Thursday, September 22, 2011

Researchers Developing New Form of Life Made of Metal

We're all familiar with the idea of metallic life forms like sentient robots, but somewhere out there, metallic life may have actually evolved just like organic life has here on Earth. A Scottish research group is out to prove this is possible by creating reproducing and evolving synthetic cells made entirely out of metal. 

There's really no reason why metallic life forms can't exist, it's just that we haven't met any and nobody's sure how it would work. 

To prove that it's at least physically possible, a team from the University of Glasgow has created some cell-like bubbles call iCHELLs out of metallic elements like tungsten bonded with oxygen and phosphorus. These bubbles can self-assemble, and they exhibit many of the same properties that allow biological cells to do what they do, including an internal structure and a selectively porous outer membrane that can let other molecules pass through. It may even be possible to set the metallic cells up to perform photosynthesis.
The tricky bit at this point is to figure out how to imbue the metallic cells with something like DNA to allow them to self-replicate and evolve, but this may in fact be possible: the bubbles can use each other as templates to create more bubbles, and experiments suggest that they may even be able to alter their own chemistry to adapt to different environments. If all of this works out to the point where we can at least say that yes, it's definitely possible for metal life forms to have evolved, it would have massive implications for our search for extraterrestrial life.

I did not make this, source: nbcbayarea

To add a personal note: This is an incredible find. I already knew that our view of life was limited to our ecosystems and we didn't really look for something that for example doesn't breathe oxygen or swims in lava when they feel like taking a bath, the possibilities of life are endless and, in my opinion, this is the (still in its early stages) proof of it. 

I wonder how can we adapt all of this to Darwin's evolution theory, which is already "menaced" by many little contradictions, if there really is the possibility of having cells that are capable of reproducing themselves without DNA, basically without the need of Biology, something is going to need to be revisited. The question is: Is a big change to our world really going to happen anytime soon? From the looks of it, I might even say yes.


  1. Darwin's theory of natural selection actually has nothing to do with biology as we know it. It just happens that it is the only example we have of it. It's equally applicable to non-biological processes, and there are many parallels in theory of mind, and the way in which ideas and beliefs propagate in a culture.

    There are no known contradictions to Darwin's theory. I think what you are responding to is the speculative science of exo-biology and it's so called "habitable zone" theory which is, of course, complete anthropomorphic hogwash.

  2. Natural selection isn't going to be touched at all, the basic concept of the evolution theory is one of the few theories that are still standing strong in our times, I realize now that I forgot to specify it, thanks for pointing it out.

    It's still strange that you say that the natural selection has nothing to do with biology as we know it, though, since the heritable traits, mutations, and so on all have to do with DNA. A "creature" that doesn't posses the DNA, doesn't necessarily have to fight to pass down its own genes, don't even take for granted that they might have a male and a female in their species or that they reproduce like in our Planet, there are many possibilities, and if this experiment is going to work we're going to look at life with a whole new perspective.

    Something is going to change in the evolution theory, or better, in the neo evolution theory if we find a creature with such traits, for example: new branches of the theory are going to be created to be adapted to these new life forms.

  3. Lolwut? Rethink what you're saying. Scientists have used the information known from biology (and chemistry) to create these "cells" which already show signs of being able to adapt to their environment, proving the entire point of natural selection. But biology itself is irrelevant in this matter, what's relevant is the proof that metallic creatures could eventually evolve on their own (if their environments allowed this).

  4. I don't think that you actually read my comment right up there.

  5. I think this is an interesting topic because there is simply no reason why another form of life could have evolved and come to exist on another planet.

    I think that we are limiting our own ability to see things by not recognizing that there could easily be other forms of life out there that are not similar to terrestrial life. Therefore, we need to keep an open mind about everything and proving that something based solely on metals is an interesting place to start...


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