Use This World Map to Zap Between Thousands of Radio Stations

A strangely reassuring global directory of close to 8,000 radio stations

King of the world? You don't need to be DiCaprio at the bow of a doomed ocean liner to feel you have the entire globe at your fingertips. Try Radio Garden, an interactive world map of radio stations, and whoosh between continents faster than Santa can race from chimney to chimney. 


Radio Garden is an Earth-spanning aural teleportation tool, a reminder that the richness and diversity of the world consists of sounds as well as sights. The world map itself is your radio dial. Thousands of dots are sprinkled across the map. The smallest dots are one-radio-towns, bigger dots represent cities with several stations.

What's the music in Munich?

Move your pointer to any dot on the map, and you are instantly transported to distant soundscapes. Here is Radio Tonga, out of Nuku'alofa, broadcasting sunny hiva songs from the South Seas. There is Radio P4, based in Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland, indulging in a bit of Eighties nostalgia – they're playing ABC's The Look of Love

As you move the pointer between stations, the music fades to the hypnotic crackling of radio static. Tunis is a big dot; the capital of Tunisia is represented by no less than ten stations. Radio Jawhara FM is doing a talk show, Radio Babnet is playing a languid Arab pop song, all swooning strings supporting a plaintive female contralto. 

Eight stations bloom in Dubai's Radio Garden.

NammRadio in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru opens with a snippet of Mozart, which then turns into an Indian rock/pop song, a duet sung half in English, and – wait, is that Alle Menschen werden Brüder, in German? Followed by a flamenco guitar solo? 

Tune in and out as you travel the globe, and you come across Chinese talk radio, classical music from Korea, Filipino ska, French pop transmitting from New Caledonia, halfway between Australia and Fiji. And news, weather reports and jingles in dozens of languages, across the world's almost 40 time zones. 

French radio live from the Pacific.

The live broadcasts are enough to keep you transfixed, but there is more: a small archive of historical broadcasts – Radio Moscow announcing the first woman in space in 1963; Radio Arthur, transmitting trade union leader Arthur Scargill's message to striking miners in Nottingham in 1984, and others. Plus a collection of jingles and stories from around the world. 

Radio Garden is more than a global directory of radio stations. In times like these, where we seem to be witnessing the reversal of decades of globalisation, it is strangely reassuring to listen in to the rest of the world, and hear a unity of purpose across the diversity of cultures. Around the world, radio is an antidote to silence and isolation, and a reminder that you can never go wrong with inane talk, brash ads and vapid pop. 

Oh, the strange places you can go: Sakhalin, a Russian island just north of Japan.

Map suggested by M. Wetzels and O. Jones. Radio Garden website here

Strange Maps #815

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

Ashes of cat named Pikachu to be launched into space

A space memorial company plans to launch the ashes of "Pikachu," a well-loved Tabby, into space.

GoFundMe/Steve Munt
Culture & Religion
  • Steve Munt, Pikachu's owner, created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the mission.
  • If all goes according to plan, Pikachu will be the second cat to enter space, the first being a French feline named Felicette.
  • It might seem frivolous, but the cat-lovers commenting on Munt's GoFundMe page would likely disagree.
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