Cloudy with a Chance of Diamonds

Saturn Image PIA03160 (2)

Saturn image courtesy of NASA Images

I’ve always been a science nerd. Alchemy is my specialty (on the laboratory bench it’s called biochemistry). I wish I could tell you that my work has Frankenstein-like drama with me gazing through darkened goggles into lightening streaked skies, arms raised while my long black laboratory coat flutters in the stiff, stormy breeze, and in my best mad-scientist voice shouting, “It’s alive!” Alas, science is quiet, too quiet and involves a lot of failures. Besides, if I did any of those things security would escort me promptly out of the building.

As a science fiction writer, world building is important and it’s my job as the writer to bring science and fiction together. To do this in science fiction you have to suspend a reader’s disbelief by grounding your speculative elements within science principles. This is what makes your story real. Although I don’t think you have to be a scientist to write good science fiction, having an understanding of the discipline is helpful. What better way to bring the reality of science to your fiction than knowing the current research and ideas of the geeky gals and guys doing the experiments. To assist, I plan to post brief summaries of interesting discoveries I come across in my perusal of scientific literature.

Today’s post: Cloudy with a Chance of Diamonds.

This month, Nature news reported an interesting theory proposed by astronomers from California Specialty Engineering in Flintridge and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They believe that the volatile atmospheres found on planets like Saturn and Jupiter could free carbon atoms found in methane gases, and that these atoms could combine to form carbon dust. They propose that the falling carbon particles could, under the extreme heat and pressure of the planet’s core, form diamond rain drops.

How cool is that?

There are a few questions by opposing scientists regarding the theory, such as are the methane levels high enough for carbon to actually combine? Or would it be diluted and mixed with other molecules more abundant in the atmosphere?

Regardless, this conjures in my mind a science fiction setting where a protagonist watches, awestruck, as diamonds fall from the sky. Of course, she’d be wearing a black lab coat and goggles, and there would be lightning, and maybe maniacal laughter.

The article made me think; could other precious gems do the same? I’m no geologist, but, oh, the possibilities?

What do you think? Can you use this idea in your next story?

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5 thoughts on “Cloudy with a Chance of Diamonds

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