La Bomba and I go back a long time. In Seattle, where I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, it was common knowledge that in the event of a nuclear war, we were No. 2 on the target list because Seattle was the home of Boeing, maker of B-52 bombers and Minuteman Missiles. .
At school we had several drills for various disasters and we had to remember which was which. Earthquake? Run outside. The bomb? He runs inside, to an interior hallway that had no windows. In the summer, my high school friends and I would disappear for a couple of weeks in the countryside of the Cascades or Olympic Mountains. I always wondered if we would emerge and find the world in ashes.
Once, in Santa Monica in 1971, I thought it was finally happening. I woke up on the floor, having been dragged out of my bed early one February morning. There was a great roar. Everything was shaking. I crept up to my only window and pulled back the curtain, expecting to see a mushroom cloud rising over the Los Angeles basin. I did not see anything. When the radio came back on, I learned there had been a deadly earthquake in the San Fernando Valley.
I was sent on this trip to the past by the advertisement on January 23 in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that he had decided not to change the settings of the Doomsday Clock, a metaphorical clock invented in 1947 as a way to dramatize the threat of nuclear Armageddon. The clock was originally designed with a 15-minute range, counting down to midnight, the knockout, and Bulletin members move it from time to time in response to current events, which now include threats such as climate change and pandemics.
In a burst of optimism in 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the signing of the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the clock was turned back to midnight, 17 minutes. “The Cold War is over,” he said. The newsletter editors wrote. “The 40-year East-West nuclear arms race is over.”
A year ago, after Russia invaded Ukraine and brandished the threat of using nuclear weapons, the clock was set at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it had ever been to the end. The threat of nuclear weapons in Ukraine has since diminished, but the clock is still 90 seconds from zero.
This year’s announcement came on the same day that “Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan’s biopic about the man who masterminded the invention of the bomb, received 13 Oscar nominations. in a interview before the movie premiereNolan described Robert J. Oppenheimer as the most important human being in history because his invention had made war impossible or condemned us to annihilation.