Best science graphics of 2022

The family of COVID variants is expanding

In the year 2022, the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has produced a ‘soup’ of sub-variants that has made it difficult to predict the next mutations. The XBB variant and branches in the BQ.1 family have caused new waves of infections in parts of the world. The variants enabled the scientists to identify immune-evading mutations that help the virus spread.

Source: Nextstrain

The terrible COVID toll

The epidemic continues to take a heavy toll. A study estimated that about 10.5 million children had a parent or caregiver die of COVID-19, a significant increase from previous estimates. Africa and Southeast Asia were particularly affected.

Children who have lost their care.  Geographic spread of 10 million children who have lost a parent/caregiver during the pandemic.

Credit: S. Hillis et al. Gamma Pediatric. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.3157 (2022)

Where’s the web? Lagrangian points explained

When NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) successfully reached its destination in January, it touched down at a special place called the second Lagrange point, or L2. Here, the gravitational pull of the Sun and Earth is equal to the gravitational force required for the telescope to move with it. The site is particularly good for sensitive astronomical observatories such as JWST, the most complex telescope ever built.

Vantage Points: A diagram showing the location of the five Lagrangian points in the solar system.

Source: Adapted based on materials from the NASA/WMAP Science Team

The cost of living crisis is hitting science students

85% of graduate students were concerned about the rising cost of living and 25% were concerned about growing student debt, according to nature Exploratory study. Forty-five percent said that rising inflation might prompt them to reconsider whether to continue their studies. The survey included more than 3,200 self-selected PhD and MSc students from around the world.

Results of a Nature Careers survey on graduate students' financial concerns.

Our trees are fading

The loss of tree species is often overlooked. A massive tree hunt called the Global Tree Assessment revealed that 29.9% of species are threatened. About 142 species are believed to be extinct in the wild.

Trees Under Threat: A graph showing the percentage of tree species from extinction to non-threatened

Source: Botanic Gardens Conservation International. State of the World’s Trees (BGCI, 2021).

How do you hit an asteroid?

On September 26, NASA successfully rammed the DART spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos, 11 million kilometers from Earth. The goal was to speed up the orbit of Dimorphos – and to test whether a dangerous asteroid could be deflected if it was headed for Earth.

devastating maneuver.  A graphic detailing the DART mission to deflect an asteroid.

Source: Adapted from NASA/Johns Hopkins University APL; originally appeared in nature https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-03471-w (2021)

Any fish to eat

Researchers have identified types of seafood that are more nutritious and better for the planet than eating meat. They include farmed bivalves — shellfish such as mussels, oysters, and oysters — as well as wild salmon and small pelagic fish (pelagic fish) such as anchovies, mackerel, and herring.

The best fish for frying.  Graphic showing that some seafood has a higher nutritional value and generates lower emissions than meat.

Source: M. Bianchi et al. Common. earth environment. 3188 (2022)

Your growing and shrinking brain

Researchers have created the first comprehensive growth charts of human brain development, which show how brains expand rapidly early in life and then slowly contract as they age. The sheer size of the study, which included a wide range of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, astounded the neuroscientists.

Brain change: graph showing relative ventricular size, white and gray matter and cortical thickness through life.

Source: RAI Bethlehem et al. nature 604525-533 (2022)

The looming repercussions

The potential for future epidemics could increase due to environmental damage. This graph shows viral diseases that have passed from animals to humans since 1918, and the number of people who have died from the resulting outbreaks. Spiral events have probably caused every viral pandemic that has occurred since the beginning of the 20th century.

Graph showing the increase in the number of epidemic outbreaks and related deaths since 1910

Source: AS Bernstein et al. knows how. 8eabl4183 (2022)

And finally: how the faux hair continues to beat

Scientists have built artificial hair-like structures that produce complex, collective beating patterns in response to light. They mimic cilia, the microscopic hairs that propel some single-celled organisms through a fluid by means of rhythmic beating.

Small machines are embedded in a liquid crystal polymer material (a). The light changes the shape of the machines, distorting the illuminated area, and causing the cilium (wobbly skyscrapers in painting) to bend and twist. Once the cilium begins to strike, it shines light on the adjacent ciliary, which in turn begins to move (b). This creates a domino effect of movement through the matrix.

Figure 1

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