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K.M.Northrup

Possible forms of Alien life

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I am working on an essay regarding what we can say about what form alien life might take. My thesis is there are things we can plausibly say because life—and if such life achieves sentience, any technology they might develop—will be constrained by the same 94 naturally-occurring chemical elements we have at our disposal.

Some scientists seem convinced that the first evidence of intelligent life elsewhere we come across will be their artificially intelligent, robotic avatars. Barring science-fictional biological entities that secrete *unobtanium* from their pores to fabricate spaceships, it seems to me they will have to somehow extract pure metals from the ores containing them.

On Earth, this required harnessing fire to heat an ore to recover base metals. What options would—just as an example—silicon-based lifeforms have for achieving the same results? Put another way, if I hand a nickle-iron meteorite to an intelligent alien on Saturn’s moon Titan, what options to they have for separating the metal they are interested in using?

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10 hours ago, K.M.Northrup said:

I am working on an essay regarding what we can say about what form alien life might take. My thesis is there are things we can plausibly say because life—and if such life achieves sentience, any technology they might develop—will be constrained by the same 94 naturally-occurring chemical elements we have at our disposal.

Some scientists seem convinced that the first evidence of intelligent life elsewhere we come across will be their artificially intelligent, robotic avatars. Barring science-fictional biological entities that secrete *unobtanium* from their pores to fabricate spaceships, it seems to me they will have to somehow extract pure metals from the ores containing them.

On Earth, this required harnessing fire to heat an ore to recover base metals. What options would—just as an example—silicon-based lifeforms have for achieving the same results? Put another way, if I hand a nickle-iron meteorite to an intelligent alien on Saturn’s moon Titan, what options to they have for separating the metal they are interested in using?

Can these aliens generate electricity? There might be some chemical process they could use to generate electricity, there should be metals and metalloids available to them, sodium, calcium, aluminum, possibly even copper. Extracting these metals would be a hassle from the chlorine, hydroxides and sulfides dissolved in the ice surface but I think we have far to little info on the chemistry of the surface of Titan to be making pronouncements at this point... On Earth, native metals, copper, silver, and even gold, are precipitated out by bacteria that use them to extract chemical energy, these processes could be at work on Titan with different metals. The might make space ships out of calcium and sodium. I'm not a chemist but it seems to me that the ice should contain many possible metal compounds that dissolve in water and would be present in ice. 

Maybe they wouldn't have a need for the iron... 

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