silicon-based life

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pages: 298 words: 81,200

Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, cleantech, complexity theory, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, digital Maoism, digital map, discovery of DNA, Dmitri Mendeleev, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Ernest Rutherford, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, greed is good, Hans Lippershey, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, invention of air conditioning, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Johannes Kepler, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, Mason jar, mass immigration, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, online collectivism, packet switching, PageRank, patent troll, pattern recognition, price mechanism, profit motive, Ray Oldenburg, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, six sigma, Solar eclipse in 1919, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Great Good Place, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, urban planning

Silicon sits directly below carbon on the periodic table, and shares its four valence electrons. But silicon lacks carbon’s unique versatility, its ability to form the double and triple bonds that create the long chains and rings of fatty acids and sugars. Silicon also requires far more energy to form bonds than carbon does. Tellingly, the earth contains over a hundred times as much silicon as it does carbon, and yet Mother Nature decided to base life on the much rarer element. Silicon-based life may be impossible for one other reason: silicon bonds readily dissolve in water. Most theories of life’s origin depend on H20 not merely because hydrogen and oxygen are important elements in many organic compounds, but also because the environment of liquid water facilitated the early “chemistry experiments” that led to the emergence of life. The Miller-Urey experiment was, in a way, an attempt to test more rigorously a hunch that Charles Darwin had had a century before about the watery origins of life.

CHAPTER 2: LIQUID NETWORKS On the importance of carbon and liquid water to the origins of life, I recommend several sources: a collection of essays, edited by J. William Schopf, entitled Life’s Origin; Philip Ball’s imaginative “biography” of water, Life’s Matrix; and Carl Zimmer’s Science essay “Evolutionary Roots: On the Origin of Life on Earth.” The original Miller-Urey experiment was published in Science in the essay “A Production of Amino Acids Under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions.” Silicon-based life appears in multiple science fictions, including Stanley Weinbaum’s A Martian Odyssey and in the form of the Horta, a silicon-based creature discovered in episode 26 of the original Star Trek series. Chris Langton’s theories about the generative power of liquid networks are developed in his essay “Life at the Edge of Chaos.” Illuminating accounts of his work appear in both James Gleick’s Chaos and Kevin Kelly’s Out of Control.

pages: 294 words: 87,986

4th Rock From the Sun: The Story of Mars by Nicky Jenner

3D printing, Alfred Russel Wallace, Astronomia nova, cuban missile crisis, Elon Musk, game design, hive mind, invention of the telescope, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, placebo effect, Pluto: dwarf planet, retrograde motion, selection bias, silicon-based life, Skype, Stephen Hawking, technoutopianism

It bonds to itself more weakly than carbon does, is more reactive, and would be unable to use water as a solvent, so there’d need to be another present (methane would work, but any environment would thus require both abundant silicon and methane). It’s possible that extraterrestrial life could be silicon-based, but it wouldn’t be a case of simply replacing the carbon within us with silicon. Silicon-based life would be truly alien: the entire structure and system of life would need to be reimagined to suit the properties and chemistry of the silicon atom. We also look for ‘out-of-equilibrium’ gases as possible markers of life. These are gases that would usually naturally degrade or combine to form another substance, but exist in a planet’s atmosphere in higher-than-expected levels because they are regularly replenished by some ongoing process occurring on the planet.

