Hello Nature readers, would you like to get this Briefing in your inbox free every day? Sign up here
The news earlier this month that the magnetic moment of muons seems to be larger than predicted by the standard model has thrown particle physics into a tizzy. If the discrepancy pans out, it would be the first time that the theory has failed to account for observations since its inception five decades ago. The finding might breathe new life into the theory known as supersymmetry, or SUSY. It could also provide evidence of either a leptoquark or a Z’ boson — hypothetical particles that could, in different ways, help mesh the results with other measurements by the Large Hadron’s Collider LHCb detector. In any case, physicists are cautiously excited. “We are — maybe — at the beginning of a new era,” says theoretical physicist Dominik Stöckinger.
Nature | 7 min read Read more: Is the standard model broken? Physicists cheer major muon result (Nature | 6 min read)
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) is set to receive one of the largest financing increases since it launched nearly 70 years ago. US lawmakers are considering three different proposals — the most extreme of which has suggested a US$100-billion boost for the science funding agency. The boon could help to fortify the country’s global status, bolster basic science, translate more research into commercial technology and be used to address a lack of diversity in the science workforce.
Nature | 6 min read
Hundreds of scientists in Canada’s cannabis health-research community have signed an open letter criticizing delays and barriers to approvals of clinical trials. A prime target of their complaint is a measure adopted some two years ago by Health Canada that is making randomized clinical trials difficult to run. Cannabis researchers must meet the same general criteria required for approval of conventional single-molecule trials sponsored by mainstream drug companies. Researchers say the regulations have meant that an expected boom in Canadian cannabis research has not happened, and companies have moved their most important cannabis-related studies out of the country.
Nature Medicine | 6 min read
Members of minority ethnic groups have made only modest inroads into US science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) positions in recent years. An analysis of nearly 20 million people by the Pew Research Center, a non-profit organization in Washington DC, found that the proportion of Black and Hispanic researchers has changed little in the past few years. The under-representation persists despite some gains in the enrolment of members of minority ethnic groups in university science programmes, says higher-education researcher Marcus Lambert. “The STEM workforce is connected to the educational pathways,” he says. “If people are switching majors and dropping out of STEM programmes, we’re not doing our jobs.”
Nature | 6 min read
Features & opinion
Personal statements — essays highlighting personal circumstances, qualities and achievements — are used extensively in science to evaluate candidates for jobs, awards and promotions. Five researchers offer tips for making yours stand out in a crowded and competitive market. Don’t get bogged down in technical details, they suggest, and balance the professional and the personal.
Nature | 7 min read
On 3 February, staff at the research reactor at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) outside Washington DC detected a radiation leak. The facility and the public were safe, but the event presented an extreme challenge in science communication: NIST is tucked away in a residential area just half an hour’s drive from the White House. The result is a masterclass in public engagement on a contentious topic, under pandemic restrictions, in an age where rumours can spread like wildfire on social media.
Physics World | 7 min read
Drawing inspiration from the art of origami, a team of researchers have designed self-supporting structures that lock into place after being inflated. Plus, how a ban on fossil-fuel funding could entrench poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and highlights from the latest research.
Nature Podcast | 26 min listenGo deeper with engineer Sigrid Adriaenssens in the Nature News & Views article.Reference: Nature paper Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify.
Where I work
Scientific-instruments engineer Cristina Sans Coll works on the IceBird project, which uses modernized aeroplanes from the 1940s to record the thickness of the Arctic sea ice. The crew flies just 61 metres above the ice, towing a ‘bird’ sensor just 15 metres above it. “IceBird flights are very intense. We’re often flying low over open water, so here you see me in my bright orange survival suit in case we have to crash-land in the water,” says Sans Coll. “But when we’re leaving one of our base airports in Longyearbyen, Norway, it’s so beautiful with the fjords below.” (Nature | 3 min read)