I'm talking about ionized gas not the plasma in our blood. I have been reading science articles about plasma and they keep hinting at the idea of plasma based life.

Here is my first example and an added second. Apparently plasma can arrange itself into cell-like structures that even "transfer information."

I would like to create a plasma based life-form. What obstacles to staying alive would this lifeform experience? What would such a being look like?

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    $\begingroup$ What is the source of the quote here? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 11 '15 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ do you know that the flame on top of a candle is the same plasma you are talking about? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Nov 11 '15 at 1:24
  • $\begingroup$ @ HDE- I edited the post to include a link. I realize this is highly speculative but I would like to hear a discussion on it. $\endgroup$ – Night_Fox Nov 11 '15 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ Could you please include both links? My answer no longer makes sense. $\endgroup$ – Lorry Laurence mcLarry Nov 11 '15 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ I cannot find the short story I read, so I don't want to post this as an answer, but either Asimov or Heinlein played with the idea of a magnetic living being which existed inside the hot plasma of the sun, and what it might look like to us if it decided to take a journey into the cold regions of space. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 11 '15 at 6:06

That article is very.........

I think it would be exciting to be in the laboratory when when a spherical blob of matter diverged into two spherical blobs of matter, sure. But, without being a scientist myself, I think that the scientist described in the article is jumping the gun if he actually claimed to have discovered something akin to a life form. It sounds more like a "bubble" than a "cell". Is a rain drop "reproducing" if it breaks into two rain drops? It hasn't replicated any information. If it doesn't replicate information, then how can it evolve?

In order for there to be life, there would need to be some kind of internal structure or information system that can reproduce itself. As far as I know, plasma cannot provide this because it does not allow for any chemical interactions or bonding. It is, and always will be, a homogeneous swirling mass of particles.


If there were non-plasma dust particles inside of the plasma, then the plasma might be able to work as a catalyst for chemical reactions and organization. It could be like the cytoplasm inside of a cell, allowing for life without water. That is a far more interesting thought not mentioned in the referenced article.

Boiling the problem down to it's most basic premise... life is a system by which matter can be assembled into complex, self-replicating structures. You might think of it as a computer that runs on chemical reactions and molecular sized mechanics rather than circuits and transistors. It requires software (DNA) containing information on how to replicate those structures (including itself) and hardware that is able to read and follow those instructions.

Despite the stigma attached to any anti-evolutionary sentiment, it remains a legitimate philosophical question as to whether the hardware needed to synthesize DNA AND the DNA needed to synthesize the hardware can both simultaneously apparate out of exited particles. One of many mysteries of science.

  • $\begingroup$ Good point. The idea of plasma being anything but swirling gas is strange but here is another "highly speculative" article: sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070814150630.htm In this article it specifically discusses how dust in plasma can organize into helical structures. It's a far stretch to a self replicating being but I am writing sci-fi. Isn't it all about stretching as far as possible? $\endgroup$ – Night_Fox Nov 11 '15 at 3:27
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    $\begingroup$ That looks like a better article. According to that article, plasma works as a Catalyst for complex chemical reactions. Perhaps it could be an alternative for water and act as the cytoplasm of a cell. Could be true as far as I know. $\endgroup$ – Lorry Laurence mcLarry Nov 11 '15 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ I've been looking at a lot of stuff on this that I barely understand. I also am new at posting questions on a forum like this. I'll try to be better prepared for my next question. $\endgroup$ – Night_Fox Nov 11 '15 at 3:41
  • $\begingroup$ Here is another link on the topic of plasma structures. science.howstuffworks.com/weird-life.htm I am really interested in some ideas about how a life-form like this might look. Any ideas? $\endgroup$ – Night_Fox Nov 11 '15 at 3:50
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely love the last part of your answer. I am also very skeptical of the leaps of faith that evolution as the origin of life has to take. It would be so much better if it was presented as a possibility instead of absolute. Which brings me to my original question about the plasma beings - What obstacles would such a being have to living it's life? What would it look like? $\endgroup$ – Night_Fox Nov 11 '15 at 4:40

The problem with plasma is the high temperature needed to achieve ionization and the electrical repulsion of the charged particles within the plasma tend to cause plasmas to rapidly expand and dissipate. This is hardly conducive to anything resembling life, since information storage, reproduction or replication and other facets of life processes would also be impossible. (This is also why plasma would make a crappy weapon...)

The only ways we know to overcome this is through powerful magnetic fields, such as in Tokomaks or other experimental fusion reactors, or to pile on gravity, such as in a star. Trying to corral plasma with magnetic fields has proven to be frustratingly difficult, which is why fusion energy has been "20 years away" for about the last 50 years.

If self organizing plasmas can exist, then they will be confined to very extreme environments such as the photospheres of stars, accretion discs of black holes and perhaps the "atmosphere" of a neutron star. As you can imagine, locating and recognizing life in that sort of environment will be quite difficult, not to mention how would you interact with it?

  • $\begingroup$ Great post! I was considering making them from an extreme environment like the neutron star. Our chemical makeup also requires certain perimeters to hold together, but we have learned to use pressurized suits, lead lined coats, etc. to survive in extreme environments. That said, what do you say to the idea that they would learn to create there own containment fields to allow them to leave their environment?. Could a plasma generate it's own magnetic containment field if it had intelligence? $\endgroup$ – Night_Fox Nov 12 '15 at 1:43

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