World Cup champion, predicted

A mathematical model suggests that Belgium has the highest chances of winning the men’s football World Cup in Qatar, followed by Brazil. The model, developed by epidemiologists at the University of Oxford, UK, analyses data from past performance, such as goals scored and conceded. It correctly predicted that Italy would beat England in the Euro 2020 international tournament, and successfully picked six of the eight quarter-finalists. Our Feature examines how big data is transforming football.

Who will win the World Cup?

A statistical ‘double Poisson’ model that considers the attacking and defending strengths of each men’s team ranks Belgium as having the highest odds of winning the World Cup, whereas Brazil tops the FIFA rankings.

Model’s ranking

Chance of winning (%)

FIFA ranking position

1. Belgium

13.88

1. Brazil

2. Brazil

13.51

2. Belgium

3. France

12.11

3. Argentina

4. Argentina

11.52

4. France

5. Netherlands

9.65

5. England

6. Germany

7.24

6. Italy†

7. Spain

6.37

7. Spain

8. Switzerland

5.29

8. Netherlands

9. Portugal

3.78

9. Portugal

10. Uruguay

3.36

10. Denmark

11. Denmark

3.17

11. Germany

12. England

2.56

12. Croatia

13. Poland*

2.33

13. Mexico

14. Croatia

1.46

14. Uruguay

15. Mexico

0.67

15. Switzerland

Where’s Orion now?

This graphic shows the flight path of NASA’s Artemis I mission after it blasted off on 16 November. During the flight, the uncrewed Orion capsule headed to what’s called a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. It will eventually head back towards Earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego, California.

Flight path. Diagram showing simplified trajectory of the Artemis 1 mission.

Source: This graphic was repurposed from this story, by Alex Witze.

How prestige boosts publications

The productivity of tenured US researchers rises with the prestige of the institution they work at, as this graphic shows. A study that looked at the publication records of nearly 80,000 researchers found that academics at elite US universities publish more research than do their peers at less prestigious institutions, because they have consistent access to more funded graduate programmes, fellowships and postdocs.

Prestige and productivity: Line chart comparing publications and prestige decile for faculty and non-faculty group members.

Source: S. Zhang et al. Sci. Adv. 8, eabq7056 (2022)

The next GPS

Global navigation satellite systems, such as the United States’ GPS, are invaluable but imperfect. The dot representing our locations on smartphone screens is often slightly inaccurate, especially in urban areas or indoors. This is mostly because satellite signals are weak and easily blocked by obstacles. A paper in Nature describes an alternative system, as this graphic explains.

The system uses a telecommunications technique known as orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) to combine multiple signals and transmit them through terrestrial transmitters, which are more likely than satellites to have a direct line of sight to the receiver. The transmitters are connected by optical cables and centrally synchronized. The authors achieved centimetre-level positioning accuracy with their system.

Figure 1