经济学人丨假如有一场钻石雨丨2017.08.24丨总第1010期

摘要: 导读钻石在地球上是稀少的,但是在其他星球上却如沙粒般常见。钻石也是碳单质,碳原子经过高温高压就压缩成了现在的

导读

钻石在地球上是稀少的,但是在其他星球上却如沙粒般常见。钻石也是碳单质,碳原子经过高温高压就压缩成了现在的钻石。在其他行星周围的大气层中,碳原子或者含碳和氢的一些化合物经过此类过程,就形成了钻石,所以在天王星和海王星上下一场钻石雨也就不足为奇啦。

Planetary science

行星科学

Diamonds are rare on Earth. Elsewhere, they fall from the sky

钻石在地球上是罕见的。但在其他地方,他们都从天而降

A hard rain descends on Uranus and Neptune

一场钻石雨降临在天王星和海王星上

Aug 24th 2017

IN THE marketplaces of planet Earth diamonds are both desirable and scarce, and that makes them expensive. Both the demand and the rarity are, however, largely artificial. Diamonds were made desirable in the 20th century mainly by a marketing campaign from De Beers, a big South African producer of the stones. The scarcity was, until recently, a result of the same company—which at one point controlled about 90% of the world’s production—ensuring that the number of stones which found their way into the world’s jewellery shops was well regulated.

在地球市场,钻石既令人向往又稀缺,这也就使得他们价格昂贵。但是,需求和稀很大程度上都是人为的。20世纪,钻石的令人向往主要来自于南非的一家大型啤酒生产商德啤酒公司的营销活动。直到最近,同一个公司的产品一度控制了世界90%的产品,这样的结果确保了进入世界珠宝店的石头数量得到了很好的管理,却也导致了钻石的稀缺性。



In nature, though, diamonds are unremarkable. They are simply crystals of carbon, albeit crystals of a type that needs a fair amount of pressure to form. And carbon is the fourth-most abundant element in the universe. For that reason, diamonds are thought to be the commonest gemstones on Earth. Elsewhere in the cosmos, as demonstrated in a paper just published in Nature Astronomy, they are probably available in embarrassing abundance.

尽管在自然界中,钻石是不起眼的。他们只是碳的结晶,是一种需要很大压力才能形成的晶体,而碳是宇宙中第四大丰富的元素。由于这个原因,钻石被认为是地球上最常见的宝石。正如一篇发表在《自然天文学》上的论文所阐述的那样,在宇宙中的其他地方,他们甚至可能有些泛滥。

  • Albeit:虽然,即使

  • Gemstone:经雕琢的宝石

Dominik Kraus, a physicist at the Helmholtz Centre in Dresden, and his colleagues, are interested in ice-giant planets, such as Uranus (pictured) and Neptune. Unlike gas giants (Jupiter and Saturn being local examples), which are made mostly of hydrogen and helium, ice giants are rich in comparatively heavy elements such as oxygen, nitrogen and, crucially, carbon. That carbon is locked up in compounds, mostly hydrocarbons such as methane, ethane and the like.

多米尼克·克劳斯是在德累斯顿的亥姆霍兹中心的一名物理学家,他的同事们对像天王星(图)和海王星等冰态巨行星很感兴趣。不像气态巨行星(木星和土星就是这样的例子),它们主要由氢和氦组成,冰态巨行星富含相对重元素比如氧,氮,当然至关重要地,还有碳。碳被锁在化合物中,主要是碳氢化合物,如甲烷、乙烷等。

  • ice-giant planet:冰态巨行星

  • Helium: 氦

  • Methane:甲烷

  • Ethane:乙烷


Ice giants, as the name suggests, are also big. This means that, in the depths of their thick atmospheres, temperatures are high enough to split those hydrocarbons into hydrogen and carbon, and pressures are sufficient to compress the carbon into diamonds. The consequence, 10,000km or so beneath the top of the atmosphere, is a constant rain of diamonds. Those diamonds sink towards the planet’s core, encrusting it in a thick layer of gem stones.

顾名思义,冰态巨行星也是巨大的。这就意味着,在其厚厚的大气层深处里面的高温足以将这些碳氢化合物分解成氢和碳,而其高压也足以将碳压缩成钻石。结果,在大气顶部之下大约10000公里处的结果将是持续不断的钻石雨。那些钻石下沉到地核之中,包在一层厚厚的宝石中。

  • Hydrocarbons:碳氢化合物

  • Encrust:用一层硬壳覆盖,包裹;(用贵重物品在)表面装饰;结壳,形成硬壳

  • Gem:宝石

That, at least, is the prediction. Testing it is tricky. Previous attempts, using anvils to compress hydrocarbons and lasers to heat them, have hinted that theory may, with a few tweaks, match reality. But Dr Kraus’s paper is definitive. He and his colleagues put tiny samples of polystyrene—which, like methane, is made of carbon and hydrogen—in front of a giant X-ray laser at the National Accelerator Laboratory, near Stanford University in California, in order to squeeze and heat it at the same time.

至少,这只是预测。测试很棘手。之前曾尝试用砧压缩烃和激光加热,这个实验虽然带有一些调整,但暗示理论还是符合现实的。不过克劳斯博士的论文是确定无疑的。他和他的同事们在加利福尼亚斯坦福大学附近的国家加速器实验室,在一个巨大的X光激光器前面放了一个像甲烷一样由碳和氢构成的聚苯乙烯样品,以便同时挤压和加热它。

  • Anvil: (铁) 砧; <解>砧骨

  • Tweak:稍作调整

  • Polystyrene:聚苯乙烯


The results confirmed what researchers had long suspected. Diamonds do indeed form in such conditions, although the pressure required is a bit higher than previously thought. And Dr Kraus’s research will be of interest to more than just gem-cutters of the distant future looking for new sources of supply. Knowing the temperature and pressure at which parts of an ice giant’s atmosphere start to decompose into their elementary constituents can help astronomers fix the relationship between the radius and mass of such planets. (读者试译句)That is useful, for these days scientists are interested in planets outside the solar system as well as those within it. For such bodies, mass and radius are often the only data available. Knowing how they relate will help astronomers catalogue just how many more diamond-encrusted planets are lurking out there in the cosmos.

实验结果证实了研究人员长期以来的怀疑。钻石确实是在这样的情况下形成的,尽管所需的压力研究结果比研究人员预测的要高出许多。钻石确实在这样的条件下形成,尽管所需的压力比先前认为的要高一点。而在遥远的未来将不仅仅是寻找新供应来源的宝石切割者对克劳斯博士的研究感兴趣。(期待您的翻译,明天将会有针对这句话的长难句解析哟~)这是很有用的,因为如今科学家们对太阳系内外的行星都感兴趣。对于这样的物体,质量和半径通常是唯一可用的数据。了解他们的关系将有助于天文学家记录有多少钻石包裹的行星潜藏在宇宙中。

  • Decompose:分解;(使)腐烂

  • Mass:质量

  • lurk:潜伏,潜在

注意:

  1. 音频和英文原文来自《经济学人》

  2. 原文请订阅《经济学人》官方正版

  3. 注:以上所有图片均来源于网络

审核 丨陌上

翻译 丨 泡泡

图文编辑 丨毛毛

责任编辑 丨 毛毛




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