On Jan. 26, representatives of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a compelling gesture of visual rhetorical, moved their symbolic Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds, making the reading two and a half minutes until midnight. The clock’s time setting is a rhetorical visualization of dangers to humanity that could cause extinction. The current clock setting is the closest to midnight since 1953, when the Soviet Union and the U.S. tested hydrogen bombs.
Bulletin’s Science and Security Board explained their recent action:
“Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change … This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a U.S. presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”
The impact of the clock image, ticking toward doomsday, grabs the imagination in ways simply a textual warning might not. The Doomsday Clock, said physicist Lawrence Krauss at the Washington Press Club event offers “a rare opportunity to reach the global public directly.”
Activities: 1) Discuss the visual impact of the Doomsday Clock set at two and a half minutes to midnight. How does it make you feel about humanity’s danger of extinction? 2) Research the history of the Doomsday Clock and the recent action of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Do you think the scientists were wise in choosing the Doomsday Clock as an attention-getting device? How so?