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The fields in the "bubbles" are the major heading areas in the Mathematics Subject Classification (MSC) scheme. (This is the scheme developed by the American Mathematical Society and Zentralblatt für Mathematik. At the Math Atlas we use a very slightly modified version of the original.) The fields in the display at right are subjectively created but reflect common groupings of the disciplines into broad areas.
The sizes of the bubbles reflect the numbers of papers published in the last two decades in each area. Placement of the bubbles in the image is designed to reflect degrees of relatedness of the discipline. The creation of this map is largely determined by an algorithm, not a subjective choice. You can get more information about this image if you wish. Similar (more detailed) local views of the MathMap appear on the individual index pages, to present an "atlas" of the discipline.