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« c is for carbon: part one | Main | mind the gap »

Comments

Atomic velcro. That's awesome.

At the risk of picking some nits, though:
A lot of coal isn't from the Carboniferous- All of Australia's coal, for example, is younger. Most European/American coal is, and that's where the people who made the names live.

And diamonds aren't made from living stuff, unless you synthesize them from peanut butter or a dead cat.

Lab --

There's never risk in picking nits. Pennsylvania and Mississippi certainly won the Carboniferous lottery.

In anticipation of the diamond comment, I phrased my answer above as "/possibly/ made from carbon in once-living organisms." I had read some of the literature on eclogitic diamonds before. A guy I know working on a diamond-manufacturing start-up first tipped me off to the possibility of organic carbon in diamonds. He was tipped off by the diamond curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. For what it's worth, the Museum suggests as much on its Web site . I thought it sounded patently absurd. It still sounds patently absurd. However, I decided to throw in this intriguing, if weakly supported, hypothesis after attending last week's "Deep Carbon" conference at the Carnegie Institution for Science, in Washington, DC. The only two points that scientists who talk about this want to correlate are (a) life was very likely up and running 3.3 billion to 3 billion years ago; and (b) diamonds formed in the mantle since then. One trouble with the hypothesis is that we have learned better in the last few years how physical forces can lead to "life-like" fractionation in carbon isotopes.

For CPP readers unfamiliar with the 60-year history of synthetic diamond manufacture, "peanut butter" conjures a funny anecdote. A GE researcher in 1957 or thereabouts wanted to prove that they really could make diamond from any carbon rich source. The New York Times reported when he successfully cooked a diamond from peanut butter. A GE colleague semi-famously quipped, "The pity is you can't make peanut butter from diamonds." (Though of course you can.)

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