Archive for the ‘Good Science’ Category

An Attempt to Quantify The Number of Deaths Attributable to the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

For some time a single question has been vexing me:  Just how many people are dead because of the anti-vaccine movement?   We know that people have died because of it.  That’s for sure.  There are diseases that were all but wiped out from the industrial world that have come roaring back, and which have claimed lives.

Today many people refuse to vaccinate themselves or their children and lives are being lost.  We will certainly never know how many, but perhaps we can get a reasonable estimate.

There is a website that does attempt to provide some statistics.  Antivaccinebodycount.com provides information on the number of vaccine preventible deaths in the United States since 2007.  However, there are some problems with this methodology.  For one thing, it only takes into account the United States.  It’s understandable to stick to one country, because it’s much harder to get the statistics from many countries, but it’s certainly very narrow.  It also only goes back to 2007, while the anti-vaccine movement goes back further than that.  Finally, it’s not entirely fair to consider all the deaths from vaccine preventible diseases are because of the anti-vaccine movement.  Vaccines are not 100% effective and sometimes people don’t bother to get them, but not because of the movement.

wakefield44It should be noted that the anti-vaccine movement is not entirely new.  It has existed for almost as long as vaccines.  But it was once very fringe and relatively ineffective.  Up to the 1990′s, most parents vaccinated without question.  The modern movement was almost entirely invented by Andrew Wakefield.  His fraudulent 1998 paper on vaccines and autism touched off a media storm that grew into the full-blown anti-vaccine movement.  In the years that followed, the movement expanded to claim vaccines caused everything from asthma to SIDS.

Today many parents have concerns over vaccines and many people still think they cause autism or other health issues.  This was almost non-existent until 1998.

 

My methodology to determine the number:

Measels2In order to get a reasonable estimate of how many lives have been snuffed out by the anti-vaccine movement, I have begun to look at the data on vaccine-preventible infectious diseases in modern, industrial countries.  The anti-vaccine movement may have started in the UK, but it’s now pervasive in the US, Canada, Australia and across Europe.  The numbers don’t lie.  Both infection rates and deaths have begun to climb after years of decline.

I settled on the year 2000 as the start of where I would begin to measure the effects of the anti-vaccine movement.  This is partially arbitrary, but I chose as a time when the movement really started to gain traction and to provide a couple of years of time to elapse from the initial fraudulent study.  It is also about the time that we can first begin to see the rise in death rates from vaccine preventible diseases.

Take, for example, whooping cough.  It kills mainly infants and had been a major concern until the late 20th century.  However, a highly effective vaccine had resulted in a rapid decline.  By the early 1990′s, the United States was experiencing an average of just about four or five whooping cough deaths per year.  It’s entirely reasonable to presume that the trend would have continued, or, at the very least, the numbers would have stabilized with only five or less deaths happening per year, if things had continued.

But that’s not what happened.  Starting in the early 2000′s, the rate of whooping cough started to climb.  In 2014, there were 16 whooping cough deaths in the United States.  That was not even a bad year, relatively speaking.  26 died in 2010 and 31 in 2005. Such numbers would have seemed unbelievable in the early 1990′s, when the disease seemed under control.

All told, if five had died per year (a reasonable assumption for the average, if the trend had held), then 75 lives would have been lost between 2000 and 2014.  But the actual number was 240 lives lost.  Thus, we can see an excess of 165 deaths since the year 2000.   Perhaps these are not all because of the anti-vaccine movement, but again, this is only the best estimate.  It’s not possible to ever know the exact number for sure.

I then went on to try to compile similar numbers for all other vaccine preventible diseases in the United States, and, after that, for the other countries that have been impacted by the anti-vaccine movement.

It turns out this is really hard to do.

 

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EM Drive Tested By NASA: Lets Not Get Too Excited Just Yet

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

A big news story has been making the rounds about a new and potentially game changing space propulsion technology, which was recently tested by NASA scientists in a vacuum chamber at the Manned Space Flight Center in Houston Texas.  The system, called the EM Drive, is based on microwaves bouncing around a specially shaped cavity.  These aledgedly create thrust, thus making it possible for the EM drive to be used as a propulsion system, if attached to a spacecraft.

