Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Diamonds really are forever

Tiny pieces of diamonds encased within zircon crystals may hold evidence of early life according to this BBC report:
Tiny slivers of diamond forged on an infant Earth may contain the earliest traces of life, a study has shown.

Analysis of the crystals showed they contain a form of carbon often associated with plants and bacteria. The rare gems were found inside zircon crystals, formed a few hundred million years after the Earth came into being.

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers caution that their results are not definitive proof of early life but do "not exclude" the possibility.

""We're all a little sceptical," said Dr Martin Whitehouse of the Swedish Museum of Natural History and one of the authors of the paper.

If the carbon was derived from primitive organisms it would push back the date for life appearing on Earth by around 500 million years, to beyond 4.25 billion years ago. The Earth itself is just 4.6 billion years old. [....]
The article also gives several alternate possibilities of how the diamonds came to contain the early carbon isotopes, so this seems to be a kerfuffle in the making.

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