As Trump cozies up to Saudi Arabia, the rule of law collapses further

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

 

From the moment he laid his stubby hands on that glowing orb in Riyadh, Donald Trump signaled to the world what kind of leader he aspired to be. Bathed in a spectral light, standing alongside the Saudi King Salman and the Egyptian dictator, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the man formerly known as the leader of the free world smiled with self-satisfaction that he had arrived at his chosen destination.

Despite the object’s likeness to the orb of Saruman, this was no secret society of evil wizards. Instead, it was a brazenly open society of corrupt old men with a clear disregard for the rule of law, if not a cruel desire to brutalize their opponents.

The fact that they were standing in the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology was either an exercise in paper-thin deception or some kind of sick joke. It’s hard to express your disgust at Isis beheadings, as Trump has done, but feel nothing about the Saudi beheadings of 48 people in just four months this year.

Then again, we’re talking about Donald Trump’s feelings and his limitless capacity to lie. Of course it’s possible to condemn the “bloodthirsty killers”of Isis at the UN, and praise the “unbelievable job” of the death squads of President Duterte in the Philippines. He’s Donald Trump, a bear of very little brain who convinced himself that someone in China thinks he has a “very, very large brain”.

As a self-certified genius, Trump now finds himself in something of a Saudi pickle. The supposedly reformist crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was supposed to help him clean up the world by taking on Tehran. But Saudi Arabia can’t even clean up an Istanbul consulate after their own goons are alleged to have hacked to death a single troublesome journalist.

First Trump promised “severe punishment” for those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s death, albeit punishment that didn’t harm any arms contracts the Saudis were interested in. No matter that the Saudis can’t easily substitute another country’s weapons after spending gazillions of dollars on US ones. This commander-in-chief obviously knows his arms from his elbows.

Then Trump spoke to the crown prince, who pinky-promised he had nothing to do with the 15 men identified by the Turkish media as belonging to a grisly hit-squad, which reportedly included an autopsy specialist carrying his own bone saw. So the 45th president of the United States gullibly and dutifully bleated something about “rogue killers” and “very, very strong” denials. In what is surely a remarkable coincidence, Saudi sources leaked word that they were preparing to admit the killing, but insisted it was an interrogation that went wrong.

Interrogations tend to go wrong when they include someone armed with a bone saw.

To clear up this most unfortunate dismemberment, Trump sent his trusted former CIA chief, now the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on a fact-finding mission to Riyadh and Ankara. Pompeo’s approach to the facts was hardly inspiring. “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts,” he said. “They didn’t want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.”

 ‘I don’t want to talk about any of the facts’: Mike Pompeo on Jamal Khashoggi case – video

That would be an investigation by the crown prince into his own security detail inside his own consulate. Naturally, these things can take time. People are busy. Consulates are hard to find. Word from the palace takes time to write down on parchment scrolls.

Oh yes, and there’s this other thing we need to remember, Pompeo explained: money.

“I do think it’s important that everyone keeps in mind that we have a lot of important relationships – financial relationships between US and Saudi companies, governmental relationships – things we work on together all across the world. The efforts to reduce the risk to the United States of America from the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, Iran.”

If you’re thinking Trump himself is compromised by Saudi money, why, that’s no more true than the notion that he’s compromised by Russian money. But don’t take my word for it, take his.

“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter),” he tweeted, dismissing anything to the contrary as so much fake news. This is a touch embarrassing for the Donald Trump who told an Alabama rally in 2015 that he loved doing business with the Saudis. “They buy apartments from me,” he said. “They spend $40m, $50m. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”

Of course, you’re only supposed to dislike the ones carrying the bone saws.

The Trump administration is not the first to bow and scrape to the Saudi power of oil and cash. But it is the first to surrender all pretense of upholding democracy and human rights – commonly known as American values – while making pathetic excuses for what is widely accepted to have been a barbaric murder. What is the moral difference between Iran sponsoring Hezbollah and the humanitarian disaster triggered by the Saudi attacks and blockade in Yemen?

They deserve one another, the house of Saud and the house of Trump. One is hotheaded enough to bomb Yemen into oblivion and blockade Qatar. The other is hotheaded enough to blow up historic alliances and international trade. Both have managed to look weaker by straining to look stronger.

