January 17, 2007

Doomsday Clock

Remember the Doomsday Clock? How quaint.

Created in 1947, it was supposed to tell the world how close to oblivion we were, in terms of nuclear annihilation. With the hands initially set at 7 minutes to midnight during the Cold War, the scariest it got was in 1953 when the hands were put within 2 minutes of midnight, as both the Soviets and the Americans were testing nuclear devices.

I guess it was like an predecessor of the red-orange-yellow alert stripe that's been in place since 9/11. It's made the news today, because those in the know have moved the hands forward 2 minutes - it's now 5 minutes to the end.

They now take into account things other than nuclear threat - though that is still a major component of the calculation. Global warming has people talking about building more nuclear plants - hence the threat of a second gear up for mis-use of the power.

This story made the cover of the Star today. I read it, but I noticed the same problem that sets in when I discipline my kids too much. They tune out. Right after 9/11, any slides on that rainbow yardstick made headlines. Then, people got inured to the process, and went back to bitching about the price of gas. We're too insular to worry about anything that doesn't directly impact us.

Seeing a photo of the clock, which hangs at the University of Chicago, tweaked a memory of something closer to nostalgia than fear; I remember that thing!

Cold War, Global Warming, everyone is taking the temperature of something, but no one is curing the patient.


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