View Full Version : Alternative Biochemistries

11-20-2008, 12:07 AM
My latest story idea is a sci-fi medical mystery, and I'm looking for information on alternatives to carbon/water/oxygen systems of biochemistry. Wikipedia was a good starting point, but lacks any depth. Does anyone here know of any in-depth resources that discuss other possible biochemistries?

11-20-2008, 12:15 AM
There's always the possibility of silicon (http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/S/siliconlife.html)-based (http://news.softpedia.com/news/Silicon-based-Life-50623.shtml) life (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_biochemistry#Silicon_biochemistry).

11-20-2008, 12:32 AM
I remember reading an article about plasma/dust-based life. Scientists were simulating dust and plasma and accidentally found life-like structures in the simulations, in particular a kind of self-replicating DNA like structure.


11-20-2008, 02:28 AM
There's always the possibility of silicon (http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/S/siliconlife.html)-based (http://news.softpedia.com/news/Silicon-based-Life-50623.shtml) life (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_biochemistry#Silicon_biochemistry).

Not really, the silicon-oxygen bond is too strong and the silicon-nitrogen bond too weak for it to do the range of things carbon does.

Kitty Pryde
11-20-2008, 03:48 AM
Have you read James White's Sector General stories? They are my favorite medical mystery sci-fi. I highly recommend them if you haven't checked them out before. He has all these types of critters:

In general I think the key to a cracking story of practicing-medicine-on-aliens isn't hyperrealistic biochemistry (tho it helps to be mildly plausible) but rather a mystery that is so hard to crack because the aliens are truly alien. Like humans can't even conceive of the alien's social and biological processes, so they are at a loss until they can think way way outside the box. Like the Sector General novels. Or 'Speaker For the Dead' by Orson Scott Card.

I think you can create a more compelling story by saying, 'The aliens were beings of superheated gas and so...' rather than try to figure out how an alien made of superheated gas could work in terms of the sheer physics and chemistry.

11-20-2008, 04:44 AM
I do want to read some of the Sector General series, as soon as I finish my internship (the library here is just a block away, but the selection is lacking). But really, I didn't want to get into super-exotic aliens for this. As a chemistry major, I'd be more interested in exploring how different systems of biology would work than just waving my hands and saying "ZOMG, the aliens are gas clouds!"

But thanks for the line; there's some really interesting stuff in there.