Re: MISC: Exobiology, Brain Storage Capacity, & Ralph Merkle

Michael Lorrey (
Thu, 09 Jan 1997 19:02:47 -0500

James Rogers wrote:
> At 12:41 PM 1/9/97 -0500, Michael Lorrey wrote:
> >While some people have postulated the possiblity of life based on
> >silicon, it simply does not have the same number of possible valence
> >combinations as carbon does. While silicon life may form in some carbon
> >poor regions of the universe (unlikely that such a state could exist,
> >but not impossible), anywhere where carbon is in its normal abundance,
> >and temperatures exist between -20 C up to 150 C, and there is water,
> >life will form around carbon. Any silicon based primitive life forms
> >will quickly be pushed out of the competition for resources with its
> >carbon cousins because of carbon's greater ability to form complex
> >molecules.
> >
> Although you are correct in most respects, you are exhibiting a common human
> bias towards water-based chemistry. In much the same way people adopted a
> decimal numbering system, most people (even many chemists) adopt a
> water-based chemical view. Fact is, the choice of base solvents can be
> pretty much arbitrary. The influence of water on us and our world tends to
> creep into our assumptions about life on other worlds.
> Evidence of this can be seen in most university inorganic chemistry classes.
> Everyone learns inorganic chemistry under the assumption that water is the
> solvent. At the lower class levels, they don't even suggest that there is
> an entire parallel universe of chemical interactions based on, say, an H2S
> solvent environment.

Sure, but how "common" is H2S as opposed to water? From what I've read
of the archaea and other tectonic dwellers, the H2S they live off of is
produced by water seeping down through fissures, coming in contact with
hot sulfur rich rock, which creates H2S. Thus even in the most remote
areas that life has evolved that we know of, such chemistry is dependent
on water, at least indirectly.

How common is H2S in space or on other planets in our solar system? I
think there is some on Saturn's moon Titan, as well as all sorts of
hydrocarbons. The gist of my argument is that life will evolve with what
ever chemistry is commonly available and most efficient. How does H2S
rate compared to H2O as a solvent? Like my previous statement comparing
silicon and carbon, what is more useful? Also, what is the temperature
range that is most conducive toward H2S based chemistry? or other common
natural solvents for that matter?


Michael Lorrey ------------------------------------------------------------ President Northstar Technologies Agent Inventor of the Lorrey Drive

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