Word Of The Week: January 23rd, 2010.

letterdEarlier this week I read an article about how scientists think oceans of diamond, with great diamond icebergs floating in them, may be found on Uranus and Neptune. What I wonder about is what liquid diamond looks like exactly. I think of diamonds as crystals, and the Oxford English Dictionary backs me up with its definition:

A very hard and brilliant precious stone, consisting of pure carbon crystallized in regular octahedrons and allied forms (in the native state usually with convex surfaces), and either colourless or variously tinted. It is the most brilliant and valuable of precious stones, and the hardest substance known.

How do you melt that? And since diamonds consist of pure carbon, wouldn’t a melted diamond just be a mass of black liquid? I know we have liquid crystals in everything from digital watches to flat-screen monitors, but I never thought of actual crystals being melted to form liquid crystals (and originally I even thought “liquid crystal” just might be something advertisers came up with that sounded cool). It’s fascinating to think that diamond can melt–although it takes a combination of incredible heat and pressure to make it happen.

I really have no idea what liquid diamond would look like, but I do think it would be amazing to see. Neptune has always struck me as an exceptionally beautiful planet anyway, although all the gas giants are amazing. In Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010, astronaut-turned-space child Dave Bowman finds weird creatures living in Jupiter’s atmosphere. And yet giant oceans of liquid diamond really sound weirder than anything Clarke imagined.