Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Definition of Life

For years, scientists have tried to accurately and properly define life. They have been anything but successful. The definitions that are generally used are based on what life on Earth looks like.

However recently scientists have been forced to find a new definition for life. Life on Earth is carbon based. Carbon displays one very special property. It can catenate. Catenation is the property of an atom by which it can form  long chains by varying the number of electrons that are shared in their covalent bonds. This enables carbon to  combine with hydrogen and oxygen to form organic moleculed with extremely complex structures. 

According to scientists, there is another compond which could possibly serve as a base for life: Silicon. With an atomic mass of 28; an atomic number of 14, scientists say that Silicon based life forms could develop given the right circumstances. But it would be life in slow-motion. Silicon forms stronger bonds with other atoms and the reactions that take place could be so sloe that we might not even recognise it as life if we saw it.

Another interesting thing is that computer viruses also display some of the characteristics of life. They can replicate themselves and move from PC to PC through the internet. They use up memory on a computer chip to 'live'. This might strike some people as going a bit too far with imagination but the theory certainly has a logical side to it. We define life as we do becuse we are used to seing living, breathing creatures on earth. But the first step to discover Extra-Terrestrial life is to broaden our perspective. What a pity it would be if we discovered a planet with ET and failed to recognise it.

But is there really anyone out there? The question remains......   


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