Members of the cryonics movement -- estimated at 1,000 strong
and growing -- are taking perhaps the biggest gamble a person
can take; that they will be frozen in liquid nitrogen immediately
after their death and later be brought back to life.
Architect Steven Valentine's "Timeship" --
a "life extension research and cryopreservation"
facility -- will house research laboratories, animal
and plant DNA, and as many as 10,000 frozen people.
About 142 people currently have their body or head held in
one of two cryonics storage facilities in the United States
-- Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona,
and the Cryonics Institute of Clinton Township, Michigan --
and many more have signed up. Among them are Baseball Hall
of Famer Ted Williams and a handful of wealthy U.S. and foreign
businessmen who have created "revival trusts" that
would allow them to reclaim their fortunes hundreds or thousands
of years down the road.
"This is going to be the century of immortality,"
says Stephen Valentine, an architect who has designed the
Timeship -- a "life extension research and cryopreservation"
facility that will house research laboratories, animal and
plant DNA, and as many as 10,000 frozen people.
"Children being born today are probably going to live
an average lifespan of 120 years. Their children, it is being
predicted, will never die. There will be a time when people
won't be able to comprehend the thought of not existing any
more and just becoming fertilizer," Valentine says.
How Does Cryopreservation Work?
In cryopreservation, a body is put in a glycerin-based solution,
cooled with dry ice, then held in a pool of liquid nitrogen
until the body temperature reaches minus-320 degrees Fahrenheit
(at which temperature all cell movement is stopped).
The idea is that people with incurable diseases could be
frozen today, then rewarmed decades later when medicine has
advanced and a cure is available.
A steel, liquid-nitrogen-filled capsule used for cryopreservation
at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale,
Currently, only certain cells and tissues, such as sperm
and embryos, can be frozen and successfully rewarmed. One
of the biggest hurdles facing the technology is how to stop
the formation of ice crystals, which damage cells.
New Research Suggests Cryopreservation IS Possible
Most cryonics centers require that interested parties register
and pay in advance of their death, anywhere from $28,000 to
$120,000. While some members opt to freeze their entire body,
others preserve only their heads, with the idea that their
consciousness will be transported into a "fresh"
While critics claim the centers are offering false hope and
scamming people out of money, new research by University of
Helsinki researcher Anatoli Bogdan, Ph.D. suggests that the
entire human body could be cyropreserved without the formation
of damaging ice crystals.
"Damage of the cells occurs due to the extra-cellular
and intra-cellular ice formation, which leads to dehydration
and separation into the ice and concentrated unfrozen solution.
If we could, by slow cooling/warming, supercool and then warm
the cells without the crystallization of water then the cells
would be undamaged," Bogdan says.
His research looked into a form of water called "glassy
water," or low-density amorphous ice (LDA). The glassy
water, which is produced by slowly supercooling diluted aqueous
droplets, melts into a highly viscous water (HVW), which Bogdan
says could have important applications for cryonics:
"It may seem fantastic, but the fact that in aqueous
solution, [the] water component can be slowly supercooled
to the glassy state and warmed back without the crystallization
implies that, in principle, if the suitable cyroprotectant
is created, cells in plants and living matter could withstand
a large supercooling and survive."
The Ethics of Immortality
The details of a world where no one dies, or at least one
in which not dying is a possibility, raises an unforeseen
number of legal and ethical questions. For instance, would
someone who is pronounced dead and then later revived have
to pay back their life insurance? And doesn't the prospect
of cryopreservation already exclude those who are poor and
unable to afford it?
At the very least, the notion of cryopreservation would alter
the very definition of death.
"Death is just the point at current technology when
the doctor gives up," said David Ettinger, whose father,
Robert Ettinger, is said to have founded the cryonics movement.
"It's a legal definition, not a medical one."
But while cryopreservation still remains, to most, something
out of a science fiction novel, Valentine views it as a natural
progression of humans' innate desire to live longer:
"Since the beginning of time we've done everything we
can to make ourselves live longer. We've invented vaccines.
We've cured diseases. What do we do that for? So people can
live better and longer."
Really Now, How Likely Are They? If They Exist How Likely
is it They'd be Friendly?
to Live Longer? Be Wealthier? And Happier? Here is the One
PROVEN Secret: Reading!
Daily June 20, 2006
Unlimited: House of the Temporarily Dead
Wall Street Journal Online January 21, 2006
News: Would Freezing Ted Williams Really Work?