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Microscopic jets, diamonds unlikely on Uranus, and amazing mosquito legs

iani, E. J. Meijer and D. Frenkel
Physical Review Letters (forthcoming, preprint available)

A new study finds that diamonds probably don't crystallize in the atmospheres of planets such as Uranus and Neptune. The conclusion is contrary to recent speculation that small diamonds would spontaneously form in carbon rich layers of the gas giant planets. White dwarf stars, according to the study, are veritable diamond factories.

Physicists at the Universtiet van Amsterdam and the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in the Netherlands performed a numerical analysis showing that at the temperatures and pressures in gas giant planets like Uranus, arrangements of carbon atoms would be much more suitable for creating tiny bits of graphite rather than diamond.

In white dwarfs, on the other hand, the simulation shows that the conditions would cause the carbon atoms to line up in configurations that are much more amenable for diamond crystallization. The conclusion is consistent with the 2004 discovery of a cooling white dwarf star that appears to have a solid diamond core 4000 kilometers across.

Although diamond formation in the atmospheres of gas giants is not strictly impossible, the Dutch physicists say that the odds are exceedingly slim that a diamond could have formed under the conditions that exist in Uranus in the entire lifetime of the universe. - JR


Miraculous Mosquito Legs
C. W. WU, X. Q. King, and Diane Wu
Physical Review E

Mosquitoes walk on water better than water striders, cling to smooth ceilings and walls as tightly as geckos, and clutch the skin of their victims with annoying tenacity in search of blood. Now a collaboration of physicists from Dalian University in China and Simon Fraser University in Canada are looking beyond the insect's pesky reputation to discover how the tiny creatures manage to be so comfortable on such a diverse range of surfaces.


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Contact: James Riordon
riordon@aps.org
301-209-3238
American Physical Society
16-Jul-2007


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