Carbon emissions from the Higgs boson and a COVID nasal spray

Carbon emissions from the Higgs boson and a COVID nasal spray
Small viral particles (cyan) are seen attached to olfactory cells in the nose in this conceptual electron micrograph.

SARS-CoV-2 particles (green) adhere to olfactory cells in the nose.Credit: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg/Getty

Could a nasal spray a day keep COVID away?

Vaccines protect against severe COVID-19, but are less effective at preventing infection. That has many scientists looking for a needle-free alternative: nasal sprays to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The sprays would be fast-acting and applied frequently, perhaps once or twice daily, to the site where the virus first settles: the throat and nasal lining (shown, viral particles infecting receptors olfactory). Unlike vaccines, which train the recipient’s immune system to generate long-lasting protection, aerosols are short-lived compounds that would directly block the ability of the virus to enter cells. Multiple research teams have shown that such sprays effectively prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals.

But these sprays have a long way to go. Drug company funding and interest in human trials have been limited, in part because trials to determine the effectiveness of prophylactics are large and expensive, says Anne Moscona, a molecular virologist at Columbia University in New York City. New York, which is working on one of those sprays. And aerosols must accomplish the difficult task of covering any surface a virus might attach to, because once viral particles enter even a few cells, a large-scale infection can progress rapidly.

Employees in white lab coats and face masks working in a research lab in India

The researchers say scrapping the prizes will demoralize the scientific community.Credit: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg/Getty

‘Disheartening’: 300 science prizes scrapped in India

Indian scientists were surprised to learn that the government plans to eliminate almost 300 science prizes.

Many researchers acknowledge problems in the way award winners are selected, such as a lack of inclusivity and transparency. But they say the decision to discontinue the awards won’t fix the problems.

The government has yet to announce the decision, but minutes of a meeting chaired by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and attended by senior officials from the science and health ministries in September reveal details. For example, the Department of Science and Technology, the country’s leading funding agency in these fields, will retain only 4 of its 207 awards.

The researchers say the awards you select, many of which come with small cash prizes or grants, are important for the motivation and recognition they offer. Scientists worry about the message the decision will send to young scientists. “Removing them will demoralize the scientific community and weaken the pursuit of science in India,” says Soumitro Banerjee, a physicist at the Indian Institute of Scientific Education and Research, Calcutta, and general secretary of the Society for Innovative Science.

What is the carbon footprint of a Higgs boson?

Physicists around the world are racing to build the planet’s next super collider, and the carbon footprints of different designs could be very differentsays an analysis led by a physicist at CERN, Europe’s particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.

CERN already houses the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). In 2012, physicists at the LHC discovered the Higgs boson, and researchers now want a multibillion-dollar ‘Higgs factory’ dedicated to producing the particles.

Patrick Janot of CERN and Alain Blondel, a particle physicist at the University of Geneva, used published details of five leading supercollider designs to calculate the energy consumption of each per Higgs boson produced. They examined CERN’s proposed machine, the Future Circular Collider (FCC), and China’s proposed Circular Electron Positron Collider (CEPC), as well as three proposed linear colliders: an International Linear Collider (ILC) in Japan, the CERN Linear Collider (CLIC) and Cold Copper Collider (C3), a US-based compact accelerator.

The FCC would use only one-sixth the power of its more power-intensive rivals, the study found (P. Janot and A. Blondel EUR. physics J more 137, 1122; 2022).

PROPOSALS HUNGER FOR POWER.  Chart comparing the carbon footprints of five 'Higgs factory' collider designs.

Source: P. Janot and A. Blondel EUR. physics J more 137, 1122; 2022.

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