Two minutes to midnight.
The hands that threaten doom.
Two minutes to midnight,
To kill the unborn in the womb.
So sang Bruce Dickinson back in 1984, when Iron Maiden released the first single on its iconic album, Powerslave. 2 Minutes to Midnight was Dickinson’s and guitarist Adrian Smith’s ode to the anxieties of nuclear annihilation. It’s a reference to the Doomsday Clock, which in 1984 had increased exponentially to three minutes to midnight as tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States spiked that same year.
At the time, Iron Maiden’s reference to two minutes — the most dangerous reading ever recorded on the Clock — had only actually been achieved once since the Clock’s inception in 1947. That was in 1953, when the Clock’s ticker moved closer to midnight over Soviet Union’s testing of a hydrogen bomb, following the United States’ bomb test that destroyed Eniwetok atoll a year earlier in 1952. Since the ‘80s, Iron Maiden’s song has remained a classically metal dystopian parable — until today.
On Thursday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to the destruction of humanity. It now sits at two minutes to midnight.
The Doomsday Clock is an internationally recognized visual metaphor, organized by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, that measures humanity’s proximity to total destruction — midnight obviously symbolizing the time of our apocalypse.
Writing in an op-ed in The Washington Post Thursday, the Bulletin’s chairmen Lawrence Krauss and Robert Rosner explained that President Donald Trump’s failure to deescalate nuclear tensions with North Korea, and the increasing effects of climate change have transformed Iron Maiden’s epic riffs into our nightmare reality.
“To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger — and its immediacy. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program appeared to make remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks for itself, other countries in the region and the United States,” they write.
The Bulletin believes that the Trump Administration’s actions in foreign policy have played a large part in the world’s deteriorating peace. “Led by an undisciplined and disruptive president, the administration has failed to develop, coordinate and clearly communicate a coherent nuclear policy. This inconsistency constitutes a major challenge for deterrence, alliance management and global stability,” they write.
The organization was founded by members of the Manhattan Project concerned about their part in the nuclear arms race. It’s made up of scientists and nuclear experts who meet regularly to discuss and determine the proximity of the Doomsday Clock’s hand to nuclear devastation, as well as produce an academic journal aimed at educating the public about the threats that weapons and technology poses to our existence.