Watching the doomsday clock together

09 February 2017

Catostrophes are likely to be more swift, global and devastating in our interconnected world, says Martin Rees, so scientists must join forces to keep us safe.

The cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists – founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project physicists troubled by the consequences of their work – depicts a clock. The closeness of its hands to midnight indicates the editorial board’s view of the degree of peril the world is in. Recently, those hands have been creeping forward, and stand now at two and a half minutes to midnight.

That trend partly reflects the growing risk of localised nuclear conflict. But it’s mainly for other reasons. Nuclear bombs are 20th-century science. But the Promethean power of 21st-century science confronts us with new threats and ethical conundrums.

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