The rise of variant XBB.1.5, and more — this week’s best science graphics

Meet XBB.1.5

Infections from a variant of SARS-CoV-2 called XBB.1.5 have been rising sharply in the United States and made up 28% of cases in early January. XBB.1.5 is an offshoot of a variant called XBB, whose spike protein has a suite of mutations that boost the variant’s ability to evade antibodies. The prevalence of XBB is growing globally, too.

Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Disruptive science in decline

The number of science and technology research papers published has skyrocketed over the past few decades, but their ‘disruptiveness’ has dropped, according to an analysis of citation data from millions of manuscripts. It suggests that research done in the 2000s was more likely to incrementally push science forwards than to veer off in an entirely new direction.

DISRUPTIVE SCIENCE DWINDLES. Chart shows disruptiveness of papers has fallen over time in all analysed fields.

Source: M. Park et al. Nature 613, 138–144 (2023)

When neutron stars collide

This graphic illustrates what happens during the spectacular collision of two neutron stars — ones containing more mass than the Sun, packed into a space the size of a city. For many such mergers, the immediate aftermath involves the birth of a new neutron star that is at least twice as massive as the Sun. The collision is so violent that this newly born neutron star undergoes frenzied oscillations as it rotates. Evidence of these oscillations had never been found, but in a paper in Nature, researchers detected signatures of quasiperiodic oscillations in γ-rays from two neutron-star mergers. The discovery could help scientists to understand how matter behaves under extreme conditions.

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