28 November 2007

Loosely in the sky, with diamonds

When one mentions stars, the image called to mind is a massive, constantly-exploding ball of hydrogen & helium.

Not so, claims ScienceNOW, the learned observer would be keeping their eyes out for the diamonds!

Well... it’s a tad hot for diamonds as such, but a lot of white dwarves have been found — not resting on white toadstools at the bottom of the garden, but whizzing along through space — with predominantly carbon atmospheres.

Naturally, this represents much confusion & surprise (well, what doesn’t in astronomy?) because the traditional way of looking at things demands that the carbon gradually formed from fusing H & He (via other elements), so there should be substantial dregs from this phase kicking around.

To put it simply, there ain’t.

My selfish reaction to this is “Excellent! We’re learning new things!” but many people express dismay at the fact that traditional approaches now have to be ploughed up & revised. Hey, guys, that’s how science was intended to work! (-:

2 comments:

senectus said...

Damned right.
This should be viewed as a terribly exciting finding.

Leon Brooks said...

As with so much else in this life, the inbuilt terror of change (as in, fear of losing what we have already) stands firmly across our willingness to actually learn something worthwhile & to press on.

Actually, I’ve seen this happen before in — of all places — a church. Mum was an Elder in the Uniting Church at Geraldton, & every so often would have to deal with parishoners squabbling over which pew they sat on.

Not that this one or that one had any obvious advantage, but because “this is our pew.” Never mind about being humble, or doing service for others, or rules which actually matter, or anything else long-term & lasting, we’re going to roll up all of our insecurity & panic about whether we can sit on a particular chunk of wood or not.

Um, & I’m sure I don’t need to point out that this kind of pewtility is hardly unique to Uniting, but I have anyway because I’m a pedant. (-: