-2
$\begingroup$

On Earth, life developed around Carbon (and Hydrogen and Oxygen). I guess this depends on the availability of those elements, but also on the spectrum of radiation and Temperature and Pressure. Under different conditions, could have life developed around a different element, like Silicon?

To formulate the question in a different way: are there some physical conditions, for example high pressure/temperature under which chemistry would be different? in particular can someone think of some physical conditions under which silicon would develop polymers / complex molecules?

$\endgroup$
3
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it seems to be about biology, not physics. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ Not really. Maybe under certain conditions of pressure and temperature Silicon behaves like Carbon and the production of complex molecules becomes possible. I believe a physicists might have a better answer than a biologist or chemist on this. $\endgroup$
    – fabiob
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 7:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There are whole subfields of biology studying the possibility of exotic forms of life like what you describe. Sure, you could say it's "applied physics," but only in the broadest of senses where all natural sciences are just applied physics. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 8:51

2 Answers 2

2
$\begingroup$

major obstacle to the silicon based life would be how to get rid of silicon dioxide after it forms inside of the cells of silicon based lifeforms, another probleml is that silicon does not bond well to each other and does not make long chains like carbon does

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ does this remain true under all temperatures and pressures? $\endgroup$
    – fabiob
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ i will edit my answer $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 15:56
2
$\begingroup$

Apart from carbon having a much more complex chemistry than any other element it is also more common than most of the others. It is the fourth most common element. The only ones ahead of it are: hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. Of course, two of those are very important to our style of life. Helium based life seems rather unlikely and would certainly be very different and probably unrecognisable.

Abundance of the chemical elements (Wikipedia)

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ however, on earth silicon seems to be more abundant than carbon: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abundance_of_the_chemical_elements#Earth $\endgroup$
    – fabiob
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ So, it will be important where life, or at least its precursors, started. Organic molecules are observed in space. I don't think that any silicon ones are. In a way, your observation seems to suggest silicon based life is less likely. On Earth, with its high proportion is silicon, carbon still won. $\endgroup$
    – badjohn
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 8:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.