Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

A Look At Russian Nuclear Icebreakers

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Given that Russian territorial waters include large areas of the far north, it’s no surprise that Russia has some of the world’s largest and most capable icebreakers.  A few of these are of the nuclear-powered variety.

Nuclear power is ideally suited to icebreakers, because it provides nearly limitless energy for propulsion and on board needs like heating and electricity.   Icebreakers tend to consume a lot of fuel, both because of their need for heat and because of the resistance posed by the ice, which requires large and powerful engines.  Nuclear power assures the ships will never be stranded in ice with low fuel and gives them the ability to run at full power without concern for fuel burned.

Russia’s fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers are the most capable ice-breaking ships in the world.  The icebreaker Artika was the first non-submarine to make it all the way to the North Pole, something few other ships could do.

In recent years, the icebreakers have been used in antarctic and arctic cruises, bringing passengers places few other ships could.  It’s not entirely clear if the contract for cruises on these ships will be renewed in future years, but at present, for the price of about nineteen thousand Euro, you can visit the antarctic from the comfort of a huge nuclear icebreaker.  Accommodations  on board are extremely comfortable, but because these ships were not built to be cruise liners, there’s only room for about one hundred guests.

A look inside really illustrates just what can be done with nuclear energy.  When you have limitless power at your disposal, anything is possible, including providing the creature comforts of home in an extremely harsh environment, with subzero temperatures while easily breaking through the toughest pack ice.

And yes, that is a swimming pool.  A small one, but a swimming pool none the less.  Why did they decide to put a pool on an icebreaker?  My guess is just to show off the fact that these icebreakers are such engineering masterpieces that nothing, not even swimming, needs to be omitted in the arctic and antarctic.   There are also saunas, libraries, gym areas and small theaters on the icebreakers.

Such recreational facilities also provide the crews of such icebreakers with much needed rest and relaxation during deployments in that can last several months.  For an escape from the dark and cold of the poles, they also have conservatory-like rooms with plants bathed in artificial sunlight.

The comforts, however, should not detract from appreciating the extreme capabilities of these ships.  They can cruise at more than twenty knots and break through some of the thickest ice in the world.  Their twin nuclear reactors are capable of delivering more than 350 megawatts of thermal power and providing 75,000 or more horsepower to the ship’s propellors.

These photos are not all of the same icebreaker

50-Years-of-Victory-01yamal image 3146_mobynova.com9025993203_c4ef2dd5c9_b

atomicicebreaker005-22atomicicebreaker005-21atomicicebreaker005-20atomicicebreaker005-18

atomicicebreaker005-12atomicicebreaker005-13atomicicebreaker005-14atomicicebreaker005-15

atomicicebreaker005-27242320

atomicicebreaker005-3050-Years-of-Victory-10atomicicebreaker005-328275171998_f6f2a11f70_k

atomicicebreaker005-11atomicicebreaker005-9atomicicebreaker005-4226

8713967046_427410452f_k8712844013_4d8cbee40b_katomicicebreaker005-37atomicicebreaker005-34

50-Years-of-Victory-093atomicicebreaker005-36atomicicebreaker005-35

50-Years-of-Victory-04007atomicicebreaker005-46atomicicebreaker005-44

atomicicebreaker005-47atomicicebreaker005-45atomicicebreaker005-43009

2150-Years-of-Victory-16336b0c558490732a2443896b64388d4b8713966876_d8b2269b2d_k

5General_AR_ShipVIC_int5_2010atomicicebreaker005-4018

1071519

6atomicicebreaker005-411617

1250-Years-of-Victory-0813atomicicebreaker005-39

011008010004

The US Coast Guard operates a fleet of large icebreakers.  They’re very capable by any standard, but they are nothing compared to these nuclear-powered ships.  Like most of the world’s icebreakers, the Coast Guard uses conventional oil-fired propulsion.

One can only imagine the possibilities if nuclear power of this type were more widely embraced and deployed for marine propulsion.  Building a large number would undoubtedly bring the cost down, due to economics of scale.

Sources of Photos:

Natural Habitat
Eformable Nuclear NewsMoby Nova
English Russia
Poseidon Expiditions
Arctic Centre On Flicr

Where Humans Can go in the Solar System

Monday, September 29th, 2014

In recent years there has been much discussion about human space exploration venturing beyond the earth-moon system to take on Mars and possibly other planets.  In light of this, I decided to do a little research to determine exactly what celestial bodies are suitable for human exploration.  Certainly, humans can fly by most any part of the solar system, should they have an advanced enough spacecraft.  But there are a limited number of places where surface exploration is possible.  What qualifies these places is the ability to survive in any current or foreseeable space suite or any kind of reasonable habitation module.