here–here, here Mars Climate Observer (MCO) here–here Mars Express here, here, here, here, here–here Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) here, here, here, here–here, here Mars Hope here Mars Observer here–here Mars Odyssey here, here Mars One here, here–here Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) here–here Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) here–here Mars Polar Lander (MPL) here–here Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) here–here, here, here Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) here, here–here, here Marshall-Green, Logan here Martian, The here–here, here, here, here–here, here, here, here, here Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) here Massimino, Mike here MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) here–here, here McKay, Chris here McKay, David here, here Méndez, Arnaldo Tamayo here Mercury here, here, here, here astrology here orbit here meteorites here–here microgravity here, here human body here–here mental health here personality here–here social health here–here Molenaar, Gregory here, here Moon here, here, here, here, here, here, here first crash landing here first manned landing here first soft landing here Mars here Moon landings here, here, here–here, here, here musicians here–here Musk, Elon here, here, here, here, here–here Mustard, John here mythology here, here–here Mars in other cultures here–here Naderi, Firouz here NASA here–here, here, here, here, here, here–here, here, here–here, here, here astronauts’ radiation exposure here benefits of research here–here Human Research Program here manned missions to Mars here–here The Martian here–here National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), France here Navarro-González, Rafael here Neptune here astrology here–here Noachian Period here–here Nozomi here–here Nye, Bill here Obama, Barack here–here oceans here–here Olympus Mons here, here, here, here, here Opportunity here, here, here, here, here–here, here, here, here orbit of Mars here–here Orion here, here Outer Space Treaty 1967 here Páez, Leonardo here–here palmistry here–here panspermia here, here pareidolia here–here Pathfinder here, here–here Petranek, Stephen here Pettit, Don here Phobos here–here, here, here–here death of Phobos here–here discovery here, here–here, here, here formation here–here mythology here–here Phobos (Fobos) 1 and 2 here, here Phobos-Grunt here, here Phoenix here, here, here Picus here Pierre Guzman Prize here–here planetary embryos here–here, here planetesimals here, here, here, here, here–here, here Plato here, here Plutarch here–here Pluto here astrology here–here discovery here, here poles here pressure here–here private missions here–here Prometheus here Protazanov, Yakov here Ptolemy here–here, here, here radiation here, here–here, here recurring slope lineae (RSL) here, here, here, here, here red cultural significance here–here, here–here natural world here psychosocial significance here Red Dragon here Red Planet here, here–here, here Rees, Martin here, here retrograde motion here–here, here Rheticus here–here Richer, Jean here RNA here–here Robinson, Kim Stanley Mars trilogy here, here–here, here robots here–here Curiosity here–here Martian yellow storm of 1971 here–here robots of the future here–here rovers here–here Roche, Joseph here–here Romulus and Remus here Roscosmos here, here, here, here, here–here Rosetta here–here RTGs (radioisotope thermoelectric generators) here Ryumin, Valery here Sagan, Carl here, here, here Cosmos here–here, here, here Salisbury, Frank here–here Salyut 1 here Santa Claus Conquers the Martians here Saturn here, here, here, here astrology here Schiaparelli here–here Schiaparelli, Giovanni here, here, here, here, here, here Schulze-Makuch, Dirk here Schwarzenegger, Arnold here science here–here science fiction here, here–here, here canals on Mars here–here comics here–here films here–here television here–here video games here–here Scott, Ridley here, here Shepard, Alan here Shklovsky, Iosif here silicon-based life here–here Sinton, William here, here Skylab 4 here soil here, here–here Sojourner here–here, here, here, here Solar System here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here Aristotelian astronomy here formation here–here Ptolemaic astronomy here–here, here, here Soviet space programme here–here, here, here–here, here, here–here, here space here first spacewalk here life from space here–here missions to Mars here space exploration here–here, here Space Launch System (SLS) here, here–here, here Space Race here robots on Mars here–here US here, here–here USSR here–here SpaceX here, here, here, here, here–here Special Regions here–here Sphinx-99 here–here Spirit here, here, here–here, here, here, here Sputnik 1 here, here Sputnik 22 here Sputnik 24 here–here, here Sun here, here, here, here–here, here, here–here surface here–here, here surface conditions here–here, here–here Swift, Jonathan Gulliver’s Travels here–here, here, here symbolism here–here Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus here–here Syrtis Major here–here, here tardigrades here tarot cards here–here technology here–here tectonics here, here, here–here, here, here television shows here–here Tereshkova, Valentina here terraforming here–here Tesla Motors here, here Tesla, Nikola here–here Tevis, Walter The Man Who Fell to Earth here Tharsis dome here, here, here, here, here Tholus here Tito, Dennis here Todd, David Peck here Tolstoy, Aleksey Nikolayevich Aelita here Tombaugh, Clyde here, here Total Recall here Tyson, Neil deGrasse here, here United Arab Emirates here Universe here, here–here, here, here Uranus here astrology here Valles Marineris here, here–here, here, here, here Vasavada, Ashwin here, here, here, here–here Vastitas Borealis here vegetation here–here Venera here Venus here, here, here, here, here–here astrology here probes here video games here–here Viking 1 and 2 here, here, here–here, here, here–here, here–here, here, here Virgin Galactic here–here virtual reality here–here volcanism here–here, here–here Von Braun, Wernher here–here, here, here Voyager here Wallace, Alfred Russel here water here, here–here, here hunt for life here–here water bears here Weir, Andy The Martian here–here Welles, Orson here Wells, H.

