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Don’t panic: ‘The End is Near’ is an old threat
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Any good thriller worth the title of “page turner” has high stakes that raise the tension level and hold readers’ interest. Our political parties, social media groups, video games, and nonprofit organizations all use the same tactics to keep us reading, playing, voting and/or donating.

Back in 1945, Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons founded the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. In 1947, this group created the Doomsday Clock, using the imagery of an imaginary clock that was approaching midnight. If the hands ever reached 12:00, the countdown to zero and a nuclear explosion/apocalypse had arrived. 

The idea was that, like the hands on a working clock, we could only move closer to midnight. It started at 7 minutes to midnight and by 1953 was at 2 minutes to midnight. But the clock was turned back to 7 minutes to midnight in 1960, based mostly on optimism about the new decade, and to 17 minutes to midnight in 1991, after the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

That clock is now 75 years old and the folks that set the “time” at the Bulletin Science and Security Board are now concerned about a world catastrophe from “nuclear weapons, climate change and disruptive technologies in other domains.” In case you’re wondering, our doomsday clock is now at 100 second to midnight.

We don’t all agree on what the most important issues are or the level of urgency they pose. There are things each of us can do to address what’s important to us, but heeding dire prophecies is not always prudent.