Watch what happens when vaccinations drop by 10%
Don't believe a small reduction in immunization matters?
- Universities of South Florida and Pittsburgh publish an online immunization simulator.
- The simulator shows the stunning effect of even small drops in vaccination rates.
- It's not just anti-vaxxers threatening community health. There are economic and geographical factors as well.
While vaccinations are administered to individuals, the benefit they provide extends beyond the recipient to the entire community in which they reside. They strengthen community immunity, or "herd immunity," by making it harder for contagious diseases to spread through a group of people. When such illnesses encounter potential victims who've been vaccinated against them, they don't get anywhere, and their progression is blocked.
If enough people remain unvaccinated, rapid contagion through the community is more likely to occur. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), "vaccination rates of 96 to 99 percent are necessary to preserve herd immunity and prevent future outbreaks."
We're currently experiencing the worst outbreak of measles — a dangerous disease — since 1996 due to a decline in vaccination rates. A new online simulator from University of South Florida (USF) College of Public Health, in partnership with the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, shows how easily this can happen.
How the USF simulator works
Image source: FRED Web/USF
The online simulator is called "FRED" for "Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics." It utilizes actual Florida census data to create a visualization that models both actual current cases — each appears as a red dot — and the likely outcome if vaccination rates were to fall by 10 percent. While Florida-specific, these results could apply to any state, aside from local behavioral differences. It's pretty stunning.
Anti-vax sentiment, income level, and geography
Image source: Yakobchuk Viacheslav/Shutterstock
The CDC recommends children under 24 months in age be vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, and varicella (chicken pox). The most recently published information from the CDC finds that U.S. vaccination rates for these diseases was low enough in 2017 to be a problem for herd immunity:
- ≥3 doses of poliovirus vaccine — 92.7%
- ≥ 1 dose of MMR (the combined vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella) — 91.5%)
- ≥3 doses of HepB — 91.4%
- ≥1 dose of varicella vaccine — 91.0%
There are a few factors leading to the break down of what's been a highly effective worldwide vaccination effort that's wiped out childhood smallpox and nearly eliminated malaria and polio.
The anti-vax movement, which has become increasingly widespread due largely to endorsements by misinformed celebrities, has grown around solidly disproven links between the MMR vaccine and autism. It's behind the measles outbreak that's emanating outward from anti-vax communities such as the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of Brooklyn and Rockland County, New York. As of this writing, there have been 839 nationwide cases confirmed by the CDC. Sixty-six of these were in Brooklyn and 41 in Rockland.
The CDC has also found that many parents are skipping vaccines for their children due to the medicine's cost. Among lower-income groups, vaccinations have dropped precipitously for vaccines other than Hep B:
- For Medicaid children, children are anywhere from 2.5 to 15 percent less likely to be vaccinated, depending on the vaccine.
- For uninsured children, not surprisingly, the numbers are far worse, as they're 14.7 to 30.3 percent less likely to be immunized.
There's also a geographic component. Children living outside metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are 2.6 to 6.9 percent less likely to be vaccinated.
Why vaccines don't cause autism
Perhaps the most challenging issue is the anti-vaxxers, since they seem amazingly resistant to better, more accurate information about the safety of vaccines and the damage done to their communities by opting out of herd-immunity efforts.
The remaining factors are largely an issue of access to vaccinations, both in terms of local availability — such as public school-based programs implemented in the past — and cost. Vaccinations are an important area in which the current U.S. healthcare system is clearly falling short.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
- Since Einstein posited his theory of general relativity, we've understood that gravity has the power to warp space and time.
- This "time dilation" effect occurs even at small levels.
- Outside of physics, we experience distortions in how we perceive time — sometimes to a startling extent.
Physics without time<p>In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"</p><p>So, why do we perceive time as flowing <em>forward</em>? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.</p><p>Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce6ef7b8-429a-11e8-93cf-67ac3a6482fd" target="_blank"><em>Financial Times</em></a>. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."</p>
The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
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- Physicist proposes that the universe behaves like an artificial neural network.
- The scientist's new paper seeks to reconcile classical physics and quantum mechanics.
- The theory claims that natural selection produces both atoms and "observers".
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