Their incompetence is only matched their greed; their grand visions of global leadership look as genuine as Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan, or the official Saudi investigation into what happened to Khashoggi.

Like all pathological liars, they now find themselves caught in their own web of deceit and delusion. The crown prince was never a reformist, just as the reality TV star was never going to drain the swamp.

No number of expensive Saudi lobbying contracts will wash away the bloodstains. And no amount of Trump’s crazy-sounding tweets – about porn stars or Pocahontas – will distract from his disastrous undermining of American values. Like the catchphrases of an old standup comedian, Donald Trump’s stage act is losing its power to shock and awe.

After a couple of days of pesky questions about whether his friends decapitated a journalist, Trump had reached the limit of his very, very large brain. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” he told the Associated Press. “I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

If you’re still looking for an illustration of how the rule of law collapses, here’s one straight from the horses mouth. The bone-saw-wielding Saudis are as innocent as our own supreme court justice. At this point, a good lawyer might rest her case because this sucker just can’t stop talking.

Groundbreaking Treatment Cures Woman’s Advanced Breast Cancer in World First

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN)

 

Groundbreaking Treatment Cures Woman’s Advanced Breast Cancer in World First

A Florida woman is still alive thanks to a unique style of immunotherapy in treating her aggressive breast cancer.

Doctors and cancer patients around the world are taking note of an incredible piece of news. A new therapy has reportedly cured a woman diagnosed with advanced breast cancer which had spread throughout her body.

This marks the first time that a woman with advanced, late-stage breast cancer has successfully been treated with immunotherapy. The team of doctors used patient Judy Perkins’s own immune cells to combat the disease.

Perkins was just 49 years old when the engineer discovered she’d been picked for a new therapy. She’d already undergone chemo treatments which continued to fail her. At best, Perkins had three years left to live.

Doctors from the US National Cancer Institute located in Maryland suggested the immunotherapy. They called her response to the treatment “remarkable.”

“My condition deteriorated a lot towards the end, and I had a tumour pressing on a nerve, which meant I spent my time trying not to move at all to avoid pain shooting down my arm. I had given up fighting,” Perkins said in an interview with The Guardian. “After the treatment dissolved most of my tumours, I was able to go for a 40-mile hike.”

Laszlo Radvanyi serves as a scientific director at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Like many keeping up with this news, Radvanyi was not involved in treating Perkins. However, he’s certainly taking notice — calling the treatment “an unprecedented response in such advanced breast cancer.”

“We are now at the cusp of a major revolution in finally realising the elusive goal of being able to target the plethora of mutations in cancer through immunotherapy.”

“We are now at the cusp of a major revolution in finally realising the elusive goal of being able to target the plethora of mutations in cancer through immunotherapy,” Radvanyi said.

Doctors now hope for a major revolution in treatment opportunities available for patients. Some research teams are already developing massive clinical trials to determine just how effective immunotherapy could be for certain patients.

Simon Vincent, director of research at Breast Cancer Now, told interviewers: “This is a remarkable and extremely promising result, but we need to see this effect repeated in other patients before giving hope of a new immunotherapy for incurable metastatic breast cancer.

“Metastatic breast cancer remains incurable, and if we are to finally stop women dying we urgently need to find new ways to target and stop the spread of the disease. We are thrilled by this early finding, but we must remember that this type of immunotherapy remains an experimental approach that has a long way to go before it might be routinely available to patients.”

The process of immunotherapy takes biopsies of the primary tumor and its metastases to determine any mutations specific to a patient’s cancer. Those immune cells that made it through tumor tissue then get cultivated into billions of immune cells in a lab. The tumor tissue itself goes through a bit of gene sequencing so researchers know the main mutations of the tissue. The immune cells being grown then get analyzed to see which ones can target cancer specifically. Those immune cells are the ones that get put back into a patient in order to kill the cancer cells.

SCIENCE

18-Year-Old Boy Designs a Bra That Can Detect Breast Cancer

Perkins had over 80 billion immune cells put into her body. After 42 weeks of treatment, Perkins was declared free of cancer.

She’s been free of cancer ever since.

“It feels miraculous, and I am beyond amazed that I have now been free of cancer for two years,” Perkins said.