What  makes the EM drive so much different than any previous propulsion technology is that it does so without expelling any propellant.  All existing rocket engines use some kind of material, known as reaction mass, in order to produce thrust.  Even highly efficient ion engines require a gas of some sort to be used as the reactionary mass.  The need for propellant is a major limiting factor in spaceflight.  It means that propellant must be launched with the spacecraft, often constituting a large percentage of the spacecraft’s mass.  It also limits the duration of the spaceflight.  Eventually the propellant runs out.  However, the EM drive uses only energy, which can be provided almost without limits by solar panels or a nuclear power source, which could provide energy for decades.emdrive

The only problem with this is that the whole concept seems to violate the law of conservation of momentum.  Our current understanding of physics would seem to indicate that this is impossible.  You can’t add momentum to something without pushing off of something else.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and that’s why rockets need to shoot propellant in one direction to go in the other.

Via IO9:

New Test Suggests NASA’s “Impossible” EM Drive Will Work In Space
[T]he EM Drive’s thrust was due to the Quantum Vacuum (the quantum state with the lowest possible energy) behaving like propellant ions behave in a MagnetoHydroDynamics drive (a method electrifying propellant and then directing it with magnetic fields to push a spacecraft in the opposite direction) for spacecraft propulsion.
Last year, NASA’s advanced propulsion research wing made headlines by announcing the successful test of a physics-defying electromagnetic drive, or EM drive. Now, this futuristic engine, which could in theory propel objects to near-relativistic speeds, has been shown to work inside a space-like vacuum.

NASA Eagleworks made the announcement quite unassumingly via NASASpaceFlight.com. There’s also a major discussion going on about the engine and the physics that drives it at the site’s forum.


The EM drive is controversial in that it appears to violate conventional physics and the law of conservation of momentum; the engine, invented by British scientist Roger Sawyer, converts electric power to thrust without the need for any propellant by bouncing microwaves within a closed container. So, with no expulsion of propellant, there’s nothing to balance the change in the spacecraft’s momentum during acceleration. Hence the skepticism. But as stated by NASA Eagleworks scientist Harold White:

The trouble with this theory, however, is that it might not work in a closed vacuum. After last year’s tests of the engine, which weren’t performed in a vacuum, skeptics argued that the measured thrust was attributable to environmental conditions external to the drive, such as natural thermal convection currents arising from microwave heating.

The recent experiment, however, addressed this concern head-on, while also demonstrating the engine’s potential to work in space. (Image: NASA Eagleworks.)

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Yet another study proves vaccines do not cause autism

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Vaccines don’t cause autism.  We know that.  We’ve known it for a while.  There has never been a shred of evidence that they do.  There have been studies done that conclusively show they do not.

Now a new study has come out showing that there is zero increase in the risk of autism in children who are given the MMR vaccine, even in those who are already at high risk for autism.  This refutes the claim made by some that vaccines contribute to autism or are a factor that exacerbates it.

Via CBS News:

Will latest study on vaccines and autism change minds?

Yet another study finds no evidence that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine raises the risk of autism — even among children who are at increased genetic risk.

Experts said the findings, reported in the April 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, should be reassuring to parents, particularly those who already have a child with autism.

The theory that MMR vaccination raises the risk of autism has its roots in a small study done in 1998 — one that was later found to be fraudulent. Since then, numerous international studies have found no evidence that vaccines help trigger autism.

Still, some parents remain worried. And those who already have a child with autism seem even more concerned.

“Research has shown that parents of kids with autism spectrum disorders are more likely to delay vaccinating their younger children,” said Dr. Bryan King, an autism researcher at the University of Washington, in Seattle.

“Basically, they wait until the developmental dust has settled, and it looks like their child will be unaffected (by autism),” said King, who wrote an editorial published with the study.

But delaying recommended vaccinations puts children at risk of potentially serious infections, said Dr. Anjali Jain, the study leader and a researcher at the Lewin Group, a healthcare consulting firm in Falls Church, Va.

