand between us and Nuclear devastation. The Romans waged war to gather treasure and resources, but what is there to gain from a war that leaves nothing behind but a scorched earth?