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Doomsday Clock Counting Down to Apocalypse Set at 5 to Midnight

By Alexandra Ward   |   Thursday, 16 Jan 2014 02:12 PM

The Doomsday Clock, a metaphoric signifier of the countdown to the apocalypse, has been set at five minutes to midnight for the second year in a row, the board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced this week.

Used to symbolize humanity's proximity to total destruction from nuclear or biological weapons, climate change, and other human-caused disasters, the Doomsday Clock has been maintained since 1947 by the group of atomic scientists at the University of Chicago. The closer they set the clock to midnight each year, the closer they estimate the world is to global disaster.

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"As always, new technologies hold the promise of doing great good, supplying new sources of clean energy, curing disease, and otherwise enhancing our lives. From experience, however, we also know that new technologies can be used to diminish humanity and destroy societies," the board said in a statement, according to LiveScience.com. "We can manage our technology, or become victims of it. The choice is ours, and the Clock is ticking."

This year, the board took into account things like the contentious relationship between the U.S. and Russia triggered by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's leaks over the summer.

The Doomsday Clock showed that the apocalypse threat was highest in 1953 when the time was set at two minutes to midnight after the first test of the hydrogen bomb. The scientists were most optimistic in 1991 when they set the clock 17 minutes early after the U.S. and Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The hands had been gradually inching closer to midnight since then, but were pushed back to six minutes in 2010 after President Barack Obama's first year in office.

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