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Carbon-based lifeforms

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  1. Dec 26, 2014 #1
    I'd like to understand more about how/why carbon-based life comes about. All things are atomically based, why is it that carbon atoms/elements are able to sustain life better than any other element?

    Thank you
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2014 #2

    mfb

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    Carbon can easily form stable chemical bonds with up to 4 other atoms which allows the formation of very complex molecules. For everything else, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen (and a few other elements in smaller amounts) are very important as well.
     
  4. Dec 26, 2014 #3

    Bystander

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    Tell us what you know about carbon chemistry that is and is not common to the chemistries of other elements. Focus on oxidation states, catenation (chain formation), and physical states (solid, liquid, gas).
     
  5. Dec 26, 2014 #4

    Pythagorean

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    Carbon is a very diverse bonding element. It has four valence electrons, which make it able to bond with oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen; further, it's bonding strength in "standard" temperature and pressure is right at the point where it can construct both reactive and stable molecules. Finally, carbon forms chains with itself that can lead one molecule to have many different "conformations".

    Other 4-valence atoms like silicon form crystals rather than chains which greatly reduces its ability to participate in dynamic reactions.
     
  6. Dec 26, 2014 #5
    Ok, I think I understand. Essentially it's the ability/property (from the electrons) that Carbon has (being bonding) which makes itself so available for nature to warrant life?
     
  7. Dec 27, 2014 #6

    mfb

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    Right. And while it is not one of the most common elements on earth, it is available as CO2 nearly everywhere.
     
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