“Directed Evolution” and Alien Life

“Directed Evolution” and Alien Life

If you happen to come across any live silicone-blobs from this or another world, kindly let me know

“Directed Evolution” and Alien Life


By Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser
December 2, 2016

 

silicone-blob
Image credit: mediaassets.caltech.edu

All life forms (on earth) rely on carbon (chemical symbol “C”) for their existence and functioning. From miniscule bacteria to giant sequoia trees, from worms to whales, no life on earth including humans would exist without “carbon” in various combinations with other elements, most notably hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus.

Recent news speculate about hypothetical types of biochemistry and extraterrestrial life forms using a “silicon” based system, possibly akin to the Caltech artist’s rendering of such an envisioned life form shown nearby:

It may be difficult to figure out what’s front or back on that but it’s a lovely alien creature, isn’t it?

Another headline says “Scientists shocked by discovery relating to alien life” and “the search for alien life may have been altered forever by an amazing new conclusion by researchers.”

Researchers say in a new paper published in the journal Science that silicon can be made to bond naturally with carbon, which could open the door for many possibilities, not just with regards to alien life but also for human engineering. They term that process “directed evolution.”

Is the idea of “evolutionary tinkering” based on the claim that “silicon can form long chains of molecules, making it a potential building block for life” realistic or based on false assumptions? In order to evaluate that, one needs to look at the actual chemistry which I will try to explain in brief.

Chemistry in-brief

The element silicium (the actual, though now possibly obsolete, name for the element is “silicium” with the chemical symbol “Si”) is in the same group as carbon in the Periodic System of elements, actually right below carbon in that column of Group IV elements. Silicium, commonly known as “silicon,” (but not to be equated with silicone(s) or silicates), like the element C, prefers to be attached with chemical bonds to four other atoms. Combinations with oxygen (chemical symbol “O”) are most common in nature. Such Si-O compounds form much of the earth’s crust, known as lithosphere, in the form of “silicates”, i.e. compounds with four Si-O bonds. Sand, mostly the mineral “quartz” is a prime example as it only contains Si and O, chemically SiO2. It really is a three-dimensional structure of one Si atom bound to four oxygen atoms, each of which is bound to another Si atom.

In contrast to chemical structures with chains of carbon atoms directly bound to other carbon atoms that are present in all life forms on earth, there are no natural compounds with direct Si-to-Si bonds on earth.

To sum up, the idea that “silicon [silicium] can form long chains of molecules, making it a potential building block for life” or of “silicium-based life forms” is suffering from a certain lack of knowledge and understanding of the chemistry involved.

Are there real “silicone”-type compounds on earth? Yes of course. However, they do not have Si-Si bonds; they are manmade materials prepared under special conditions for the synthesis.

Silicon Compounds on Earth

Modern chemistry has been able to create many substances that are not found in nature. Silicone– type compounds are among them. Quite likely, you’ll have used some such silicones already, for example in common caulking materials (not all of such) that withstand the ravages of nature, i.e. the influence of light and water, for a long time. Kept from contact with air and moisture, such caulking materials can be stored for a long time and only polymerize to insoluble but still flexible substances on exposure to air. Therefore, they are widely used to patch cracks in walls, to seal out water and air. Silicone oils are widely used as lubricants, hydraulic fluids, dielectrics, and heat exchanger fluids. Other uses of silicones are “rain-away” windshield treatments for cars, “silly putty,” bouncy balls, and various other toys and items.All such silicone-type materials have chains of “O-Si-O” (same as in quartz) plus some actual Si-C bonds and, simply for the lack of life forms that can “digest” such, are quite stable under natural conditions. The combination of both O-Si-O backbones with actual Si-C bonds gives them flexibility and durability as well as their water-repelling property.

structure-of-silicones
Principle structure of silicones; Wikipedia image

These silicone-type materials are useful in many ways (or fun to play with). The caulking stuff certainly likes to stick to and become inseparable from any textile in short order. So, don’t use your “Sunday-Best” when working with them.

However, the thought that these types of compounds could be the backbones of extraterrestrial forms of life in the universe, that by all other facts known is based on the same chemical elements and the same chemistry as known on earth, does appear a bit far-fetched. It goes well with other recent claims like the discovery of purportedly “alien structures” on the moon.

If you happen to come across any live silicone-blobs from this or another world, kindly let me know.

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Dr Klaus L E KaiserDr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is a professional scientist with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Technical University, Munich, Germany. He has worked as a research scientist and project chief at Environment Canada‘s Canada Centre for Inland Waters for over 30 years and is currently Director of Research at TerraBase Inc. He is author of nearly 300 publications in scientific journals, government and agency reports, books, computer programs, trade magazines, and newspaper articles.

Dr. Kaiser has been president of the International Association for Great Lakes Research, a peer reviewer of numerous scientific papers for several journals, Editor-in-Chief of the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada for nearly a decade, and an adjunct professor. He has contributed to a variety of scientific projects and reports and has made many presentations at national and international conferences.

Dr. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts
convenientmyths.com

Dr. Kaiser can be reached at: mail@convenientmyths.com


6 thoughts on ““Directed Evolution” and Alien Life

  1. I remember Bill Clinton’s farewell address to the nation as president, “The most important issue facing man is the decoding of the human genome”.
    The human scientific field has grown exponentially since those days. One could say fast than that in reality. From non viral nano computers from the 80s to cyborg technology developed by Harvard and MIT. The field of transhumanism is being merged with these technologies and exactly how far the development of human and machine integration has grown is not known by any 1 individual.
    Following is a 3 year old file introduced by a highly trained and informed scientist, some say the best in his field at the time, that has some biblical background included. The fields he covers, has since the filming grown greater than 10 fold the technology and progressing.
    Where is man heading in the field of man and machine integration and replication? The following topics are covered.

    TRANSHUMANISM(Tampering with the human genome)

    ACCELERATING CONVERGENCE of TECHNOLOGIES
    -Genetics & Microbilogy
    -Robotics
    -Nanotechnologies
    -Artificial Intelligence

    ASPERATIONS & PRIORITIES

    DANGERS

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkJe9re-8AI

  2. Well, from what I understand… the idea behind silicon instead of carbon for Et lifeforms, is under the paradigm of a different EM environment as well, which would enable such differences in composition.

  3. So, Star Trek (The Original Series) had a story about “Horta” – a silicon based life form. Another hit for the Rodenberry script writers, IMO.

  4. Well I certainly hope not! The reason being I have a rather rare silicone allergy, if that stuff touches me (or at least my skin) for more than a few minutes I get a reaction that is similar to poison oak, an oozing weeping itching contact dermatitis. Diagnosed by the nurse practitioner who works at my old allergy doc’s… she happens to have the same thing (she got hers from using non-latex gloves in an ER setting and had to change jobs because of it).

    Kind of scary considering they often make medical devices (including things they put in your body) out of silicone… and a lot of newer cosmetics have silicone in them.

    So it’s #NEVER_BLOBS for me!!

  5. Directed evolution, hmmm, why is evolution so beloved of the scientific community when the idea of gradual permutation through predominately positive random genetic mutations is the opposite of what has been plainly observed. Again and again the second law of thermodynamics is proven in a gradual decline into disorder, not a gradual incline into order and thereby more and more complex life forms. Why is it so painful to consider the very real possibility that all that we see and know had a very real and ordered designer?? If all that we see and know really did come from random processes that just happened to culminate in a very ordered, observable, and predictable universe, how is that possible??

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