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In his famous lecture, "Life in the Universe," Stephen Hawking observed that what we normally think of as 'life' is based on chains of carbon atoms, with a few other atoms, such as nitrogen or phosphorous. We can imagine that one might have life with some other chemical basis, such as silicon, "but carbon seems the most favorable case, because it has the richest chemistry." Several eminent scientists think otherwise, that life in the universe could have a myriad of possible biochemical foundations ranging from life in ammonia to life in hydrocarbons and silicon. Silicates have a rich chemistry with a propensity for forming chains, rings, and sheets. One of the founders on modern genetics, Cairs-Smith, argued that layers of crystalline silicates functioned as a primitive form of life on early Earth, before they evolved into carbon-based life forms.
Several other small life forms use arsenic to generate energy and facilitate growth. Chlorine and sulfur are also possible elemental replacements for carbon. Sulfur is capably of forming long-chain molecules like carbon. Some terrestrial bacteria have already been discovered to survive on sulfur rather than oxygen, by reducing sulfur to hydrogen sulfide.
A neutron star is a type of remnant that can result from the gravitational collapse of a massive star during a Type II, Type Ib or Type Ic supernova event. Such stars are composed almost entirely of neutrons, which are subatomic particles without electrical charge and roughly the same mass as protons. Neutron stars are very hot and are supported against further collapse because of the Pauli exclusion principle. This principle states that no two neutrons (or any other fermionic particle) can occupy the same place and quantum state simultaneously.
Writer Robert Forward described being inspired by astronomer Frank Drake's suggestion in 1973 that intelligent life could inhabit neutron stars. Physical models in 1973 implied that Drake's creatures would be microscopic. By the time Forward was outlining the book, newer models indicated that the cheela would be about the size of sesame seeds. Later Forward found an earlier letter in which he discussed the idea of high-gravity life in the Sun with science fiction novelist Hal Clement.