100 Seconds To The End Of The World

A clock featuring an atomic nucleus, symbolizing global catastrophe and referencing the Doomsday Clock.
The “Doomsday Clock” is a symbolic clock that displays the countdown to a global catastrophe (the closer to midnight, the greater the danger). In January 2020, the hands of the clock came the closest to midnight they have ever been — only 100 seconds away. The clock now reads 23:58:20, indicating that calamity is close at hand. For reference, when the USSR tested the first hydrogen bomb in 1953, the hands of the clock were still two minutes from midnight.

In the Beginning, There Was a Bomb

The history of humankind’s origin and development covers about 70,000 years, but only the last five centuries have been marked by the rapid and phenomenal growth of our power. One of the most serious mysteries unraveled by science over those five centuries is the energy contained in the atomic nucleus.

In 1939, German physicists Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann, and Austrian physicist Lise Meitner experimentally confirmed the splitting of an irradiated uranium nucleus — the heaviest element existing in nature. A year later, Soviet physicists Georgy Flyorov and Konstantin Petrzhak discovered the spontaneous fission of uranium-238. Around the same time in France, physicist Frédéric Joliot-Curie and his colleagues received five patents for the creation of a nuclear reactor. In the US, the Advisory Committee on Uranium was organized in 1939, and in 1943 the Manhattan Project began its work to create a nuclear superweapon. By July 1945, the United States was conducting the Trinity atomic bomb tests at the Alamogordo test range.

Less than a month later, on August 6 and 9 respectively, the US bombs “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” were deployed against the civilian residents of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To date, these are the only two instances of nuclear bombing in history. Thus, the end of World War II brought not only victory over fascism but also a new set of crises. When conventional weapons were no longer sufficient to keep the enemy under control, nuclear weapons of unprecedented power found their way into the hands of people.

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An astronaut floating in space above the earth, surrounded by particles and positrons.

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