It’s known that genes make certain children more vulnerable to autism — that’s why kids with an affected older sibling are at higher-than-average risk. But environmental factors also have to play a role, experts believe.

One theory, King said, is that it takes a “triple hit” — genes, plus an environmental trigger that strikes during a particular time window in brain development.

But based on years of research, the MMR vaccine is not that trigger, according to health experts. “Every study that’s looked at this, through every strategy they’ve used, has found no signal,” King said.

The increase in autism is most likely the result of increased screening and a broadening of the diagnostic criteria for the condition.

This study may put some pressure on certain groups, such as Generation Rescue or Autism Speaks, who are trying to put a legitimate face on the lies they tell, even despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Sadly, it is unlikely to do much for the average anti-vaxxer. Such individuals are not interested in science and not persuaded by data. If they were, this would have been over a long time ago.

It may also help in convincing those who are sitting on the fence or who are generally ignorant of the issue and are facing the decision of whether or not to vaccinate their first child. In such circumstances, every chance to get such information in the general media should be seen as a victory.

The topic of why otherwise intelligent people subscribe to discredited ideas like vaccines causing autism is another discussion onto itself. It involves a complex mix of cognitive dissonance, being heavily invested in something, persecution complexes, and a near-religious conviction in the idea. Thus, this will not change any minds that have already been made up.

The Best Late Night Bit Ever (on Vaccines)

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Rarely do I create a post just to show off a video, much less a comedy video from a late night television show.  However, this bit from Jimmy Kimmel Live is great.  It’s about vaccines and it’s funny and on point.

I think my favorite thing about this is that the message to vaccinate kids and opposition to the anti-vaccine movement is making such a strong showing in the mainstream media.  While late night talk shows aren’t exactly the best place to get information, they are a good reflection on cultural trends.  Putting out the pro-vaccine message on science blogs and even in the news media is great and should be encouraged.  However, it is a huge step when it starts to enter more of our culture and media.

Ridicule is also a important weapon in opposing anti-science rhetoric and quackery.  There is nothing wrong with calling an idea stupid when it is, in fact, stupid, and sometimes putting it in its place with appropriate ridicule is the best way of driving the point home.  There’s also good reason why humor is used in so many advertisements.  Humor gets people’s attention and helps make the message memorable.

Here’s the clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live.  It’s fantastic.


(Click here if your browser does not support embedded video)

SpaceX Will Attempt First Stage Recovery Launch – UPDATE

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

A brief post but something that really excites me.

SpaceX was planning on launching a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Staton today.   This launch is not the first time the rocket has been launched nor the first mission to the ISS.  What makes it exciting (in addition to the fact that all rocket launches are exciting) is that it would be their first attempt to recover the first stage in a near-perfect reusable condition.  Aside from the SRB’s on the Space Shuttle, which splashed down in sea water, there has not been any launch system which allowed a major stage component to be reused.

Since this is the first attempt, there’s a good chance it won’t work, but if it does, it will be a huge step toward lower cost space flight.  Of course, it’s only one stage of the rocket, but it’s still a big achievement.  The rocket itself costs tens of millions of dollars, while the fuel is only hundreds of thousands, so reusing a major portion of the rocket can save enormous costs.

The unique method of recovery is to have the rocket use remaining fuel and its own engine to decelerate and make a soft landing.  Landing legs will deploy and the touchdown will be attempted on a floating barge, which is unmanned and some distance offshore, thus reducing any risks should the landing not be successful.

NOTE:  The launch has been aborted.  Apparently there were some readings with the thrust vector control system which indicated a problem.  It’s not entirely unusual for launches to be aborted at the last minute, as a result of such technical data.  In a high risk activity like launching rockets, it is not worth attempting a launch if there appear to be any potential problems.

The systems will be checked and diagnosed and the launch will likely proceed shortly, but probably not today.   It may require a couple of days before the proper launch window opens up again.  It may also take a number of days for the problem to be solved with the thrust vector control.  In all likelihood, the launch will still happen in the next few days.