“I had resigned my job and was planning on dying. I had a bucket-list of things I needed to do before the end, like going to the Grand Canyon,” she added. “Now, I have gone back to normal everyday life.”

Via: The Guardian

Widow of jailed wildlife expert prevented from leaving Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE GUARDIAN’)

 

Widow of jailed wildlife expert prevented from leaving Iran

Seyed-Emami family were boarding plane to Canada when security forces stopped widow

Kavous and Maryam Mombeini Seyed-Emami with their sons
 Kavous and Maryam Mombeini Seyed-Emami with their sons in Iran. Photograph: AP

The widow of an Iranian-Canadian environmentalist who died in a Tehran prisonunder disputed circumstances has been barred from leaving the country, according to one of her sons.

The family – all of whom are dual citizens of Iran and Canada – were boarding a Lufthansa flight for Canada on Wednesday when Maryam Mombeini, 55, was stopped by security forces and told she was forbidden from leaving the country.

Soon after, her son posted a photo online showing himself and his brother seated in the plane without their mother. “Enough is enough,” Ramin Seyed-Emami wrote on Instagram, noting that both he and his brother would not “stay silent for one second until we are reunited with our mom”.

Mombeini is the widow of Kavous Seyed-Emami, the founder of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation. The group seeks to protect Iran’s rare animals, including the Asiatic cheetah, which ranks as one of the world’s most endangered species, with only 50 remaining.

Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed Emami
 Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed Emami Photograph: handout/AFP/Getty Images

Seyed-Emami and several others from the group were arrested in late January. Two weeks after being taken to Iran’s notorious Evin prison, officials said Seyed-Emami, 63, was dead.

Iran’s judiciary said he had killed himself and described him as an agent of the CIA and Mossad who had used the wildlife foundation as a cover to collect information about the country’s missile bases.

Their claims were met with widespread scepticism. His family has been calling for an independent investigation into his death.

On Thursday the Canadian government – which has also pressed Iran for information about the detention and death of Seyed-Emami – demanded that Mombeini be allowed to leave Iran.

“I am outraged to learn that Maryam Mombeini, widow of Kavous Seyed-Emami, was barred from leaving Iran,” Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, wrote on Twitter. “We demand that, as a Canadian, she be given the freedom to return home.”

Canada cut all diplomatic ties with Iran in 2012, expelling Iranian diplomats from Canada and closing its embassy in Tehran. Despite a 2015 campaign promise by Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, to restore diplomatic relations with the country, the Italian government continues to handle Canada’s interests in Iran.

Ramin Seyed-Emami – a well-known singer in Iran – said his family had decided to leave Iran after persistent harassment and threats had left them living in a “state of constant terror”.

The family had been under pressure to stay silent about the death of Seyed-Emami, he added. “My brother and I are followed and under surveillance everywhere we go,” he said in a statement sent to journalists. “The authorities told our lawyers to tell the brothers ‘to shut up or we’ll shut them up’.”

Iranian intellectuals call for referendum amid political unrest

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN)

 

Iranian intellectuals call for referendum amid political unrest

Letter with 15 signatories says Iran’s leaders have failed to deliver on republican ideals

Pro-government rally in Iran
 Women hold posters of the Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini and the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a pro-government rally. Photograph: Mohammad Ali Marizad/AP

A group of prominent Iranian intellectuals have said they have lost hope that the Islamic Republic can reform, and have called for a referendum to establish whether the ruling establishment is still backed by a majority.

A day after Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, touted the idea of holding a referendum as a means to heal Iran’s deepening political divisions, 15 figures – including some based in Iran – said leaders had failed to deliver on republican ideals.

Signatories to the letter include the Nobel peace prize-winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi; Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist currently imprisoned in Tehran; Nasrin Sotoudeh, a rights lawyer; and the film-makers Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Jafar Panahi.

Rouhani did not elaborate on what he was proposing to put to a vote, but he has sounded increasingly frustrated about the political stalemate.

The judiciary has limited his ability to improve social freedoms despite his triumph in last year’s presidential election, and critics say his recent budget, which allocated huge funds to state bodies under the control of hardliners, demonstrated his lack of power.

Meanwhile, the Iranian currency has taken another dive against the dollar in recent days, adding to fears about the state of the economy.

