Shine On You Crazy Diamonds

Despite many of us working in institutions that are signatories to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)—which promotes the idea that it is what you publish, not where you publish that really counts—how many of us still succumb to the reflex reaction of considering submitting to Science or Nature the moment we get an exciting result we think may be deemed “worthy” of a “glamour journal”? As long as we (myself included) continue to attach value to publishing in certain places, and we continue to use where something is published as proxy of its scientific merit, then we will continue to get the publishing system we deserve.

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Remembrance of Carbonatites Past

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘vector’ as a quantity having direction as well as magnitude, and ‘scalar’ as a quantity having only magnitude, not direction. Much geological research starts with fieldwork, manifestly a vector activity. In Figure 1A, the geologists are exploring the intersection of a complex, 3-D body, the layered Klokken syenite, a 4 × 3 km igneous intrusion in the Gardar alkaline province of SW Greenland, with a mountainous 3-D land-surface. I described the unusual layering in Elements v10n1 (Parsons 2014). The igneous rocks were emplaced 1,166.3 ± 1.2 million years ago, and the 650 m of 3-D topography, which reveals the inner workings of the magma chamber, was carved by the advance and retreat of the mighty Greenland ice sheet in the last few thousand years. Only the age (a U–Pb age from baddelyite, ZrO2) is a scalar quantity.

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Ending 30 Years of Hurt: The Winchcombe Meteorite Fall

Meteorite hunting is a lot like football (soccer) … just run with us on this. Success requires skill, a cracking team, a whole lot of luck … and, historically, England (and the UK) are not very good at it … we were just unlucky … the (fire)ball always seems to miss the goal! Meanwhile, around the world, meteorite fall recoveries are becoming more and more frequent; but in the UK, to put it in the style of the famous English football anthem by the band the Lightning Seeds, it’s been “30 years of hurt” since our last meteorite fall.

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Evolution and Involution of Carbonatite Thoughts

During my doctoral studies, in the late 1980s, I realised that the Italian kamafugites (kalsilite melilitites) had to be related to carbonatite magmatism. I started a detailed study of the kamafugitic sites, and I explored remote areas deep in Italy’s Apennine mountains. When I found the Polino carbonatite, I put a few drops of acid on it, and the rock reacted. I have a vivid memory of my heart beating faster. I had found it! My fellow geologists were somewhat sceptical, but the late Professor Giorgio Marinelli (1922–1993) encouraged me and predicted many new carbonatite discoveries. He was right. Overcoming my Latin temperament, I focused on the concept that carbonatites, however unusual as rocks, cannot be dismissed as simple geological oddities but require detailed and comprehensive study. I am fond of all the history that marked my latest 40 years of life, and it reminds me of the many friends and mentors that I have had, especially when I was a young researcher. Sadly, some of them are no longer with us. I am so grateful to them, and I consider it a life-changing experience to have met them.

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Reflecting on the Colonial Legacy of Geoscience in Africa

Although carbonatites are now known worldwide, much of the early work to identify them was done in Africa, particularly around Oldoinyo Lengai (Tanzania) led by the late John Barry Dawson (1932–2013). Barry was a professor at the University of Edinburgh (UK) when one of us (KG) was there during the 1990s doing a PhD on alkaline igneous rocks and carbonatites; his interest and enthusiasm for the subject was infectious. Barry’s initial work on Oldoinyo Lengai, and his recognition of it as a carbonatite volcano, was done when he was a geologist for the Geological Survey of Tanganyika, around the time of Tanzanian independence. This was a time when colonial attitudes still strongly governed the way geological work was done in Africa, and the early papers on carbonatites abound with names of former colonies such as Rhodesia, Nyasaland, and South-West Africa.

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v17n5 From the Editors

Elements is published through the collaboration of 18 participating scientific societies. The Elements editorial team is responsible for the content and the day-to-day management of the magazine. The Elements Executive Committee is responsible for the management of the magazine through financial oversight, approval of editorial appointments, and facilitating a close working relationship between the editorial team and the participating societies.

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The Power of Mysterious Words

One of the joys of growing up in a little-remarked-upon corner of the upper Midwest USA is that it came with its own secret words and rituals—cricks and bubblers, hotdishes and euchre. The Wisconsin patois served as a daily reminder that humans have a passion for using mysterious languages to express the numinous: cants and glossolalia that describe new things or express new ideas or emotions, and that draw lines, intentionally or otherwise, between the community of “insiders” and everyone else.

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Diamonds in Ureilites: The Never Ending Story

Diamond is the most illustrious of all minerals. Made of pure carbon atoms packed into a dense isometric structure, diamond is treasured as a gemstone for its brilliant (adamantine) luster and supreme hardness, and is in demand for many industrial applications because of these same properties. On Earth, most natural diamonds form deep (>160 km) under continental cratons, where high static pressures (>45 kilobars) stabilize diamond relative to graphite, which is the low-pressure polymorph of pure carbon. Such diamonds are only fortuitously brought to the surface, carried as xenoliths or xenocrysts in explosive volcanic pipes known as kimberlites. To geoscientists, diamonds provide invaluable records of the extreme conditions and otherwise inaccessible environments in which they formed. Diamonds can also probe exotic extraterrestrial environments. Nanometer-sized diamonds also occur as a rare component of the most primitive carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, rocks which preserve the original components of the Solar System.

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v17n4 From the Editors

For centuries, philosophers and scientists had proposed the existence of planets outside of our own Solar System. Yet, it wasn’t until late 20th century that scientists first confirmed the existence of exoplanets. How does one study planets that are thousands of light years away from Earth? Exoplanet studies are not purely within the domain of astrophysicists. As you will discover in the articles of this issue, exoplanet research requires an interdisciplinary approach.

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