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Apocalypse Nigh

With the Doomsday Clock at two and a half minutes to midnight, science broadcaster Robin Ince explores the archive to reveal our longstanding preoccupation with the apocalypse.

This year the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set its Doomsday Clock at two and a half minutes to midnight, their judgement that humanity had moved closer to its own destruction. It's a theme embraced in popular culture, from the surprise-bestseller, The Ladybird Book of the Zombie Apocalypse to armageddon-chic on the catwalk.

However while politics, pollution and the very real threat of terrorism may indeed have made our world less stable, science broadcaster Robin Ince considers whether our concern with disaster is also age-old and sometimes imagined. Using the archive he explores our longstanding preoccupation with the apocalypse, from religion and science to comedy and drama, and what it tells us about the way we think.

Drawing on diverse sources from nuclear missile tests to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Orson Wells' infamous radio hoax, Ince discovers how destruction has been portrayed in different ways across the decades, with archive contributions from thinkers including physicist Richard Feynman and philosopher Noam Chomsky.

He hears from contemporary commentators with an interest in the darker side of human thought. Novelist Lionel Shriver and psychotherapist Susie Orbach are among those who explain what the apocalypse means to them.

Ince also searches the archive for practical advice in the event of catastrophe. He meets Professor Lewis Dartnell, a disaster-expert who explains how to reboot civilisation in the event of apocalypse.

Producer: Harry Kretchmer.

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58 minutes

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