Discovered: diamond planets, crocodiles and nuclear plants, a psychedelic revival and the random facts about the left-handed. 

  • The Quest For the Diamond Planet, Episode II:  It's hard not to imagine the holy grail "diamond planet" as a version of what explorers used to dream about New World riches. But, who knows! This summer, when Australian astronomers discovered a planet made entirely of diamond just 4,000 or so light years (is that all?) away, we couldn't help but imagine it to look like one giant wedding-band perfect specimen. Today, from unrelated Ohio State research, we get a different theory about the idea of diamond planets: “It’s possible for planets that are as big as fifteen times the mass of the Earth to be half made of diamond," they said, citing math calculations that took into account "carbon-rich" planets.They also speculated that these half-diamond behemoth Earth's could be closer than the too-far-away-to-even-contemplate earlier already diamond planet.  Which sounds like a perfect set-up to a diamond-industry sponsored space expedition. [Ohio State University, background: Reuters]
  • Left-handed or right-handedness doesn't affect IQ, so stop.  We didn't know that there was a stereotype about lefties or righties being smarter than the other (still can't figure out which one was supposedly smarter), but today The Wall Street Journal sets everyone straight and clears up other misconceptions. And also unloads a whole bunch of research-linked finds: "lefties aren't more accident prone than right-handed people and don't tend to die at a younger age." Ok. "Left-handed people earn on average 10% lower salaries than righties, according to a recent [Harvard] study." Hmm, ok. And "[l]eft-handedness appears to be associated with a greater risk for a number of psychiatric and developmental disorders." But: Even though lefties make up only a small portion of the population, "Six of the last 12 U.S. presidents" were left-handed. [The Wall Street Journal]
  • When you think of 'crocodiles' at a 'nuclear power plant' what comes to mind? A Snakes on a Plane horror movie pitch? An origin episode for a Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtle-like series? Yeah, we pictured something more fanciful too when we saw the AP report "Biologists monitor crocodiles at nuclear plant." Still important research though. It seems that  the crocs have gotten off the endangered species list and are thriving due to the unlikely habitat of canals at a nuclear power plant (still seems like a TV pitch) in Florida. "The plant is remote, making it difficult for humans to disturb the animals or their habitat. That isolation, wildlife officials noted, also has contributed to the species' population spike." Until, one day... [Associated Press]
  • Research as fashion: topics that were passé will eventually get cool again.  Like, you know, studying "Magic Mushrooms," which we can't even type without picturing some tie-dyed cliché. But, that's the fun of trend stories, like this one in Bloomberg Businessweek today, which finds the magic "rebirth of interest" in hallucinogenic substance studies. (Whether that research went away is debatable, we remember Bloomberg highlighting one "Magic Mushroom" study a few months ago.) But, anyway, how are the revivalists putting their mark on the subject area? "As today’s researchers pick up where those in the 1960s left off, they do so with the benefit of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved trials, better understanding of the brain’s circuits and chemistry, and funding from private sources." [Bloomberg Businesssweek via WSJ Ideas Market]
  • A win for European chewing-gum and loss for a European black tea. This is just one advertising claim that we still get confused about: is there anything "good for your teeth" about certain types of chewing gum? Reuters and The Telegraph had the unenviable job of sifting through which health claims that made the grade according to the European Food Safety Authority and--it turns out that "that sugar-free chewing gum can help neutralize plaque acids." Excellent, for European chewing-gum enthusiasts, that is. One of the rejected health claims? "black tea helps to focus the attention." Not true. But what about all the other branded teas? We've always suspected those "helpful for sleeping" brands. [Reuters, The Telegraph]