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A World Map of Heavy Metal Density
Scandinavia is ground zero for heavy metal, but the genre crops up in less obvious places as well...
Some maps are beautiful because of their rich complexity. Others capture our attention because they are so starkly simple.
Cartography has the curious capacity to bypass a map-reader’s critical function when conveying information, and never more so than when a map is plain and simple. Two examples treated earlier on this blog spring to mind - also because they’re quite funny: the Jesusland map (#3), and the New Simplified Map of London (#199).
Jesusland is based on electoral data, the Simplified Map on a more subjective idea of wealth distribution. But both communicate a sentiment rather than merely solid data. The map shown here is less editorial, but the information it presents is equally stark.
This map reflects the number of heavy metal bands per 100,000 inhabitants for each country in the world. It codes the result on a colour temperature scale, with blue indicating low occurrence, and red high occurrence . The data for this map is taken from the extensive Encyclopaedia Metallum, an online archive of metal music that lists bands per country, and provides some background by listing their subgenre (Progressive Death Metal, Symphonic Gothic Metal, Groove Metal, etc).
Even if you barely know your Def Leppard from your Deep Purple, you won’t be surprised by the obvious point of this map: Scandinavia is the world capital of heavy metal music. Leaders of the pack are Finland and Sweden, coloured with the hottest shade of red. With 2,825 metal bands listed in the Encyclopaedia Metallum, the figure for Finland works out to 54.3 bands per 100,000 Finns (for a total of 5.2 million inhabitants ). Second is Sweden, with a whopping 3,398 band entries. For 9.1 million Swedes, that amounts to 37.3 metal bands per 100,000 inhabitants.
The next-hottest shade of red is coloured in by Norway  and Iceland. The Icelandic situation is interesting: with only 71 bands listed, the country seems not particulary metal-oriented. But the total population of the North Atlantic island is a mere 313,000. Which produces a result of 22.6 metal bands per 100,000 inhabitants. That's almost the double, relatively speaking, of Denmark, which has a score of 12.9 (708 metal bands for 5.5 million Danes)
The following shades of colour, from dark orange to light yellow, are almost all found in North America, Europe and Australasia. A notable addition to this list of usual suspects are Israel, and the three countries of Latin America's Southern Cone: Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
Some interesting variations in Europe: Portugal is much darker - i.e. much more metal-oriented - than its Iberian neighbour Spain , and Greece is a solid southern outpost of metal on an otherwise wishy-washy Balkan Peninsula.
On the other side of the scale, light blue indicates the worst - or at least loneliest - places to be a metal fan: Papua New Guinea, North Korea, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and most of Africa outside its northern and southern fringe. According to the Encyclopaedia Metallum, there isn’t a single metal band in any of those countries .
An intriguing category are the first greens next up on the colour scale. They mark out the places where metal bands are present, but in the smallest of numbers. In southern Africa, five countries  come up (listed below with band names and [genre]).
Other lands were metal is extremely marginal - yet present - include:
And then there are the countries where you wouldn’t expect a flourishing metal scene, but that nevertheless have one. What about the 140 metal bands of Bolivia? Iran’s 42 listed metal bands include such fantastically named bands as 1,000 Funerals, Beaten Victoriouses (sic), Tenebrous Shadow, and Zakhm. Even hyper-strict Saudi Arabia has 12 entries in the Encyclopaedia Metallum.
Maybe there is still hope for world peace - via the multicultural medium of heavy metal...
Many thanks to Tino Frey for sending in a link to this map, found here on a blog named Copyranter. If you are disoriented by the multitude of genres that are assembled under the general heading 'metal', check out the Map of Metal (see screenshot below). Many thanks to Jason Tinkey, Scott C. Broussard, David Koch, and Eric Boros for sending that in.
Strange Maps #560
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com
 We intuitively associate blue with cold and red with hot - see the faucets in hotel bathrooms - but ironically, this is contradicted by the so-called blackbody theory in physics, where blue occurs at higher temperatures, and red at lower ones. A beautiful variation on the use of colour temperature as a map key was discussed in #371, charting the advance of the sakurazensen (cherry blossom front) in from Japan’s south to its north.
 Population data varies by source and date. In March 2012, Finland’s Population Register Centre announced a number of inhabitants in excess of 5.4 million. The older data on this map was taken from the CIA World Factbook, which was the source for all other population figures used here. The difference with the upper limit on the map’s scale (i.e. 53.2 bands/100K inhabitants) may result from an intervening change in the number of bands listed for Finland.
 The large, red-coloured archipelago to Scandinavia’s north is Svalbard, a part of Norway.
 Portugal has a ‘metal score’ of 9.1, and Spain 4.8.