pages: 331 words: 47,993

Artificial You: AI and the Future of Your Mind by Susan Schneider

artificial general intelligence, brain emulation, Elon Musk, Extropian, hive mind, life extension, megastructure, pattern recognition, Ray Kurzweil, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, silicon-based life, Stephen Hawking, superintelligent machines, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, Whole Earth Review, wikimedia commons

At an even more advanced level, we might evaluate an AI’s ability to reason about and discuss philosophical issues, such as the hard problem of consciousness. At the most demanding level, we might see if the machine invents and uses consciousness-based concepts on its own, without our prompts. Perhaps it is curious about whether we are conscious, even though we are biological. The following example illustrates the general idea. Suppose we find a planet that has a highly sophisticated silicon-based life form (call them the “Zetas”). Scientists observing them begin to ask whether the Zetas are conscious. What would be convincing proof of their consciousness? If the Zetas express curiosity about whether there is an afterlife or ponder whether they are more than just their bodies, it would be reasonable to judge them as conscious. Nonverbal cultural behaviors also could indicate Zeta consciousness, such as mourning the dead, religious activities, or even turning different colors in situations that correlate with emotional challenges, as chromatophores do on Earth.

pages: 223 words: 62,564

Life in the Universe: A Beginner's Guide by Lewis Dartnell

anthropic principle, biofilm, carbon-based life, double helix, Kickstarter, Mars Rover, place-making, Pluto: dwarf planet, silicon-based life

