Saturday, November 14, 2009

Stars get lonely too

In the field of exoplanetary detection and characterization, relatively little work has been done on the mental health of the stars in our sector of the galaxy. However, a new paper by Israelian et al. has begun to change that. Their study shows that stars without planetary companions contain as much as ten times as much lithium as the sun.

Lithium, of course, is an antidepressant. Unlike molecular antidepressants like Prozac, it is stable at the temperatures found in the upper layers of luminous stars. Over time, this lithium mixes into the core of the star, where it is destroyed. So the observation that 50% of stars without planets have high levels of lithium suggests that they have been having lithium added via an external source, such as medication.

The obvious conclusion is that these isolated stars have a higher incidence of mental health problems. Lithium is commonly used to treat depression and bipolar disorder, and these diseases may be more common in stars isolated in the vast loneliness of intergalactic space without the companionship of planets. If this hypothesis is correct, then we would expect none of the high-lithium, medicated stars to exhibit variable luminosity associated with bipolar disorders.

Note: I couldn’t find this paper in the arxiv, and Nature only allows access to the abstract by the public. I read that, but I cannot rule out the possibility that I have misinterpreted the research as a result of their access policy.


ScienceWoman said...

Too funny.

Ron Schott said...


EcoGeoFemme said...


BladeofS0rr0w said...

Really funny! :o)
I sent it to two co-authors I know. They are very funny guys, I'm pretty sure they will appreciate.

Big Mike said...

Beautiful logic. Very funny.

Sean Welton said...

Haha, so funny!