What Do They Make Of Jelly?


Edinburgh University's Professor Malcolm McMahon, of the Centre for Science and Extreme Conditions, recently stated he could turn peanut butter into diamonds. While this is much more creative than anything I ever did with peanut butter, it also seems to be understating the accomplishment. What conditions are more extreme than those that turn peanut butter into diamonds? McMahon explained the trick is to squeeze the peanut butter between two diamond tips -- so it's lucky there are non-peanut-butter based diamonds already or we'd be in a fix -- to pressures higher than those at the center of the Earth, which peanut butter infrequently reaches by itself.


Yet it makes sense this should work, since diamonds are made of carbon, and carbon is part of peanut butter. If you take the non-carbon parts out of some peanut butter you're almost done already. What I missed is how peanut butter got on the diamond tips originally. It sounds like somebody didn't wash up after lunch. But lucky accidents are the breath of science.


We have penicillin because Sir Alexander Fleming ate a chocolate sprinkle doughnut at work and didn't notice loose sprinkles in his agar, as who would? Thomas Edison would never have invented the Linotype type-setting machine if he hadn't thrown a Diet Cherry Coke at George Westinghouse one chilly morning in May 1873, and in fact he didn't. Imagine if Margaret Yong hadn't dropped hush puppies into a particle accelerator, leading to her invention of teleporters, back in 1982. Say, that's a vivid imagination you have!


I guess the next step is seeing what other foods will become when they're crushed by five million atmospheres of pressure, other than smaller. Imagine crushing an entire pizza into an olive-and-onion-flavored diamond chip. Could you set it in a necklace? How about a wedding ring featuring sparkling compacted Brussels sprouts? But I like Brussels sprouts, so could we make it string beans instead? And can it work on inedible things?


What if you crushed an oak desk? What if you crushed a plastic desk with simulated wood grain? Would that produce cubic zirconia? Would your employer be angry you didn't ask before crushing your desk? Where would you put your office trinkets after your desk-crushing?


All this diamond-making is good fun, but can they reverse the process? It would be a sad world indeed if we were diamond-rich and didn't have enough peanut butter for a single peanut butter cup. Perhaps we could change only some of the peanut butter in the world into diamonds.


We need a sensible balance, and would we know what to do if we got one? There are no answers to these questions from the Centre for Science and Extreme Conditions, but their answers probably wouldn't be as cozy as the answers I make up myself (making up your own answers is a fine hobby; see page B-8 for instructions) out of my own peanut butter.