Since we are far from having any kind of faster than light travel (which, if possible at all, requires warping space or using some kind of artificial wormhole) and we are not ready for multi-generational spacecraft, the solar system is pretty much what we are stuck with.

It seems the places we can actually send humans are pretty limited.  There is definitely Mars, but after that, what comes next?   Possibly some of the moons of Jupiter, assuming its worth our while to send humans there in the future.   Mars appears to be the best candidate for any kind of permanent or semi-permanent colonization or station.

Places humans could visit with reasonable habitat modules and/or spacesuits:

Mercury - Possibly on the side that faces away from the sun, but it’s questionable whether it would be worth visiting.

Venus - The temperature and pressure on the surface are far too high for a spacesuit.  Manned flybys, however, have been considered in the past.

Earth’s Moon - Yes, obviously, since it has been done.  The environment is certainly harsh, but well within the capabilities of a spacesuit.

Ceres - A dwarf planet that is the largest member of the asteroid belt.  It could be visited by humans in spacesuits for surface study, but it is so small that it would be possible to jump off it into space.  The gravity is not sufficient to allow walking around on it.  Therefore, it would be more like clinging to the surface and floating around it than it would be “landing” on it in the normal sense.

Other asteroids - Again, lack of gravity makes surface exploration in the sense of walking impossible.  It’s possible human exploration of an asteroid would be worthwhile.  Some asteroids may have orbits that make them easier to get to than mars or other planets.  The scientific value of this may be questionable.  An asteroid does not seem like a good place to position any kind of manned outpost or colony.

Mars - The environment on mars is certainly within the capabilities of a spacesuit.  The gravity is more than sufficient for relatively normal movement.  Mars is also close enough to earth to make a trip to and from Mars practical for a crew.  This is probably the best place for exploration beyond the earth-moon system, although asteroids have been suggested as well.

Phobos - The largest moon of mars, but still much smaller than our own moon and more similar to Ceres in size.  There is no atmosphere and it should be within the capabilities of spacesuits, but again, hard to really walk around on because of the small size and lack of strong gravity.  It has the advantage of being easier to take off from than the surface of mars, due to such little gravity.

Jupiter - No.  The gas giants are out of the question.  Not only is it a massive ball of gas, with nothing to stand on, but the pressure is far too high for survival, not to mention the crushing gravity.  Probes that visited the area around Jupiter discovered that it has powerful radiation belts, which could be a problem for even a manned flyby.

 Io (Moon of Jupiter) - Quite possible.  It is only slightly larger than our own moon, so it has a fair amount of gravity.  Radiation might or might not be an issue.  The distance from the sun would make it very cold, necessitating heated space suits.

Europe (Moon of Jupiter) - Also possible.  Good size, but the surface characteristics are less well known.  It is believed to be covered with either ice or a cold brittle rock.  The surface therefore may or may not be suitable for exploration.  Again, radiation and cold are issues.

Ganymede (Moon of Jupiter) - Similar to Io, but larger and thus more gravity on the surface, but still much smaller than earth.  Possible, but cold and radiation are concerns.

Callisto - Possible, rocky moon similar to Io and Ganymede

Saturn - No.  Again, as with Jupiter, the gas giant has massive gravity and no place to stand.

Titan (moon of Saturn) - It’s hard to say but it might be possible.  It’s larger than our own moon.  It has its own dense atmosphere, which is unusual for a moon.  It would be very cold and harsh, but maybe within the capabilities of future space suits and habitats.   With Saturn and its moons, the distance of the travel and thus the time exposed to cosmic radiation and weightlessness become an issue, although this could be overcome with a powerful enough rocket, such as a nuclear pulsed propulsion system.

Other moons of Saturn - Saturn has dozens of moons, with Titan being the largest.  Most of the moons are small and unappealing for manned exploration.

Uranus - No. It is a gas giant, though smaller than Jupiter and Saturn.

Moons of Uranus - Some might be possible, but the extreme distance becomes a concern.  None appear especially appealing.

Neptune – As with the others, no landing on this gas giant.

Moons of Neptune - Only one moon is of substantial size, Triton.  It might be possible, but cold, distance and radiation are issues.