Speaking last week, Rouhani expressed concern about what he said was the unwillingness of his hardline opponents to listen to the voices of ordinary people, particularly after a wave of unrest that began in late December.

“The previous regime, which thought that its rule would be lifelong and its monarchy eternal, lost everything because it did not listen to the voices of criticism, advice, reformers, the clergy, elders and intellectuals,” he said, referring to the late shah’s rule. “The previous regime did not listen to the voice of people’s protests and only listened to one voice, and that was the people’s revolution. For a government that only wants to hear the sound of revolution, it will be too late.”

The activists’ letter states: “Four decades have passed since the establishment of the Islamic republic, a government whose obsession with Islamisation has left little room for republican ideals.”

It criticises the conservative-dominated judiciary, which acts independently of Rouhani’s government. “The judiciary is reduced to the executor of the political wishes of those who hold the reins of power. So many women, lawyers, journalists, teachers, students, workers and political and social activists have been harassed, arrested, convicted of serious crimes and sent to prison, solely for criticising officials, enlightening public opinion, inviting the rulers to respect separation of religion from government or demanding women’s relief from the mandatory veil.”

Last month Mehdi Karroubi, an Iranian opposition leader currently under house arrest, wrote a letter attacking the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power in Iran. Direct criticism of Khamenei is rare.

Karroubi, a former speaker of parliament, wrote: “You have been Iran’s top leader for three decades but still speak like an opposition. During the last three decades you have eliminated the main revolutionary forces to implement your own policies, and now you should face the results of that.”

Iranian officials say high turnouts in elections show that the establishment is still popular. Critics dispute that, saying many voters participate in the hope of bringing about change.

Saeed Barzin, a London-based Iranian analyst, said Rouhani’s call for a referendum was a threat to push back the economic and political meddling of an unelected faction dominated by hardliners, in particular the Revolutionary Guards.

“The undercurrent issue is how the power will be distributed after Khamenei, and in a way the power struggle has already begun,” Barzin said. “Reformists feel under threat that the current situation might lead to people losing hope in reform or becoming radical or becoming apolitical. Hardliners, on the other side, might see an opportunity here to scapegoat Rouhani and even conduct a soft coup d’état, but it’s a gamble.”

Barzin said he was not impressed by the activists’ letter, though the range of signatories was interesting. Even those based in Iran, he said, did not represent mainstream reformists, who would view holding such a referendum as the establishment acquiescing to its own destruction.

China’s 2018 Moon Mission Is To Go A ‘Step Beyond’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE GUARDIAN’ NEWS)

 

This time next year, there may be a new world leader in lunar exploration. If all goes according to plan, China will have done something no other space-faring superpower has been able to do: land on the far side of the moon. China is rocketing ahead with its plans for lunar exploration. In 2018, they will launch a pair of missions known collectively as Chang’e 4. It is the fourth mission in a series named after the Chinese moon goddess.

The first component of Chang’e 4 is scheduled to lift off in June. It will be a relay satellite stationed some 60,000km behind the moon and will provide a communications link between Earth and the lunar far side. Once this link is established, it will allow China to send the second part of the mission: a lander to the far side’s surface.

Landing on the far side of the moon is something no one has tried before. “The Chinese are pushing back the frontier with such a technically challenging mission,” says Brian Harvey, space analyst and author of China in Space: The Great Leap Forward.

China’s lunar exploration programme started in 2007 with Chang’e 1, a simple lunar orbiter. In 2010, Chang’e 2 also went into lunar orbit before setting off for a trek across the solar system that culminated in a flyby of asteroid Toutatis in 2012.

In 2013 Chang’e 3, deploying the Jade Rabbit rover, made headlines for the first soft landing on the moon since 1976. So far, so impressive, but all China had done was catch up with the achievements of the US and USSR. Chang’e 4, however, will be a space first.

China’s first lunar probe, Chang’e I, lifts off from its launch pad in Xichang, Sichuan province, in 2007
Pinterest
 China’s first lunar probe, Chang’e I, lifts off from its launch pad in Xichang, Sichuan province, in 2007. Photograph: Getty Images

Nobody has landed on the far side of the moon, mainly because of the communications difficulty. Yet the scientific payoff is huge. Being in the shadow of the moon allows stray radio signals from Earth to be blocked so the view of the radio universe is unparalleled.