 

YOU CAN WATCH THE HISTORIC LAUNCH AND RECOVERY ATTEMPT HERE

No, it does not take a conspiracy to make people fat

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

 Videos like this one really get under my skin

Click here if your browser does not support embedded videos

 

PEOPLE LIKE HIGH CALORIE FOODS. IT IS NOT A CONSPIRACY

Foods that are high in calories, that contain a large portion of fat are simply something people like.   The same is true for starchy foods and sweet foods.   Any chef will tell you this. There’s a reason why so many of them seem to be nearly obsessed with butter.  It makes foods taste pleasing.  Trying to make foods that are low in sugar, low in fat and low in starch as palatable is, at beast a challenge.  They can be spiced and seasoned, but this really does not get you quite the same level of culinary gratification.

Owithdrawalfromsugarf course, substitutes can be used, which give similar taste to foods.  Many substitute sweeteners exist.  Unfortunately, they do not always work in all products, since they may not melt or dissolve the same way as natural sugars do.  They also tend to have inferior subjective tastes, at least to most people, with undesirable mouth-feels and aftertastes.  There are also fat substitutes, but they have their own problems.   Olestra is a well known example.   The molecule is similar to fats, chemically and physically.  It has the same thick, greasy feel to it.  However, it also has some unfortunate side-effects.  It is not absorbed in the digestive tract but passes through.  It’s become famous for therefore producing an unpleasant side effect known as anal leakage. (Which is exactly what it sounds like.)

The human affinity for sweetness, however, should not be viewed as an addiction in the same way something like cocaine is addictive, however.  That’s just ridiculous.  Sugar is a natural part of our food we are all exposed to and which can’t be eliminated.  Sweet flavors light up the pleasure centers of the brain because we like them and that’s what stuff we like does.   Cocaine is a powerful drug that modifies brain chemistry, working on the dopamine system.  It has strong stimulating effects and produces tolerance and dependence.  With time, users are left dopamine-deficient without it.  It also has an effect on serotonin and norepinephrine.

Why this is the case:

The reason why humans seek out and prefer high calorie foods is actually very simple.   For most of our evolution food was scarce and it was common to not know where your next meal was coming from.  Calories are, by far, he most important basic nutrient, and therefore when the opportunity arose to eat something high in them, it made sense to do so.  If our ancestors went out foraging or hunting for food, it made sense to seek out that which had the highest calorie density.

It’s also more common to find other important nutrients, such as vitamins in the fruits of plants than in their leaves.   Since humans require a steady supply of vitamin C, an affinity for sweet fruits was a good thing to have.

It really is that simple.   It’s a matter of desiring foods and high calorie foods, because that’s what we need.

Evolution is also the reason why humans get fat when they eat a lot of high calorie foods.  Many seem to believe that gaining weight represents the human body functioning improperly or that it is the result of something unnatural.  This seems to be the reason why there are so many “detox” diets, which are based on the entirely false notion that fat is toxic or that some toxic and foreign substance is making people gain fatty tissue.  There’s nothing especially toxic in fat cells.  They’re just full of nutrients.

This has the same basic evolutionary reason.   Every day we burn a certain number of calories, based primarily on the level of activity undertaken.  We also take in a certain number of calories, based on diet.   When we consistently eat more calories than we burn, there is a surplus and that surplus of calories needs to go somewhere.

Perhaps these calories could be eliminated by selectively closing the intestinal wall to further absorption or by boosting the body’s resting metabolism rate.   If we were designing the human body for modern society, that might be what we’d decide to do.  But that would be a very bad decision in a more “natural” environment, where food could be scarce.  If there are extra calories, they are stored in fatty tissue, which is one of the primary purposes of fat.  Our distant ancestors probably never had the opportunity to take this process to the extreme that so many do today, but it does not change the fact that it’s all just the body functioning normally to pack away calories for later.

It’s been said that there’s more to weight loss than just calories in and calories out.  That’s only partially true.  Metabolism is a complicated process and some people do have naturally higher or lower metabolisms, which does mean they may have to work harder than others to keep the pounds off.  It’s also true that some foods have more easily absorbed calories than others.  It does not change the fact that the human body cannot create fat out of nothing nor can it expend energy without burning something.  We can’t photosynthesize.

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An Open Letter About GMOs

Monday, December 8th, 2014

An open letter to Europe and the world about GMOs in response to the ridiculous “Letter From America” about GMOs.   Of course, Europe and much of the world has been eating and benefiting from GMOs for some time. It’s a fallacy to equate GMOs with the United States.  However, it is true that the US agricultural sector has been one of the earliest and largest adopters of genetic engineering, and has benefited from it greatly.

Feel free to click the above link and read the “Letter From America” if you’d like a laugh or to be disgusted.

I’m also an American and I’ve been eating genetically modified foods since the mid 1990′s.  So I figured I’m just as qualified to set the record straight.  No, the sky is not falling.  And yes, I am perfectly healthy.

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The Babushka Lady: A Critical Missing Witness to the Kennedy Assassination

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in broad daylight in Dealey Plaza in Dallas TX, in broad daylight and in front of numerous witnesses.  The overwhelming majority of those who were close to the shooting or who saw anything that was of importance were identified immediately and gave statements to investigators.   Many were interviewed by police almost immediately.  Comprehensive testimony was recorded by the Warren Commission.

There were three motion pictures taken that show at least part of the assassination: the Zapruder, Nix and Muchmore films.  There were more than a dozen more films that were taken either immediately before or after the shooting took place.  More than one hundred photographs were also taken in the plaza on that day.  These films and pictures were examined as evidence and are now part of the historical record.

But one remains absent

A woman can be seen in the Zapruder film and on other films and photographs taken at the time.  She was standing just north of Elm street, slightly behind witness Charles Brehm and his son.  This would have made her one of the closest witnesses to the fatal shot.  She appears to be wearing a long coat, perhaps a raincoat.  She wears a distinctive pink headscarf, like those worn by older women in Eastern EuropeHer appearance has earned her the name “The Babushka Lady.”   The Term Babushka means “old woman” in Russian.

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After the shooting, witnesses and photographs show that she moped around the area she was standing for a minute or two before crossing Elm Street and ascending the steps on the grassy knoll, toward the retaining wall.  Shortly after (around 12:40) she is seen as part of a crowd of people who had gathered on the south side of Elm Street.  Her movements are consistent with many of those in the area.  Those who saw the shooting were shocked or confused and most seem to just be talking and trying to get a handle on what had happened.  Some, who had a clear view of the events, such as Charles Brehm spoke to reporters or to members of the public, describing what happened.  At some point, a few of those in the crowd brought out transistor radios and others congregated around them to listen for reports.

Finally the Babushka Lady is seen walking east on Elm Street.  What happened to her after that is unknown.   She has never been identified or come forward.

What may be most important about the Babushka Lady is that she appears to have been taking a movie or photograph(s) at the time of the assassination.  In the Zapruder film and other films, she clearly has a camera to her face.  The fact that she holds it there for a period of time might imply that it is a motion picture camera, but it could also be a still camera.

Many conspiracy theories hing on the claim that there was a shooter in front of the motorcade, with the most common location cited being on the grassy knoll or behind the stockade fence, just south of Elm Street.   A photograph of this area, at the time of the assassination could well prove this to be true or put the issue to rest.  Unfortunately, the photos that exist are not adequate.  There is one photograph, taken by Mary Moorman, at almost exactly the time of the fatal shot, which shows the area of interest. H0wever, the Muchmore photograph is a Polaroid and lacks the quality and range to show anything definitive.  There is also the film taken by Orville Nix, but the Nix film was taken on stock intended for indoor shooting, and not well suited for the lighting conditions.  In the Nix film, the area of interest is obscured by shadows.  The Babushka Lady’s film or photograph may well have captured the area and could, quite possibly, be of sufficient range and quality to prove or disprove claims of a gunman in the area.

