1655: Doomsday Clock

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Doomsday Clock
After a power outage at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the new Digital Doomsday Clock is flashing 00:00 and mushroom clouds keep appearing and then retracting once a second.
Title text: After a power outage at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the new Digital Doomsday Clock is flashing 00:00 and mushroom clouds keep appearing and then retracting once a second.


The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is an academic journal which has a recurring feature known as the Doomsday Clock, which shows the Bulletin's judgment on the current state of the world. The idea is that when the clock hits midnight, the world ends (originally conceived as in a nuclear war), so how close the clock is to midnight is a scale of the world's current state of risk. Its setting as of the publication of this comic was at "three minutes to midnight" (11:57 PM or 23:57). Its current setting is (as of 30th January 2023) at "90 seconds to midnight" (11:58:30 PM or 23:58:30).

Daylight saving time (DST) is a feature in many countries where in the summer months, everyone moves their clock forward an hour to artificially postpone sunset and thereby have a longer time of sunlight in the afternoon. The day before this comic came out (Sunday), most of the United States switched from standard time to DST. This makes it the first of several comics about DST that has been released in conjunction with the beginning of DST.

Cueball is inside the office of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and comes across the Doomsday Clock, which is apparently an actual clock. Citing a mnemonic, "Spring forward, fall back", referring to which direction to move the hour hand in the season when DST begins or ends, he pushes the hour hand forward one hour, so instead of the world being three minutes from the end of the world, it is now 57 minutes into it, so the final panel simply shows the world erupting in a Dr. Strangelove-esque nuclear apocalypse, with the typical mushroom cloud shape, with a ring around the stem, which is also displayed in the Wikipedia page on nuclear weapons.

This is an absurdist joke confusing the Doomsday Clock with an actual clock; the Doomsday Clock is a subjective measurement of risk, not of time, and as such is not subject to Daylight Saving Time. Furthermore, in the comic the Doomsday Clock does not just measure the world's risk but actively controls it; even if the Doomsday Clock were affected by DST, the doomsday scenario notably does not occur until Cueball adjusts the clock. Also Cueball would only ever adjust the clock like this, if he happened to come by just when the real time was 12:57 the day after DST (as it is not clear from an analog clock if it is AM or PM). When he spots the clock showing 11:57 at 12:57 he just thinks someone has forgotten this particular clock, (which happens a lot the day after DST), and he is thus just helpfully adjusting to the new correct DST time.

The title text continues on this same theme, with the digital doomsday clock (apparently it has now been replaced by a digital one, maybe Cueball broke the old analog one) being reset by a power outage. Many digital clocks blink 00:00 once per second after a power outage, only stopping when the clock is reset. This is interpreted as the world actually blinking in and out of the Doomsday Clock's midnight, so nuclear explosions thus naturally appear and disappear in sync with the clock.

This once more underlines the entire point of this comic, that it makes no sense to have such a clock. Many people, including Randall, also believe that DST also makes little sense today, so maybe this is why the two are connected in this comic. Randall has mocked DST several times, so this could be yet another attempt to have some fun at its expense.

Another doomsday clock was used in 1159: Countdown, although here it was for a supervolcano eruption. A nuclear bomb, not yet exploded but with a short countdown, was the facilitator of the joke in 1168: tar.

Within a year before this comics release Randall made several other comics about nuclear weapons, most recently January of 2016 with 1626: Judgment Day, and before that these two in 2015, 1539: Planning and 1520: Degree-Off. Nuclear weapons are also mentioned twice in Thing Explainer, specifically they are explained in the explanation for Machine for burning cities about thermonuclear bombs, but they are also mentioned in Boat that goes under the sea about a submarine that caries nukes. All three comics and both explanations in the book, does like this comic, comment on how crazy it is that we have created enough firepower to obliterate Earth several times (or at least scourge it for any human life). After these there was some time without nuclear bombs, but a new mushroom cloud was displayed in 1736: Manhattan Project, the week after such weapons invention was listed at 1950 CE.


[Above a clock that shows 3 minutes to 12:]
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Doomsday Clock
[Cueball enters the frame from the left and walks up the clock while looking up at it.]
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Doomsday Clock
Cueball: Oh hey, spring forward.
[Cueball grabs hold of the hour hand on the clock and adjust it one hour ahead to 3 minutes to 1.]
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Doomsday Clock
[Nuclear apocalypse with one large central mushroom cloud, with a typical ring around the central stem, two other mushroom clouds are behind it left and right as well as three smaller ones near (or even partly under) the horizon. There are also three smaller explosion in the air.]

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Ignoring for the moment that we wouldn't want to deep freeze such a clock, if the scenario is tied only to the hour hand passing vertical the actual sweep of doom is no more than 12h. Perhaps the real problem is that moving the hour hand in this way (unless it can slip) would do some pretty terrible things to the gears. Elvenivle (talk) 05:30, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

Or (I'm very tired, please forgive me) at a time rate change of 3600s/s, playing with Google that's an orbital acceleration to about 1/3 lightspeed, magnificent inertial effects and some exciting drag forces. It's no wonder things start on fire. Elvenivle (talk) 06:11, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

Not only we definitely don't have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet, I wouldn't be sure the catastrophe we can do with nuclear weapons would make it into top 10 extinction events. We likely killed more species with deforestation than we would do with nuclear weapons. Especially considering most of those weapons are armed at population centers ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:55, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

Is no one talking about the fact that the title text apparently refers to a digital clock with 24-hour display format, the one used by scientists but despised by most of the US? --Troy0 (talk) 12:03, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

Many digital clocks blink 00:00 when they aren't set regardless of whether they are 12-hour or 24-hour format. So the blinking 00:00 doesn't really say anything one way or the other. Non-blinking, 00:00 would mean midnight in 24-hour format, vs 12:00 or 12:00am in 12-hour format. -boB (talk) 18:15, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

Why does Cueball assume that the clock hasn't *already* been moved to DST? 13:53, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

Because he happens to arrive at exactly 12:57 the day after DTS and sees a clock showing 11:57. This has now been mentioned in the explanation. Else the way he adjust it would make no sense. --Kynde (talk) 09:28, 15 March 2016 (UTC)

Hasn't Randall said, multiple times, that he hates DST? That was pretty much the first thing I saw. NickOfFørvania (talk) 22:05, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

I would really like to see a citation for that. It would make that part of the explanation true, not just an assumption. DST doesn't make any sense today, if it ever did. People are up all day today, so someone is up using power regardless of what time the clock shows. And it can disturb sleep for many people, especially kids, but also adults, and lack of sleep can be dangerous if you have other problems with your health. I think I have heard people say that it probably "kills" several people every time this adjustment is made, but I have no citation for that... Anyone who know about such allegations? I would vote for stopping this stupid practice. We still have to wait a few weeks for DTS in Europe, as it here happens in the last weekend before April, so this year it will be on Easter Sunday (at 2:00 Am when the time will change to 3:00 AM). --Kynde (talk) 09:28, 15 March 2016 (UTC)
Every year there are cities/municipalities that experiment with no DST, and every time it's shown that there's a clear power savings. There may be people up 24/7, but not enough to make a difference. That being said, DST makes less sense the closer to the equator you are, so it makes more sense in Idaho than in Arizona, for instance. 23:14, 18 March 2016 (UTC)
The title text in 1268 refers to DSTHisHighestMinion (talk) 05:36, 16 March 2016 (UTC)