Bill Bain on why cryogenics is so cool
THUMB twitching to post that perfect selfie? Will the “likes” silence incessant internal voices of doubt and insecurity? Then there’s two things you need to know before you press “send” – first, true beauty really does exist on the inside and secondly, you’re about to commit fraud.
The truth is, that photograph isn’t really you. It’s nothing like you. And I don’t just mean how your eyebags and twin chins have been edited out of existence like 1970s presenters on TOTP2. That selfie is simply a sighting of the flesh machine you ride in – a temporary clump of rapidly decaying matter that’s been unceremoniously excreted into the flux of infinity.
But the actual you? You’ll never get your own calendar, put it that way. You are not pretty. But you are beautiful, in your own special way. The most complex thing in the known universe, in fact. Yes, you’ve guessed it – the real you is that wee pulsating clot of electrified jelly we call the brain, serving a life sentence under a black dome of bone. It might not be a comforting thought, but under your skull lies the secret of what you really are.
The human brain itself is powered by just 20 watts of energy – far less than your telly needs to show America’s Craziest Ever Police Chases. However humbling that fact is, it still doesn’t dampen this organ’s ego and sense of entitlement. In most cases, brains wish to stay alive forever – keeping our DNAspreading vehicles (aka our bodies) roadworthy with joyless notions like couscous and e-cigs. However, such tyranny can only temporarily delay the localised power cut that will one day turn our lights off forever.
But what if the brain could be switched back on? What if it was possible to bring the dead back to life? Scientists pondering this macabre notion were at the forefront of the cryogenics movement in the 1960s. This is the process of freezing the body or brain to be resurrected using future technology – and it’s an option destined to undercut the cost of a traditional funeral one day, becoming less expensive every year. Your grandkids will probably be able to toss your head into a special freezer in Poundland.
But at present, the price stands at around £40,000 for the brain alone – we are assured by cryogenics firms that the body is unnecessary. Future scientists will apparently be able to grow a new one from your DNA. Either that or they’ll inject the digitised contents of your frozen mind into a new vessel, perhaps a super-powered robot. Or you may even be reborn in an era without physical bodies – where everyone is an immortal consciousness of pure energy able to traverse the universe. The mass disposal of our shoddy biological vehicles will certainly make billionaires of crematoria owners.
But for now, business in cryogenics remains steady if not overburdened. Last month, the best known of the big four firms, the US-based Alcor, took ownership of its 138th customer – Du Hong, a Chinese science-fiction writer who died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. There is also one Scottish sign-up who hopes to live forever – futurist author DJ MacLennan. Typical of canny Scots, he is taking eternal life out on tick – paying Alcor £50 a month to have his head cut off and frozen after his body dies.
When he expires – unless he’s vaporised in an explosion or bazooka blast – a team of volunteers will fill his body with anti-freeze and plunge it into ice water. It will then be wrapped in polyethylene, submerged in alcohol and lowered into ice before being sent to Arizona. There, his head will be removed, frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored upside down. This is in case there’s a power cut and he starts defrosting from the brain down – better to lose your chin than your mind.
“We don’t waste organs any more, so why do we waste brains? You are your brain. A society capable of reviving a person from a cryo-preserved state is going to be capable of creating an appropriate body,” enthused DJ.
ONE disparaging voice, however, is Michael Hendricks, a renowned US neuroscientist who insists the technology required “does not yet exist even in principle”. He stresses: “Those who profit from this hope deserve our anger and contempt.” And there is another huge hurdle for the cryonics industry other than cynicism from academics. Not only do they have to reanimate the dead, but they also have to rehabilitate the person to cope in an unrecognisable future world. This won’t be easy for folk like William Wallace. If revived today, he’d learn Scotland was still ruled by London and, far worse, his life was inaccurately portrayed for cheap thrills and profit by a diminutive anti-Semite hailing from a country that didn’t even exist when Wallace died for his. No doubt he’d beg to be sent back to his final memory, on that rack where he was hung, drawn and quartered, praying for the type of freedom only death can bring. If all cryogenics offers is hope, then perhaps historical figures like Wallace have already shown us another path towards eternal life – one where earthly achievements can sew our names into humanity’s grand tapestry for eternity.
Gunning for the President
IF Barack Obama had accused Cuba of firing a futuristic sonic gun at US diplomats, he would have been quickly ushered off the world stage with a towel round his shoulders, administered with a calming wee jag and rushed to the nearest rehabilitation centre.
Donald Trump’s presidency, however, is a surrealistic fever dream so unfathomably bizarre that it has twisted our reality into an exotic new paradigm where nothing is real and real is nothing.
“I do believe Cuba’s responsible. I do believe that,” Trump said in a recent news conference, citing claims that a “sonic weapon” caused the nausea and sickness experienced by 22 Americans in the Cuban US embassy. You can add your own exclamation marks to the quotes, we’ve been told to cut back on ink. “It’s a very unusual attack, as you know,” he continued. “But I do believe Cuba is responsible.”
So what “unusual attack” has provoked the President to single-handedly hurl a Westeros winter at the fragile thawing of relations between the US and Cuba?
Trump has offered no new details about what type of device might have caused the diplomats’ health issues, which ranged from hearing loss to concussion. Despite believing a “sonic weapon” was used, US investigators still can’t identify either a culprit or a Dan Dare-style device which targets folks’ ears.
To gain clarity on this accusation, we must first take into account that Trump has previous when it comes to the subject of ears. One of the few acts he has managed to sign into law was, curiously, legislation allowing greater public accessibility for over-the-counter hearing aids. Clearly a pressing issue for the US.
There was also his victory over fellow presidential nominee Marco Rubio, where he aimed for the lowest hanging fruit and belittled his opponent over the size of his ears.
And we must not forget his disdain for Utah’s famous Bears Ears monument, the sacred American Indian heritage site his administration is hoping to shrink so there’s more land to drill for oil and gas.
Whatever happened in Cuba is clearly being exploited for political leverage, due to the simple fact that sonic guns which can target specific areas of the human body have not yet been invented. Not even by the aliens at Area 51. However, there are indeed numerous cases of natural sound frequencies causing adverse reactions in the human body.
In 1998, a paper for the Society for Psychical Research called The Ghost In The Machine described how the mystery of a “haunted” laboratory was solved. Scientists had described seeing grey shapes that disappeared when they turned to face them, combined with nausea and disorientation.
After a thorough examination of the lab came the revelation – the sound of a broken fan was resonating at 18.98Hz, almost exactly the same cellular frequency of the human eyeball. This caused the symptoms of what is known as “vibroacoustic syndrome”.
When the fan was removed, all the lab’s ghostly apparitions disappeared. Trump, however, has no fans – so it looks like the world will remain a nauseated and haunted place for a wee while longer.