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I am trying to decide whether the race that I am creating should be silicon or carbon based. So my question is what are the advantages and disadvantages of a silicon based life form?

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    $\begingroup$ One cannot talk about advantages and disadvantages without any clue on where they would be measured. And you have given exactly 0 details on your worldbuilding problem. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Nov 22 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ So whilst Si based life forms are theoretically possible, it is impossible to make a comparison without a reference point, so at present this question is unanswerable? $\endgroup$ Nov 22 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ Fair to say, that's right. It's something that we could only guess at at present - hence comes out as opinion-based. If you've a silicon-based biology, then by all means ask some specific questions about that, first check out search results for silicon-based to get an idea of what's already been explored here. $\endgroup$ Nov 22 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ Advantages to do or be what? Supposing that sillicon based life forms can exist, it looks like you want that one is in overall better than another to choose, but would this be really the case for all explorable situations? This therefore feels like it's a tad too-broad or asking for opinions. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Nov 22 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ If you're doing as A Rogue Ant suggests the "related" side panel links to this question are a good place to start. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Nov 23 at 5:48
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Sorry to say there isn't really a contest here, carbon works, silicon doesn't, not in anything we'd recognise as "life" anyway.

While on the surface silicon and carbon appear very chemically similar, they both have four fold covalent bonding and form similar polymers etc... The problem with substituting silicon for carbon is that the silicon equivalents of many of the amino acids we take for granted in earthly biochemistry are completely unstable, while others are too stable. Silicon is 230% the weight of carbon making the boiling point of many of it's compounds much higher and thus it's simple compounds excessively thermally stable, for example silicon dioxide is solid at room temperature, and far beyond. However because its bonding electrons are one shell farther from it's nucleus it's bonds are commensurately weaker and its complex compounds less chemically stable.

When approaching "silicon-based" lifeforms I tend to chicken out and rather than attempting to build a workable biochemistry from the ground up I look at the examples of life on earth that use silicon in their life cycle, diatoms are algae that use a silicon (exo)skeleton to support a carbon chemistry based life-form within.

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In the most general sense a carbon based life form is more believable. Whilst silicon life forms can't be ruled out entirely (we don't know what we don't know), the complexity and variety seen in the chemistry of carbon exceed that of silicon chemistry by many orders of magnitude. Given the vast chemical complexity that appears to be required for even the simplest life form we see on Earth, it is doubtful if silicon is a suitable basis for life.

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  • $\begingroup$ Need an alkaline planet, caustic even. Otherwise, the silicon oxide will be mostly insoluble $\endgroup$ Nov 22 at 10:54

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