Silicon-Based Lifeforms: Hortas In The Deeps
Update: 14-Sep-2006 I've been taken in. This story is factually true, however. Dr. Gold and the other scientists are apparently accurately quoted. And there is speculation that silicon could form the basis for life (although it's a stretch - see this Scientific American article for additional info).
It's just that the real source for the story is dated November 12, 1998. This copyrighted story was plagiarized verbatim by whipnet.org, and presented as a current, original story. The true source for this story is here: Alien Life Forms May Be Inside Earth from Times Newspapers Ltd. The tipoff is that Dr. Gold died several years ago. Sorry for the confusion, and thanks to the reader who wrote in to correct the error.
In the classic Star Trek episode The Devil in the Dark, first broadcast in 1967, miners on Janus VI encounter an entity that destroys mining machinery deep in the planet. It turns out that the problem is an animal - the Horta is a creature whose metabolism is based on silicon - living rock.
(Silicon-based lifeform - the Horta)
Just more of the usual sf nonsense? Dr. Tom Gold, emeritus professor of astronomy at Cornell University, believes that organisms based on silicon may live far below the surface of the Earth. Dr. Gold, a member of the Royal Society, is known as an iconoclastic scientist. He previously predicted that vast amounts of more conventional bacteria live miles down within the Earth's crust. Mainstream scientists were skeptical, but many now agree with him.
All known organisms, from bacteria to human beings, are based on carbon; it is an important component of DNA, the basis of life as we know it. Silicon has properties that are similar to carbon; it is in the same group in the Periodic Table. However, silicon atoms are much larger and have difficulty forming double or triple covalent bonds, which are important for biochemical systems.
An animal like a Horta, with its ability to tunnel through rock using corrosive acids secreted by its skin, is obviously unlikely. If Gold's silicon-based lifeforms exist, they are most likely to be microorganisms living within the pores of rock deep below the surface.
Other scientists are skeptical, but listening. Dr. Harold Klein, who lead the Viking Lander project that looked for signs of life on Mars in the 1970, has urged planners for future Mars missions to include testing apparatus for non-carbon-based lifeforms. "It's almost naive to assume all life must be carbon-based; I could possibly make good cases for life based on both silicon and phosphorus," he said.
Science fiction writers have gone out on a limb, scientifically speaking, in writing about extreme life-forms. In his 1957 novel The Black Cloud, astronomer and sf author Fred Hoyle writes about a interstellar dust cloud with intelligence (see the article Magnetic Fields Found To Shape Planetary Nebulae). In his 1959 story Out of the Sun, writer Arthur C. Clarke described living creatures that could live in the sun (see the article Solar Tadpoles Explained By Boffins for more details). Finally, take a look at Intraterrestrial Aliens for more information about silicon-based life.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/8/2006)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 13 )
Related News Stories -
Researchers Say 'Biohybrid Robot' - Clarke Said 'Biot'
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.
Unique DNA To Foil Parts Counterfeiters
'... the only molecule, a unique protein amino acid, which could not be duplicated.' - Philip K. Dick, 1965.
Steerable Locusts Detect Explosives
Science fiction writers again provide a blueprint for the future.
Real Leather Without Cows Modern Meadow Biofabrication
'Plastissue, as any fool can see...' - WF Wallace, 1952,
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
PassivDom 3D Printed House - What If You Could Live Anywhere?
'The houses are prefabricated units...'
Breakthrough In Manufacture Of Red Blood Cells
This blood's for you!
Caihong Solar-Powered Drone 'Atmospheric Satellite'
'... placed in the wings of a plane to generate power from the light falling on that surface.'
NASA Wants Low Earth Orbit Wifi
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'
Is Genetic Testing At Businesses A Bad Idea?
It's not a topic that fares well in science fiction movies-
Wearable Smart Jacket
He pressed the button in his sleeve communicator and snapped: 'Action stations!'
Store One Bit On One Atom
'...each individual molecule has a meaning.'
Fluorescent Bacteria Fashion
'The racks of gowns itched and quivered, their colors running into blurred pools.'
Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'
When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'
LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'
Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'
Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'
Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'
The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'
Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories