fertilizer, elements, silicon



In 1967, Gene L. Coon, in the Star Trek episode “Devil in the Dark,” introduced a silicon-based life form, the Horta. The story exemplified author Andrew Smith’s axiom “People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.” As a scientist, the show resonated deeper. I immediately recognized that silicon (Si) and carbon (C) have many similarities. Both are members of the Periodic Table Chemical Group 14. Group 14 members are able to form four chemical bonds. Carbon is the key element to all life forming bonds with other elements like hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. Silicon can also bond with hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. Back then, it was thought provoking on why life did not involve silicon. Today, we know that modern day Hortas exist on Earth and silicon is very important if not essential for plant and animal life.