Doomsday Clock Moved Ahead


Jul 5, 2001
Doomsday Clock Moved Ahead

CHICAGO (AP) - The hands of the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic gauge of the threat of nuclear annihilation, were moved for the first time in nearly four years Wednesday because of the Sept. 11 attacks, increasing tension between India and Pakistan and other threats.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which keeps the clock, set the hands at 11:53, two minutes ahead of the time it has had since 1998.

Stephen Schwartz, publisher of the Bulletin, said the board originally defined "midnight" as nuclear war. In recent years, however, it has been redefined as the use of nuclear weapons anywhere on earth, he said.

It was the 17th time the clock has been reset since it debuted in 1947 at the same position it was set to Wednesday.

George A. Lopez, the publication's chairman of the board, said it has never been moved in response to a single event.

The Sept. 11 attacks combined with evidence that terrorists were attempting to obtain the materials for a crude nuclear weapon should have served as a wake-up call to the world. He said the world has focused on short-term security rather than solving long-term problems.

"The international community simply hit the snooze button rather than raising the general alarm," Lopez said.

He said such factors as the concern about the security of nuclear weapons materials stockpiled around the world and the crisis between nuclear powers India and Pakistan also figured into the decision.

The board started meeting in November, Bulletin spokesman Steve Koppes said, but did not reach a decision until recently "because of the uncertain nature of what is going on in the world."

The clock is a 11/2-foot-square wooden mock-up in the magazine's office at the University of Chicago. It was started two years after the bulletin began as a newsletter among scientists of the Manhattan Project ? the top-secret U.S. effort during World War II to develop an atomic bomb.

It came closest to midnight ? just two minutes away ? in 1953, after the United States successfully tested the hydrogen bomb. It has been as far away as 17 minutes, set there in 1991 in a wave of post- Cold-War optimism.

Doomsday Clock