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May 22, 2024 6 mins

In this episode of STBYM’s The Monstrefact, Robert discusses the alien Horta of the Star Trek universe, a silicon-based organism. 

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:10):
Hi, my name is Robert Lammon. This is The Monster Fact,
a short form series from Stuff to Blow Your Mind,
focusing on mythical creatures, ideas, and monsters in time. In
today's episode, I'm going to round out this initial batch
of Star Trek selections, and I'm going to go with
a listener suggestion from one of our mini gems, the

(00:33):
Horta of Janus six. As we learn in the original
Trek episode The Devil in the Dark, the Horta is
a large, subterranean heap shaped organism entirely silicone based rather
than carbon based. It tunnels through the rock via powerful
acidic secretions, which it can also use defensively. Exceedingly long lived,

(00:56):
the entire population of horta dies out every sixty thousand years,
with the exception of a single mother horta, which tends
to the spherical eggs that will produce the next generation
of this amazing species. While the Horta are reclusive and
ultimately peaceful, they can prove lethal in confrontations such as

(01:17):
the one with a Federation mining colony and the Devil
in the Dark, which ultimately required the intervention of a
Vulcan mind meld. In the non canonical Star Trek The
Worlds of the Federation by Laura Johnson written as Shane
Johnson from nineteen eighty nine, we learned that the miners
and Horta would eventually work together on Janus six following

(01:37):
this reconciliation. Now, I distinctly remember watching this episode of
the classic Star Trek as a kid, and I remember
enjoying the alien monster based suspense and its thought provoking
treatment of interaction between intelligent but radically different alien species,
and looking back on it now, it certainly has that

(01:57):
Star Trek optimism that is often lacking in our modern
sci fi. It's no surprise that this one is often
held up as one of the best original Star Trek episodes.
In Life Signs the Biology of Star Trek Susan and
Robert Jenkins, the authors here discussed the singular nature of
the Horta in Trek. The Federation was apparently not accustomed

(02:20):
to the presence of silicon based life, and had therefore
missed the Horta's presence on Jenus six in their scans.
Entirely later on in tracks, similar mistakes were made with
the micro brains of Valara three and the space born
crystalline entity. This all underlies a known challenge in astrobiology.

(02:43):
We ultimately have only one model of life upon which
to base our observations, and it happens to be earthlife.
We're told that Janus six never developed carbon based life
beyond a few spore producing plants as well as some algae,
but it did boast minerals and heavy metals, and the
authors stress that while silicon based reactions occur much more

(03:07):
slowly compared to carbon based reactions, a planet like Janus
six might, in theory have the minerals to catalyze the
chemical reactions needed for a silicon based life. Now, in
the larger realm of science fiction, silicon based organisms are
not uncommon. The alien xenomorph is sometimes described as silicon based,

(03:27):
or at least partially silicone based, and there are numerous
ways this is explained to factor in with their carbon
based bodies. Other examples include the Kaiju of Pacific Rim,
the Exogoths of Star Wars, and the easter island headed
Lithodia Rexians of Marvel Comics. However, as outlined by Charles Qchoi,

(03:50):
In the space dot Com article Silicon based life may
be more than just science fiction from twenty seventeen, various
experts speculate that silicon based or silicone income life is
very possible. Silicone and carbon are similar in many ways.
Silicon is one of the most common elements in the universe,
and chemist have artificially synthesized organosilicone molecules composed of both

(04:13):
silicone and carbon, So by some estimations, silicon based life
of some sort may be out there somewhere, whether we
know of it or not. Back to Trek, the Ginkin
stress that the Horta might actually reproduce and reason too
much like a carbon based organism in this episode of Anything.

(04:34):
But then again, this is where science and philosophy butt heads.
Star Trek is ultimately about the hope, if not the reality,
of making contact, settling differences, and figuring out how to
move forward, both as an interstellar community within the fiction
and as a terrestrial species here on Earth in reality.

(04:56):
As much as I love my various nihilistic sci fi
visions and various examples of space horror, I feel more
and more like I need the Star Trek vision in
my life. As an aside, I'll mention that there's actually
an underground geographic positioning technology here on Earth named after
the star Trek Horta. It is, of course a backronym

(05:18):
which stands for Honeywell or Retrieval and Tunneling AID. Tune
in for additional episodes of The Monster Fact, The Artifact,
or Anamalia Stupendium each week. I like to do these
series and pacts of four to five, but I'll likely
come back to more Trek creatures in the future, so
feel free to send in your recommendations or if you

(05:39):
have ideas for future series that I can do here
on the Monster Fact, fandoms I haven't dipped into, or
fandoms I need to dip back into. Just reach out.
I'd love to hear from you. As always, you can
email us at contact at stuff to Blow your Mind
dot com.

Speaker 1 (06:05):
Stuffed Blow Your Mind is a production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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