Pluto and Satellites - Though no longer considered a planet, it could be a target worth investigating.  Probably not worth human exploration.  Not only is it far enough from the sun to be super cold, but the distance would necessitate many years in transit to and from it.   The same is true with other Kuiper belt objects.

Spectroscopy Now For the Everyman

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

For those who don’t know, I have a bit of a side hobby fixing and using radiation detection equipment, such as Geiger counters.   If you’re not into amateur science and nuclear science/energy, this may not seem very exciting.

Geiger counters and other basic radiation detectors are great for getting a general idea what the background radiation is or finding radioactive materials.  However, they have their limitations.  A Geiger-Muller detector only tells you when a gamma photon (or alpha or beta particle) is detected.  It does not provide the energy level of the radiation.  Since Geiger-Muller tubes respond differently to different energy levels of gamma emissions, it’s difficult to get a completely accurate assessment of what the dose rate is.  A rough approximation is still possible, but a reading of the energy levels provides much more information.

In addition to better dose estimates, being able to measure the energy levels of gamma photons allows for identification of isotope which is being detected.  Gamma-emitting isotopes produce emissions at characteristic energy levels, and by measuring these energy levels it is possible to determine what kind of isotope is present.  It is also possible to tune a detector to measure only the desired energy levels and thereby pick up on a desired isotope’s emissions.

Bellow is a graph showing gamma measurements of a variety of radioactive materials.

Fig-4-3

(more…)

Recomended Facebook Groups and Pages

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

I have not always been a big social media fan, but I have to admit that Facebook is pretty great for keeping in touch with people and for finding groups of similar interests.

There are some great Facebook pages and groups that are anti-bad science.  Many of these are funny and all are worth checking out

Note that some of these are closed groups, where you have to apply for membership to the group before you can post to it, and, in some cases, read all the posts.

 

Anti Vax Wall of Shame - The worst comments, posts and quotes from anti-vaccine activists and websites.

Australian Vaccination Network – Not to be confused with the actual Australian Vaccination Network, this is pro-vaccine. How they got to use the name, I have no idea.

Conspiracy Theorists Say the Darndest Things – Comically bad conspiracy claims from around the web.

Fundies Say the Darndest things – Comically bad quotes and posts from religious fundimentalists, mostly.

New Age Woos Say the Darndest Things -Similar comically bad quotes, these from newagers, quacks and similar.

GMOLOL - Crazy GMO claims refuted and poked fun at.  Also general advocacy for good science regarding genetically engineering technology.

GMO Skepti-Forum – A place for skeptics of outlanding GMO claims (not as funny as GMOLOL)

Anti-Alternative Medicine – A group opposing and exposing quackery.

 

Please feel free to add recommended groups and pages in the comments!

New and Revolutionary Perpetual Motion/Free Energy Machine!

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Watch the whole thing before commenting…



Click here if your browser does not support embedded video

They do a great job of making the first part seem like a real perpetual motion claim. I found it pretty damn funny, especially the very end.

The sad thing is it makes as much senses as most free energy claims.

Weather Modification Methods That May Actually Work

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

There is much said about modifying weather by various conspiracy theorists and alike.  Often said to be the result of chemtrails or RF weapons, the fact is that the weather is very hard to modify.  It can be modified, but only under certain conditions and in a very localized area.

The best known method of weather modification is cloud seeding.  While data is sparse on the total effectiveness, especially in different conditions, it does seem to work, at least when applied to favorable clouds.   There are some other methods of weather modification.  I’ve listed them to show just how difficult really is.

(more…)

Tomorrow Is When I Will (hopefully) Get the Nomination

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Just a brief announcement: Tomorrow is the state Republican Convention. It’s the day when delegates will vote on who the candidates are for state and Federal offices.

I am competing with one other for the nomination to be the party-sponsored candidate for the US Congress. I’m pretty confident I will get it, but a lot can change, even at the last minute.

If you want to watch it happen, you can do so on the Connecticut Network, which has streaming live coverage of the convention caucuses. The Congressional one starts at 4PM Eastern Time.

Some Are Up In Arms Over Bodies Being Used For Crash Experiments

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Cars have never been safer.  That fact is largely due to the use of crash tests and destructive experiments conducted on car designs.   Similar tests have improved the safety of everything from airline seats to passenger rail cars.

To do these tests, sophisticated crash test dummies have been developed.  These dummies have improved vastly over the years.  They are reusable, packed with sensors and designed to accurately mimic the human body’s response to crashes.

