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Edging toward doomsday

Doomsday-Clock-10

Robert Rosner, chairman of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, right, joined by Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists member Lawrence Krauss, left, moves the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018.

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Mankind has seemingly flirted with extinction since the days of Noah’s Ark.

But the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says we have never been closer. It has inched its Doomsday Clock forward, yet again. Last month, the Bulletin set the clock at two minutes to midnight because of global tensions, notably between the United States and North Korea.

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The last time the clock was this close to midnight was in 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were developing hydrogen weapons. An October, 1952, test by the U.S. wiped out a Pacific Ocean islet, leaving a crater more than 160 feet deep. The Soviets responded nine months later with their own test.

The furthest that the big hand has ever been from midnight, since the Doomsday Clock appeared in 1947, was 17 minutes, in 1991, when the Cold War had ended and the U.S. and Russians began making dramatic cuts to their nuclear arsenals.

With today’s geopolitical tensions, the scientists have plenty of reasons to be concerned especially with reference to North Korea. But there is something, not only a little pessimistic but a little too passive, about the Doomsday Clock.

History is not driven by some kind of inexorable fate. Humankind is not along for the ride. We are in charge. We can apply reason and reasonable tools, like diplomacy. The secretary of state and the vice president have both just reaffirmed the willingness of the U.S. to negotiate with North Korea.

Responsible human beings can reset this clock.

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