Index accretion disc acetylene acidity acidophiles aerobes aerobic respiration algae ALH84001 alien life alkaliphiles Alpha Centauri amino acids ammonia amono-peptides anaerobes anaerobic respiration Andromeda Galaxy Anomalocaris Antarctic Dry Valleys anthropic principle aquifers artificial life asteroids astrobiology definition astrometry atmosphere of Earth of Mars of Titan ATP ATP synthase autocatalysis autotrophs bacteria barophiles Betelgeuse Big Bang biofilms biosignature/biosign biosphere black smoker see hydrothermal vents blue shift bombardment Callisto (moon of Jupiter) Cambrian Explosion 55 Cancri A carbohydrate carbon isotopes carbonaceous chondrites carbonate-silicate cycle carbon dioxide carbon fixation carbonic acid cell membrane cells cryopreserved chemoautotrophs chemosynthesis chirality (handedness) chitin chlorophyll chloroplasts climate collagen comets complex life continental crust convergence co-rotation cycle cosmic radiation craters cryo-volcanism cryptoendoliths cyanide cyanobacteria cytoplasm Darwinian definition Darwin space telescope Darwin’s pond deep basalt aquifers Deimos (moon of Mars) denaturation Devon Island DNA Doppler effect Earth Earthshine EcoSphere ecosystem enantiomers Enceladus (moon of Saturn) endolithic environments endosymbiosis energy extraction inorganic environment enzymes Epsilon Eri Eridanus eukaryotes Europa (moon of Jupiter) evolution extinction extra-solar planets extremophiles eye fixation carbon methane nitrogen flight formaldehyde formamide fossil record free radicals Gaia galaxies Andromeda Galaxy metallicity Milky Way Galileo Galilei Galileo probe Ganymede (moon of Jupiter) glaciation, runaway glucose Goldilocks Principle Golgi body gravitational microlensing greenhouse effect grylloblattid insects habitable zone haemoglobin halophiles handedness see chirality Haughton Crater HD28185 HD209458b Herschel, William heterotrophs homeobox genes Hot Jupiters Hubble Space Telescope Huygens lander hydrogen hydrogen cyanide hydrosphere hydrothermal vents hyperthermophiles icebugs impact impact frustration inorganic energy interference patterns interferometry Io (moon of Jupiter) iron ferrous isotope jarosite Jupiter moons Kepler spacecraft Krebs cycle life artificial emergence of as energy disequilibrium as information transmission on Mars lithoheterotrophs lithosphere Lowell, Percival LUCA (last universal common ancestor) magnetic fields Mars atmosphere canals environmental collapse evolution of life on geography Hellas impact basin Meridiani Planum Olympus Mons survival of life Valles Marineris volcanoes water on M-class dwarves Mercury Meridiani Planum metabolism metallicity metamorphosis meteorites methane methane fixation methanogens Milky Way mitochondria Moon formation of mRNA multicellular organisms Murchison meteorite myxobacteria natural selection nebulae Neptune nitrogen nitrogen fixation nucleotides nucleus oceanic crust Opportunity Mars Rover organelles organics on Mars synthesis organisms multicellular organoheterotrophs Orion osmosis oxidation oxygen oxygenic processes ozone PAH see polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons panspermia, permafrost Phobos (moon of Mars) photoautotrophs photosynthesis planetary orbits planet formation plate tectonics Pluto polarity polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons polymers porphyrins potential difference prebiotic chemistry primordial soup progenote collective prokaryotes proteins protein synthesis protons Proxima Centauri psychrophiles pulsars radial velocity technique red dwarves see M-class dwarves redox redox couples redox potential red shift reduction respiration reverse transcriptase ribose ribosomes ribozymes Rio Tinto RNA RNA world rockcrawlers Rubisco enzyme salinity Saturn moons Schiaparelli, Giovanni sight silicon-based life Sirius SLiMEs Snowball Earth snow line Space Interferometry Mission spallation zone Spirit Mars rover stars birth of Sun-like stromatolites subduction zones subsurface lithotrophic microbial ecosystems see SLiMEs sugars Sun supernovae symbiosis tardigrades (water bears) Tau Bootis Tau Ceti temperature Terrestrial Planet Finder thermophiles threose/TNA tidal heating tidal locking Titan (moon of Saturn) transit method tree of life triple alpha process tRNA ultraviolet (UV) radiation uranium Uranus Urey-Miller reactions vegetation Venus Viking probes viruses volatiles volcanism Vostok, Lake water on Mars phase diagram

pages: 315 words: 92,151

Ten Billion Tomorrows: How Science Fiction Technology Became Reality and Shapes the Future by Brian Clegg

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Brownian motion, call centre, Carrington event, combinatorial explosion, don't be evil, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, game design, gravity well, hive mind, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, silicon-based life, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Turing test

But creatures of that scale have legs that are much thicker in proportion than they are for a smaller equivalent (compare an elephant with a mouse for a living example). So, extremely large aliens would need much chunkier limbs than they are usually portrayed as having. One possible way around this would be if the aliens didn’t have the same composition as us. It is possible to imagine that they could have skeletal structures based on much stronger equivalents of bone, or could be silicon-based life (see here) with a greater ability to withstand the pull of gravity, perhaps needed for a high mass planet. Gravity itself is a variable that needs consideration when we come to aliens. Could an alien life-form develop on planets with a much higher gravitational pull than Earth—probably requiring a totally different approach to movement, as legs would inevitably suffer—or in gravity fields so weak that they could float in the atmosphere like the balloon creatures in Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles?

pages: 299 words: 99,080

The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder

carbon-based life, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Mason jar, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, post-industrial society, silicon-based life

Maybe the name itself was preposterous and its pursuit, in any case, something that people shouldn't undertake. Maybe in promoting the metaphorical relationship between people and machines, cybernetics tended to cheapen and corrupt human perceptions of human intelligence. Or perhaps this science promised to advance the intelligence of people as well as of machines and to imbue the species with a new, exciting power. "Silicon-based life would have a lot of advantages over carbon- based life," a young engineer told me once. He said he believed in a time when the machines would "take over." He snapped his fingers and said, "Just like that." He seemed immensely pleased with that thought. To me, though, the prospects for truly intelligent computers looked comfortably dim. To some the crucial issue was privacy. In theory, computers should be able to manage, more efficiently than people, huge amounts of a society's information.

pages: 476 words: 132,042

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller,, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, charter city, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, computer vision, Danny Hillis, dematerialisation, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, Douglas Engelbart,, Exxon Valdez, George Gilder, gravity well, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, interchangeable parts, invention of air conditioning, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Joan Didion, John Conway, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, Lao Tzu, life extension, Louis Daguerre, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, new economy, off grid, out of africa, performance metric, personalized medicine, phenotype, Picturephone, planetary scale, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, refrigerator car, Richard Florida, Rubik’s Cube, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, Skype, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, Ted Kaczynski, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, Vernor Vinge, wealth creators, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

Silicon-silicon bonds are not stable in water. And when silicon is oxidized, its respiratory output is a mineral precipitate, rather than the gaslike carbon dioxide. That makes it hard to dissipate. A silicon creature would exhale gritty grains of sand. Basically, silicon produces dry life. Without a liquid matrix it’s hard to imagine how complex molecules are transported around to interact. Perhaps silicon-based life inhabits a fiery world and the silicates are molten. Or perhaps the matrix is very cold liquid ammonia. But unlike ice, which floats and insulates the unfrozen liquid, frozen ammonia sinks, allowing the oceans to freeze whole. These concerns are not hypothetical but are based on experiments to produce alternatives to carbon-based life. So far, all evidence points to DNA as the “perfect” molecule.

pages: 420 words: 143,881

The Blind Watchmaker; Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design by Richard Dawkins

epigenetics, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, lateral thinking, Menlo Park, pattern recognition, phenotype, random walk, silicon-based life, Steven Pinker

Will he rediscover some electronic equivalent of the metaphor of the arch, and realize that computers could not have sprung spontaneously into existence but must have originated from some earlier process of cumulative selection? Will he go into detail and reconstruct DNA as a plausible early replicator, victim of electronic usurpation? And will he be far-sighted enough to guess that even DNA may itself have been a usurper of yet more remote and primitive replicators, crystals of inorganic silicates? If he is of a poetic turn of mind, will he even see a kind of justice in the eventual return to silicon-based life, with DNA no more than an interlude, albeit one that lasted longer than three aeons? That is science fiction, and it probably sounds far-fetched. That doesn’t matter. Of more immediate moment is that Cairns-Smith’s own theory, and indeed all other theories of the origin of life, may sound far-fetched to you and hard to believe. Do you find both Cairns-Smith’s clay theory, and the more orthodox organic primeval-soup theory, wildly improbable?

pages: 798 words: 240,182

The Transhumanist Reader by Max More, Natasha Vita-More

23andMe, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, Bill Joy: nanobots, bioinformatics, brain emulation, Buckminster Fuller, cellular automata, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, combinatorial explosion, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, data acquisition, discovery of DNA, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila,, endogenous growth, experimental subject, Extropian, fault tolerance, Flynn Effect, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Gehry, friendly AI, game design, germ theory of disease, hypertext link, impulse control, index fund, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, Louis Pasteur, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral hazard, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Pepto Bismol, phenotype, positional goods, prediction markets, presumed consent, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, RFID, Ronald Reagan, scientific worldview, silicon-based life, Singularitarianism, social intelligence, stem cell, stochastic process, superintelligent machines, supply-chain management, supply-chain management software, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, telepresence, telepresence robot, telerobotics, the built environment, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Review, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

In this process, human presence becomes virtualized and the individual self is distributed, space becomes virtualized and place becomes distributed. Moreover, there is inherent in all the research which currently surrounds the sciences of mind, advanced AI, AL, molecular engineering, robotics, and complex systems, the potential for consciousness to evolve beyond the human organism, and to a degree which perhaps only silicon-based life could accommodate, in “entities as complex as ourselves, and eventually into something transcending everything we know – in whom we can take pride when they refer to themselves as our descendants” (Moravec 1988). Art in the twenty-first century may come to constitute a form of mediation between human and post-human consciousness, just as in past cultures it has been used to mediate between mankind and the gods.