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Diamond Planets, good headlines, public opinion and the carbon lobby

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September 13, 2011

Matthew Bailes is Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, and was one of the scientists responsible for the discovery of the diamond planet which received widespread news coverage over the last few weeks. In a well-penned article, Bailes discusses the reaction to the discovery and raises some very interesting questions about the way the scientific method is used and abused by the media.

A weird discovery like this is bound to grab media attention (a planet made of diamond is remarkable - that's why we covered it) and Bailes notes that the find "has been hugely successful in igniting public curiosity about the universe in which we live."

But it's Bailes' thoughts on how this coverage contrasts with the treatment of other scientific research - namely climate change - that's prompted us to bring the piece to our readers' attention. He acknowledges that in the overall scheme of things, his discovery wasn't "that important" and that "the same media commentators who celebrate diamond planets without question are all too quick to dismiss the latest peer-reviewed evidence that suggests man-made activities are responsible for changes in concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere."

"The scientific method is universal", writes Matthew, and "if we selectively ignore it in certain disciplines, we do so at our peril."

If you'd like a quick primer on the reasons why we are all standing neck deep in our collective excrement, this five minute video entitled 300 Years of FOSSIL FUELS in 300 Seconds tells the story well.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
9 Comments

Diamond planets don\'t require we change our habits, climate change does.

William Lanteigne

What planet has Bailes been living on these last twenty years? The mainstream support for AGW has been automatic and overwhelming (Gizmag, for example), and it\'s only been in the last few years that there has been any effective push-back by sceptics. Bailes is suggesting that it is only \'media commentators\' who doubt, but scepticism has been expressed by many, many qualified scientists who have been rewarded with attempts to suppress or marginalise their input. Only properly vetted and \'sound\' peers need apply. Let\'s not forget that the onus of proof is on the proponents of any theory. If AGW is true, then it has been poorly served by the sharp practices and herd mentality of its sponsors.

Duane Phillips

I love Gizmag, but please, please, please don\'t step into the political controversy surrounding peer review, unless you are prepared to really dig into the topic and its controversies. Academics have a vested interested in campaigning for peer review. The general public has reason to be critical of peer review. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=417376#.TnCcAFWAsBM.twitter

mpaul

In the comments after the linked article, one of the authors of the \"diamond planet\" article admits under challenge, that yes, the diamond planet is neither \"diamond\" nor \"planet\", as these terms are conventionally used.

It weakens the \"parallel\" with AGW.

Forrest

McDesign

Wow, a global warming article. I only clicked on it because I thought I was viewing my cache from 2007.

Todd Dunning

Could there be a link between \'diamond planets\' and the \'global warming\' question ? Perhaps these newly discovered planets are the product of another more \'advanced\' civilization ? Their way of dealing with excess Co2 ?

icykel

hmmm a whole planet made of diamond,which is a form of CARBON. Obviously it must\'ve been populated with human beings who belched out so much CARBON that the planet took its form. We better be careful or that\'s what will happen to us!

The other scenario is now that the U.S. knows there\'s a diamond planet out there,they\'ll somehow develop FTL technology in order to go and claim it as theirs,mining the crap out of it. Maybe if they hold their breath long enough the extreme pressure would turn them into diamond as well.... :)

PG

I don\'t see anything wrong with Gizmag reporting on what Bailes said, especially since he makes a very good point. Why are people picking and choosing what science they believe? And I\'ll go ahead and take a shot at answering... If you\'re uncomfortable with reality and you\'d rather not acknowledge the facts, and/or you need the world to be a certain way so as not to upset your beliefs. Either way you have your head in the sand. And that\'s too bad. C\'mon now, don\'t be scared.

FastGuy

I think climate change is much like cleaning your house, or doing the dishes, and finding a diamond planet is more like going to visit Machu Picchu.

One is very mundane, boring, everyone knows about it, and is trying to do something about it. The other is something exciting, adventurous, in a hot location, where no one is asking you to fix their computer.

If someone writes two stories, one about cleaning your house, and how to use the washrag appropriately, and how often to apply Pledge, vs how they hiked up a mountain, and saw a lost civilizations ruins, shrouded in banks of clouds, high on a mountain, I think it\'s obvious which one someone wants to read about.

We all know about global warming, we know it sucks. We\'re working on it, for dang sake!

Let people stare at the diamond planet.

Bill Tkach
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