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Daily briefing: Ten years since the Higgs boson discovery

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Vendors unload crates of tomatoes from the back of a truck at a market in El Salvador

Domestic and international transport of food accounts for a large proportion of food-system emissions.Credit: Camilo Freedman/SOPA/LightRocket/Getty

Moving food churns out greenhouse gases

The transport of food accounts for nearly one-fifth of carbon emissions in the food system — more than seven times the amount previously estimated. In 2017, the domestic and international movement of food added emissions equivalent to 3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Wealthy nations were responsible for generating nearly half of international food-transport emissions, despite being home to only 12% of the global population. The inequality is driven partly by the use of carbon-intensive refrigeration: moving fruit and vegetables generated twice the amount of CO2 produced by growing them.

Nature | 3 min read

Reference: Nature Food paper

Why polio popped up in London

UK health officials are urging people to make sure they are vaccinated against polio, after the virus made a surprising appearance in London last month. A poliovirus strain was detected during routine surveillance of wastewater in February. That in itself is not unusual — someone infected with polio could have acquired it in a part of the world where the virus still circulates. But a mutated version of the same strain was picked up again in the following months, suggesting that the virus has spread between people — perhaps because of disruptions to normal vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic. But don’t panic if (like me) you live close to the affected area. No people with symptoms of polio have been reported so far and vaccination easily prevents the disease. The focus, say public-health specialists, must be on eradicating the virus in low-income countries, where it is still claiming the health of too many children.

Nature | 5 min read

Viruses make us ‘catnip’ for mosquitoes

Evidence from humans and mice reveals that the viruses that cause Zika and dengue fever can hijack the body odour of their hosts to make them more appetizing to mosquitoes. This tactic could help the viruses to hitch a ride to fresh targets, says microbiologist and study co-author Gong Cheng. Giving mice vitamin A helped to lower the amount of the mosquito-attracting chemical they exuded, hinting at a possible way to control the spread of both diseases.

Nature | 4 min read

Higgs Higgs hooray

Review

The elusive Peter Higgs

Theoretical physicist Peter Higgs — who shared the physics Nobel prize in 2013 for predicting the existence of the particle that bears his name — is notoriously shy, inaccessible by e-mail and mobile phone, self-deprecating and averse to the spotlight. So it’s no wonder that it has taken a close friend — physicist Frank Close — to share Higgs’s story. Elusive — a title that alludes to both the man and the subatomic particle that he helped to predict — is a breezy yet informative book that entwines the story of Higgs’s life with that of the construction of the grand theoretical edifice known as the standard model of elementary particle physics, writes reviewer Robert Crease, a philosopher and historian of science.

Nature | 5 min read

News

Five things we don’t know about the Higgs

On 4 July 2012, researchers at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) declared victory in their long search for the Higgs boson. The elusive particle’s discovery filled in the last gap in the standard model — physicists’ best description of particles and forces — and opened a new window onto physics by providing a way to learn about the Higgs field, which involves a previously unstudied kind of interaction that gives particles their masses

But many of the properties of the Higgs boson remain mysterious:

1. So far, scientists have determined that the boson’s properties — such as its interaction strength — match those predicted by the standard model, but with an uncertainty of around 10%. This is not good enough to show the subtle differences predicted by new physics theories. “For the next decade or more, the name of the game is precision,” says theoretical physicist Daniel de Floria.

2. Physicists have seen the Higgs boson decay into only the heaviest matter particles, such as the bottom quark. They now want to check whether it interacts in the same way with particles from lighter families, known as generations.

3. The Higgs boson has mass, so it should interact with itself, and the rate of this self-interaction is crucial to understanding the Universe. But such events — for example, the decay of an energetic Higgs boson to two less-energetic ones — are extremely rare and haven’t been conclusively observed yet.

4. Physicists want to know the lifetime of the Higgs — how long, on average, it sticks around before decaying to other particles — because any deviation from predictions could point to interactions with unknown particles, such as those that make up dark matter.

5. Some theories that extend the standard model predict that the Higgs boson is made up of other particles, or that there are different types of Higgs boson. Future observations could provide evidence if any of these exotic predictions are true.

Nature | 8 min read

Deep dive

Get to grips with the Higgs

The Higgs boson has a crucial role in determining the physical nature of the world in which we live and has possible connections to several unsolved mysteries of particle physics. Dig deeper in a Perspective by physicists Gavin Salam, Lian-Tao Wang and Giulia Zanderighi.

Nature | 30 min read

Particles are thought to gain mass when they interact with the Higgs field ϕ. This graphic shows the potential energy density V(φ) associated with the Higgs field ϕ, as a function of the value of ϕ. Physicists are keen to find out whether there are deviations from the standard model that are not apparent from current data.

Best books

Ten books for ten years of Higgs

The editors of Nature Reviews Physics highlight ten books to celebrate the Higgs, including an enchanting pop-up book about the LHC and a stunning selection of large-format photos of the grand experiment.

Nature Reviews Physics | 4 min read

Quote of the day

“Deep in my heart, I knew we had it.”

Rolf-Dieter Heuer, then director-general of CERN, announced the discovery of the Higgs boson with admirable scientific caution on 4 July 2012 — but had no doubts in his mind. (Nature Physics | 10 min read)

Features & opinion

What we can learn from animal senses

In the first episode of our series Nature hits the books, science journalist Ed Yong tells The Nature Podcast to talk about his new book An Immense World. Yong explores how our human-centric view of the world has restricted researchers’ understanding of animal senses, how to conceptualize what it might be like to be an electric-field-sensitive fish, and what bees might make of us blushing.

Nature | 29 min listen

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-01862-1

The State of Open Data 2022 survey is now in its seventh year and open for responses from researchers globally. This is the largest global survey of its kind, and the responses will help to shape the future of research data sharing. Respondents can choose to receive a copy of the report that results, and be entered to win one of five US$100 gift cards. Take the survey here.

On Friday, our elusive acquaintance Leif Penguinson was hiding among rather a lot of slender-billed gulls (Chroicocephalus genei) and black-headed gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) at the Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary in India. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Thanks for reading,

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Nicky Phillips

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