Diamonds, Dinosaurs, and “Drunk” Birds

Rough diamond. Source: United States Geological Survey. Public Domain.

It sounds like a jeweler’s dream-come-true: Scientists have recently discovered what appears to be a carbon-packed, diamond-rich planet. Trouble is, it’s 40 light years away and one of the conditions that makes diamonds possible—its proximity to its parent star—renders it uninhabitable at 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit. An article in National Geographic Daily News explains the discovery, made with the help of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope:

“Science fiction has dreamed of diamond planets for many years, so it’s amazing that we finally have evidence of its existence in the real universe,” said study leader Nikku Madhusudhan, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University.

“It’s the first time we know of such an exotic planet that we think was born mostly of carbon—which really makes this a fundamental game-changer in our understanding of what’s possible in planetary chemistry.”

via Diamond Planet Found—Part of a “Whole New Class?”.


Scientists have named a “new” dinosaur after an old villain–Sauron, the evil-doer in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Morocco, not Mordor was the setting for this discovery: a skull fragment that appeared to belong to an unknown theropod. Scientists named it Sauroniops pachytholus, in a reference to Tolkein’s character and the dome on its head. An account  appears in the blog Dinosaur Tracking. Although Sauroniops pacytholus was a carnivore, there is no evidence to suggest that it possessed an all-seeing eye like its namesake.

Flying While Intoxicated


A juvenile Common Blackbird (Turdus merula).
Photo by David Friel. Creative Commons.

Eating fermented berries can cause birds to become “drunk”—sometimes with deadly consequences, according to a study published in the journal Veterinary Record and featured in this report on ScienceDaily.  Researchers examined a dozen young blackbirds found dead at a school in Cumbria, England. The birds showed no signs of infection, but each had consumed fermented rowan berries. An additional bird was found alive, but unsteady in its movements. The study’s authors suspect that some of the birds had been injured in “mid-air collisions.”

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