A Cucumber Map of Europe
Isogloss maps are irresistible, even if they are about cucumbers
"A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing", said Samuel Johnson . The lexicographer's wit is as piquant as the cucumber's taste is bland. The humble fruit  is about 95% water and not terribly high in nutrients, so perhaps its detractors have a point.
But as a refreshing snack, and a popular ingredient in salads, cucumbers have their fans too. Praise, or at least culinary nostalgia, comes from no less authoritative a source than the Bible: "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic" .
Whether loved or loathed, the Cucumis sativus  certainly has pedigree. It was one of the first plants domesticated by humankind. Originally 'tamed' in India at least 3,000 years ago, its cultivation spread to China during the Han dynasty and to the west early enough to be mentioned in Mesopotamian writings.
The Greeks are credited with introducing cucumbers to the rest of Europe. One of the cucumber's all-time biggest fans must have been the Roman emperor Tiberius. As attested in Pliny the Elder's Natural History, Tiberius ordered the use of wheeled cultivation beds to expose growing cucumbers to as much sun as possible, and to enable those beds to move into primitive greenhouses in winter. This allowed the emperor to eat cucumbers every day of the year. From Italy, they spread throughout the rest of Europe. At the turn of the 9th century , cucumbers were growing as far north as the imperial gardens of Charlemagne's capital Aachen.
Much later, Columbus introduced them to America, planting cucumbers on Hispaniola in 1494. They proved so popular with Native Americans that they spread faster than European exploration of the New World . During the American Civil War, general Ulysses S. Grant was so fond of cucumbers that sometimes he ate nothing else: “The general made rather a singular meal preparatory to so exhausting a day as that which was to follow. He took a cucumber, sliced it, poured some vinegar over it, and partook of nothing else except a cup of strong coffee”.  An interesting modification of Dr. Johnson's recipe.
Cucumbers, related tot pumpkins, melons and other squashes, are not distinct from pickles and gherkins; these are just names for cucumbers that have been preserved in vinegar, brine or other solutions. Other foodstuffs are similarly conserved - see pickled herrings, pickled onions, or kimchi, the varieties of pickled vegetables typical for Korean cuisine. A gherkin is nothing but a pickled cucumber of a very specific, shorter type, e.g. the West Indian Burr Gherkin.
In 2011, your average American ate 9.2 lbs of cucumbers, down from 11.2 lbs in 2000, but up from 8.5 lbs in 1970. Across those fluctuating numbers, one clear trend emerges: the popularity of the pickled variety has steadily declined (5.7 to 2.8 lbs), while the share of fresh cucumbers has increased (2.8 lbs in 1970 to 6.4 in 2011). Worldwide, cucumber cultivation has shot up dramatically since the turn of the millennium , from 76.5 billion pounds (in 2000) to 126.6 billion pounds (in 2010). The increase is almost entirely due to China doubling its production (from 44.8 to 89.5 billion pounds); China now accounts for just over 70% of the world's cucumber production .
A final bit of cucumber trivia: Cucumber is one of the rarest of American surnames. There are about 20 individual listings in the US White Pages for people named Cucumber , all but one in the western part of North Carolina . Curiously, a Mr. David Cucumber lives on Dave Cucumber Road. The only Cucumber listed outside of Appalachia is a Mr. Cucumber in Rhode Island, who lives on Cucumber Hill Road.
The cucumber clearly has a bunch of fascinating stories to tell - and one of them involves this rather intriguing isogloss  map. The map shows the word for 'cucumber' in the diverse languages of Europe and surrounding areas. It shows how the cucumber has managed to achieve territorial homogeneity, even across language borders.
Out of all the potential for permutations, four large, and remarkably uniform blocks have emerged. The most striking zone is the one coloured pink, including many Germanic and Slavic variations of cucumber: ranging from Gurke in German to ogurec in Russian. Cognate words in unrelated languages are kurkku in Finnish, and uborka in Hungarian.
Remarkably, the linguistically diverse countries of the Balkan share a similar word for cucumber: castravete in Romanian  (descended from Latin), krastavac in Serbian (and similar words in the other Slavic languages of the region), and kastravec in Albanian (a language with no close relatives). The only exceptions are Greece (angouri - a pink exclave) and Slovenia (kumara).
In this, as in other matters, Slovenia shows itself to be more oriented towards western Europe  than the rest of the Balkan. Cucumerally  speaking, Slovenia is an isolated part of a larger zone, dominated by the English cucumber, and the French concombre. Smaller variants are the Dutch komkommer, the Welsh ciwcymbr, the Galician cogombro, the Catalan cogombre and the Romansh cucumera  among others.
