What do Chicken Little and James Bond have in common? Chicken Little was in a movie about the sky falling and James Bond is the star in a movie called Skyfall. Interestingly, just as Skyfall is about to be released an older Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever, comes to mind as astronomers locate a special planet about 4,000 light years away from earth. According to several news reports, astronomers from a US-French research team have found the remains of a once-massive star now transformed into a solid diamond five times bigger than Earth. The object circles a pulsing companion star about 4,000 light years from Earth and is known as J1719-1438.
National Geographic had an interesting take on the discovery: "The universe just got a bit richer with the discovery of an apparent diamond-rich planet orbiting a nearby star." Nikku Madhusudhan, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University who led the study, said, "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. 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."
While scientists believe that the discovery opens new avenues for studying geochemical and geophysical processes of Earth-sized planets outside our solar system, I believe that there are a lot of business people who are now a lot more interested in space exploration. In May this year a private unmanned spacecraft, the Dragon, docked with the space station and the owners, a company named SpaceX, is hoping to carry astronauts soon and perhaps bring back some diamonds as ballast.
The fact that diamonds are forever gives humanity enough time to come up with a spacecraft that can travel 4,000 light years or 40,000 trillion kilometres. I am sure the Nigerians have already come up with a scam to sell shares in a space trip to mine the diamonds and that both Romney and Obama are thinking of solving the growing multi-trillion national debt through digging up the planet instead of one another.
This will be consistent with the history of diamonds and its appeal. Diamonds are not only forever but they are forever fascinating. Diamonds have long been associated with love, romance and even glamour. In Indian mythology gems are considered to have a cosmic power in and of themselves. Astrologers advise clients on which gems to wear in order to alter their destinies, and diamonds are reputed to exhibit powerful effects on love, procreation, and, by extension, immortality. De Beers, the company that created the Diamonds Are Forever campaign also features the significant role of diamonds in the mating game which is sometimes not a game at all.
Take this story for instance. A young man walked into a jewelry store one Friday evening with a beautiful young girl at his side and told the jeweller he was looking for a special diamond ring for his girlfriend. The jeweller brought a $5,000 ring and showed it to him. The young man rejected it and asked for something "very special". The jeweller then showed the couple a $40,000 ring. The young lady's eyes sparkled and her whole body trembled with excitement. The young man made out a cheque to the jeweller and explained, "I know you need to make sure my cheque is good this is why I've made out the cheque now so you can call the bank Monday to verify the funds and I'll pick the ring up Monday afternoon. Any problems call me at this number." Monday morning, a very irate jeweller phoned the young man complaining, "There's no money in that account." "I know," the young man responded, "but can you imagine the weekend I had?"
Had the young man bought the famous Hope diamond, he might not have enjoyed such good luck. The diamond is said to be cursed. It was supposedly stolen from an Indian temple and the thief is said to have been torn apart by wild dogs. Everyone else who possessed it, including Marie Antoinette, the French queen who was beheaded, suffered the consequences of the curse.
There are other cases where the possession of a diamond also has negative consequences but nothing as bad as what happened to Marie Antoinette. There is an extremely old joke about the "Klopman" diamonds. A businessman boarded a plane to find, sitting next to him, an elegant woman wearing the largest, most stunning diamond ring he had ever seen. He asked her about it. "This is the Klopman diamond," she said. "It is beautiful, but it's like the Hope diamond. There is a terrible curse that goes with it." "What's the curse?" the man asked. The lady replied with a smile, "Mr Klopman."
It is still early to find out if a curse goes with the new planet. It is incredibly hot, temperatures on its surface reaching 3,900 degrees Fahrenheit (1,648 Celsius), but not "hot" as in stolen. As a once-avid reader of science fiction, given the value of this planet, I believe that androids will no longer dream of electric sheep but fantasise about the diamond planet. Perhaps then we'll see the Jedi return for a final mission — Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and R2D2, shaken and stirred from slumber, instead of James Bond.
*Tony Deyal was last seen talking about the cheap friend whose wife asked him for something with diamonds for her birthday and he gave her a pack of cards.