Heino Falcke, Radboud University, Nijmegen, is hoping to take full advantage of this by supplying a radio telescope to the Chinese mission. His aim is to test how easy it will be to pick up signals from the early universe before there were any stars.

Astronomers call this the dark ages because nothing was emitting light. But hydrogen atoms were giving out radio waves, which Falcke hopes to catch. He designed the instrument for a lunar mission that the European Space Agency(ESA) considered building about five years ago. When that spacecraft was put on hold, it looked as if his plans were scuppered. But when the king of Holland visited China as part of a trade delegation, the idea was revived.

“China has always made a big play about wanting to do international collaboration,” says Harvey. “I think there may be an element of wanting to do it to show the US that they have an international reach, despite the America effort to stop them.”

Working with the Chinese has not proved to be seamless, however. “China is not the giant bloc it looks like from outside. Knowing who are the right people to talk to isn’t always clear,” says Falcke.

As a result, his instrument is still not guaranteed to make it on to the spacecraft in time for the proposed summer launch, yet he remains optimistic. “I think we built up a lot of good relations in China and there is goodwill on both sides to make this happen,” says Falcke.

It is not just the Chinese that have a programme of lunar exploration. The ESA is contributing two significant instruments to a Russia-led lunar lander, planned for 2022. The ESA are also supplying the primary power and population system for Nasa’s Orion space capsule that is planned to orbit the moon uncrewed in 2019. Finally, they are involved in exploratory talks with the Chinese National SpaceAdministration to identify potential opportunities for future collaboration on robotic exploration missions.

ESA’s collaborative approach is perhaps exemplified by their Moon Village concept, which was put forward by director general Jan Woerner, shortly after taking office in 2015. The Moon Village is envisioned as an open-ended endeavour for a sustainable permanent surface presence on the moon, both robotic and human. “The concept entails ESA acting in a non-traditional role as “honest broker”, facilitator and catalyst towards interested parties globally,” says Piero Messina of ESA’s strategy department.

But it is safe to say that China’s plans are the most advanced. After Chang’e 4, they are on course for a series of other robotic lunar missions that will build towards an attempted human landing in about 15 years. The key to this is the Long March 9 rocket, which is in development and due to fly in 2028-2030. It’s a behemoth that will be able to land something bigger than the Apollo lunar module, which carried pairs of astronauts to the moon and back in the 1960s and 70s.

“It is reasonable to presume that China will have its own people on the surface early in the 2030s,” says Harvey. And this puts them well in the lead over Nasa, which has no firm plans for landing people at present.

The ultimate question is whether the Chinese spirit of international collaboration could extend all the way through to the human landings, with their rockets carrying other nationalities? Maybe.

This summer, ESA astronauts trained with their Chinese counterparts for the first time. It was a survival exercise unrelated to lunar exploration, but it signalled an openness on both sides. “The reception was warm. We truly felt the spirit of belonging to one universal astronaut family, sharing the same values, goals and vision,” said ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer at the time. Clearly, the moon is where humankind is going next. The surprise is that the Chinese are now poised to have such a leading role in the endeavour.

That may prove a bitter pill for the US to swallow as Nasa are prohibited from working with the Chinese. In spring 2013, the US Congress passed a further law effectively banning Chinese nationals from even setting foot inside a Nasa facility.

Given the pace of Chinese progress, this could prove to be an own goal. On 11 December, the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 17 lunar landing (the last time people walked on the moon), President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, which directs Nasa to take astronauts to the moon with the help of US commercial space industry.

Yet there is little detail about how and when this might happen and how much the White House is prepared to spend. “Trump’s directive was very vague,” says Harvey. “We’re still no more definite about when the Americans will set foot back on the moon.”

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2 Women Lost at Sea for 5 Months Survived Shark Attacks and Storms

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

‘Horrific.’ 2 Women Lost at Sea for 5 Months Survived Shark Attacks and Storms

7:41 AM ET

Two American women and their dogs were rescued this week by the United States Navy, after being adrift in the Pacific Ocean for five months.

Their engine had failed while attempting to sail from Hawaii to Tahiti. The women endured two separate shark attacks, with their boat surrounded at one point by seven sharks slapping their tails against the hull, they told reporters Thursday night on a conference call, in remarks reported by ABC NewsThe Guardian and other news outlets.