 Really? No metal band called Heart of Darkness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Well - apparently there is one (1) metal band in the DRC, but the map doesn't reflect that. Perhaps a recent addition? The comments section below the map's original context notes a similar omission: even Afghanistan apparently has a metal band now...
 Botswana has 7 metal bands, South Africa 114.
Scientists are using bioelectronic medicine to treat inflammatory diseases, an approach that capitalizes on the ancient "hardwiring" of the nervous system.
- Bioelectronic medicine is an emerging field that focuses on manipulating the nervous system to treat diseases.
- Clinical studies show that using electronic devices to stimulate the vagus nerve is effective at treating inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Although it's not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, vagus nerve stimulation may also prove effective at treating other diseases like cancer, diabetes and depression.
The nervous system’s ancient reflexes<p>You accidentally place your hand on a hot stove. Almost instantaneously, your hand withdraws.</p><p>What triggered your hand to move? The answer is <em>not</em> that you consciously decided the stove was hot and you should move your hand. Rather, it was a reflex: Skin receptors on your hand sent nerve impulses to the spinal cord, which ultimately sent back motor neurons that caused your hand to move away. This all occurred before your "conscious brain" realized what happened.</p><p>Similarly, the nervous system has reflexes that protect individual cells in the body.</p><p>"The nervous system evolved because we need to respond to stimuli in the environment," said Dr. Tracey. "Neural signals don't come from the brain down first. Instead, when something happens in the environment, our peripheral nervous system senses it and sends a signal to the central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. And then the nervous system responds to correct the problem."</p><p>So, what if scientists could "hack" into the nervous system, manipulating the electrical activity in the nervous system to control molecular processes and produce desirable outcomes? That's the chief goal of bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There are billions of neurons in the body that interact with almost every cell in the body, and at each of those nerve endings, molecular signals control molecular mechanisms that can be defined and mapped, and potentially put under control," Dr. Tracey said in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJH9KsMKi5M" target="_blank">TED Talk</a>.</p><p>"Many of these mechanisms are also involved in important diseases, like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension and shock. It's very plausible that finding neural signals to control those mechanisms will hold promises for devices replacing some of today's medication for those diseases."</p><p>How can scientists hack the nervous system? For years, researchers in the field of bioelectronic medicine have zeroed in on the longest cranial nerve in the body: the vagus nerve.</p>
The vagus nerve<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYyOTM5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTIwNzk0NX0.UCy-3UNpomb3DQZMhyOw_SQG4ThwACXW_rMnc9mLAe8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="09add" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f38dbfbbfe470ad85a3b023dd5083557" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Electrical signals, seen here in a synapse, travel along the vagus nerve to trigger an inflammatory response.
Credit: Adobe Stock via solvod<p>The vagus nerve ("vagus" meaning "wandering" in Latin) comprises two nerve branches that stretch from the brainstem down to the chest and abdomen, where nerve fibers connect to organs. Electrical signals constantly travel up and down the vagus nerve, facilitating communication between the brain and other parts of the body.</p><p>One aspect of this back-and-forth communication is inflammation. When the immune system detects injury or attack, it automatically triggers an inflammatory response, which helps heal injuries and fend off invaders. But when not deployed properly, inflammation can become excessive, exacerbating the original problem and potentially contributing to diseases.</p><p>In 2002, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues discovered that the nervous system plays a key role in monitoring and modifying inflammation. This occurs through a process called the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammatory reflex</a>. In simple terms, it works like this: When the nervous system detects inflammatory stimuli, it reflexively (and subconsciously) deploys electrical signals through the vagus nerve that trigger anti-inflammatory molecular processes.</p><p>In rodent experiments, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues observed that electrical signals traveling through the vagus nerve control TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. These electrical signals travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, triggering a molecular process that ultimately makes TNF, which exacerbates conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.</p><p>The incredible chain reaction of the inflammatory reflex was observed by Dr. Tracey and his colleagues in greater detail through rodent experiments. When inflammatory stimuli are detected, the nervous system sends electrical signals that travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, the electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, which trigger the spleen to create a white blood cell called a T cell, which then creates a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. The acetylcholine interacts with macrophages, which are a specific type of white blood cell that creates TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. At that point, the acetylcholine triggers the macrophages to stop overproducing TNF – or inflammation.</p><p>Experiments showed that when a specific part of the body is inflamed, specific fibers within the vagus nerve start firing. Dr. Tracey and his colleagues were able to map these relationships. More importantly, they were able to stimulate specific parts of the vagus nerve to "shut off" inflammation.</p><p>What's more, clinical trials show that vagus nerve stimulation not only "shuts off" inflammation, but also triggers the production of cells that promote healing.</p><p>"In animal experiments, we understand how this works," Dr. Tracey said. "And now we have clinical trials showing that the human response is what's predicted by the lab experiments. Many scientific thresholds have been crossed in the clinic and the lab. We're literally at the point of regulatory steps and stages, and then marketing and distribution before this idea takes off."<br></p>
The future of bioelectronic medicine<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYxMDYxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjQwOTExNH0.uBY1TnEs_kv9Dal7zmA_i9L7T0wnIuf9gGtdRXcNNxo/img.jpg?width=980" id="8b5b2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c005e615e5f23c2817483862354d2cc4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2000" data-height="1125" />
Vagus nerve stimulation can already treat Crohn's disease and other inflammatory diseases. In the future, it may also be used to treat cancer, diabetes, and depression.
