First up: Carbon Planets Turn Earth’s Chemistry on Its Head. Excerpt:
The study of exoplanets—worlds orbiting distant stars—is still in its early days. Yet already researchers have found hundreds of worlds with no nearby analogue: giants that could steamroll Jupiter; tiny pebbles broiling under stellar furnaces; puffy oddballs with the density of peat moss. Still other exoplanets might look familiar in broad-brush, only to reveal a topsy-turvy realm where rare substances are ordinary, and vice versa.
Take carbon, for instance: the key constituent of organic matter accounts for some of humankind’s most precious materials, from diamonds to oil. Despite its outsize importance, carbon is uncommon—it makes up less than 0.1 percent of Earth’s bulk.
On other worlds, though, carbon might be as common as dirt. In fact, carbon and dirt might be one and the same. An exoplanet 40 light-years away was recently identified as a promising candidate for just such a place—where carbon dominates and where the pressures in the planet’s interior crushes vast amounts of the element into diamond.
40 light years, astronomically speaking, is right next door. While it remains a ad too far to go for mining purposes just now, who knows what the future may bring? Of course, if there’s one thing that’s even more immutable than Einstein’s law of relativity, it’s the law of supply and demand; a few interstellar freighters full of diamond returning to Earth would have jewelers seeking some other jewel to make the traditional thing for engagement rings – and millions of girls would have to find a new best friend.
Speaking of space, it seems it may have walls. Sort of: Physicists Seek Cosmic Domain Walls. Excerpt:
Exotic structures known as cosmic domain walls could be observed from Earth by measuring the subtle effect of their magnetic-like fields as they pass through our galaxy. That is the conclusion of a team of physicists in the US, Canada and Poland that has proposed a new way of probing the nature of the mysterious dark matter and dark energy thought to permeate the universe.
The current standard Big Bang model of cosmology assumes that much of the energy in the universe is contained within two mysterious substances – dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter explains anomalies in the motion of galaxies and is thought to account for about 20% of the universe’s energy. Dark energy is invoked to explain the universe’s accelerating expansion and is reckoned to make up about 75%. Most direct searches assume that dark matter consists of some kind of particle, while dark energy is often taken to exist in the form of a “cosmological constant” that is added to the field equation for general relativity. A number of other possibilities have been put forward, however.
This is wild blue yonder stuff, here. To someone like yr. obdt., equipped with a modest scientific background – a Bachelor’s degree in Biology that’s almost three decades old – it’s hard to fathom the plane folks like theoretical physicists work on. But it’s good brain exercise.
Stay tuned for the usual Saturday Gingermageddon, coming your way in less than 24 hours!