New Insights on Alien Alternative Biochemistry | Summary and Q&A

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November 16, 2023
by
John Michael Godier
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New Insights on Alien Alternative Biochemistry

TL;DR

There is a bias in astrobiology due to our limited understanding of life on Earth, which may blind us to the possibilities of non-carbon based life. However, there are various potential forms of alternative biochemistry, including alternative chirality, arsenic life, borane biochemistry, and life in different solvents.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the known bias in astrobiology regarding the search for alien life?

The bias in astrobiology is that we have only ever observed one kind of life - carbon-based life on Earth. This limits our understanding of the possibilities of non-carbon based life forms.

Q: Why do scientists focus on Earth's kind of life in astrobiology?

Earth's life has been successful for over 3.8 billion years, and we have not observed independent life of a different kind on Earth. This suggests that our kind of life has dominated and potentially eliminated other biochemistries.

Q: What is the shadow biosphere?

The shadow biosphere is a hypothetical concept suggesting the existence of unrelated life forms on Earth that do not conform to our kind of life. These forms of life may exist, but our current microbial detection methods may not be able to identify them.

Q: What are some potential forms of non-carbon based life?

Some potential forms of non-carbon based life include alternative chirality, where biomolecules have different handedness, arsenic life that incorporates arsenic instead of phosphorus, borane biochemistry, and life in different solvents such as ammonia or silicon dioxide.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Earth's life adheres to a set of rules and chemistry based on carbon, which may hinder our ability to recognize non-carbon based life forms.

  • Earth has not seen a second abiogenesis, which suggests that new biochemistries may be immediately interfered with by preexisting life.

  • There may be a shadow biosphere on Earth, where unrelated life exists, but our microbial detection methods may not recognize it.

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