In a crescent surrounding the European mainland, Arabic- and Turkish-speaking countries favour variations of the word xiyar, with qiyar all the way up in Tatarstan .
What remains, are small islands of peculiar names given to the cucumber: pepino in most of the Iberian peninsula, cetriolo in most of Italy, cularan in the Hebrides, kornischong in Luxembourg, k'it'ri in Georgia, varung in Armenia. The Chechens call it närs, while the Basque have the option of calling it luzoker.
What are we to conclude from this Cucumber Map of Europe? Does the distribution of the linguistic variants for 'cucumber' correspond to any kind of cultural, historical or other border? Well - it did remind me of a map I saw in the end papers of the Robert Harris novel Fatherland: of a Europe where Germany had won World War Two.
The zone dominated by the German/Slavic cognates for cucumber corresponds somewhat to the Greater German Reich in Harris's alternate 1964: from the Benelux border deep into Russia, with an independence of sorts for Italy, France, and the Balkan countries (among others).
So does this mean anything? Are cucumbers a sinister crop with a hidden agenda, garden-variety shock troops of a New Plant Order? Surely not. From one map to the next, isogloss lines are as mutable as the shape of clouds.
Take for instance this map, taken from the same series, depicting the words used to describe an orange. Gone is the Greater Cucumber Co-Prosperity Sphere, to be replaced by a Russo-Scandinavian-Dutch alliance against a European Union of Orangists. All the while, the Sublime Portokal  rules North Africa, Turkey and the eastern half of the Balkans, otherwise so united under the krastavac.
Trivial, amusing, strange. Exactly the kind of map for to get stuck into during a slow news cycle. Or, as they call it throughout much of Europe: cucumber time .
Many thanks to Mikołaj Kirschke for sending in this map, posted by his friend Eglė Markevičiūtė on Facebook. The Fatherland map made by Kristo1594 and found here on his DeviantArt page, where you can find some more interesting maps by his hand. The orange map found here on imgur.
Strange Maps #606
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 As quoted by James Boswell in The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785). ↩
 Yes, the cucumber is a fruit, in spite of of its frequent use in salads. Botanists define a fruit as that part of the plant that develops from a flower, and contains the plant's seeds. All other parts of the plant, be they leaves, roots, stems or even flower buds, are vegetables. ↩
 In Numbers 11:5, when the Israelites are wandering though the desert on an empty stomach. ↩
 Latin for 'sown', the adjectival part of this taxonomic description is used for crops that have been cultivated for domestic use. Compare Cannabis sativa. ↩
 Meant here is the turn of the 8th century to the 9th, i.e. the late 700s to the early 800s. Curiously, there is no protocol for the use of the phrase, so 'the turn of the 9th century' could also mean the transition of the 9th to the 10th, i.e. the late 800s to the early 900s. ↩
 In 1535, Jacques Cartier found "very great cucumbers" grown on the site of what is now Montréal. ↩
 As related by general Horace Porter, in his memoir Campaigning with Grant. ↩
 The most recent one, not the transition to the year 1000. ↩
 With a remarkable concentration in and around Cherokee, the major town in Qualla Boundary, the land trust (rather than a reservation) that is the last remnant of the original Cherokee homeland still controlled by part of the tribe (i.e. the Eastern Band of the Cherokee). See also #206. ↩
 Isogloss maps show the geographic distribution of differences in pronunciation, word meaning, word use, or other linguistic features. The term was coined in reference to the contour lines on weather charts. But whereas these isobars connect points of equal pressure, isoglosses merely separate areas of different language. It has therefore been suggested they be called heteroglosses instead. ↩
 The pink island in the middle of Romania is a Hungarian-majority area of Transylvania. ↩
 Slovenia was the first former Yugoslav republic to become an EU member state, in 2004. Croatia will be the second one to join, on 1 July of this year. The other ex-Yugoslav states, plus Albania, are recognised as candidates or potential candidates. ↩
 The adjectival form of the Latin word cucumis (gen. cucumeris), perhaps used here for the first time. And possibly the last. ↩
 A Latin-based language, Romansh is the smallest of the four official languages in Switzerland, spoken by 35,000-60,000 people in the canton Graubünden. It is part of the small Rhaetian (or Rhaeto-Romance) language family, with Ladin and Friulian in northern Italy. ↩
 Tatarstan, now a constituent republic of the Russian Federation, is the world's northernmost majority-muslim republic. ↩
 The Sublime Porte was used to describe the Ottoman Empire; it referred to the gate that gave access to the principal offices of government in Istanbul. Compare: Number Ten for the office of the British Prime Minister (located at 10 Downing Street). ↩
 The English silly season, called serpiente de verano ('summer snake') in Spanish, is linked to cucumbers in many European languages, due to the fact that the period of low news intensity usually falls in high summer, supposedly the best season to harvest cucumbers. Some examples: okurková sezóna (Czech), agurketid (Danish), komkommertijd (Dutch), Sauregurkenzeit (German), Agurkų sezonas (Lithuanian), Sezon ogórkowy (Polish), Uborkaszezon (Hungarian). Americans - though none I have ever come across - apparently refer to gooseberry time. ↩
Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has an important favor to ask of the American people.
