I have written this for young children and others scared the world is about to blow up. If you read the news announcements today, you can understand why they seem to say this. Take them literally and that is exactly what they say. 

Summary: They have just set the "clock" to two and a half minutes, it does not mean that the world is about to blow up into dust in two and a half minutes. It’s like when a friend says “I could eat a horse”. They couldn’t eat a horse. They also don’t want to eat a horse. But they aren’t lying when they say that. They are just using vivid imagery.

Camargue horse - photo by Wolfgang Staudt.

Here is an example story: Doomsday becoming one minute closer

I have been asked about this story and others like them by people who are scared because they take it literally. For young children and those who are not used to the way language is used in these announcements, it sounds as if they are saying that the world is just about to blow up. Some are getting very scared that this will happen suddenly and soon.

But this not what it means. That “two and a half minutes” is nothing to do with time at all in these announcements. They could as easily say “two miles” or “two thousand miles”. Then the announcement would be “Doomsday is becoming one mile closer”. Or “Doomsday is becoming a thousand miles closer”. The "two and a half minutes” there is essentially meaningless. A metaphor or symbolic. It’s no wonder that scared people find it confusing.

It is vivid imagery for effect. This is called “hyperbole”. It's a vivid image of the world about to be destroyed with just two and a half minutes to save it. But that is just an image and not to be taken literally at all. The things they talk about may some of them happen decades into the future (for global warming) and none would destroy the world.

The clock often stays at the same time for years on end. They move it backwards if things improve and forward if things get worse. This shows its position up to 2016

You can read about the timeline here.

It's about the risk of serious consequences. Such as for instance, flooding, drought, starvation, cities getting bomb damage from nuclear weapons and many killed if we have an all out nuclear war etc. And the reason for saying that is to get politicians to act to prevent it happening.

They use a small number of minutes in the announcements if they think there is a higher risk of these things happening. They use a larger number of minutes if they think the risk is lower. That’s all. We don’t often use time like that in our daily life, so it’s no wonder that people find it confusing.

So, yes there are things to worry about. The things I listed, flooding, drought, bad harvests, cities with bomb damage and lots of people killed if we have a nuclear war and so on. But they aren't saying those things are about to happen right now either. They are not saying that we will have a global nuclear war within two and a half minutes. Also they are not saying that we will have flooding of coastal cities within two minutes.

They are things that could happen and we need to watch out for. Many of them will happen several decades from now if they do happen. If we act on their warning, then these things won’t happen. The reason for making this announcement is to stop them from happening.

Also, they are not prophets. Just scientists who are doing their best to evaluate our situation.

Here is the announcement, starts at fourteen minutes into the video:

Here is the op ed they mention in the video, by Lawrence Krause and David Titley, Thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock Advances Toward Midnight

Now that they have set the clock to "two and a half minutes before midnight", it is serious in one way. It means they think there is a higher risk of a nuclear war and of global warming and other things they mention in the announcement. But those won't mean the end of life on Earth or anything like it.

Just remember, in all theses announcements, all the way through, it’s like when your friend says they could eat a horse. Just about everything they say in these announcements is hyperbole. .

Let’s count all the examples of hyperbole in this one article

  • “Doomsday becoming one minute closer” (title). It is not literal doomsday. It is not literally one minute closer
  • “symbolises the current threat of global annihilation” - it is not literally annihilation
  • “the closest it has ever been to the apocalypse” - it is not literally apocalypse in the sense of Jesus appearing and ending the world as some fundamentalists think will happen
  • “Earth was closer to oblivion” - it’s not literally oblivion in the sense of nothing
  • “They threaten the very existence of civilization” - dubious. A nuclear war would not end civilization. Nor would global warming.

    The entire southern hemisphere is a nuclear free zone. It would hardly be affected by a global nuclear war. It might become the hub of civilization. Global warming will not make the world too hot to live in. In some ways it will be a better place to live. The problem is the speed of change, places that were dry becoming wet, places that were wet becoming dry, cold places getting warmer, sometimes warm places getting unusual cold spells. Crops that used to grow in one place have to grow in another. Cities flooded, but the only reason they were built near the sea in the first place is because the sea was lower. All this is going to be a challenge to deal with but it's not the end of civilization.

    They are exaggerating for effect still. 

See also my: Why we don’t need to be scared of the “Doomsday clock” (short version)


Those who worry about these things often tell me that they can't find any doomsday debunking stories apart from mine, since 2012. If  you are a journalist, please consider writing stories that they can read so they don't get the very false impression that everyone thinks the world is about to end.

For scientists writing about asteroids, global warming, nuclear war and so on, try running things past anyone vulnerable, for instance a ten year old, and find out what their take home message is from your presentation. You might be surprised about how it differs from the message that scientists like yourself and your colleagues get. You might then notice hyperbole such as saying that nuclear bombs would turn the States to radioactive dust more easily.

Do sign and share the petitions which I started on Change.org. They are:

Robert Walker


For lots more about asteroid impacts, climate change exaggerations ,

The kindle book may be useful if you want it formatted as a book, which you can read on your kindle, and also on most major smartphones, tablets and computers, using the free kindle reading app.

All proceeds from the book will go to suicide prevention charities. At present the plan is to donate them to Befrienders Worldwide. If you buy it on kindle, then it also helps to put it into the best sellers lists there so others may find it too. Of the price of $3.99 for US customers, then $1.86 or 47% will go to charity, and the rest goes to Amazon. It's 70% royalties, but they reduce the royalties if you include graphics as a "delivery charge", and I felt it was important to have plenty of graphics.


You will find these also in the contents table in the kindle book. These links take you to the online book. You'll find many scenarios there already

(go to detailed contents for online book)


I've made a new facebook group which you can join to discuss this and other doomsday stories that you find scary. also astronomers and scientists, do join if you want to help reassure scared people and help with the debunking.

Please feel free to post any story you find scary, however silly it may seem. Also for astronomers and scientists - when commenting please bear in mind that some here may have decided long ago that astronomy and maths are not for them and others may be young children - children as young as 10 can get scared of Nibiru. Please treat any questions with respect. Ideas that seem LOL silly to astronomers can be truly scary to those without that background.

Doomsday Debunked

Also you can check out my Debunking Doomsday blog which is where I first post articles like this.

Here are some more facebook groups to join, whether you are scared, or want to help doing the reassuring and debunking, see


You are also of course welcome to talk to me, via the comments threads on any of my articles, and if it helps to contact me via pm you can contact me via my profile page on Quora. It is easy to join and then you should see an option there to message me.