Revealed: Dutch are least hygienic Europeans
Half of Holland does not wash hands after going to the bathroom. The Bosnians are the cleanest Europeans.
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Fifteen October is Global Handwashing Day. By which we don't mean: wait until then to lather up your paws. Now that would be counterproductive! Because unwashed hands spread diseases – often deadly diseases.
Consider the fact that washing hands with soap reduces infant mortality for pneumonia (and other respiratory diseases) by up to 25%, and for diarrhea (and other intestinal diseases) by up to 50%. And consider the grim toll of those two eminently preventable diseases: they kill 3.5 million under-fives each year. In other words, improving hand hygiene is the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to reduce the mortality of young children.
Wash your hands before eating, and after going to the toilet. That is the simple message of Global Handwashing Day, which was first held in 2008. It's a noble and worthwhile cause – even if it is rather self-servingly sponsored by some of the world's largest soap-producing companies (1).
The Day, every year on 15 October, is focused mostly on developing countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, India and the Philippines, where basic hygiene (or a lack of it) is a more critical factor in determining whether children survive than in the developed world. Improving hand hygiene requires an increase in awareness, the application of peer pressure, and a change in culture.
But it's not just the developing world that needs cleaner hands. As this map shows, some countries in Europe too have a definite problem with (not) washing hands. The map shows the result of a Gallup poll from 2015. Question: Do you automatically wash your hands with soap and water after going to the toilet?
Cleanest respondents are the Bosnians (96%), followed by the Turks (94%). These high scores are no doubt relatable to wudu, the Islamic procedure for washing hands (and mouth, nostrils, arms, head and feet) as a means of ritual purification, for example prior to prayer.
Other Balkan peoples are among the most hygienic in Europe, but quite a bit below the Bosnians and Turks: Kosovans (also mainly Muslims) are at 85%, equalled by the Greeks and followed by Romanians (84%), Serbians (83%) and Macedonians (82%). The only other European people with this level of post-bathroom cleanliness are the Portuguese (85%).
The next batch of countries is again about 10 percentage points lower, in the seventies. Iceland, Sweden and Germany lead the pack (78%), then come Finland (76%), the UK (75%), Ireland (74%) and Switzerland (73%). Bulgaria (72%) is a relatively dirty spot in the otherwise clean Balkans. The Czech Republic (71%) is less eye-catching, surrounded by schmutzig Central Europe. And Ukraine, also 71%, seems spotless, compared to those (relatively) filthy Russians.
Dropping to the sixties, Poland has the highest score (68%); followed by Estonia (65%) and their slightly dirtier neighbour Russia (63%). France (62%), Spain (61%) and Belgium (60%) are all languishing at the bottom of the sixties. Austria (65%), surrounded by cleaner neighbours on almost all sides, can look down on Italy (57%).
But who is the dirtiest of them all? Surprise, surprise: it's the Dutch. They generally benefit from a reputation for order and cleanliness, but as it turns out, that is largely undeserved. As this poll shows, fully half of all Netherlanders do not wash their hands with soap when returning from the bathroom. No other country in Europe does worse (to be fair: not all countries were surveyed). It would seem the Dutch could benefit from this device, as invented by cartoonist Gary Larson.
Strange Maps #886
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(1) Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever – but also UNICEF, USAID and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, among others.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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