Why Life Relies on Carbon, Not Silicon- Unveiling Three Remarkable Reasons


The video explains that life on Earth is carbon-based due to carbon’s versatility in forming complex molecular structures, its abundance in the universe, and its strong bond stability. While other elements like silicon may be plausible for life under different conditions, the conditions of Earth make carbon the ideal building block for life forms using liquid water as a solvent. The video also mentions the possibility of silicon-based creatures in environments that use different solvents and highlights the importance of organic chemistry in creating artificial life forms using silicon.

  • 00:00:00 In this section, the speaker explains why everything on Earth is based on carbon and not other elements like oxygen, silicon, or nitrogen despite their abundance. Carbon is the most complex element and can form complex molecular structures that are needed for the complex chemistry that life requires. This is due to the fact that carbon can share up to four additional electrons from other atoms to form covalent bonds, which makes it more stable and versatile. Carbon-based molecules can form long non-repetitive chains of polymers, closed rings, and single, double, or triple bonds with other elements, making them uniquely able to take part in a vast multitude of chemical processes.
  • 00:05:00 In this section, we learn that carbon, compared to other elements like oxygen and boron, can form complex molecular structures and is versatile in forming long, stable polymer chains that carry a lot of information, making it the perfect element to be the backbone of life’s building blocks. Carbon is also abundant in the universe, making it much easier to build something with it. Lastly, the bond stability of carbon is stronger, making it a better option than nitrogen and silicon, which can easily break apart. In conclusion, carbon is the best-suited element for life to latch onto due to its versatility, abundance, and bond stability.
  • 00:10:00 In this section, the video explains why life is carbon-based and not silicon-based, attributing it to carbon’s abundance, ability to form stable bonds with other carbon atoms, and ability to form complex structures. While silicon-based life forms are not impossible, they are less plausible due to the rarity of elements as they get heavier, making carbon the ideal element for life under the conditions of Earth, which works well for life forms using liquid water as a solvent. However, different environments may be suitable for different elements, as seen in the possibility of using ethane and methane as solvents, creating room for silicon-based creatures. The video also mentions the acceleration of creating silicon artificial life forms and attributes the critical process to the organic chemistry of interactions between elements, a subject covered by a course on Mondrian Sponsor.



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