- Michael Dowling is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care system in New York state. In this PSA, speaking as someone whose company has seen more COVID-19 patients than any other in the country, Dowling implores Americans to wear masks—not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them.
- The CDC reports that there have been close to 7.9 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States since January. Around 216,000 people have died from the virus so far with hundreds more added to the tally every day. Several labs around the world are working on solutions, but there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
- The most basic thing that everyone can do to help slow the spread is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that everyone ages two and up wear a mask that is two or more layers of material and that covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Gaiters and face shields have been shown to be less effective at blocking droplets. Homemade face coverings are acceptable, but wearers should make sure they are constructed out of the proper materials and that they are washed between uses. Wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to save lives in your community.
Two massive clouds of dust in orbit around the Earth have been discussed for years and finally proven to exist.
- Hungarian astronomers have proven the existence of two "pseudo-satellites" in orbit around the earth.
- These dust clouds were first discovered in the sixties, but are so difficult to spot that scientists have debated their existence since then.
- The findings may be used to decide where to put satellites in the future and will have to be considered when interplanetary space missions are undertaken.
What are they?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDA0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTM1ODc0Mn0.NH33LuauIo__sUBi4tvhwxDcsvhflDFD-Nhx9FjlSNk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=148%2C0%2C149%2C0&height=700" id="cec96" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="acb78abe2ab46a17e419ad30906751d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Artist's impression of the Kordylewski cloud in the night sky (with its brightness greatly enhanced) at the time of the observations.
G. Horváth<p>The<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kordylewski_cloud" target="_blank"> Kordylewski clouds</a> are two dust clouds first observed by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski in 1961. They are situated at two of the <a href="https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html" target="_blank">Lagrange points</a> in Earth's orbit. These points are locations where the gravity of two objects, such as the Earth and the Moon or a planet and the Sun, equals the centripetal required to orbit the objects while staying in the same relative position. There are five of these spots between the Earth and Moon. The clouds rest at what are called points four and five, forming a triangle with the clouds and the Earth at the three corners.</p><p>The clouds are enormous, taking up the same space in the night sky as twenty lunar discs; covering an area of 45,000 miles. They are roughly 250,000 miles away, about the same distance from us as the Moon. They are entirely comprised of specks of dust which reflect the light of the sun so faintly most astronomers that looked for them were unable to see them at all. </p><p>The clouds themselves are probably ancient, but the model that the scientists created to learn about them suggests that the individual dust particles that comprise them can be blown away by solar wind and replaced by the dust from other cosmic sources like comet tails. This means that the clouds hardly move but are <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/11/news-earth-moon-dust-clouds-satellites-planets-space/" target="_blank">eternally changing</a>. </p>
How did they discover this?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Nzc4MjQ4MX0.7uU9OqmQcWw5Ll1UXAav0PCu4nTg-GdJdAWADHanC7c/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C180%2C0%2C181&height=700" id="952fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a778280a20f1c54cd2c14c8313224be2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"In this picture the central region of the Kordylewski dust cloud is visible (bright red pixels). The straight tilted lines are traces of satellites."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>In their study published in the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/mnras" target="_blank">Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society</a>, Hungarian astronomers Judit Slíz-Balogh, András Barta, and Gábor Horváth described how they were able to find the dust clouds using polarized lenses.</p><p>Since the clouds were expected to polarize the light that bounces off of them, by configuring the telescopes to look for this kind of light the clouds were much easier to spot. What the scientists observed, polarized light in patterns that extended outside the view of the telescope lens, was in line with the predictions of their mathematical model and ruled out other possible sources. </p>