“We thought it was lights out, and they were horrific,” one of the mariners, Jennifer Appel, said of the shark attacks after being rescued Wednesday.

They also said they survived two major storms, the first of which lasted for two days, with 25-foot waves and hurricane force winds flooding the boat’s engine leaving the two of them to rely on the boat’s sail alone for the next five months. They had packed enough dried food for a year, but had another close call when Appel fixed their broken water purifier with only a gallon of clean water left on the boat.

Appel, an experienced sailor, was accompanied on the trip by her friend Natasha Fuiava, a sailing novice, and their dogs, Valentine and Zeus. The women, both from Honolulu, Hawaii, were spotted 900 miles south-east of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel, which alerted Guam’s coastguard.

They were rescued by the USS Ashland the following day. “They saved our lives,” Appel said. “The pride and smiles we had when we saw [them] on the horizon was pure relief.”

The Navy said the women had received medical attention and would remain on the USS Ashland until its next port of call.

“The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation,” Commander Steven Wasson, the Ashland’s commanding officer, said in a statement.

It rains solid diamonds on Uranus and Neptune

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

It rains solid diamonds on Uranus and Neptune

 August 25

An image of Neptune taken by Voyager 2. (NASA/JPL)

Consider this your daily reminder that the solar system is even more awesomely bonkers than you realized: On Uranus and Neptune, scientists forecast rain storms of solid diamonds.

The gems form in the hydrocarbon-rich oceans of slush that swath the gas giants’ solid cores. Scientists have long speculated that the extreme pressures in this region might split those molecules into atoms of hydrogen and carbon, the latter of which then crystallize to form diamonds. These diamonds were thought to sink like rain through the ocean until they hit the solid core.

But no one could prove that this would really work — until now. In a study published this week in the journal Nature Astrophysics, researchers say they were able to produce this “diamond rain” using fancy plastic and high-powered lasers.

“Previously, researchers could only assume that the diamonds had formed,” lead author Dominik Kraus, a physicist at the Helmholtz Dresden-Rossendorf research center in Germany, told the magazine Cosmos. “When I saw the results of this latest experiment, it was one of the best moments of my scientific career.”

Scientists have tried to do this before — who wouldn’t want to make it rain precious stones? — but they ran into problems mimicking the incredible pressures near the gas planet’s cores. Neptune and Uranus are 17 and 15 times the mass of Earth, respectively, and their oceans are crushed by pressures millions of times more intense than the air pressure at Earth’s sea level.

 Play Video 2:10
Dear Science: Where do old spacecraft go when they die?
Space agencies have two options for satellites, rovers and probes whose missions have come to the end. The Post’s Sarah Kaplan tells you more. (Monica Akhtar, Sarah Kaplan/The Washington Post)

To match this absurd intensity, Kraus and his colleagues used two types of laser — one optical, one X-ray — to produce shock waves. These waves were then driven through a block of polystyrene — a type of plastic composed of hydrogen and carbon, just like Uranus and Neptune’s oceans.

“The first smaller, slower wave is overtaken by another stronger second wave,” Kraus explained in a news release. The combination of the two waves squeezed the plastic to 150 gigapascals of pressure — more than exists at the bottom of Earth’s mantle — and heated it to more than 8,500 degrees. At that moment, the diamonds began to form.

The process lasted only a fraction of a second, and the diamonds were no bigger than a nanometer in length. But Kraus and his colleagues believe that the diamonds that develop on Uranus and Neptune are probably bigger and longer-lasting.

“In the planet you have years, millions of years, and a long range of conditions where this actually can happen,” co-author Dirk Gericke, of the University of Warwick, told the Guardian.

The results will be useful not just for understanding the outer gas giants but for improving the process of making diamonds. Most lab-grown stones are produced via a blasting process, but Kraus and Gericke suggest that using lasers may make production cleaner and easier to control. Those stones can then be used for semiconductors, drill bits and solar panels, not to mention instruments that mimic the conditions inside the very gas planets that inspired this research.

 Play Video 2:09
Satellite to test space garbage collection methods
A satellite designed to test various technologies that may help tackle the growing problem of space junk is undergoing final pre-flight testing. (Reuters)

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