However, to make these dummies and to validate their response, there must be something to compare them to.  Ideally, that would be real, living, breathing, healthy, humans.  Unfortunately, ethics boards tend to have a problem with using humans for anything other than the most benign of crash tests.  Living human volunteers are still used for some things, like range of motion measurements or determining things like tissue density.  When it comes to actual crash tests, however, it’s dead humans, cadavers, that are used to conduct the tests.

The overwhelming majority of crash tests don’t use cadavers, but they remain an important part of research.  The bodies are treated with respect and are generally wrapped in materials that cover parts like the face and hands.  But, in the end, they are hurled against things and beaten to a pulp before being x-rayed or autopsied to determine the injuries sustained.

This really bothers some people a lot…


Click here if your browser does not support embedded video

Most of the bodies used are from those who never granted specific permission to use their remains in crash tests, but did donate their bodies to science.  There is no requirement that those who agreed to have their bodies used for scientific purposes are given more details about what kind of research that might be.  In fact, it’s often not until after they die that it is determined how the body will be used.

I find the distaste for this to be misplaced.  If one donates their body to science, it is to be expected that things will happen to it that might not be pretty.  If it doesn’t get hurled against a wall, it will be chopped up in pathology studies or anatomy classes or it might be left out to rot in decay studies.  No, it’s not pleasant to think of, especially with loved ones, but it’s not much worse than the alternative.  If not donated to science, the body will either be put into the ground to rot or burned.   Neither of these are really something many of us want to look forward to.  But that’s death, which is something I am trying to put off for as long as reasonably possible.

If nothing else, this use of cadavers could be considered the most important, at least in so far as its impact on the living.  Few other experiments represent a more direct means of saving human lives.

Personally, I do not find it deceptive to not tell donors or their families about the possibilities of crash tests.  The best way of dealing with a grieving family, in my opinion, is to provide some basic information.  For example, one could say “Your relative has decided to donate their body to science.  Their remains will be used in a manner that will advance scientific and medical knowledge.   There are a number of ways this might happen.  We could give you the details about the kind of experiments carried out, but to be honest, you would probably wouldn’t want to hear all the details.”

It’s no different than most funeral arrangements.  Families may know their loved one will be embalmed and prepared for display and burial.  However, they aren’t normally given the full details about how the deceased will have their blood drained, their eyes glued shut and cotton balls stuffed up their anus.  That’s just not a picture most would want to have.

 

 

People Panicing Over Military Equipment Shipped By Rail

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Imagine this:  you see a train pass you by and rather than just having nondescript boxcars or inter-modal containers, it has *gasp* military vehicles on it.  It’s as if the military sometimes has to ship vehicles from one place to another!   Well, this has been happening, in fact, it seems that this activity is increasing and the result is about what you might have expected.  Youtubers and conspiracy theorists are posting videos like crazy saying it is a sure sign of impending marshal law/genocide/mass imprisonment or something similar.


The simple answer as to why you might see tanks and large trucks on trains:  they burn a lot of fuel.  Trains tend to be more efficient as a means of transporting military hardware.

Also, treaded vehicles can’t be driven on US roadways, and even if they could, they are too slow to keep up with traffic on highways.  They therefore must be transported by flat bed trucks or railroad.  Rail is the preferred method when moving more than a small number.

There are a number of reasons why tanks and other equipment might be shipped in mass on rail:

  1. There is some kind of realignment or transition in the location of forces which results in it being sent between installations.
  2. It is required for a training exercise or some other temporary function.
  3. The equipment is new and being deployed to the location where it is to be kept.
  4. It is traveling to or from a facility where it has been refurbished or had other major maintenance preformed.
  5. It has recently returned from deployment overseas.
  6. It is on its way to deployment overseas.
  7. It is surplus equipment which is being disposed of, which could include any number of ultimate fates, including scrapping, sales to other armed forces, sales to private entities etc.
  8. It is being placed in long term storage in a location where it will be in “mothballs.”  Typically this is at one of a few large installations located in the Western US.

Transition of equipment by train is quite common and routine.  It’s also nothing new.  During the Second World War and into the height of the Cold War, military equipment trains were a very common site.  Though the practice never really went away, it is not surprising that the practice would have recently increased in frequency.

