Visualising Published Science as Forming Galaxies

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Scientific research is published by the bucketload every single week, to the extent that it's virtually impossible to keep up with. So this neat way of visualising published papers as growing galaxies is particularly fun, and useful.

Initially basing the idea on arXiv, the open website where scientists publish research, not yet peer reviewed, to make it available as soon as possible, Damien George and Rob Knegjens had an amazing 865,000 data points to play with. Spread across physics, mathematics, computer science, statistics, quantitative biology, finance and more, there was plenty of diversity. They explain what they did to create what they call Paperscape:

We used an algorithm that simulates the formation of galaxies, replacing stars with papers, and turned the attractive force of gravity into a repulsive, anti gravity in order to spread papers out across our landscape... Each circle represents a scientific paper with its area proportional to the number of citations that paper has. Papers in different arXiv categories (such as physics, mathematics, computer science) are coloured differently.

With that done, it allowed the pair to pick out some interesting trends:

What is really interesting to see is that high energy theoretical physics (hep-th, the big blue blob) is the central structure in the map. This subsection of theoretical physics has laid down a lot of the foundations of fundamental physics, and ties together other areas such as high energy physics phenomenology (the prediction and study of experimental results), astrophysics, condensed matter physics, quantum physics and also some parts of mathematics.

Can you spot any more? [Guardian]