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Extreme Physics by Jon Larsen, Jeff Colvin

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1 Extreme environments: What, where, how

1.1 Background, definitions, and assumptions

As far as we know, human beings and other biological organisms exist in the universe only on or near the surface of one rocky planet, where the physical conditions permit the existence of self-replicating long-chain molecules. These molecules are formed as individual atoms bound together via Coulomb forces. Binding takes place when the individual atoms are close enough together that the outer valence electrons of each atom can experience the potential well of the neighboring atom's nucleus as comparable to the potential well of its own atom's nucleus. In an ionic bond, for example, the atom with lower ionization potential “gives” its electron(s) to the neighboring ...

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