10 common scientific misconceptions

Did you grow up believing in any of these science myths? From baby birds to flushing toilets, we debunk common 'facts' that are often just a form of misconstrued science. 

7. Diamonds form from pressurized coal

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor
Joseph Nadel, one of the founders of the Israel Diamond Exchange in 1948, examines a diamond with a lupe. Contrary to popular belief, it is unlikely that diamonds form from pressurized coal.

Forget what your seventh grade science teacher might have told you: scientists concur that most diamonds do not actually come from pressurized coal.

Perhaps the misinformation stems from both diamonds and coal being made of carbon. But the probability of diamonds forming from coal is quite low for a number of reasons. 

Diamonds are thought to form deep in the mantle from a pure form of carbon called graphite. They are brought to the surface through volcanic eruptions, traveling through protective pipes made of an igneous rock called Kimberlite. 

Coal, however, is a very impure mixture of organic material forms at a much shallower level in the Earth's surface. Technically, pressurized coal could lead to a diamond, but it would be a very impure one. Additionally, diamonds are also believed to be much older than Earth's earliest plants, from which coal is formed. 

The tricky part is that these are more or less theories – it is hard to study diamond formation because of the great depth at which they form. Diamonds might come from a number of natural phenomena.

Geology.com's Dr. Harold King writes that the impact of an asteroid crashing into Earth can deliver the high temperature and pressure needed to form a diamond. In fact, diamonds have been discovered near impact sites. Researchers have also discovered diamonds in meteorites that have come to Earth. One scientific belief holds that diamonds were burrowed deep in the mantle through subduction zones, and brought to the surface from the force of volcanic eruptions through the Kimberlite pipes.

7 of 10

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

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If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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