The photo has never been found.  However, a tantalizing clue comes from assassination researcher Gary Mack, who testified before Congress in 1994, recounting a story he’d been told by a retired Kodak employee about an unknown film of the assassination.

What I have found living here and talking with people is that there are a lot of people in the Dallas area who, for one reason or another, just would prefer not to come forward. I learned a story just a few weeks ago. A retired Kodak executive remembered that while they were processing Abraham Zapruder’s film out in the Dallas office out by Love Field, that a woman had come in, and this was a woman in her late 30s, a brunette, who had taken a picture at the assassination scene, and her picture was the first one out of the processor, and they were working on this because it was quicker to do stills than it was moving film.

He didn’t catch her name, but he stood next to her while she was explaining her story to some of the Federal investigators who were already there. She was running from Main Street up to Elm Street across the grass, realized she wasn’t going to get there close enough, stopped and took a picture. In the foreground were some people standing on the south curb of Elm Street. The Kennedy limousine was directly behind them, directly behind the limousine was the Book Depository Building. When the picture came out of the processor, the first thing they noticed was the exposure was terrific but the focus was way, way off. It was virtually useless, and she was told that. Well, she apparently went home and whether anyone even got her name or that is unknown.

If this story is true, and I have no reason to doubt it, the man – we sought him out, he did not seek us out, today if we can locate that slide, and this is a color slide, computer enhancement can return it literally to almost the best clarity you could have had at the time. Of course, back in those days nothing like that existed. The Kodak executive’s name is Jack Harrison. Jack said they were pushing the technicians very hard to do whatever you can to sharpen this picture and approve it, and they just said, hey, there is nothing we can do.

There is one individual who has come forward, claiming to be the Babushka Lady.  Beverly Oliver was  a singer and dancer at a strip club at the time of the assassination.  She claims to have been the Babushka Lady and to have taken a film of the assassination.  She has made some other claims, including that she was approached by FBI or Secret Service agents shortly after, who confiscated the film and never returned it.  Her claims cannot be backed up by anyone else and there’s no apparent documentation of this story before 1970.

Many mainstream assassination experts flatly dismiss the stories about Beverly Oliver being the Babushka lady.  I would tend to agree.

Even today, identifying this woman could turn out to be a breakthrough in historical documentation of the assassination.  With 51 years having passed, it’s likely she is no longer alive.  Even if she is, a decades old recollection isn’t likely to do much for the historical record.  But that photograph certainly could.  It’s impossible to know what kind of image could be extracted without seeing the photo.  Certainly, modern technology could provide at least some level of correction for bad focus.

Somewhere in Dallas, there is likely someone who would recognize this woman.  Perhaps she was their mother, aunt, grandmother, neighbor or family friend.

Unfortunately, the only photos we have of the Babushka lady show her from behind.  The exception to this is the Zapruder film.  However, in the Zapruder film, she is holding a camera up to her face, obscuring most of her features.  Zapruder also moved his camera to track the car.

 

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Wisconsin Girl Did Not Die Because of HPV Vaccine

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

On July 30 of this year, twelve year old Meredith Prohaska visited her doctor. She was suffering from a sore throat, but aside from that she seemed to be in good health and had no history of major health problems. While at the doctor, she received the HPV vaccine. After returning home she took a nap. A few hours later, her mother found her dead.

It’s an understatement to say that this story is tragic. One cannot even imagine the shock and grief suffered by her parents and family and the pain of her absence, which they will endure for the rest of their lives. By all accounts Meredith was a vibrant girl with a promising future.

Her death was covered extensively in the news media, always reported as having died shortly after getting the HPV vaccine. Her mother and father both suspected that the vaccine was to blame. It’s not surprising that they would, seeing as no other explanation seemed to be available for her death.

Reporting in the mainstream media has had the usual sensational undertones. But other sites have done far worse. The story was taken up by nearly every anti-vaccine group around, with claims that the HPV vaccine certainly killed this young woman. This has been held up as proof of vaccine injury and that the HPV vaccine is dangerous or deadly.

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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

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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