The United States has withdrawn from Iraq and is currently drawing down troop levels in Afghanistan.  The result of this is that huge numbers of military vehicles have been brought back to the US.  These are likely to be shipped on trains to the facilities where they will be stored.  It has been pointed out that many of the vehicles have been seen in green forest camouflage color schemes, leading to the claim that they must not be related to the activities in the middle-east.  However, these vehicles may simply be those which have been displaced by the return of other vehicles, which has resulted in a huge realignment of assets.

One of the biggest realignments of vehicles is occurring with the MRAP or Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. Thousands of vehicles of this type were purchased in huge numbers by the US military during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are designed to be highly survivable when attacked by IED’s, landmines, rocket propelled grenades and other such weapons. This was a direct response to the tactics used against the US by insurgents.

The vehicles worked very well and resulted in a reduction in the deaths of soldiers from ambushes on convoys. However, the military now has thousands more MRAP’s than it requires. Although several thousand will be retained, more than 13,000 are in the process of being declared surplus. Some are being given to law enforcement agencies (which does present some concerns of the militarization of police forces) while others are behind sold to allied nations. Still others are off to the scrap heap or the bone-yard.

Transporting all these vehicles to reprocessing facilities and then to their ultimate fate represents yet another huge logistical challenge.

A few other things to consider (if we are to play devils advocate):

  1. Tanks are not very good for urban warfare.  They might work for breaking down some of the initial barriers, but they are too big to go through narrow allies or streets, too heavy for many bridges and overpasses and pavement causes a great deal of wear on the treads (and the treads cause a lot of wear on the pavement).  They’re better for warfare in more open and unsettled areas.   Also, the sheer armor of tanks would not be necessary for war against the population, where they would likely only face small arms fire.
  2. Those big heavy vehicles use a huge amount of fuel, so if they are planning on actually driving them around, they would also be transporting an equal number of tanker trucks.  In modern military activities, the logistics of fuel delivery turns out to be a huge issue.  Raiding the local gas stations won’t keep them moving very long.  The fuel tanks might be large enough to ferry the vehicles off the train cars, but sustained combat means huge fuel requirements.
  3. When military vehicles need to be brought to an area for something urgent, like combat, trains are not generally the best method for transportation.  Trains are cheap, but they are slow, vulnerable, subject to delays etc.  If they wanted to quickly deploy urban combat vehicles, they would airlift them in.  That way, it could be done rapidly, before anyone even knew what was happening.  Tanks can be brought in on large cargo planes.  It’s fast and effective, but expensive.
  4. A train full of tanks is not going to do much good in declaring marshal law unless you can get the tanks off the train.  That is more involved than you might think.  It requires parking the train, separating the cars, with switching engines, rolling the tanks down ramps and removing any equipment used to secure them during transport.  For a large train, this is not a trivial task.  It requires a rail yard with the proper equipment, which exist on military bases, but not generally in random city locations.
  5. If they really wanted to hide them, it would not be that hard to put them in large boxes or just cover them with tarps to make it more discrete.  Do you really think they would be doing this in broad daylight?
  6. Many of these videos are months old.  A few are years old.  This has been going on for a while.  Granted, the government is slow, but that slow?  How long do you think they are going do be doing this evil transportation before they pounce on you?

Don’t Worry, Yellowstone Won’t (Likely) Erupt

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Yellowstone National Park is a true national treasure of the United States and indeed is one of the world’s most unique and majestic natural settings.  The park is home to pristine wilderness and wildlife and to numerous dramatic geothermal features like geysers and hot springs.  The park is visited by more than three million per year and is one of the most popular national parks in the world.

The unique topography and geothermal activity are the result of a massive supervolcano which the park sits above.  It has been more than two million years since the volcano had a “mega eruption” amd 70,000 since it had even a minor eruption event. Still, if it were to erupt, it has the potential to cause devastation to the United States, North America, the Western Hemisphere and even the entire world.  Those outside of North America would likely be spared the most direct effects, although there could be noticeable climate effects.  However, the sheer volume of North American farmland that would be devastated would result in a global food crisis.

There a reasonable possibility that Yellowstone will erupt some time in the next hundred thousand years, but the probability of it erupting in any of our lifetimes is miniscule.

Still, many are becoming extremely concerned after a number of videos showed up online reporting to show bison or other animals fleeing the Yellowstone area.  It must mean the whole thing is about to blow… right?   According to some it does.  Because these original videos were followed by many conspiracy-oriented videos claiming that the government is keeping down the information about the impending eruption.


(more…)