Last week, the minute hand on the Doomsday clock--the timepiece in New York that conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction [represented by midnight]--was moved one minute further away from human annihilation than before.
It is changed periodically by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists [BAS] board, which includes Professor Stephen Hawking and 18 other Nobel scientists. It was wound on to five minutes to midnight in 2007 to reflect the failure to solve problems posed by nuclear weapons.
Today, the board said they moved it back one minute because there was a 'hopeful state of world affairs' in relation to nuclear weapons and climate change. They singled out President Obama for particular praise.
"With a more pragmatic, problem-solving approach, not only has Obama initiated new arms reduction talks with Russia, he has started negotiations with Iran to close its nuclear enrichment program," the board said.
That's right, naysayers, President Obama.
And while the decision to move the hand back came as a surprise to many environmentalists, who criticised last year's Copenhagen Climate Change Conference for failing to reach any real consensus, the BAS board insisted there had been 'signs of collaboration' between the major world players in dealing with nuclear security and climate stabilisation.
The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947, two years after the US dropped the first atomic bombs on Japan in World War II. It was originally set at seven minutes to midnight, but has been altered 19 times since then.
The closest it was ever set to midnight was in 1953--it read 11:58--when the Cold War heated up between the US and Soviet Union. Now, the board said the end of a nuclear threat to the world could be in sight.
"We are poised to bend the arc of history toward a world free of nuclear weapons."
Wouldn't that be nice.