Credit: Adobe Stock via Maridav<p>Vagus nerve stimulation is currently awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, but so far, it's proven safe and effective in clinical trials on humans. Dr. Tracey said vagus nerve stimulation could become a common treatment for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension, shock, depression and diabetes.</p><p>"To the extent that inflammation is the problem in the disease, then stopping inflammation or suppressing the inflammation with vagus nerve stimulation or bioelectronic approaches will be beneficial and therapeutic," he said.</p><p>Receiving vagus nerve stimulation would require having an electronic device, about the size of lima bean, surgically implanted in your neck during a 30-minute procedure. A couple of weeks later, you'd visit, say, your rheumatologist, who would activate the device and determine the right dosage. The stimulation would take a few minutes each day, and it'd likely be unnoticeable.</p><p>But the most revolutionary aspect of bioelectronic medicine, according to Dr. Tracey, is that approaches like vagus nerve stimulation wouldn't come with harmful and potentially deadly side effects, as many pharmaceutical drugs currently do.</p><p>"A device on a nerve is not going to have systemic side effects on the body like taking a steroid does," Dr. Tracey said. "It's a powerful concept that, frankly, scientists are quite accepting of—it's actually quite amazing. But the idea of adopting this into practice is going to take another 10 or 20 years, because it's hard for physicians, who've spent their lives writing prescriptions for pills or injections, that a computer chip can replace the drug."</p><p>But patients could also play a role in advancing bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There's a huge demand in this patient cohort for something better than they're taking now," Dr. Tracey said. "Patients don't want to take a drug with a black-box warning, costs $100,000 a year and works half the time."</p><p>Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, elaborated:</p><p>"Why would patients pursue a drug regimen when they could opt for a few electronic pulses? Is it possible that treatments like this, pulses through electronic devices, could replace some drugs in the coming years as preferred treatments? Tracey believes it is, and that is perhaps why the pharmaceutical industry closely follows his work."</p><p>Over the long term, bioelectronic approaches are unlikely to completely replace pharmaceutical drugs, but they could replace many, or at least be used as supplemental treatments.</p><p>Dr. Tracey is optimistic about the future of the field.</p><p>"It's going to spawn a huge new industry that will rival the pharmaceutical industry in the next 50 years," he said. "This is no longer just a startup industry. [...] It's going to be very interesting to see the explosive growth that's going to occur."</p>
The first rule of Vulture Club: stay out of Portugal.
So you're a vulture, riding the thermals that rise up over Iberia. Your way of life is ancient, ruled by needs and instincts that are way older than the human civilization that has overtaken the peninsula below, and the entire planet.
"The Expanse" is the best vision I've ever seen of a space-faring future that may be just a few generations away.
- Want three reasons why that headline is justified? Characters and acting, universe building, and science.
- For those who don't know, "The Expanse" is a series that's run on SyFy and Amazon Prime set about 200 years in the future in a mostly settled solar system with three waring factions: Earth, Mars, and Belters.
- No other show I know of manages to use real science so adeptly in the service of its story and its grand universe building.
Credit: "The Expanse" / Syfy<p>Now, I get it if you don't agree with me. I love "Star Trek" and I thought "Battlestar Galactica" (the new one) was amazing and I do adore "The Mandalorian". They are all fun and important and worth watching and thinking about. And maybe you love them more than anything else. But when you sum up the acting, the universe building, and the use of real science where it matters, I think nothing can beat "The Expanse". And with a <a href="https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/the_expanse" target="_blank">Rotten Tomato</a> average rating of 93%, I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way.</p><p>Best.</p><p>Show.</p><p>Ever. </p>
Contrary to what some might think, the brain is a very plastic organ.
As with many other physicians, recommending physical activity to patients was just a doctor chore for me – until a few years ago. That was because I myself was not very active.