Why are we just learning this now?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjUyNDMyMH0.Zl8GmQ_rJHiL4b7hN0r_YBmgb6_ZqIRvqOVuko2ubpw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C141%2C0%2C185&height=700" id="87afe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd4c0b5088e601d7279cc5eb226f8b7b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"Mosaic pattern of the angle of polarization around the L5 point (white dot) of the Earth-Moon system. The five rectangular windows correspond to the imaging telescope with which the patterns of the Kordylewski cloud were measured."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>The objects, being dust clouds, are very faint and hard to see. While Kordylewski observed them in 1961, other astronomers have looked there and given mixed reports over the following decades. This discouraged many astronomers from joining the search, as study co-author Judit Slíz-Balogh <a href="https://ras.ac.uk/news-and-press/research-highlights/earths-dust-cloud-satellites-confirmed" target="_blank">explained</a>, <em>"The Kordylewski clouds are two of the toughest objects to find, and though they are as close to Earth as the Moon are largely overlooked by researchers in astronomy. It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor."</em></p>
Will this have any impact on space travel?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3d797fff5430c64afcb5a49bddc3616"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ou8N3v9SFPE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Lagrange points have been put forward as excellent locations for a space station or satellites like the <a href="https://jwst.nasa.gov/about.html" target="_blank">James Webb Telescope</a> to be put into orbit, as they would require little fuel to stay in place. Knowing about a massive dust cloud that could damage sensitive equipment already being there could save money and lives in the future. While we only know about the clouds at Lagrange points four and five right now, the study's authors suggest there could be more at the other points.</p><p>While the discovery of a couple of dust clouds might not seem all that impressive, it is the result of a half-century of astronomical and mathematical work and reminds us that wonders are still hidden in our cosmic backyard. While you might never need to worry about these clouds again, there is nothing wrong with looking at the sky with wonder at the strange and fantastic things we can discover. </p>
New cancer-scanning technology reveals a previously unknown detail of human anatomy.
- Scientists using new scanning technology and hunting for prostate tumors get a surprise.
- Behind the nasopharynx is a set of salivary glands that no one knew about.
- Finding the glands may allow for more complication-free radiation therapies.
PSMA PET/CT technology<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="676e611b970c9b516cace0870447b325"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RHAyoQF09X4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>PSMA PET/CT is a new combination of <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078" target="_blank">PET scans</a> and <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ct-scan/about/pac-20393675" target="_blank">CT scans</a> that is believed to offer a more reliable means of locating prostate cancer metastasis. A <a href="https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/prostate-cancer-psma-pet-ct-metastasis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> published last spring suggests it may be the most accurate way to diagnose prostate cancer metastasis than any method previously available.</p><p>Prior to PSMA PET/CT, the primary way to look for metastatic prostate cancer was to image the body using x-ray-based CT scans and to perform bone scans, since bone is where prostate cancer often spreads. CT scans, however, often miss small tumors, and bone scans can generate false positives as a result of other damage or abnormalities that have nothing to do with prostate cancer.</p><p>PSMA PET/CT scans track the travels of an intravenously administered radioactive glucose tracer throughout the body. For hunting down prostate cancer, this tracer contains a molecule that binds to the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472940/" target="_blank">PSMA</a> protein that's present in large amounts in prostate tumors. The molecule is linked to a radioisotope, <a href="https://netrf.org/2018/11/13/gallium-68-scan-for-neuroendocrine-tumors/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gallium-68</a> (Ga-68).</p><p>In last spring's research, PSAM PET/CT was shown to be 27 percent more accurate than previous methods at finding metastases (92 percent accuracy as opposed to 65 percent). In addition, it was found to be much less likely to produce false positives, and it was particularly good at detecting tumors far removed from the prostate.</p>
A good kind of avoidance behavior<p>"Radiation therapy can damage the salivary glands," says Vogel, "which may lead to complications. Patients may have trouble eating, swallowing, or speaking, which can be a real burden."</p><p>The researchers looked back through the cases of 723 patients who had undergone radiation treatment, interested in seeing if inadvertent radiation of the tubarial glands was associated with the complications experienced by the patients. It turned out that this <em>was</em> the case: In cases where more radiation had been delivered to this area, patients did indeed report more in the way of complications of the type one would expect when salivary glands are radiated.</p><p>Now that we know the tubarial salivary glands exist, therapists can stay out of their way. Vogel says, "For most patients, it should technically be possible to avoid delivering radiation to this newly discovered location of the salivary gland system in the same way we try to spare known glands."</p><p>He's hopeful that that things may be about to get at least a bit better for cancer patients: "Our next step is to find out how we can best spare these new glands and in which patients. If we can do this, patients may experience less side effects which will benefit their overall quality of life after treatment."</p>
A new survey found that 27 percent of millennials are saving more money due to the pandemic, but most can't stay within their budgets.