Infographics Show How the Different Fields of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics & Computer Science Fit Together

Ask any­one who’s pur­sued a career in the sci­ences what first piqued their inter­est in what would become their field, and they’ll almost cer­tain­ly have a sto­ry. Gaz­ing at the stars on a camp­ing trip, rais­ing a pet frog, fool­ing around with com­put­ers and their com­po­nents: an expe­ri­ence sparks a desire for knowl­edge and under­stand­ing, and the pur­suit of that desire even­tu­al­ly deliv­ers one to their spe­cif­ic area of spe­cial­iza­tion.

Or, as they say in sci­ence, at least it works that way in the­o­ry; the real­i­ty usu­al­ly unrolls less smooth­ly. On such a jour­ney, just like any oth­er, it might help to have a map.

Enter the work of sci­ence writer and physi­cist Dominic Wal­li­man, whose ani­mat­ed work on the Youtube chan­nel Domain of Sci­ence we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture. (See the “Relat­ed Con­tent” sec­tion below for the links.)

Wal­li­man’s videos astute­ly explain how the sub­fields of biol­o­gy, chem­istry, math­e­mat­ics, physics, and com­put­er sci­ence relate to each oth­er, but now he’s turned that same mate­r­i­al into info­graph­ics read­able at a glance: maps, essen­tial­ly, of the intel­lec­tu­al ter­ri­to­ry. He’s made these maps, of biol­o­gy, chem­istry, math­e­mat­ics, physics, and com­put­er sci­ence, freely avail­able on his Flickr account: you can view them all on a sin­gle page here along with a few more of his info­graph­ics..

As much use as Wal­li­man’s maps might be to sci­ence-mind­ed young­sters look­ing for the best way to direct their fas­ci­na­tions into a prop­er course of study, they also offer a help­ful reminder to those far­ther down the path — espe­cial­ly those who’ve strug­gled with the blind­ers of hyper­spe­cial­iza­tion — of where their work fits in the grand scheme of things. No mat­ter one’s field, sci­en­tif­ic or oth­er­wise, one always labors under the threat of los­ing sight of the for­est for the trees. Or the realm of life for the bioin­for­mat­ics, bio­physics, and bio­math­e­mat­ics; the whole of math­e­mat­ics for the num­ber the­o­ry, the dif­fer­en­tial geom­e­try, and the dif­fer­en­tial equa­tions; the work­ings of com­put­ers for the sched­ul­ing, the opti­miza­tion, and the boolean sat­is­fi­a­bil­i­ty.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Map of Biol­o­gy: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Biol­o­gy Fit Togeth­er

The Map of Com­put­er Sci­ence: New Ani­ma­tion Presents a Sur­vey of Com­put­er Sci­ence, from Alan Tur­ing to “Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty”

The Map of Math­e­mat­ics: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Math Fit Togeth­er

The Map of Physics: Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Fields in Physics Fit Togeth­er

The Map of Chem­istry: New Ani­ma­tion Sum­ma­rizes the Entire Field of Chem­istry in 12 Min­utes

The Art of Data Visu­al­iza­tion: How to Tell Com­plex Sto­ries Through Smart Design

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (9)
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  • Brett Bydairk says:

    This sounds very much like the Nex­i­al­ism that A.E. Van Vogt wrote about in his 1950 SF nov­el The Voy­age Of The Space Bea­gle.

  • alan says:

    These are great. My daugh­ter is very inter­est­ed in these (which is unusu­al!)

    Any chance of being able to down­load larg­er ver­sions so I can print to put up on her bed­room wall?


  • ibrahim says:

    These are great. Thanks

  • LRD says:

    There is an inter­est­ing irony about these “maps”. Unless I’m miss­ing it, I don’t see the one field that is actu­al­ly built on maps — the earth sciences/geophysics like geog­ra­phy, geol­o­gy, envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence (dis­tinct from ecol­o­gy), remote sens­ing, astron­o­my, etc The clos­est are ecol­o­gy and envi­ron­men­tal biol­o­gy but those aren’t the same thing. These are inter­dis­ci­pli­nary fields so I could see them being dif­fi­cult to place on any one “map”, so maybe earth sci­ence needs its own???

  • Fitzy says:

    Yes how can we get high­er-res­o­lu­tion ver­sions of these? I’d love to print out a few to put on the wall for the kids!!

  • Linda Moran says:

    I’d be will­ing to pay to get pro­fes­sion­al­ly print­ed, large ver­sions of these.

  • Vince says:

    This is an out­dat­ed view of sci­ence with silos for each dis­ci­plines. I’m a biol­o­gists and work with chemists, engi­neers, physi­cist and com­put­er sci­en­tists every day. That is the future of sci­ence.

  • Natalie Waite says:

    Not such an out­dat­ed view–all of edu­ca­tion is struc­tured that and will have to be cat­e­gor­i­cal to some degree for learn­ing pur­pos­es. You men­tion being a biol­o­gist. Think of the func­tion­al struc­ture of the human brain’s sen­so­ry optic area.

    Each lit­er­al loca­tion on the reti­na is spa­tial­ly relat­ed on a gra­di­ent to the phys­i­cal brain mat­ter. Then via a dif­fer­ent, but inter­lock­ing dimen­sion of phys­i­cal brain space, there is gra­di­ent rep­re­sent­ing the angle of a pre­sent­ed angle bar of light. These are very par­tic­u­lar “silos” (cat­e­gories) to put visu­al infor­ma­tion into, but they cross-ref­er­ence each oth­er in 3D brain mat­ter in ways that allow for the com­pu­ta­tion of visu­al infor­ma­tion.

    Like­wise, the dis­ci­plines have con­nec­tions that cross-ref­er­ence one oth­er. (Sim­i­lar areas are near each oth­er visu­al­ly in these info­graph­ics). There is no prob­lem with “turn­ing the cube” so to speak so that the focus is on the bar of light (on the cross-ref­er­ences) instead of reti­nal spa­tial loca­tion (stan­dard dis­ci­pli­nary lines). In fact, as you describe, such help­ful con­cep­tu­al re-fram­ing is hap­pen­ing in sci­ences now. The real­i­ty is though, that no view can be com­plete at once in 2‑D. A 3D ver­sion of these info­graph­ics would be awe­some, but sure­ly con­fus­ing (if even pos­si­ble).

  • Elijah Chow Jen Xun says:


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