Scientists in Scotland are attempting to dramatically expand our concept of what we consider “alive” by creating entities that reproduce and evolve, but are made out of non-carbon-based materials. Can plastic truly live? If it displayed the same characteristics that we normally attribute to living things, would it somehow seem “fake”? Via the BBC:
All life on earth is based on organic biology – in the form of carbon compounds – but the inorganic world is considered to be inanimate.
A team from Glasgow University has demonstrated a new way of making inorganic chemical cells. The aim is to create self-replicating, evolving inorganic cells which could be used in medicine and chemistry. The project is being led by Professor Lee Cronin from the university’s College of Science and Engineering.
He said: “What we are trying do is create self-replicating, evolving, inorganic cells that would essentially be alive. You could call it inorganic biology.”
Researchers say the cells, which can also store electricity, could potentially be used in all sorts of applications in medicine, as sensors or to confine chemical reactions.
The research is part of a project by Prof Cronin to demonstrate that inorganic chemical compounds are capable of self-replicating and evolving – just as organic, biological carbon-based cells do.
“Bacteria are essentially single-cell micro-organisms made from organic chemicals, so why can’t we make micro-organisms from inorganic chemicals and allow them to evolve?