London's a shallow Christian sea with islands of other faiths​

Although London is predominantly Christian, this map shows an archipelago of different faiths throughout the city.

Distribution of religions through London
London is dotted with areas where high concentrations of Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists live (Ben Flanagan).

Religions are universal and transcendent, but they're also local and personal. This map shows where in London religious people live—quite often, very close to other people of the same faith.


Each dot on the map represents a single religious person. The different colors correspond to that person's faith. Blue is for Christian, turquoise for Muslim, and yellow for Jewish. A purple dot represents a Hindu, an orange one a Sikh, and a green one a Buddhist (red is for "other").

This map was created by cartographer Ben Flanagan, who chose the dot density method to illuminate the clustering of certain faiths in certain areas: "Dot density maps are really effective at normalising data by geographic area. This is because places with fewer people fade away, while densely populated areas become more prominent."

As the map suggests, Christianity is still the biggest faith in London. But Greater London is the least Christian region in the UK: less than half (48.71%) of all Londoners are Christian. London does have the country's highest percentage of Buddhists (1.01%), Hindus (5.05%), Jews (1.84%), and Muslims (12.56%). However, the Midlands has more Sikhs (2.39%) than any other region.

So, if London still looks like a Christian sea, it's a fairly shallow one—and dotted with large islands and archipelagos peopled by other faiths.

Map of London, color-coded by religion (Ben Flanagan).
  • Greenwich has the highest share of Buddhists (1.66%), while Havering has the lowest (0.32%). The most Buddhists live in Barnet (4,521)—a relatively small number, so it's pretty hard to observe those green spots.
  • London's most Jewish boroughs are Barnet (15.18%), Hackney (6.28%), and Camden (5.10%)—the three yellow centers in the north. The least Jewish borough is Bexley (0.10%). Barnet also has the highest number of Jews (54,084), and Bexley the lowest (234).
  • Hounslow is the Sikh capital of London in relative terms (8.96%), while neighboring Ealing has the most in absolute terms (26,778); both are clearly visible on the map.
  • In Harrow—the pink spot in the northwest—just over 1 in 4 is Hindu (25.27%). Harrow also has the highest number of Hindus in absolute terms (60,407, followed by neighboring Brent, with 55,449). Hackney is the least Hindu borough of London (0.64%).
  • Tower Hamlets is London's most Muslim borough (37.84%), followed by Newham (31.97%), Redbridge (23.30%), and Waltham Forest (21.89%)—together forming the turquoise area in the northeast. In absolute figures, Newham (98,456) is ahead of Tower Hamlets (96,157), Redbridge (64,999), and Brent (58,036). Islam is an inner-city faith in London. The least Muslim boroughs are all on the outskirts: Havering (2.04%), Bexley (2.43%), Bromley (2.53%), and Richmond (3.28%).
  • Blue may be everywhere, but it is deepest in Havering, the borough furthest east in London, and with the city's greatest concentration of Christians: 66%. Croydon, on the other hand, has the highest number of Christians (205,022). Tower Hamlets has London's lowest percentage of Christians (29.55%).
  • Not shown on this map are the third of Londoners who indicated in the 2011 Census that they had no religion. The tiny City of London, a.k.a. the Square Mile, is London's central business district. It is almost entirely dedicated to the business of making money, with no more than 7,375 permanent residents. Those also happen to be the most godless bunch of Londoners (34.20%)—although Islington (32.98%) and Camden (29.08%) come a close second and third. Overall, 12 of London's 32 boroughs have more than a quarter of irreligious inhabitants. Just two have unbelievers in the single digits, and then only just: Newham (9.54%) and Harrow (9.57%).

Mr. Flanagan repeated the method for other areas of the UK, including Manchester, Yorkshire, and Tyne and Wear. See more of his work here.

Strange Maps #938

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This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Study helps explain why motivation to learn declines with age

Research suggests that aging affects a brain circuit critical for learning and decision-making.

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

As people age, they often lose their motivation to learn new things or engage in everyday activities. In a study of mice, MIT neuroscientists have now identified a brain circuit that is critical for maintaining this kind of motivation.

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End gerrymandering? Here’s a radical solution

Why not just divide the United States in slices of equal population?

The contiguous U.S., horizontally divided into deciles (ten bands of equal population).

Image: u/curiouskip, reproduced with kind permission.
Strange Maps
  • Slicing up the country in 10 strips of equal population produces two bizarre maps.
  • Seattle is the biggest city in the emptiest longitudinal band, San Antonio rules the largest north-south slice.
  • Curiously, six cities are the 'capitals' of both their horizontal and vertical deciles.
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Surprising Science

Scientists discover why fish evolved limbs and left water

Researchers find a key clue to the evolution of bony fish and tetrapods.

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