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Doomsday Clock Ticks Louder, But Who’s Listening?

COMMENTARY
By Michael D. Lemonick

This just in! The Doomsday Clock has just moved one tick closer to midnight. It now stands at a mere five minutes before the hour, and we all know what that means.

OK, maybe we don’t. I took an informal poll of friends and family, and their response, more or less, was: “The what?”

The Doomsday clock's hands have been adjusted twenty times since its inception in 1947. Credit: adesigna/flickr.

It’s kind of sad, really. Back in the day, the DC really meant something. It was invented in 1947 by the directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists  — a magazine founded just two years earlier by Manhattan Project scientists who were horrified by what their newly invented atomic bomb had done to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Clock was intended to show, in graphic form, just how dangerous nuclear war really was, and it was initially set at seven minutes to midnight—midnight being the end of the world, more or less.

At the time, it seemed to make a lot of sense. The Bomb really was terrifying, and when the USSR exploded its first nuclear weapon in 1947, and its first H-bomb, in 1953, it got even scarier. The nuclear-arms race had begun, and world destruction was a very plausible scenario.

Even then, though, the Doomsday Clock wasn’t much of a precision timepiece. When the little hand moved from seven minutes before midnight to three in 1947, and then two in 1953 did that mean we were nearly three times as close to annihilation? And if so, how exactly did the Bulletin measure it? The answer is that they didn’t: a group of eminent p...

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As Santorum Surges, Sound Science Sags

COMMENTARY
By Bill Walker


There’s a new ringleader of the skeptics' circus — otherwise known as the 2012 field of Republican presidential candidates.

Rick Santorum’s out-of-nowhere surge to a virtual tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses may not boost him to frontrunner status in next week’s New Hampshire primary and the states beyond. But in the contest to see which GOP candidate can be the biggest doubter of the science of climate change, Santorum is the unchallenged leader of the pack.

Senator Rick Santorum at the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll. Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr. 

Santorum not only denies that manmade global warming is a growing concern, he denies its very existence. “There is no such thing as global warming,” he once said on Glenn Beck’s show, adding that it’s “patently absurd” to think a naturally occurring substance like CO2 – “a trace gas in the atmosphere, and the man-made part of that trace gas is itself a trace gas “ – is warming the planet. (Well, not if you understand the greenhouse effect.) He told Rush Limbaugh: “I’ve never . . . accepted the junk science behind that narrative.”

But it’s not really about “junk” science. Santorum simply doesn’t accept science. A devout evangelical Catholic, Santorum also rejects evolution and tried to amend federal law to require the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools. After his fellow candidate, Jon Huntsman, affirmed his belief in evolution, Santorum said: "If Governor Huntsman wants to believe that he is the descendant of a monkey, then he has...

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