A Beautiful Map of 870,000 Scientific Studies

A partnership of Slate and the New America Foundation.
Sept. 5 2013 1:10 PM

A Map of the Scientific Universe

A sublime chart of 870,000 scientific studies.

130905_motw_paperscape1
Paperscape shows each scientific paper as a circle, with the size of each determined by how many others cite it.

Courtesy of Paperscape

The study of the universe is a universe itself. An infographic designed by two physicists maps the hundreds of thousands of studies in arXiv, an open repository for physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, finance, and statistics papers that is maintained by Cornell University. The category of a paper’s research determines the color of its circle, and the more cited the paper is, the bigger its circle. Each marker is placed according to the number of references it takes to get from it to each other paper. Accordingly, papers are clustered around topics, such as extrasolar planets, dwarf stars, and superconductivity. Some multicolored clusters show where disciplines intersect around topics like neutrinos, dark matter, dark energy, and networks. Toggle the heat map to color each study according to its age to see which topics are getting the most attention. To learn more about how the infographic works, see its blog.

130905_motw_paperscape_heatmap
Users can toggle the heat map, which colors each study according to its age. ArXiv began in 1991.

Courtesy of Paperscape

130905_motw_paperscape_cluster
A cluster around the topic dark energy shows that it spans multiple fields, including quantum cosmology, quantum physics, and condensed matter.

Courtesy of Paperscape