I started working as an editor for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about three weeks ago. I knew I’d be editing leading scientists and dealing with complex subject matter. And I knew that the Bulletin, founded by experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project, had an interesting history that included a National Magazine Award for General Excellence and, of course, the Doomsday Clock, reset each year to say how many minutes the world is away from midnight, aka nuclear armageddon. But I didn’t really know the prominence of so many people associated with the Bulletin. I didn’t know, for example, that the magazine’s Board of Sponsors includes, if I count correctly, 19 Nobel laureates, or that the Science and Security Board reads pretty much as a Who’s Who of the entire scholarly and governmental world of, well, science and national security. I also didn’t know just how ubiquitous the Doomsday Clock is. It seems as if everyone I tell about my new place of employment answers with some variant on, “Oh, that’s the place with the Doomsday Clock, right?” And as if to emphasize the enduring appeal of the clock, the newyorker.com’s News Desk posted this charming item today, “Clocks and Countdowns,” which compares the silliness of an ABC.com clock that counts down to federal default (“an overeager Hill intern logging the smirks and groans of everyone in a suit”) to “the wise, professorial father” that is the Doomsday Clock. “From the perspective of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, we think about very big, serious questions every day, and try to prevent the worst from happening,” Bulletin executive director Kennette Benedict, a personage of note herself, having directed the international peace and security program at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is quoted as saying. I’m trying to think of downsides to a job that involves working with extremely smart people who are trying to — literally, practically — save the world. I’ll let you know if I come up with one.
My new boss in the New Yorker
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