Tick, tick, tick.
It’s 100 seconds till midnight. Scared yet?
I guess we’re supposed to be.
That’s the current time on the Doomsday Clock, which was created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group of University of Chicago scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to help develop the world’s first atomic weapons.
“Midnight” is when the world ends, or at least life as we know it ceases to exist. The Atomic Scientists, never known to be a cheerful, optimistic lot, initially set the time at seven minutes to midnight. That seems barely enough time to pack our metaphorical bags, let alone get our affairs in order, not that, you know, there would be anybody left to care about our affairs anyway.
They moved the time ahead just two years later to three minutes to midnight after the Soviet Union successfully tested an atomic bomb.
The time has been moved slightly ahead or back once a year ever since as the Atomic Scientists added other worries besides atomic annihilation to the mix, including political unrest, cyber mischief and global warming, er, “climate change.”
The safest we’ve ever been, they told us, was in 1991, when it was set at 17 minutes to midnight because of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the U.S. and U.S.S.R, which resulted in a reduction in the countries’ nuclear arsenals. Remember heaving a sigh of relief?
Why having slightly fewer bombs that could destroy the world would make the use of them less likely is beyond me, but then I’m not an Atomic Scientist.
The time was moved to its scariest setting of 2 minutes to midnight in 2019. I don’t remember why. I guess I could look it up, but I’m already nervous enough. They knocked off 20 seconds in 2020.
And this year, they left it there at 100 seconds, even though they added COVID-19 to the list of potential catastrophes, noting that the outbreak has “revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries and the international system are to handle global emergencies properly.”
Seems like a missed opportunity there, considering how much our pandemic overlords in government and the media have tried to scare us over the virus.
I mean, really.
A fraction of 1 percent of the U.S. and world populations have died of COVID, and that’s without taking the elderly and those with certain underlying conditions out of the mix. Yet, economies have been crashed, millions have lost their livelihoods, our children have lost education they will never get back and communities have been reduced to don’t-breathe-on-me enclaves of huddling, quivering recluses.
And just as vaccination seems on the verge of liberating us all, it is discovered that one of the vaccines has resulted in blood clots in just six patients out of 7 million shots given. Simple math says that means less than a one-in-a-million chance of a blood clot, but the vaccine was removed for further study.
Isn’t all that fear-mongering heaped on top of our already risk-averse society worth at least a few seconds off the Doomsday Clock? Come on, Atomic Scientists, do your job.
Just for perspective, consider all these other chances of dying, posing far greater risks than COVID or vaccines, that so far don’t seem to bother most people.
The odds of dying:
In an airplane crash — 1 in 205,552.
By fireworks — 1 in 340,733.
Being struck by lightning — 1 in 114,195.
In a car accident — 1 in 84.
By flu — 1 in 63.
Look at that list too long, and you might just decide to stay inside for the rest of your life. Of course, you also have a 1 in 2,535 chance of choking on food, a 1 in 1,547 chance of being taken out by fire or smoke, and a 1 in 106 chance of falling to your death, so good luck with that.
The fact is — and I really hate to be the bearer of such bad news — your chances of dying are 100 percent.
Tick, tick, tick.
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at email@example.com.