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.


(Horta closeup)

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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 13 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Mushroom Eats Plastic, Saves Planet
Fungus Amongus, SaveUs!

Is There Extraterrestrial Life Here In The Solar System
'How fast is it moving? ...one meter per minute.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1982.

Chinese Fern Helps Remediate Arsenic Soil
'Bioengeering had put out a spec report on the long crawly things five months back.' - Gregory Benford, 1983.

New Lifelike Material Powered By Artificial Metabolism
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Entire Planet Modeled In New MS Flight Sim
'CIC uses [it] to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns...'

FlyZoo Robot Hotel By Alibaba
'... hotels that specialized in non-human service.'

Implanted Memories Provide Songs To Birds
Finches can't tell the difference.

Robot Tuna Swims As Fast As Nature's Tuna
'With one fluid motion, it surged forward, plunged, and was gone.'

Shapeshifter Robot Is Comprised Of Cobots
'Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed. For an interval, the device struggled with itself...'

Google Commits To Fighting Deepfakes
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'

China Accused Of Harvesting Organs From Unwanted Groups
'The death penalty was his immortality, and he would vote the death penalty for any crime at all.'

Osmiridium Sounds Like Science Fiction (But It's Not!)
I can't resist science-fictional elements. Especially when they're real.

When Will We See The First Space Hotel?
'The heart of it was a vast hexagonal structure of welded metal, ten miles across...'

SpaceX Starhopper Has Flash Gordon Style
SpaceX makes retro cool spacecraft.

Mindar The Robot Buddhist Priest Offers A Blessing
'Not working is the hardest work of all.'

Does Your Company Need A 'Chief Dreamer'?
As far as the future is concerned 'they're the only experts we have'.

Helios Modular Touch Screen Wall Lights
'The walls and ceiling bore an irregular spacing of illuminum tiles...'

Zephyr Solar-Electric Stratospheric Drone
'The planes flew continuously, twenty-four hours a day...'

Robot Hummingbird Hovers Biomimetically
'With a buzz... it started out on its journey.'

Harvest Water From Air With Sunlight
'The atmosphere yielded its moisture with reluctance.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.