“Silicon chemistry, and its consequences for silicon-based life Part 2”

By Mike Shaw


When: Saturday, February 25th
Time: 10 AM PST
In Voice & Text chat


Abstract: The “Silicon Lifeform” is a common trope in modern science fiction, but can such life really occur naturally?  The role of silicon in terrestrial lifeforms is minimal, for reasons that have to do with differences in the behavior of carbon and silicon in ambient settings. The circumstances necessary for silicon to participate in “interesting” chemistry are different from normal physiological conditions.  Like carbon, silicon has a vast range of known chemistry which can create complex assemblies of atoms, but it is not clear whether this ability is enough to produce the kind of self-replicating biochemistry observed for carbon-rich life.  A consideration of the structure of known silicon compounds, and the conditions necessary for their formation can provide inspiration for the aspiring hard science fiction writer to create worlds where silicon-based life can thrive. In Part II, we will survey some basic chemistry of silicon and examine the conditions where such chemistry could develop to satisfy a definition of life.


Dr. Michael J. Shaw, Professor



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