If you’re the type of person who feels put-upon the two times of the year we have to reset our clocks, you’re really going to hate what I have to tell you now.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) has moved the Doomsday Clock ahead two minutes, leaving it at three minutes from midnight, which is when they believe there will be a global catastrophe.
I know, I know. What a pain in the ass. We not only have to move the hour hand, we have to move the minute hand, too. However, for me personally, this is good news, because if the end of the world happens at midnight, I’ll most likely sleep through it.
I realize, though, that having the apocalypse so near at hand might upset a few people. For one thing, the BAS does not specify a time zone. So if life on Earth ceases to exist at midnight on the East Coast, it will result in terrible prime time TV ratings in California.
I bet the folks in LA will be sorry then that they DVR’ed American Idol at eight instead of watching it when it was broadcast.
I kid, of course. The Doomsday Clock isn’t a real timepiece any more than John Boehner is a real representative of the people. It’s entirely symbolic…a warning that if we continue on the path we’re on, our skin will turn orange, we’ll become blithering idiots, and we’ll usher in the end of our species.
In a statement, the BAS said, “In 2015, unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity.”
This coming from the group responsible for two of the three threats.
The last time the Doomsday Clock was this close to midnight was in 1983. Now, I’m not an atomic scientist, but it seems to me that was longer than three minutes ago. We should all be pulverized space powder by now, not to mention the New York Mets wouldn’t have won the 1986 World Series (although Bill Buckner might prefer the doomsday scenario).
In other words, our most accomplished atomic scientists, many of them Nobel Prize winners, are about as accurate in their end-of-the-world predictions as the ancient Mayans.
And, unlike the Mayans, it seems the BAS has the ability to move the clock backwards and forwards. Once the Mayans created those humongous disks, the couldn’t very well change them on a whim. Probably a couple of months later, one of them said, “Oy vey, I forgot to carry the one,” and then he looked at the intricate carvings and thought, “Eh, leave it.”
But the BAS’s clock isn’t etched in stone. “Since its creation in 1947,” the group stated, “the Clock has been adjusted only 18 times, ranging from two minutes before midnight in 1953 to 17 minutes before midnight in 1991.”
That explains the feeling of deja vu I sometimes get around 11:56. If I’m awake.
What they’re not mentioning in their latest press release is that the Doomsday Clock started at 11:53, and it has been at 11:50 or later for most of it’s 68 years. Which means for much of our lifetimes, we’ve had less than 10 minutes to live. As they noted, the most we’ve ever had was 17 minutes, back in 1991.
Remember how unrushed you felt that year?
Seriously, though, what are these atomic scientists trying to tell us? I understand that the idea is to make the threat of impending doom more tangible so that perhaps we’ll do something about it. But looked at another way, it’s saying, “Hey, we’ve been on the brink of disaster for almost 70 years and we’re still here. So don’t worry about it.”
I mean, look at the quote above. According to the BAS, the world is threatened by “unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals.” That sounds pretty dire, yet they only moved the clock two minutes. Hell, that’s not so bad. There’s not much you can do in two minutes anyway.
The problem is that they didn’t leave themselves any leeway. They should have started at 12:01 am. Then we could have watched in horror through the decades as the hands of the clock advanced in an unsettling herky-jerky fashion (“Hey,” I might have said in 1991, “We’re suddenly not late for that showing of Silence of the Lambs.”). We could have seen the time go by slowly, so the end may have seemed less inevitable. We’d have had time to do something about doomsday.
We could have had breakfast, for crying out loud.
But no. Instead, it’s like we’ve all spent our lives wearing a red shirt in a Star Trek movie. We know we’re going to die, we just don’t know how horrible our deaths will be.
I don’t much care, though. I’ll be asleep.
See you soon.